Doc Roberts & Asa Martin

Doc Roberts and Asa Martin

In the late 1920s, the Gennett studio in Richmond was among the most prolific producers of “old time” country music records. Critical to this amazing output were the Kentucky musicians Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts and Asa Martin—who became a popular recording pair for Gennett after meeting at a fiddler’s contest in the Bluegrass State.
A singer and accomplished fiddle and mandolin player, Roberts visited the Richmond studio a dozen times, recording 100 sides as either the name artist or as an accompanist. Often, Martin backed him on rhythm guitar. As a singer-guitarist, Martin became a popular artist in his own right for Gennett and on regional radio.
The music of Roberts is distinctly regional, marked by his influential
“long-bow” legato style of fiddle playing. Martin drove the beat with crisp guitar strumming and finger picking. Because Gennett often sold a single recording across several different labels, including the discount Champion and Sears & Roebuck labels, Roberts appeared as a recording artist under five different names!
Roberts also proved to be a key talent scout for Gennett Records, recruiting numerous Kentucky performers for the Richmond studio, including Martin.
Gennett helped to popularize the “boy singer” in rural string bands. Martin recorded his most
beautiful vocal duets with Roberts’ 10-year-old son, James, with his proud father supporting the duet on mandolin. Ever the master marketer, Gennett Records embellished its advertising of the singing duet by referring to James Roberts as Martin’s nephew and claiming he begged his “uncle” to record with him.
After Gennett Records closed in the 1930s, Roberts and Martin stopped recording but continued playing for decades. In 1974, Fiddlin’ Doc and James Roberts teamed with Martin in Berea, Kentucky, for a final performance together—a swan song for one of early country music’s great collaborative teams preserved for history thanks to Gennett Records. Click here to listen to a recording released on Gennett’s Supertone label in 1929.

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