Obituary: Doug Martin, musician
Born: 17 November, 1941, in Dundee. Died: 12 July, 2012, in Dundee, aged 70
In A nation of singers, Doug Martin was one of the most influential vocalists in post-war Scottish popular music.
His was the principal talent which inspired the Dundee soul music scene of the 1960s and, as a result, helped drive Alan Gorrie to found the Average White Band, a Scottish group which in the 1970s achieved the rare feat of topping the US pop and soul charts simultaneously.
“A major influence” is how Gorrie described Martin in 1990. “Himself and Steve Winwood were the only two British singers [in the 1960s] who were worth tuppence.”
Born into a financially poor but musically rich family of five boys and two girls in 1941, Martin attended Stobswell school and performed in Dundee skiffle and pop groups before finding his feet as bass player and singer with the Hi Four, subsequently the Poor Souls with Johnny Hudson, Chic Taylor and the late John Casey.
In the early 1960s, Dundee promoter Andy Lothian, who managed the group, sent them to Cologne and Hamburg where they performed with The Beatles. However, it was the repertoire of a visiting black American singer, Willie Wilson and the Downbeats, which made a greater impression and, when the group returned to Dundee with their own dynamic soul set, this music was adopted by all of the discerning beat groups in the area, including Alan Gorrie’s Vikings which included musicians from Perth and Dundee.
Martin made a few forays to London and recorded a number of memorable songs including When My Baby Cries by Lesley Duncan – whose work was later brought to wider attention by Elton John – but the Scottish soul sound made no impact at this time upon an Anglocentric music press.
For Vikings’ drummer and singer Donny Coutts, his discovery of Martin was the start of a lifelong friendship and productive, professional relationship. With the late Gerry McGrath (bass), Coutts and Martin (guitar) formed the outstanding vocal trio at the core of the great Dundee group Mafia which, over the years, encompassed a number of fine musicians including Gordon Dougall (piano), Peter and Alan McGlone (saxes), and bass player Alan Sheridan, who also died recently. Another young Dundee bass player and singer who felt Martin’s influence profoundly was the acclaimed songwriter Michael Marra. At one point Marra wrote a song ostensibly about Martin’s long-suffering dog “Julius.” It was, of course, a homage to the master.
“Dougie” says Coutts, “was the godfather of Dundee soul and had the finest voice I ever heard. He was a very kind man, who nurtured generations of naive, young Dundee musicians as they entered the business. His soul band, Mafia, lasted 40 years from the early 70s, and had countless members, and line-ups young and old, over the years.
“He radiated love for his music, the enjoyment of being in a band, and spoke proudly of ‘this young guitarist’, or ‘that young sax player’, as they came forward and progressed in ‘Dougie Martin’s School of Music and Life’.
“He has left a lasting legacy on Dundee’s music scene that others need to carry forward.’’
Doug Martin died in Ninewells Hospital on 12 July after a short illness. He is survived by his partner Maggie and by his children Penny and Kyle from a previous marriage.
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