Artist Details

John Martyn

Singer/songwriter/guitarist John Martyn was born Iain David McGeachy on September 11, 1948, in New Malden, Surrey, and raised in Glasgow by his grandmother. He began his innovative and expansive career at the age of 17 with a style influenced by American blues artists such as Robert Johnson and Skip James, the traditional music of his homeland, and the eclectic folk of Davey Graham (Graham remained an influence and idol of Martyn's throughout his career). With the aid of his mentor, traditional singer Hamish Imlach, Martyn began to make a name for himself and eventually moved to London, where he became a fixture at Cousins, the center for the local folk scene that spawned the likes of Bert Jansch, Ralph McTell, and Al Stewart. Soon after, he caught the attention of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who made him the first white solo act to join the roster of his reggae-based label. The subsequent album, London Conversation (February 1968), only hinted at what was to come in Martyn's career. Although it contained touches of blues along with Martyn's rhythmic playing and distinctive voice, it was for the most part a fairly straightforward British folk record. With his follow-up later that same year, the Al Stewart-produced The Tumbler, Martyn began to slowly test other waters, employing backup musicians such as jazz reedman Harold McNair, to flesh out his sound. His voice also started to take on a jazzier quality as he began to experiment musically.