Martha Carson 2

"The First Lady of Gospel Music"


In the early 1950's, the gospel music world was rocked by the joyous and unique sounds of the fiery and spirited Martha Carson. The groundbreaking works of this red haired beauty carried southern gospel music to the peak of its popularity, and influenced such artists as Elvis Presley, Johnny Ray, and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. Martha's dynamic stage presence was so impressive that variety show host Steve Allen once placed a music trade ad to proclaim, "Martha Carson is not a girl-She's an explosion!" Now regarded as "The First Lady of Gospel Music," Martha continues to entertain and inspire audiences with her heartfelt songs.

Born Irene Ambergey in Neon, Kentucky, Martha was exposed to gospel music at an early age. She traveled the region with "The Family Singers," a gospel group consisting of her mother, father, uncle, and grandfather. At the age of ten, she traded her calf to a neighborhood boy to obtain her first guitar, and she taught herself to play from the Spiegel Chord Book. In her early teens, she and her two sisters, Opal and Bertha, began performing regionally. Billing themselves as "The Sunshine Sisters," they played folk, gospel, and sentimental songs.

The sisters joined briefly with the Coon Crook Girls in Renfro Valley, Kentucky, and later relocated to Atlanta as the Hoot Owl Holler Girls on WSB Radio. The girls had already adopted the stage names of Minnie (Opal), Mattie (Bertha), and Martha (Irene). Thus, when she met and married James Carson Roberts, a mandolin player, Irene became known as Martha Carson.

Martha and James attained considerable success as a guitar/mandolin duo throughout the 1940s. However, they separated in 1950, which made a number of fans bitter. While Martha was touring with Bill Carlisle in the Smoky Mountains, one fan made a harsh comment regarding the breakup that reduced Martha to tears. But it was during this outpouring of tearful emotion that Martha was inspired by God. Her mind was touched with the thought, "I'm satisfied and you're satisfied." She picked up a dirty blank check off of the floor of Bill Carlisle's car and began writing down the words to what would become her first solo Capitol release and her most beloved song. Martha penned the words to "Satisfied" and a gospel music legend was reborn.

Martha's first recordings for Capitol were groundbreaking in many ways. Ken Nelson, who supervised the recording, gave her total creative freedom, allowing her to perform her upbeat gospel songs with a tight, economical band and a lot of rhythm. Martha's unique phrasing and the innovative guitar style of young newcomer Chet Atkins resulted in music that was different enough from the familiar country sounds to appeal to a broad base of people. "Satisfied" was the first gospel song to ever top the country charts and to cross over onto the pop charts as well. Other artists, including Elvis Presley, have recorded the song over a hundred times.

She remained in the music scene during the later 60's and the 70's, writing and performing in Tennessee, but she did not record again until the Starday/Gusto, company approached her in 1977, asking her to re-record some of her songs for a Greatest Hits album. Martha agreed, and even recorded some of the new songs she had recently written.

In the late 70's, with her two sons grown, she began to devote more time to her love of music, playing many areas of the southern states. Audiences young and old, greeted her with great affection. She made appearances on the Ralph Emery Show and The Nashville Network, and one of her songs was even featured on an episode of the TV series "Fame" in 1983. Unfortunately, her comeback was cut short by the untimely illness of her husband, Xavier. She went into retirement to care for him until his death in November 1990.

Martha continues to write, record and perform her special style of gospel music.

As a recording artist, Martha can look back on a musical career that influenced American music as a whole. Her recording of "Satisfied" is among the collection of The Smithsonian Institute as a musical milestone. As a warm and grand lady, a great and influential artist, it seems certain that she will continue to thrill and inspire many an audience with her one of a kind projection. Her heartfelt rendering of the music of a happy spiritual!

"She's the best entertainer I've ever seen. A tremendous amount of energy. She's a beautiful lady and my good friend."
~~Chet Atkins

"She's the most caring person I know and is totally dedicated to her profession. Just a super person and a tremendous artist."
~~Boots Randolph

"Martha is the greatest truly Christian lady I've ever known: That's where she gets her strength, songs and inspiration. We were on tour and she was riding in the back seat of my car when she wrote 'Satisfied.' She deserves nothing but the best."
~~Bill Carlisle

"One of the greatest of the greats. I remember Martha playing her guitar so hard she always broke strings on every show. God bless her, wish her the best."
~~Grandpa Jones

"Marthie is a wonderful lady. Every song she writes Is based on a scripture or verse from the Bible-so hearing her sing Is just like hearing a good ol' fashioned sermon. Her biggest days and songs are yet to come."
~~Bill Monroe

"Time and again Martha guested on Jubilee USA during its six-year lifetime, and every time she rocked the stage of our old studio building to its very foundation. This lady to my way of thinking is surely a one of a kind performer. I've seen her on television, heard her records, watched her in person and known her personally for years. For my money, her charm, her explosive and soul thrilling presentation of a song and the responsiveness she can arouse in an audience go positively unchallenged by any other entertainer in the business today."
~~Si Siman, Producer, Jubilee, USA

"On record or on stage Martha is the rousing, spine tingling, hair curling kind of entertainer that show biz: Is all about. She's got that certain something, that certain magical It what you like; hear; soul; sincerity-whatever the label Martha's got it."
~~Charlie Lamb, Publisher, Music Reporter

"Fortunate is the composer Who has an artist such as Martha Carson to interpret his lyrics."
~~Hal B.Cook, Editor, Billboard Magazine

BMI Achievement Award-1953: "Satisfied"
Achievement Award-1953: 'Walk and Talk with my Lord"
Cash Box Magazine-Most Programmed Gospel Singer, National Disc Jockey Poll-1955
Country-Western Magazine-Most Programmed Gospel Singer-1956
Automatic Music Industry of America-Best Female Gospel Singer-1955-56
Country Western Readers Poll-#1 Gospel Singer-1955
Country & Western Jamboree-Best Female Gospel Singer-1956-58
Annual Disc Jockey Poll-#1 Gospel Singer-1956

Awards of Achievement from Governor Frank Clements, Tennessee; Governor Buford Ellington, Tennessee; Congressman Bob Clements, Tennessee; Governor Jimmy Davis, Louisiana; Governor George Wallace, Alabama; and Mayor Beverly Briley, Nashville, Tennessee.

On July 25, 1992, Martha Carson was awarded the American Eagle Award and was inducted into the Country Music Halls of Fame in all fifty states and in nine foreign countries.

Full Name: Martha Carson
Birthday: May 19
Place of Birth: Neon, Kentucky
Education: Neon, Kentucky
Husband: Xavier-Cosse', deceased
Children: Rend Paul and Andre' Michael
Show Business Start: Sunshine Sisters; WHIS Radio, West Virginia; Coon Creek Girls, Renfro Valley Barn Dance; Hoot Owl Holler Girls, WSB Radio, Atlanta, Georgia; Midday Merry Go Round, WNOX Radio, Knoxville, Tennessee; WSM Grand Ol' Opry, Nashville, Tennessee.

Recording Affiliations: White Church; Capitol; RCA Victor; Cadence; Dot; SIMs; Scripture; Gusto/Starday.

Personal Appearances: All major auditoriums and theaters In the US and Canada; First gospel singer to appear at Chez Paree' In Chicago, Waldorf Astoria in New York City, Dunes Hotel In Las Vegas, and Grossingers In New York City.
Affiliations: BMI
Television: The Grand Ol' Opry, The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, The Jimmy Dean Show, The Steve Allen Show, The Tonight Show, Galaxy of Stars, Arlene Francis Show, Ray Bolger's Washington Square Show, Nashville Now, and many guest appearances on specials.

"Satisfied," "Walk and Talk with my Lord," "Dip Your Fingers in Some Water," "Singin' on the Other Side," *Old Blind Barnabus."