"DON'T GIVE YOUR HEART TO A RAMBLER" - My Life with Jimmy Martin by Barbara Martin Stephens
by Barbara Martin Stephens, (Univ. of Illinois Press, 2017) 200 pages plus. The subject of this book is Jimmy Martin, and the author is Barbara Martin Stephens, who was Jimmy’s wife of over a decade. A fair amount of the book is devoted to Ms. Stephens life and friends before and after she met Jimmy, and a lot of it is not pretty, with loads of ex-wives, ex-husbands, alcohol etc. But Ms. Stephens eventually got a job in Nashville as a booking agent, and from that point on there are lots of reminis- cences that involve many of the country music artists and musicians of the day, in- cluding Martin, Bill Monroe, and many of the other personalities whose names will be familiar to most of our readers. Martin was one of the best singers in Bluegrass in those days (the 1950s), and a major theme in this story involves his lifelong desire to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry—he certainly was a more than good enough singer and picker. But Jimmy was convinced that various other artists and industry types had conspired to keep him off the Opry, when really his completely unpredictable personality was a lot more likely the culprit—musically he was a star but otherwise he could be a “loose cannon”, not knowing when to keep his mouth closed—and the Opry did not need any bad blood, scandal , or back stage fist fights. If you can keep all the various marriages, children and in-laws straight, there are some interesting inter-relationships, such as Ms. Stephens friendship with Jean Shepard, Jimmy’s experi- ences in Detroit, Shreveport and Wheeling, etc.