Healing Calgary’s souls one note at a time
Sunday is the day blues musicians Gary Martin and the Heavenly Blues play at the Hexters pub in Bowness. Martin helps people forget that Monday is just around the corner.
On Sunday, Nov. 24, a mix of all ages hit the dance floor during the blues jam. The excitement of dancing to renditions of hits from Stevie Wonder to Marvin Gaye is what these Sunday nights are about. Everybody is welcome at a cost of $5.
Martin was born and raised in the United States, where his music career started. He grew up in the jazz scene in Chicago where his uncle, Hubert Sumlin, first inspired him to play the blues.
"Music is my life and blues is where I started," says Martin, who also says he considers blues as not simply a genre of music, but a culture as well.
Martin began playing guitar at the age of nine and by the time he was 17, he started his professional journey as a musician. Since then he hasn't stopped playing and making people happy with his music.
"(Blues) heals you," says Martin. "It helps you when you are in stressful situations. It helps you to overcome certain things by listening to the music."
He came to Canada to play jazz in Vancouver, but it was Calgary that opened its arms to help him build his music career.
Known as the Chicago blues ambassador to Calgary, Martin recently celebrated a decade of hosting the Sunday night blues jam in Bowness.
"I always enjoy being there and pleasing the people. I'm just excited to play to them," says Martin.
Dressed in a perfectly pressed sky-blue suit and shuffling back and forth across the stage, it was easy to see why Martin has made Bowness the home of blues for 10 years.
Martin will be releasing a Motown tribute album in March 2014. The original The Funk Brothers will also be featured on this album.
Photographed by Allison Drinnan and Michelle Thomas
Published on Dec. 19
Left: “When you come into the club to hear me, I make you forget about (bad things) for four hours. For four hours your mind is not on that. You’re reminiscing over the songs, you are dancing and you are talking to friends, so for four hours you get a break better than Prozac… cheaper too,” Martin jokes. Right: One of Martin’s greatest achievements is Martin’s plaque commemorating The Funk Brothers star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Martin thanks the people who have supported him all the way.
Martin and the Heavenly Blues band had people from the crowd come on stage and join them in a song. Drummer Bob Primeau says that the collaborative elements of a blues jam as opposed to a blues show offer “a good steady flow and good groove.”
Left: “The energy is fantastic. It helped me through a lot of times when I was having issues and marital problems and it just lifts you up, ” says Beverly Martin, a frequent member of the Calgary blues scene. Right: Something that makes Martin’s band stand out from the rest is the level of community engagement they have. “If you want to be successful, you have to make it a family not just your clients,” Martin says.
Martin has a unique talent. Martin’s wife — Anne Fitze —says, “He uses no pedals to create the sound; he uses just his fingers.”