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Bobby Martin (The Sound of Philadelphia) Biography


Some say that Bobby Martin is The Sound of Philadelphia. One thing for sure, he was definitely a major part of TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia). Although some may consider Bobby Martin as being the Grandaddy of R&B and Soul, Bobby Martin himself has stated that he did not do it all alone. Bobby Martin has made one of the biggest contributions to soul and R&B music ever. Most people remember Bobby Martin for his productions or his Philadelphia Sound Arrangements on artists like The Jacksons, Lou Rawls or The O' Jays. There is a list of Bobby Martin Music that goes on and on. However, the sounds of not only jazz but country & western were in the bag of textures that producer/arranger Bobby Martin utilized in developing the popular Philly soul sound. When it comes to producing and arranging Soul Music, R&B and Disco Bobby Martin Ranks real high, somewhere close to Gamble & Huff. Both Arrangers Thom Bell and Bobby Martin in the '70s became even more in demand among a roster of artists that included Fred Taveres, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the O'Jays and Patti LaBelle & the Bluebells who Bobby Martin discovered in 1960. Various critics have weighed in on Bobby Martin's innovations and have compared him to Quincy Jones, while the man himself has eloquently expressed his own point of view through his spectacular music Quincy Jones himself commended Bobby Martin personally while working side by side with him at A&M Records. Bobby Martin has admired the works of Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, yet Bobby Martin looks forward to producing and composing Jazz with Quincy Jones in the near future.

Bobby Martins jazz background was of utmost importance, no great shock considering to what extent swinging music has influenced so many performers to come out of the Liberty Bell state. Bobby Martin met Quincy Jones back when Quincy used to play on the road back in 1955 in Philadelphia. Bobby Martin was producing and recording R&B and Soul, back then "Q" (Quincy Jones) didn't recognize Bobby Martin as a Jazz musician, composer and arranger. Jazz can be heard from the top to the bottom in Martin's gorgeous concoctions. Quincy Jones mentioned this in one of his compilation CDs. Bobby Martins jazz chops went into his writing for horn sections and in addition, the choice of musicians in an extremely effective house band named "MFSB" also played a big part. On the subject of these session musicians it is worth noting that the Bobby Martin who played French horn on a few MFSB studio sessions is not the same person as the famous producer and arranger named Bobby Martin. The famous producer and arranger named Bobby Martin is African American and the other is not. This Grammy and platinum award winning R&B and Soul producer that’s mentioned in this biography is much older than the French horn man that changed his first name to Robert. Another one of the players held most responsible for the genre's stylistic integrity was drummer Earl Young.

It has been said that this percussionist's style was more influenced by the giants of bebop such as Max Roach and Art Blakey than either the typical Motown sound or the hard backbeat associated with drummer Al Jackson, among others. Bobby Martin is not just stuck on Jazz or country, or in one genre. And he’s also said to be one of the founders of disco music due to his powerful string and horn arrangements, along with that funky MFSB danceable rhythm section. The Sound of Philadelphia sound was complimented with Bobby Martins arrangements, which were actual compositions and orchestrations that he created on his own. The songwriter has a different job to do, as well as the producer and musicians. Bobby Martin usually arranged his own productions and he always did the arrangements on the hit songs that he wrote.

Martin was a triple threat, active as a producer and songwriter as well as arranger. He also tended to give additional input to some of the performers he worked with, above and beyond giving advice of a purely musical nature. One of the best examples of this is his involvement with a singer originally named Patti Holt. First Bobby Martin came up with the idea of naming her quartet after the Philadelphia record label Bluebell Records. Next, Bobby Martin suggested that (Patricia) Patti Holt change her own surname to Patti LaBelle, and so the group was named Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles. That was the start of Patti LaBelle and her success, it started way back in the 1960s with producer Bobby Martin.

To mention all of Bobby Martins productions and arrangements in one discussion would be impossible, we are talking hundreds of records. Some accounts trace Martin's career back to a recording studio that was located in the basement of a car dealership owned by Harold B. Robinson. And a few of Bobby Martins productions date back into the 1950s along with his success he had as a member and arranger for the Lynn Hope Orchestra. Bobby Martin was taught by Jazz legends such as Frank Foster and Lionel Hampton. When the Dreamlovers cut the song entitled "When We Get Married" in the early '60s, all the participants in the session had to first clamber around rows of DeSotos and Plymouths and dodge lurking salesmen in order to access the basement door and the two-track recording kingdom that lay beneath. By the end of the decade the action had switched to the larger Sigma Sound Studios. This was where the house band operating under the co-operative name of MFSB convened; the acronym stood for "Mother Father Sister Brother."

Next they made history by influencing and changing American music, they had a new sound that would change the music of the 1960s and 1970s. Rather than Berry Gordy and Motown being the only successful African American Owned Record label, now you had people like Bobby Martin working as producers and executives in the music industry. Philadelphia International Records and Bobby Martin had just as big as an impact on American Music, pop and disco but mainly Soul Music. Bobby Martin was producing, arranging and composing gold and gold platinum hits left and right along with producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff at Philadelphia International Records. In late 1973, television host Don Cornelius contacted Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Bobby Martin with the idea of coming up with a theme song for a new national dance show, the immortal "Soul Train". Bobby Martin did the compositions and arrangements for these sessions which also involved a vocal group, "The Three Degrees." A year later, the theme song had become so popular that it was released on its own as a single record. "T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)," soon after hit the top of both pop and R&B charts and Bobby Martin won another Grammy for that song. While working at Philadelphia International Records Bobby Martin's career continued at other record labels such as Columbia Records. Bobby Martin produced the Manhattans for Clive Davis. "Blue Lovett" (The vocalist) has mentioned in interviews that he felt the hit power of sides such as "Kiss and Say Goodbye" originated partially from the modern country influences Bobby Martin brought into the R&B music before solo artist Lionel Richie had become known in this way. Some critics argue that Bobby Martin was the first producer to introduce strings to soul and R&B music, his string compositions date back to Patti LaBelle And The Bluebells hit song "I Sold My Heart To The Junkman." After forming his own production company named Bobby Martin Productions, the legendary producer then returned directly back to his jazz roots, producing the Killer Joe, a 1977 hit album featuring saxophonist and composer Benny Golson and Quincy Jones. After Philadelphia International Records slowed down in the late 1970s early 1980s Bobby Martin moved out to sunny california only to win another Grammy Award for a production he did on The Bee Gees album Saturday Night Fever. There's a whole lot more to this discussion including facts, pictures, records, discographies and biographies about the legendary Bobby Martin. There is such a rich history to this individual. In the 1990s Bobby Martin mostly worked behind the scenes. In the year 1998 Bobby Martin began composing heavily again and he remains active in the music industry. Bobby Martin says that aside from composing, his main focus or goal is to keep good music alive!

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Taken on October 16, 2009