Martin, Bogan & Armstrong
Carl Martin was retired and living in Chicagoland when Steve Goodman convinced him to get together with his old partners Ted Bogan and Howard Armstrong and join Goodman in the studio. The resulting album, "Jessie's Jig", long one of my favorites, introduced a new generation to a band that had already entertained a few generations.
I've posted about Martin, Bogan & Armstrong before but their story deserves a second look. Carl Martin, as Steve Goodman points out, was Born in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. It was in the 1930s that he first joined forces with Bogan and Armstrong. Although they united and reunited many times as The Four Keys (with bass player, Bill Ballinger), The Tennessee Chocolate Drops, and the Wandering Troubadours, Martin Bogan & Armstrong were popular throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. They made their way to Chicago sometime in the 1940s where they recorded some.
The trio played anywhere they could earn a few dollars. They are most often referred to as an excellent example of the African-American string bands of the pre-war era, but they were much more than that. In order to make a living playing music they had to be able to play all of the popular music of the day. They played jazz, pop, country, blues, ragtime, whatever the occasion called for. Carl Martin had even learned to sing in different languages and dialects.
The band stopped playing together in the late 1940s only to be resurrected in 1970. Carl Martin Died in 1979 and Ted Bogan died just a few years ago. Howard Armstrong recorded a CD, "Louie Bluie" (available from Blue Suit Records) in 1995 at the age of 86.
Martin, Bogan & Armstrong recorded three albums during the 1970s. "Barnyard Dance", on Chicago's Flying Fish Records, is one of my all time favorites, unfortunately it is out of print. "That Old Gang of Mine", also on Flying Fish Records (now part of the Rounder Group), has been reissued on CD and is available from Rounder Records. Of course they also recorded an album with Steve Goodman entitled "Jessie's Jig" on Goodman's own Red Pajamas Records, now part of John Prine's Oh Boy! label, and available from Music Fans Direct. Like Steve Goodman's albums, no collection is complete without some Martin, Bogan & Armstrong.