HIRTH’S HEART FULL OF SOUL 1945-2015 (PART TWO)
Now for Hirth’s Heart Full of Soul 1945-2015 (PART TWO). Hirth’s Heart Full of Soul 1945-2015 is about a very special interview with songwriter/guitarist Hirth Martinez. My brother Edward Huerta did the interview with Hirth a few months back. At the time none of us here were even aware that Hirth was ill. I have since learned that Hirth didn’t even know he was ill at the time of the interview.
This was most likely the last interview that he did. The interview was over an hour and sixteen minutes and so that’s why we have it running as two parts. As the interview was done by recording over the phone, and probably Hirth’s last interview, some nuances and exchanges were left in and not edited out.
Hirth passed away a short while ago before we could even get this story together and PART ONE of the interview transcribed and put up.
Thank you for the interview Hirth. You and your wonderful songs will always be remembered and may you rest in peace.
We’ll bring you up to speed with the tail end of Part One:
NORMAN’S RARE GUITARS, & ROBBIE ROBERTSON
HM: I don’t know if you are aware of a guitar store out here called Norman’s Rare Guitars. I met Norman before he had the store and I was selling a Gibson dot neck 335 that I had and I put an ad in the paper. Norman saw it and called me, came over and looked at it, and said, “Oh yeah, I want to buy it.”
My table was covered with songs and lyrics and he asked me about it. It turns out Norman doesn’t play guitar, he plays keyboards, but he likes collecting. He had a warehouse in Florida full of guitars that he had bought from people that he was looking to sell and they all happened to be antique electrics, vintage electric guitars.
So he bought my dot neck 335 which even at that time it was already old. I think I got that guitar the first year that the dot neck 335’s came out. That was about 10 years. My Dad found it. A friend had a music store and was selling it so he bought it for me for a hundred bucks. With a case.
So anyway Norman found out that I wrote songs. He said I have a band and he listened to a couple of my songs and he said, “Wow, why don’t you come over on Saturday and bring a tape of your stuff.” At that time I was writing 10 hours a day, every day.
AND NOW… PART TWO:
HIRTH’S HEART FULL OF SOUL 1945-2015 (PART TWO)
HM: So the following Saturday I went over to his house in the valley and brought the thing over and he showed me some of the new guitars he had acquired. We were talking and he fell in love with my songs.
He called me one day and he said,”What are you doing Saturday morning?” I said,”Well I’m gonna sleep late.” I had a 5 nighter out at The Beverly Hilton Hotel. I was playing with a band over there 5 nights a week and on Saturdays I wanted to sleep late, but he said,”No, no. I want you to come over because Bob Dylan called me and he’s coming over and he’s gonna buy a guitar. The black Stratocaster.” So I went over. He said bring me one of your tapes. So I brought a tape. I’m thinking I wonder why he wants me to bring a tape.
I brought it and he tells Dylan… as it turns out it was Saturday, but Dylan came over on Friday and found the guitar and wanted to buy it and tried to give Norman a check. And Norman told Bob Dylan that he doesn’t take checks.
(Both Ed and Hirth are laughing).
Dylan said,”Well let me go see my accountant and I’ll come back tomorrow morning. So Norman knew he was coming back with money to buy the guitar. When Bob came in he introduced me to him. Bob said,” I gotta kinda get going so here’s the money,” and they did the transaction.
Norman said to him,”Yeah, yeah, we’ll do it but I want you to hear some songs first,” and I got embarrassed. I said,”Oh no, Norman, what are you doing?” I got really embarrassed because…he blackmailed him…basically. Dylan was salivating for that guitar so badly…and Norman insisted…and it was a 90 minute tape.
In those days I was writing about 40 songs a month. So I had all these 90 minute reel to reels. He started to play the tape and I sort of inched my way to the back of the apartment like I went into the bathroom and locked the door and went in there and I thought,”Aw man.” This went on for 45 minutes and then when that side was over with, he flips it over. And Dylan was really impressed. He said,”Wow, I wish I could write that much.” We talked and laughed about that. I said,”From what I understand, you do.” He said,”I really don’t. I don’t have time. I’d love to but I don’t have time to do that anymore. I’m constantly busy.”
As it turns out, Norman says to me,”We’re going to Robbie Robertson’s house next because Robbie’s wants to buy a guitar and I’m bringing ‘em over and and I want you to come too because I want Robbie to meet you and hear your songs.” This was all in one day.
It’s gettin’ to be one o’clock in the afternoon. I kept telling Norman,”Look, I’ve got to work tonight at the Hilton. And he says,”No, no, you’ve got to come along.” So he took me to Robbie’s house in Malibu. I got to Robbie’s and “Ho, you must be Hirth.” I looked at him,”Well how do you know that?” He said,”Bob already called me and told me that I should hear your songs.”
The way it was planned out…I went in and we spent another two or three hours listening to my songs. At the end of the first tape Robbie said to me,”So what do you want to do with these songs? I said,”Well I guess make a record.” He said,”Okay. Well let’s work on that. I’ll help you with it.” He said,”How do you make a living right now?” I said,”I play guitar on sessions and society bands. Wherever they need a guitar player. I do okay. I do pretty well.” He said,”Well why don’t you quit playing and just write. We’ll go through the songs you’ve got and see what we need and see how much, if you need to write new ones. We’ll get you a record deal.”
And so that’s how I met Robbie and it just all started from there. Before that Saturday was over, Robbie had arranged to have me put on a retainer. He was going to pay me a weekly retainer to do nothing but sit home and write songs. Not playing or doing anything else. That’s how it happened.
EH: That’s cool.
HM: The American Dream.
EH: Yeah. That’s pretty amazing. Wow, all in one day you meet Dylan and Robbie Robertson and get a record deal.
HM: And a record deal. Yep, yep.
EH: That’s quite a day!
HM: Yeah, yeah. He told me,”When you go into work tonight, he said give ‘em notice. Tell ’em that you’ll give ’em two weeks. After that the checks will start coming like Monday.” And that’s exactly what I did. I just followed his advice. It took us from that day about a year and a half to two years to do. We started working the very next week on songs. I ‘d come over to Robbie’s house every Thursday morning at 10:00 o’clock and we’d sit there and go through song tapes that I had. I had written about 800 songs. So that was a lot of listening to do. We sat there and went through ’em with a fine tooth comb and Robbie would pick out the ones he liked. He made an A,B,C,D,E list of those than we broke them down to A,B,C then A, B, and then A.
Finally when we were about 2 years hence, we decided it was time to go into the studio. We hadn’t found a producer yet that we liked. At that time there were a handful of producers that were producing everybody like from Richard Perry, Lindy Warker, for Warner Brothers, Henry Lewy who used to do Joni Mitchell, John Simon who used to do Leonard Cohen. We couldn’t find one that we both agreed would be the guy to do it. So Robbie said,”We’re doin’ a project with Bob Dylan. We’re doing the album called “Planet Waves“. If you wait until we’re done with that,” he said,”It’ll take about a month. I’ll produce it for you.” I said,”Whoa, sure. I told him I’ll wait six years.” You just keep getting the retainer so don’t worry about anything. Just keep writing.”
So I waited. The month flew by. Robbie called me one Sunday morning and he said,”I scheduled our studio for tomorrow morning. Just come in.” In the meantime we had gotten an arranger and gone through the tunes we were going to do and we wound up with thirteen songs for that first album.
EH: That’s just amazing.
HM: Yeah. We started that particular Monday. We went in the studio and started the sessions and almost exactly one month to the day we finished it…mixing and everything…we did the whole thing in a month. We worked everyday except Saturday & Sunday. Saturday and Sunday we were off. We worked Monday through Friday nine to five. Everyday. We had it catered. We had people come in and cater meals so that we wouldn’t have to leave. We could just stay in there.
EH: That’s pretty cool. That’s pretty amazing man.
HM: It is pretty amazing. I know. It’s kind of is a manifestation in theory of the American dream that things can still happen through some sort of magical mystical avenue because this totally as far as I knew, just went on its own because I was not very aggressive. I had gone to see many many publishers and producers before I met Robbie Robertson. They all liked my stuff but none of them knew what to do with it. I told Dylan that story. He said,”What do you mean they don’t know what to do with it? Just tell ’em make a record.”
EH: Dylan has all the answers for sure.
HM: “Don’t worry about that. Make a record.” Robbie asked me that. He said,” So what do you want to do with these?” Make a record. So that’s exactly what happened. It was like the starting bell just rang and boom we were off and running. It was through my association with Robbie Robertson and Dylan, people that I met, many other song writers like Paul Simon, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Maria Muldaur, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield. He used to record a lot of my songs and I got to know him pretty well. Phoebe Snow. She and I intended on writing a song. We always talked about writing this song but we never did. We’d always get on the phone and just talk about flying saucers. Then she passed on. I met all of my contemporary writers, I met Leonard Cohen and all these people, I met them all through this connection with Robbie and Dylan.
EH: That’s pretty amazing…the cream of songwriters.
HM: In that era, that was between 1973 & 1978 probably when that was happening. I did “Hirth From Earth” and then I took a big break and then I did a 2nd album for Warner Brothers. That was about 1976. I don’t really enjoy being in the studio so I don’t record that much. I like recording live. I went to Japan and did a live album there and then I went back in the studio probably around the year 2000 to record a studio record in New York with John Simon as the producer.
SEAR SOUND, NEW YORK Photo By YOSHI NAGATO
I got to use anybody I wanted to use I could use on these records so I got a hold of the heaviest players there were. Steve Gadd, David Sanborne, Ron Carter. Anyone I’d name they’d get ’em. It was like doing a painting and I think we’re running out of colors, needs this color over here they’d go okay let’s get ’em and they’d call up and get ’em for me. I even did one recording with Joe Pass, who was a very famous jazz guitar player.
JOHN SIMON WITH HIRTH MARTINEZ Photo by YOSHI NAGATO
EH: Yes, yes.
HM: That one’s never been released. That one I intend on releasing. It’s a big band, a really gorgeous arrangement of a ballad that I wrote called “Me and My Shadow“. The lyric is way out there and Joe Pass played on it. Anybody knows guitar players, all they have to do is here the first note and they know it’s him.
EH: Being this is a guitar based website, are you a guitar collector?
HM: Well I collect them only because I use those guitars. I don’t collect them just to collect them. I have a few collector type guitars. Every guitar has a story it seems. At least mine do.
Like right now I think I’ve got about 8 guitars and I use every one of them for things and I have a couple of ukuleles. Some ukulele company in Japan gave me, the last time I was there, they presented me with this beautiful ukulele. I have some very old: I have like a real old steel string acoustic, a big Epiphone, jumbo guitar that I use on certain sessions. Of course I have a Les Paul Custom. My working guitars…I still do gigs…I do jazz gigs. Every other Friday or so I play at a place called “The Olde Ship” and it’s in Santa Ana.
EH: I see that on your website. So you still do that?
EH: Ok cool! I live in Long Beach and I work out in Orange County so I’ll stop in some night.
HM: On 17th Street near Santa Ana College. We’re there this Friday in fact. There’s two bands. It’s the same band only we change leaders. The one I’m working with on Friday is a man who’s about 89 years old or so, plays clarinet. He plays traditional kind of jazz music – a little bit Dixie, and some straight ahead…but it’s a little older style. On the 29th (I think) we’re playing with the same guys – only we get a sax player that sounds like Stan Getz – We play more bebop there.
EH: That date…that’s on the 29th.
HM: I think. I can check for sure and let you know.
EH: Ok. Yeah. I’d love to see you and meet you. That would be really cool.
HM: That band I’m a side man. I just play guitar and I do some singing. I play gigs with a couple of the local bands here in East L.A. They get 2 or 3 gigs a week. There’s a band called “The Latin Gents“. It’s made up of some of the best players in East. L.A. I’m also playing with them next week at a place called The American Legion Hall in Montebello. So for my working gigs, when I’m not doing concerts, I work as a side man.
I still do session work now and then. I use a 335 which right now I have an Epiphone 335 but it has Gibson innards and it’s modified. I put Gibson Humbucking pickups and Gibson wiring in it as opposed to the Epiphone wiring. That’s one of my most favorite of the working guitars. If I have a jazz gig and then a commercial gig later on the same day, I can take one guitar and that covers me.
And then I have a classical guitar that I got from Norman. Way back before I signed to do the first record, when I first met Norman I was looking for a classical guitar and he sold me this one for five bucks. I wrote most of my songs that are recorded… I’ve written them on this guitar. I use it on concerts. I have a Fishman pickup on that one.
HIRTH MARTINEZ Photo By VIGNETTE-NOELLE LAMMOTT
I have a Gibson 175. It’s around a 1960. It’s my favorite guitar. It records beautifully and it’s a great live guitar. John Sebastian from “The Loving Spoonful” gave me a Heritage Guitar. It’s an L5 and it was custom made for him and I had the Gibson I was telling you about, the dot neck 335 that Norman wanted to buy. He bought it for about three hundred bucks and then a few weeks later Norman sold it back to me for a dollar.
EH: Wow! Okay! That’s nice!
HM: See that. Yes.
EH: I can’t imagine what it’s worth now.
HM: What happened was that he said to me,”I’ll sell it to you for a dollar, but if you ever seriously want to sell it, let me know first before you let anybody else know.” I said,”Sure.” So I used it for years, maybe over 30 years after I had bought it back from Norman.
And then I was playing at an Indian Reservation. I think it was the Pachanga Reservation. When I got home, somebody stole my car, and the guitar was in it, and I had just had it appraised. The guitar was worth over ten grand. And I never got the guitar back. It was just gone.
Sebastian heard about it and he called me and he said,”Before you get anything, let me take this one guitar, this Heritage L5 that I have.” I said,”Well, what’s it like?” He said,”It’s an arch top and it’s solid maple.” He said,”They made it for me. It says John Sebastian RS Model on the top.” He said,”I think it would be perfect for your concerts you do.” I said, “Why don’t you send me a catalog?” He said, “Okay, I’ll send you a picture of it.” Well the next day a UPS truck shows up with the guitar. He sent it to me.
EH: How nice.
HM: That’s my Heritage guitar. I love that one. I use it a lot on my concerts. Although this time in New Hampshire, I’m gonna take and use a Joe Pass Epiphone that I’ve been using because I hurt my back back around January and my 175 is too heavy to carry so I started using the Joe Pass because it’s a little easier and it’s an arch top as well. All my guitars I have special uses for them. I have a couple of Ibanez’ that I like a lot.
EH: I have one more question for you Hirth. Do you have any messages or thoughts for would be promising young Hirth Martinez’s that are out there? Any words of wisdom?
HM: I would tell my students to just welcome the songs in…just let ‘em in cuz there there. They just want to come through. A lot of people just don’t know how to open up. What I try to teach the writers that come around me is to…I let ‘em see how I do things. I don’t know how to explain it myself. There was a point in my life when I was very young, I was probably 10 years old when I realized those songs are there aching to come in. Do whatever you have to do to calm your mind and let them come in and then start playing ‘em.
They don’t have to be so perfect and you don’t even have to understand them. Certain things about the writers will get in the way and block their view and your understanding of what the songs are about. I think the songs are very powerful entities because they’ve got music with them, and melody and poetic energy of the lyrics that heals people in situations and sometimes one word or two words connect to somebody.
Maybe somebody in the audience will come up later and say, “Wow, you know there were two words in that song that just made me think and took me to another place.” I think what happens with a lot of artists is that their minds get in the way and they start trying too hard to make sense of out of something that already has got its own sense and then a lot of times you screw it up.
EH: Just over thinking something.
HM: Yeah. It’s more of a soulful thing just to let those songs come through. To me I will listen to those songs. If I’m wondering about a lyric that comes through, sometimes I’ll think what would Dylan even think of this line? and I go through it from that perspective and I’ll think no he’d never say that. It’s got too many holes in it.
I check all my songs as I do ‘em cuz they are so free, they’re so spontaneous. I write ‘em down and then I check ‘em to see if there’s any contradictions or holes or oh you missed something. There aren’t any and I look at them over and over again from all these angles and I don’t see anything that’s wrong with it and yet I don’t understand the song and I start singing it, the lines are coming to me. Some of the songs I’ve been singing for over 30 years or 40 years before I even know what they’re about.
HM: Sometimes in a performance I’ll do a song that I’ve been doing for 30 years I’ll think, wow I just realized what that means and how heavy it is.
EH: You’ve truly been blessed.
HM: Kind of a condition I have. Something like a blessing or maybe a realization or knowledge on my parents I think they sensed that I knew what I was doing even though I really didn’t. They said just go with it. That’s what you’re being guided to do. That’s what you’re trying to do. When I was very little I would get compliments from all kinds of people visiting musicians were coming through and they would tell my parents,”Ah, he’s really good,” and I think they took it to heart. They believed it and I didn’t know whether to believe it or not.
It wasn’t really until Bob Dylan told Robbie Robertson in a book, there’s a book called “The Great Divide“. I think it’s about “The Band.” In the book there’s a section where Robbie says that Dylan told that Hirth Martinez was an extraordinary songwriter. That affected me a lot. Dylan. I know he doesn’t hand out compliments and neither does Robbie. I’ve read things about myself in different books and stuff.
EH: I’m gonna look for that. I’m gonna have to buy that book. I’ve never read it.
HM: Oh yeah, it’s a pretty interesting book. I believe I’ve read the whole thing. I don’t even remember who wrote it now. Sort of a famous rock and roll writer.
EH: Are you doing writer’s workshops still? Is it just friends getting together?
HM: Informal. Sometimes…how can I explain it…you pick people up on the way. Suddenly there will be somebody I’m talking to, and next time I see them we’ll be talking about songs again. I realize oh I’m teaching this person. We have kind of a lesson every time they ask me questions about songs or they’re working on a song and they have a problem with it and I help to try to sort it out.
I don’t know how it would be if I actually had a formal class. I’m not kind of cut out that way, even with guitar stuff. I teach a few people but they already play. I show them how I would approach. They’ll give me a song and I’ll play for ‘em and show how I approach and how I came to choose that way to do it. I apply the same rule to painting and playing guitar that I do to writing. If it comes through and it sounds good, then it’s probably right.
EH: Now you never had any lessons as far as painting goes?
HM: No. I did paint when I was in high school in the art classes and I got a scholarship to Chouinards Art School and I got one to The L.A. Conservatory of Music as well. But I had always had private lessons as a musician. I always had music in school. The art classes. I took the regular classes. I don’t even remember exactly how it was that I achieved this scholarship to Chouinards Art School. And I went.
I went to Chouinards for about a week. Right away we had to do this free painting and I did it, and it came out really well, only I used house paint because I thought it was brighter and I liked it. And he said,”No, no. You’re not supposed to use house paint.” I used what I wanted to use and I told him why. It lasts a long time. What’s the difference. And he failed me. I thought oh boy am I gonna have trouble with this guy.
At the same time I went to The L.A. Conservatory for the first class. At that time The L.A. Conservatory and Chouinards were in the same area. You could walk from one to the other. They were by MacArthur Park.
The reason I wanted to go to The L.A. Conservatory was because it was a very popular and well known jazz school. But the day that I went to sign up for it, that very day Walt Disney bought The L.A. Conservatory of Music and it became a classical venue instead of a jazz venue and I was really disappointed. I thought oh shoot, I didn’t want to learn classical music, I wanted to play jazz. I want to learn more about jazz. I had already taken some private lessons from some different musicians like McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane’s piano player, and Art Pepper was another name.
EH: Yeah, I’ve got a picture of Art Pepper here in my office.
HM: Oh yeah. Took lessons from him. I had studied with some heavyweights and I thought the best thing to do was to go to the jazz school and learn that. Well this one day when I had the hassle with the art teacher and then I found out that Disney bought the Conservatory and they weren’t going to do jazz anymore, and at the end of that day I was thinking…I was driving home and thinking what am I going to do now? They were drafting people at that time too for Viet Nam and I thought I’ll probably get drafted or something. That’ll be the next thing.
I get home and I have a call from a contractor who used to contract a lot of record dates…a lot of recording sessions. His name was Mike Eckapov and he told me to call him. So I called him and he says,”Do you wanna play with Ray Charles?” I said ,”What do you mean?” “He’s having auditions tomorrow. He’s going on the road. He’s holding auditions at The Tangerine Studios over on Washington. If you want to do it, meet me at 3 o’clock.”
So I thought about it…Wow! Man, if I get the gig with Ray Charles there’s my Conservatory of Music right there. And the art school, I paint already. I know what I’m doing. I know what I want to do. I don’t need to get lessons. I just want to paint. So forget about that one. I’m not going back there.
I went to the audition with Ray Charles. It was just me and him in the studio. He suggested that we play a couple of things and he put some music in front of me and I read it and we played for about 3 or 4 hours. He said,”You got the job young man, you got the job and we’re leaving tomorrow. You just got to talk to my road manager and get all the rules.” So I talked to the road manager and there were so many rules. It was so strict because Ray was a junkie and they had all these rules to protect him from the police and from publicity.
So I decided that it was too much. And also the same day I got a call about writing a show. So now my writing career pops up again, writing a show for Las Vegas. It would entail writing maybe for the whole year and being paid to write different 45 minute lounge acts with original music, songs and everything. I thought, Wow that’s a milestone for me. I was still teetering on one day I would think of myself as a musician doing studio work and then on the other hand, I wanted to write songs and I was writing songs. I was writing for a lot of live acts and stuff. At that time they had a lot of lounges where they would have live acts where people would want special material so I would write it for them and I was getting pretty good money for it.
I went back the next day to see Ray and to give him my answer. He wanted me to sign a contract and said okay we’re leaving Thursday for the road. I went in there and I told the manager that I’m not going to do it. I got a writing assignment and I really feel that I’ve gotta write now cuz I think that’s what I’m meant to be doing.
Gosh, I was only 18 years old at the time, and the road manager was pissed. He said, “Well you’re gonna have to tell Ray and he ain’t gonna be happy about this.” He got me all scared. They told me to wait in the lobby, so I’m sitting in there and then Ray called me in. I went in there and I said, “Mr. Charles, I’ve got this writing thing that I do and I just got a big offer to write for a whole year and make some pretty good bread and I think that I made a mental thought in my writing the other day and I think I wouldn’t be giving you my full attention if I went and played with you because I’d be thinking about the songs.”
He was real quiet and he said,”Well son, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. I wanna wish you all the best of luck,” he said. “I really enjoyed playing with you and meetin’ you.” I said,”I really don’t want to hang you up here ya know.” He said,” Hey, don’t worry. You’re not gonna hang me up. I’m Ray Charles. I can get anybody I want to play with me.” I said,”Oh yeah.” He said,” Don’t you worry. I wish you all the luck. Maybe I’ll do one of your songs one day.” I said, “Oh. Great. Okay,” and we parted like that, friendly like.
There was a decision, so I figured at the time, well, I got to play with Ray Charles for four hours, and meet him and talk with him. I felt some sort of a mystical connection with him. He was out there, man. He was in another world. Totally. He was totally songs. He was all about songs. Playing. So I thought, man, I’m just gonna hone my writing and write ten hours. That’s when I decided to hit it. I wrote for ten years, ten hours a day. Maybe even more than that. I would write from sunup ’til sundown. I honed it. I learned on my own. I never studied or anything. I just studied other songwriters.
EH: That’s incredible. It really is.
HM: I’ve always just sort of followed the path. My head’s in the clouds, my feet are on the ground. I never bumped into anything. I just kept going. Wherever I’m at today, there’s paths that led me here. And now I do concerts. I write everyday. Mostly poetry, these days. Every now and then I get an opportunity to write a new song, but believe me, I have enough songs.
EH: Yeah, It sounds like it.
HM: I have so many songs that when I do a show, I have to really struggle to do the songs that I want to do and not leave any out. Later sometimes after the show I think, oh shoot, I should have done that one, I wanted to do it. I have like too many songs. I have to be pretty discerning. I don’t really per say write a set list but I keep a certain amount of songs flowing around in my head that are in the inner circle at that time. When I go on stage I don’t really know what I’m gonna play. I go out there and whatever one pops in my head, I start playing… play that. As I’m in the middle of that one, usually I hear the next one already lined up and ready to come through. I know what I’m gonna do. I can do two three hours.
25 SONGS BY HIRTH MARTINEZ
EH: You would be almost labeled a beat musician, like a beat poet, beat writer, beat musician.
HM: Yeah. Yeah.
EH: That’s pretty cool, man. I just wanna say thank you. Boy, I could probably talk to you for another hour but I better wrap this up. I just thank you Hirth. You’re gonna have probably some new people that aren’t familiar with you and some other people wondering how you’ve been because they’ve heard your name.
I wanna make it a point to come meet you and come see you sometime at The Olde Ship(I see on your website) in Santa Ana after I’m done, maybe before I finish the painting, just to see you and say hi. I want to deliver the painting in person to you sometime. It’s gonna be a while. I listen to this recording and I have to transcribe it on the computer…that takes awhile, plus I work my regular jobs and everything, so.
HM: Oh sure, sure.
EH: It’s gonna be probably a month or so before this gets out there, at least …again I would like to see you, maybe in a couple weeks. Maybe I get a feel by seeing you in person for what I’m gonna put down on canvas.
HM: Hey, whatever moves you. Give me a call.
EH: I’m sure you’ll understand. Of all people, I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m trying to get at as you coming through the canvas.
HM: I totally understand.
EH: That’s what I do when I do a painting of let’s say Fatha Hines or Cab Calloway. I’ll play their music the entire time it takes me to do their painting so hopefully I’m sort of channelling their spirit.
HM: Yeah, I completely understand.
FATHA HINES Painting By ED HUERTA
CAB CALLOWAY Painting By ED HUERTA
EH: Well thank you Hirth. I’m really excited. I didn’t know a lot of the stuff that you were telling me. You’re really a nice spiritual person. You’re blessed from the moment you were born to be a musician…to create.
HM: It’s my pleasure Edward. Just keep on doing’ it man.
EH: Yeah, that keeps me goin’. Believe me. Even though maybe nobody might enjoy it, well hey, I do.
HM: Well, as long as you do the odds will. You’d be surprised. I mean a long time that I never met or thought about or anything, I mean people that I’d realize they’d been fans but for years.
EH: Like I say when I was a kid, I just remember looking at that album cover of yours and just goin’ – Wow, that’s out there. Cuz I was probably what? When was that, ’74?
EH: I was like thirteen. I was just goin’ wow. This is wild. This is like nothin’ I know of. So it took me later to really appreciate your talent because I was whatever, I was listening to maybe The Beach Boys or something…which is not belittling The Beach Boys, but I’m just saying you’re a different artist.
HM: My show now, like when I’m playing in New Hampshire, I’m calling it “Hirth Martinez From The Land of The Big Song.” When I do the show collectively those songs represent all kinds of different styles and I take liberties too. I’m doing a solo show, I don’t work with a band most of the time now, I work solo and it gives me the freedom to do variations on the songs and I take off and I do solos and I weave into all kinds of places. It’s really the most exciting gig that I’ve ever had doing these concerts during the last few years.
EH: It’s really great also to hear you being open to influences from country to bebop to classical to Gershwin. It’s just really cool that you’re open like that. That’s what I like. I’m sort of more closed. I’m not into the newer music right now at all or what’s very popular. I really don’t listen to that. It just doesn’t do anything for me. I do delve into the past.
HM: There’s so much music out there. It’s just endless. Without it getting into the hip hop stuff…cuz I don’t listen to that either, but I’m still fascinated by the fifties, including rockabilly, jazz, r&b. The fifties brought out all kinds of eclectic stuff. I’m still listening to songwriters from that era.
There’s a buddy of mine who sort of became famous in the fifties and now he’s ninety two years old and he’s still playing. He’s still doing concerts and stuff. He’s a songwriter. His name is Bob Dorough. In fact he’s kind of like my mentor of all the songwriters but he’s a jazz and bebop guy. I call him the hippest man in the world.
EH: That’s pretty cool. That’s pretty cool. At ninety two he’s the hippest man in the world.
HM: Ninety two years old. He embodies every kind of music there is. I’ll just tell you a really short little musician story about Thelonius Monk. He was sent to have pawn for somebody about his own funeral and this was near the end of his life. He sensed he was going to be leaving. He was discussing the set up of the funeral. And a friend said,”Well do you want some music playing Monk? What do you want us to play, man?” And Monk says,”You know me. You can play anything you’d like. There’s only two kinds of music I don’t like.” And the guy said,”Really? What are they?” He says,” Country & Western.”
THELONIUS MONK Painting By ED HUERTA
EH: Oh no. Oh man. That’s pretty funny. That’s pretty cool.
HM: Well then I’ll say goodbye for now.
EH: Wow that’s wild. Well, Hirth. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.
HM: Thank you.
EH: It was really enjoyable talking to you. I really appreciate this.
HM: My pleasure Ed. Keep in touch.
EH: I will Hirth. Take care. Okay
HM: Have a beautiful evening.
EH: You too. Bye.
HM: Bye for now.
HIRTH MARTINEZ Photo By YOSHI NAGATO
And “Bye” it was for now as Hirth passed away shortly after this interview. Many of us have the hope our paths will cross again in the future, in a better place, and certainly in a better time. For those that don’t have this hope, I can only say “Bummer” witha capital “B”… We’ll see you sometime soon Hirth. – Jack