1939 – 2024

Mary Martin

“Time and again, Mary Martin spotted great talents and elevated their careers. Early on, she connected Bob Dylan to her friends the Hawks, who became the Band. She managed Leonard Cohen in his first musical outings, then guided the budding solo careers of Van Morrison, Rodney Crowell, and Vince Gill. At Warner Bros., she signed future Country Music Hall of Fame member Emmylou Harris, at RCA she helped sign and develop Clint Black and Lorrie Morgan, and she encouraged a young Keith Urban to move from Australia to Nashville. Mary’s unerring feel for songs and performers was legendary, and she was a fierce ally for the artists she represented.”

—Kyle Young, CEO
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum


About Mary Martin

Mary Martin, who died at age eighty-five in Nashville on July 4, was a renowned music industry leader who nurtured and advanced an impressive list of musical artists at critical junctures in their career, including the Band, Clint Black, Leonard Cohen, Rodney Crowell, Bob Dylan, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Van Morrison, Lorrie Morgan, Keith Urban, and Keith Whitley.

As Leonard Cohen’s manager, she convinced Columbia Records to sign him based on a tape of recordings he made while sitting in Martin’s bathtub with his acoustic guitar; she also helped him to persevere through initial struggles with stage fright and concerns about his vocal limitations. As a Warner Bros. executive, she gave Emmylou Harris her first major recording contract and recommended she work with Brian Ahern, a Canadian record producer who helped shape Harris’s sound by helming her first ten major-label albums and becoming her husband. Martin, frustrated by Warner Bros.’ refusal to promote Harris to country radio, secretly hired country radio promoters herself, helping Harris achieve her first #1 country hit.

Martin signed Rodney Crowell to Warner Bros., then left the label to manage him. She also persuaded Crowell to begin producing records for other artists. His initial productions included landmark albums by Rosanne Cash, Bobby Bare, and Guy Clark; his production credits now top 150.

Martin suggested RCA sign Keith Whitley, although she had no financial connection at the time to the label or the artist. When Whitley later wanted to change producers, Martin suggested Garth Fundis, who helped Whitley achieve the sound he’s remembered for today. As a manager, Martin brought another future star, Vince Gill, to RCA; the label gave him his first solo artist contract. RCA subsequently hired Martin to be an A&R staffer with the Nashville division, and she helped bring Clint Black and Lorrie Morgan to the label when both were unproven young artists.

Martin also influenced the careers of established artists at defining moments. While working as an assistant for famed artist manager Albert Grossman, she sat with client Bob Dylan as he first listened to Byrds’ electric version of his song “Mr. Tambourine Man.” When Dylan expressed interest in working with a band, Martin recommended the Hawks from her hometown of Toronto. After Dylan hired them, the Hawks changed their name to the Band. Martin was managing Van Morrison as he prepared to release “Moondance,” the first of his solo albums to reach the U.S. album charts, and was his manager when he scored his Top Ten U.S. single “Domino.”

While working as an executive at Lost Highway Records, Martin won a Grammy for co-producing a Hank Williams tribute album, “Timeless,” which included performances by Johnny Cash, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and others. The Americana Music Association presented Martin with a lifetime achievement award in 2007.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum honored Martin in 2009 at its annual Louise Scruggs Memorial Forum. Martin was interviewed on the occasion by Museum staffer Jay Orr. View the video below:

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