Robert Martin
Robert Martin

Robert Martin

About Robert Martin

The term "nexus" was appropriated by politicians circa 2002 to describe an important intersection of hostile intentions. Looking back over the final half of the previous century, the nexus of musicians credited as Robert Martin, Bob Martin and Bobby Martin would have to be the period when a multi-instrumentalist named Bobby Martin worked for an arranger, producer and songwriter of the same name on the Philly soul scene. The former Bobby Martin would become most often credited as Robert Martin following an extended stint with Frank Zappa, who expresses a disdain regarding the nickname of "Bobby" in at least one of his songs. In fact, hype regarding this Martin will often mention that he has to be one of the few people in the universe who has shared intimate creative moments with both Zappa and Cybill Shephard.
The presence of both avant-garde rock and Philly soul in the man's discography already indicates a wide range, not to mention the actress and singer who first attracted attention with a provocative nude swimming scene in director Peter Bogdanovich's film The Last Picture Show. Martin was her music director for roughly a decade beginning in the late '80s, composing the music for the hit series Cybill. "It pays the bills," Martin has said of assignment such as this or Baywatch, which might qualify as a career highlight for some composers, but not this one. Considering his background, those kind of jobs almost seems like something of a letdown. He was the child of a pair of opera singers based out of Philadelphia. Martin learned French horn in the conservatory, but taught himself just about everything else, that list including keyboards and singing as well as most of the brass and woodwind families.
Besides all that, he was also a national honor society academic student, a champion wrestler and gymnast and was scouted by professional baseball teams. He remained dedicated to music despite many other career choices; accepted into the Curtis Institute, Martin studied under many conductors of great status. This influence led him in an expected direction after three semesters: he decided to go off and play rock & roll. On the gig, Martin quickly attracted attention by utilizing all the instruments he knew, including the French horn. It was that difficult instrument that put him together with the Bobby Martin who arranged soul sessions at the Sigma Sound recording studios in Philadelphia. Between 1969 and 1974 it is Martin who provides the special mellow brass touch of the French horn on a variety of hits from that era such as "Mrs. Jones."
The overlap of the identically named performers on these recordings is the discographical equivalent of two overloaded trucks colliding. Both men have huge discographies and it is possible that a collection representing the entirety of both of their recording careers would outshelf most listeners' normal collection. For the French horn rocker, that list seems to be under constant revision, a bit like the inventory memorandum following a large house fire. Some of this research is being undertaken by Zappa's legions of completist fans. Martin's rock engine began building up steam with band Orleans in the late '70s, then Zappa through the '80s with many recordings and a series of tours. Eventually his resume would include the names Bette Midler, Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Etta James, Prince, Queen Ida and many others. He has also been a steady presence in a variety of Zappa tribute projects in the '90s. There was one solo album under his name -- that was released by MCA in 1983. ~ Eugene Chadbourne

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