Thursday, July 14, 2011

Focus on: Melissa Martin/Answers to Quiz

Answers to last week's quiz are at the end of this newsletter.

Melissa Martin: The Voice That Set The Club On Fire!

-By: Scott Bucholtz

~The enormous amount of talent that participates in Jam Night has repeatedly been referenced here. However, if you’ve noticed, there is one instrument that doesn’t get much mention. Take a moment and list all of the great vocalists… while a few quickly come to mind, Jam Night often leave those short of breath. That is certainly why Melissa Martin has made such an instant splash with The Lowcountry Blues Club. Simply put, she’s got an amazing voice. For weeks, I kept hearing about her until I witnessed it myself. She definitely created a buzz. Once again, I don’t know of any other avenue outside of our Blues Club where this happens at that level.

Born “and pretty much raised” in Camden, SC. Her grandmother was a concert pianist and her Dad plays lead guitar. Her Dad, Greg Martin, has jammed on the drums with Archie Bell, opened for David Allan Coe and Charly McClain, did some studio work for Confederate Railroad and was even offered a job playing lead guitar with the Georgia Satellites in 1999. He taught himself how to play as a teenager. “He’d put records on and play them over and over again until he got it down. Music comes naturally to him - he can play pretty much any instrument he puts his mind to but guitar is his obsession. He lived and breathed it for as long as I can remember.” His first Telecaster, “Miss Marie” (named after her), was “a member of the family.”

She moved here in March looking for a fresh start. “Why not the beautiful city of Charleston!” She’s looking to expand her musical horizons a little and I feels like “Chucktown is a good place to kick up some dust.” She had a band back home, but is ready to do something different and a little bigger. She fronted Exit 98 and then worked with Blue Haze and Eminence Front for a few shows. She also appeared on their debut album - Google it! Her first gig was October of 2006 and she has performed pretty much every weekend since. In the rare weekends she had off, “I was either singing with friends, one of the other bands, or sliding out of town to go hear other bands.” She says that she loves performing, “especially with new people - always something different and unexpected.” It’s no wonder she made such a splash with the Blues Club!

She had heard about the Blues Club before she even moved down. She said, “It’s the word on the street to hit the blues jams to make some great connections, meet new friends and to just have a good time with good people.” Currently, she is remaining open minded while exploring her options. She is interested in pursuing something in the area of Soul/Funk/Blues/R&B. What does that mean? It means that a couple local musicians may soon win the lead vocalist lottery!

She’s been singing her whole life, mainly for family and friends as a hobby. Did a few plays and talent shows. It was just a few years ago when she called up her dad and told him she wanted to start a band. With obvious affection, she states; “It was our ‘thing’. Hands down one of the coolest things is to play music with your dad! So, we started Exit 98. We practiced for about a year and went through a few players before we got the project off of the ground. But then we hit the local scene running. We played festivals, charity events, bars, clubs, parties, grand openings, you name it. We did very well for ourselves and had a blast doing so. I still think back to that first gig we booked and the massive panic attack I had that morning (it was a big outdoor festival). Ol’ Greg had to give me one helluva pep talk that day. But as soon as I walked on stage and had that mic in my hand, it just felt right.” She adds that whenever she hears the tuning of a guitar, she thinks of him. She mentioned that she is also trying to learn guitar and says, “I’ve got three, but I’m impatient!”

Now, her friends tease her when they go out because she’s is certain to end up on stage. She says that in her short career, she’s “had the good fortune of singing with many different musicians and bands and met so many awesome people.”

At a recent gig with The Mason Dixon Band, I had the pleasure of experiencing this first hand. She showed up at the gig with the members of Homemade Wine from Knoxville (who amazingly are Mason Dixon Band fans). We called Melissa up during our first set and she truly knocked it out of the park! She absolutely smoked covers of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rolling Stones songs! It was the beginning of one of the best and most memorable gigs that I’ve ever had!

As for career highlights, she mentions that every year Camden has a Blues Festival downtown. “We weren’t straight blues, but we did a few.” Some friends of theirs owned a great little bar downtown and would book them every year for the weekend. Even though they weren’t participating in the festival, they got tons of traffic. She remembers looking around one time and the entire bar was elbow to elbow with people. “We played in this little nook with a huge plate glass window looking out at the main drag in Camden and the entire sidewalk was chock full of people that stopped to hear us. We had the biggest crowd out of any venue at the festival. That was an awesome show.”

She adds, “I had the opportunity this year to sing with some friends of mine, Homemade Wine, at the St. Patty’s festival in Savannah in front of a crowd of about 8000 people. THAT was pretty gnarly.”

I suppose most vocalists have dreamt of singing the National Anthem at one time or another. Melissa is no different, in fact “as simple as it sounds, I always wanted to sing the National Anthem at a high school football or baseball game.” She says. A friend of hers is a baseball coach and granted her wish this past spring. She said that “for some reason, I was more nervous singing to that crowd of 150!” Perhaps the significance and history of the subject matter had something to do with the butterflies…

When I asked Melissa who her biggest influences/inspirations are, she says “Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt and Aretha Franklin have always been my top 3 favorite female singers. They have really helped to shape my sound I think. I love their soulful, deep, bluesy tones.” She continues, “I’ve always been a big fan of blues and R & B. I’ve always had an appetite for a wide palate of music and grew up listening to all types. I was stealing dad’s Johnny Rivers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Lynyrd Skynyrd ‘tapes’ by the age of 12.” She adds, “Billie Holliday, Etta James, Grace Potter and Mary J. Blige are some more top ladies in my book.”

Other favorites on her list include: The Black Crowes, Drive-By Truckers, Tab Benoit, Allman Brothers, Ryan Adams, Ray Lamontagne, Charlie Daniels Band, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Journey, JJ Grey & Mofro, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Norah Jones, The Judds, James Taylor, Derek Trucks, City of Colour, Iron & Wine, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Frankie Beverly & Maze, The Commodores, Earth Wind & Fire, The Osborne Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Nina Simone, Gov’t Mule, Koko Taylor, Black Keys, Red House Painters. “Man, I could go on and on…” Obviously, this is a girl with a healthy appreciation!

Her Jam Night favorites include Susan Tedeschi’s “It Hurt So Bad” and Rod Stewart’s “Stay With Me”. She also loves doing “Proud Mary” Ike and Tina style. When asked who her favorite jammers are, she states: “Now you know there is no way to choose! I dig all of my jam friends: Greg, Billy G, British Charlie, Big Guy, The Captain, Dan the Man, Tony, Quentin, Jojo, Bill, John, Jerry, Louis D, Scott, Charlie K.”

Obviously, she’s quickly ascended to the top of all of our lists as well!

This weekends’ highlights include:

Thursday the 14th:
Futurebirds with Old You opening at The Charleston Pour House
Plane Jane (w/ Wayne Mitchum) at Wild Wing Mt. P.

Friday the 15th:
Old You on the Vendue Rooftop early, then…
The Louie D Project (w/ J.R. Getches) at The Rehab Bar & Grill
Starling (w/ Captain Kirk) at Fat Boys in Moncks Corner
Fowler’s Mustache at The Brick Downtown
DownWright Scoundrels (w/ Jack Downey) @ Toast!
Homemade Wine at Wild Wing Mt. P.
Johnny Mac at Jimbo's

Saturday the 16th:
The Jonathan Robinson Trio (with yours truly) at The Dog & Duck West Ashley
Old You at the Kickin’ Chicken Downtown
Gaslight Street at The Charleston Pour House
Jimmy Thackery at The Music Farm

Don’t forget, Monday’s feature Sarah Cole & The Hawkes at the Drop In Gourmet Deli & Bar on Folly Beach. Wednesday’s look for Sarah Cole & The Hawkes at Art’s Bar & Grill in Mount Pleasant or join The Jonathan Robinson Trio at KC Mulligans in N. Charleston. After you stop at the Blues Jam, of course!

If your band's gig isn't listed here, just go to our facebook page and post it there, so your friends and fans can add it to their calendars - Thanks!



Check your favorite local paper for more shows happening this weekend, and join the facebook site "Charleston Live Music" for highlights...

If you want to see your band's gigs in this newsletter, send all the details to We usually send out the newsletter on Thursday or Friday, so get the info in before Wednesday, please.

July's featured artists are Willie Dixon (1915), Junior Kimbrough (1930), and Buddy Guy (1936), born in July.

Join us on facebook (Lowcountry Blues Club) and twitter, and check out some of our recordings from the Wednesday jams at

It's time to pay your dues for 2011 if you haven't already done so. Just come out to a jam, and give us $10 for an individual, $25 for a band or family, or $100 for a corporate membership. Or you can mail dues to The Lowcountry Blues Club, P.O. Box 814, Isle of Palms, SC 29451.

Answers to the Quiz:

1. Dan the Man
2. Motor
3. The Big Guy
4. The Captain
5. English Charlie
6. Young Charlie
7. Tan the Man
8. Billy G Is Not My Lover
9 & 10. The Horny Horns


1. Dan Wright, of course!
2. Greg Levkus, drummer extraordinaire
3. The correct answer is Tim Shaw, but you can have the points if you said Big Mike or Mike Llewellyn as well...
4. James Kirk, our new Vice-President of Membership
5. Charles Wyche-Smythe
6. Charlie Kendall
7. Tanner Cooper - this was a hard one, as he doesn't come often these days, now drummer for Heyrocco
8. Billy Gadol, our new President of the Blues Club
9 & 10. Louis D and Will Elder

Scoring: You get 5 points for each correct first and last name, for a total of 100 points. Did anyone have a perfect score? If you got 90-100 points, we'll call you a Blues Jam All-Star! 75-85 is a Blues Club friend in good standing. If your score is 70 or under, we hope you'll come out more often, pay attention, talk to everybody, and become a part of the family!

LMW, July 14, 2011

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