For the most part, small town local radio has faded into the past – thanks to voice tracking and satellite programming. However, go back 25 to 30 years, and those stations were alive and vibrant – and usually featured their own live musical show. WWKY in Winchester, KY was no different. The 1380 AM signal has been off the air since 1983, but the station had a lot of history, said Paul Martin – who has been the bass player for Marty Stuart's Fabulous Superlatives for six years.
"Bill Martin, my father, and my uncle had a group called the Powell County Playboys, that had a weekly radio show on WWKY," he recalled for Billboard. "Texas, my mom and her two brothers had the Anderson Trio, and they had a show on the station. Somehow, they ran into each other at the station – I think they recorded their show in other locations, and brought the tapes to the studio. They met in the summer of 1957 after she graduated from high school, and married the year after."
Their love story – and their music is celebrated on Martin's unique collection "Kentucky Jukebox, Volume One: The Country Sessions." The CD / DVD set features many archival performances from the couple, as well as new recordings featuring their son – a former lead singer for Exile – and the Fabulous Superlatives.
Martin admits that the package turned out a lot different than what he had initially planned. "Originally, Marty, the Superlatives and I went into the studio and cut songs I had sang on Marty's RFD-TV show. As we get closer, Marty comes to me, and says 'I've got an idea. We need to drag all these things that you've done, and your mom and dad singing," he said. "I think it would be a very interesting project. It will let people know who you are and where you come from."
Giving new life to the music that his parents made on the radio and for their RCR (Real Country Music) label is something their son takes a lot of pride in. "My parents wanted to do what I'm doing, but when they got married, it wasn't considered a respectable living to be in the music business. It was a different time. You hear stories from all the old guys about how difficult it was going up and down the road. They traveled by car then, and there weren't a lot of buses going up and down the road. Think about people like Ira Louvin or Patsy Cline, and how they were killed in car crashes or plane crashes, because they were trying to get from one date to the next. I'm sure my parents were looking at it that way. They chose to just raise their family, and dad took an office job, and ran the studio at night. I think that's where the bug really bit me."
Texas passed away in 1989, and Bill ten years later. Martin says that he was amazed at the sheer volume of tapes he had of his parents. "I've got hours and hours of stuff I can cull from. After my dad died, I brought all the gear to Nashville to my studio. I had to 'bake' some of the tapes, and transferred most of them into digital. It's kind of like watching home movies. I can't see it, but when I hear it, I'm right there with them. Sometimes, when I was transferring them, it would get emotional when I heard them singing. I would stop and break down for a second – like anyone would. But, I'm glad I've got those memories, and I can pass them down to my kids."
He brings the Martin musical story up to date on the set, featuring his wife Jamie and their four children on several cuts, including the Stephen Foster standard "My Old Kentucky Home," which he says was a real treat.
"When I was growing up, they would play that song at the end of every Kentucky home game, and at senior day during UK basketball games, there was a Governor, Happy Chandler, that would sing it. If you didn't cry, there was something wrong with you. There was something about his delivery. I went and cut the song, and did a piano vocal. So, then I got the kids in on it. So, they and Jamie came in and did their parts. I played it for Marty, and he said 'Good call, Paul.' I looked at him, and said 'What it needs now is a mandolin.' He recorded it, I mixed it, and we got it done."
"Kentucky Jukebox, Volume One" also features takes on legendary hits by honky-tonk stalwarts such as Wynn Stewart and the Wilburn Brothers. Martin says he has to give credit to Stuart for the song selection, especially on the Del Reeves classic "A Dime At A Time."
"Marty is the greatest song guy. When we were looking for songs to do for TV, he asked me 'You know, Paul, do you know a song called 'A Dime At A Time' by Del Reeves?' I learned it, and I kind of feel like it's my song. I've sung it on stage, and it seems to go over well. I love Del Reeves. He was such a great singer. It's always fun to do it."