And most especially in Middle Tennessee
By Zan Martin
Art collectors from around the world are proud owners of one or more of Randy Martin’s creative masterpieces; whether an oil painting, graphite drawing, wood carving, meerschaum pipe, Native American pipe, bronze sculpture, or more. For example, one of his carvings is on display at Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Company, the largest corporation in Japan, and much to his pride, he was chosen to carve an Eastern Bluebird for the White House Christmas tree themed “All Creatures Great and Small” for First Lady Laura Bush.
The carving is now part of the permanent White House Christmas tree collection. And being from Nashville, his artwork graces the cover of some of the most famous country music artists in the world, including Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Charlie Daniels to name a few.
According to his mom, Randy has been drawing since he was old enough to hold a pencil, and was especially fascinated by Walt Disney and Davy Crockett. A collection of many of the drawings and paintings he created during his formative years is on hand in his office, as well as many of those he completed over the course of his life. In the early 1970’s he began creating wildlife paintings and having prints made for sale beginning with a Paragon Falcon, a Cougar kitten, Blue Jays, and other nature scenes.
Not long after we married, Randy began another creative endeavor and started writing songs. With the help of his producer friend Tony Ray-Jones of Backwoods Studios, they began producing full studio versions of almost all of his incredible songs. To listen to his music click here.
Randy attended Middle Tennessee State College (now University) until he decided to major in Fine Art, and graduated from Harris School of Art. While he continued to create fine art all of his life, he knew he needed what he called “a day job” and held numerous jobs with art studios and advertising agencies, all while freelancing for some of the most prestigious artists and album cover designers in Nashville. We met at Brumfield/Gallagher, an advertising agency in Nashville, and joked early on about forming our own agency, not knowing that over a decade later it would become a reality. During Randy’s tenure there one of their clients was the Republican National Committee, and he painted a beautiful portrait of Ronald Regan for posters promoting his 1984 reelection campaign.
After leaving Brumfield/Gallagher he became an Art Director for CBS Records (now Sony Music) where he met and got to know some of Nashville’s most legendary country music artists, many of whom became collectors of his art and often sought him out to continue designing their album covers long after he left CBS. During this time, he was also hired by Gibson Guitars to paint an image of Earl Scruggs on the back of numerous banjos that were sold as “The Earl”.
We married in 1991 and had two weddings, both a Native American and traditional ceremony.
After we married, I was working for another advertising agency where I worked my way up to Vice President, and Randy opened and ran what he named the Whites Creek Trading Post where he displayed and sold his artwork as well as that of many local artisans. The building is on the historic register of Tennessee and it was there back in 1881 when one of the infamous James Gang members, Bill Ryan, alias Tom Hill was captured and hauled off to jail. At the time Frank and Jesse were living in East Nashville passing themselves off as Equestrian experts while planning robberies in neighboring cities. Ryan was heading on horseback to Missouri after a bank heist in Muscle Shoals, AL when a rainstorm hit and he stopped at the building that at the time was a combination grocery store and saloon. He proceeded to get drunk, began pulling out money and weapons, and bragging on his “winnings”. The bartender suspected he was a member of the James Gang and slipped out to get the blacksmith across the street to help. At the time, the magistrate of Nashville lived next door and was alerted to bring his wagon out front, and between them, they hogtied Ryan to his chair, placed him in the wagon, and hauled him downtown.
When Frank and Jesse got wind of the capture, they packed up all their belongings and fled Nashville for good. After studying all that we could about this historic event, with creative thinking, Randy and I decided to reenact the event and called it the First Annual James Gang Shootout. We embellished the story, brought in actors and saloon girls, convinced the current Sheriff of Nashville Hank Hillin to be the arresting officer, had Frank, Jesse, and the rest of the gang infiltrate the crowd, and tried to stop the arrest ending with a major shootout.
We held the play every hour on the hour, and in between we had musicians performing, food vendors, tomahawk throwing, and even had the Guinness Book of World Records winner shooting coins out of the air. Thousands of people attended and it was a huge success covered by most of the media in the area. It was the last one we produced though because later that year we started our own agency like we long ago dreamed and in 1993 Martin & Company was formed. The business grew so rapidly that we did not have time to hold a shootout even though we wished we could.
For the next 28 years, we built a very successful business and along the way, thanks to Randy’s creative vision, won over 28 automotive aftermarket global design awards for ad campaigns, logo designs, catalogs, and collateral materials. By earning the trust of our clients and focusing on building their brands we have earned a strong reputation in the industry as marketers that understand the aftermarket and always put the clients’ best interests first. One particular client who we worked with, Matt Graves, representing two different manufacturers perfectly summed up the kind of man Randy Martin is:
I’ve held off writing this mainly because I am still in shock over it. The world will never be the same without Randy Martin. I met Zan and Randy around 2005. We hired them as our official ad agency in 2006 for Cherry Bomb. It was one of the best things to happen to me in my career. Zan and Randy opened doors for me that would never have happened had we not partnered up. Ever since then we have still been working together now at American Powertrain. I owe them both all the respect in the world. Randy was an incredible artist like no one has ever seen. He could carve, paint, draw, write music, graphic design, and tons of other artistic things I’ve never seen people do before. Even just a few months ago Randy was still coming up with awesome ads and taglines. He was one of the most laid back, easy going people I have ever met. I learned a lot from him…Just watching how he loved Zan so much was inspirational as well. I could go on and on about him. He was that special. I feel it for everyone that works at Martin Co. It’s a tragic loss. I loved both of them so much like family.
The last tag line he came up with for American Powertrain was “We got your six”. We used it on our newest t-shirt.
For Randy….I just want you to know we got Zan’s Six….Rest in Peace, my friend.
Today, if you tour our home and office you’ll feel as if you are visiting an art gallery and be able to enjoy his paintings, sculptures, pipes, handmade leather clothing, and more all on permanent display throughout the building. Oh, what a legacy he left, and what an amazing creative talent has been lost to the world. In the past months, I have worked with the UT Southern Foundation to establish the Randy Martin Memorial Arts Scholarship fund. If anyone has an interest in making a donation you can click here.
One of the things this whole team misses the most about him is his silliness and how much he made us laugh. Randy, we miss you and feel blessed that you brought such inspiration and joy into our lives in so many ways. You will be forever missed and loved. We were a power couple and were blessed to make a big impact in this world. Thank you for our fairy tale love story of 36 years.