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Martin Delray
Photo Courtesy of Jimmy Kerby
Martin Delray

A minute with Martin Delray
Songwriter whose acoustic project was inspired by Johnny Cash to perform May 13 in Athens

By Ronnie Thomas
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2438

ATHENS — During the past three years, country singer/songwriter Martin Delray has made several stops in the area, but he's preparing for his first-ever appearance at Yesterdays Event Center in Athens.

"I seem to have quite a fan base in Northern Alabama," he said from his office Tuesday at the Williamson County Indoor Sports Complex in Brentwood, Tenn., where he is tennis pro. "If I had that kind of support in other areas of the country, it would make things even busier. This is kind of a breakout area for me."

Tickets for the May 13 concert are $20 and are available at Railroad Bazaar in Athens and Decatur. All seats are reserved. Yesterdays will offer a buffet meal before the show for $7.95. Doors open at 6 p.m. and showtime is 7:30.

Delray, a Texarkana, Ark., native and a graduate of The University of Arkansas, began making waves in the music business after serving a hitch in the Marine Corps and relocating to North Hollywood, Calif.

He played the West Coast club circuit, both as a solo act and as bandleader. He frequently opened for such acts as Doug Kershaw and Juice Newton at The Palomino Club.

He became staff songwriter at a publishing company owned by the pop duo, Seals and Crofts. One of the songs he wrote during this period, "Old Fashioned Love," became a No. 1 hit for The Kendalls. Another of his songs, "Somebody's Lyin' To Someone," captured Country Song of the Year honors from American Song Festival.

His success landed him a staffwriting slot with a Nashville publisher. He hoped to use the move as a launching pad to a solo career as a country artist. The dream faded and after his publishing contract expired, he taught school and played guitar for a group appearing at local concerts and fairs.

He never gave up on his songwriting ability and pitched a few demo tapes around town. Two industry notables, producer Blake Mevis and Atlantic Nashville Vice President Rick Blackburn heard one of the demos and encouraged him to return to the studio. The result was Delray's debut album, "Get Rhythm." He followed it with two more albums, "What Kind of Man" and "Martin Delray & the Twangmen."

While making home life and his family his main priorities, Delray makes time for an occasional concert and he continues writing.

"Lately, I've actually been rewriting some songs that I wrote a while ago," he said. "I bought a new Larrivee acoustic guitar to replace the old Martin D-28, and I'm considering doing an acoustic project by myself."

He never recorded the majority of the songs he's rewriting, but one of them, "Wind Blows Sand," appeared on his first album.

"Songs come a lot of times when you're in a certain mindset," he said. "Songs, in my opinion, are like children. Children might say something at a particular time but that doesn't mean that years down the line that they can't say something differently. So a word or a phrase in a song that fit then might not be timely now. So I'm going in and tweaking them just a little bit."

Delray said Johnny Cash inspired the idea of an acoustic album.

"I liked so much the album he did in 1994 on the American Recordings label with producer Rick Rubin," Delray said. "It consisted of Cash's vocals and his acoustic guitar, and nothing else."

Delray said he met Cash only once.

"It was in 1990, when Johnny agreed to appear with me on the video of 'Get Rhythm,' that was shot in Nashville. We talked for less than five minutes, and I'll never forget how cordial he was to me," Delray said. "He was indeed bigger than life."

At Athens, Delray & The Twangmen will reel off a string of songs that remain popular, from "Lillie's White Lies" to "Silence Tells It All."

"Pass along our thanks to everyone who has continued to support our appearances down there," he said. "They are true fans, and they make it a whole lot of fun to return."

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