By Connie Leinbach
An evening with Martin Garrish and various friends takes the listener on a unique musical journey sprinkled with glimpses of Ocracoke’s past.
Martin’s concerts on summer Friday evenings are part of the weekly musical offerings at Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro’s Coyote Den in Community Square.
“I don’t care for boats, fishing or anything with the water,” Martin related one recent night. He began playing the guitar at age 11 and hasn’t stopped.
He is one of the musical icons on the island, and can be heard frequently throughout the island in different band incarnations.
Born in the 1940s, Martin says his musical preference is music from the 1930s to 1980.
“I don’t like much after that,” he said.
And while some of the younger generation might be immersed in contemporary music, the songs Martin chooses are the roots.
His song selection reflects his deep trolling of these decades for a variety of interesting songs.
They are frequently humorous, such as “Unfortunate Man,” popularized by the Chad Mitchell Trio, which Martin says lawyers don’t like, or “Stumbling,” by Homer and Jethro.
Romance showed in a lovely song, “The Orchid,” about how these flowers last longer than roses and therefore symbolize a stronger love.
He wasn’t afraid to show that he’s still learning and played “Little Martha,” an instrumental piece by the late Duane Allman.
“I’ve been trying to learn how to play that for 50 years,” Martin said, “and until Lou got here I never thought it was right.”
Lou, who graduated from the Berklee College of Music, Boston, also plays in several bands and teaches music on the island.
Several decades back, one of the Coast Guard sailors stationed on the island introduced Martin to 1960s icon John Prine, purveyor of songs with a social conscience.
Martin and Marcy sang Prine’s song “Unwed Fathers,” a tune that illuminates how unwed mothers bear the brunt of a few minutes of youthful passion while the guys seem to get a pass, a condition that’s still relevant.
The friend who joined Martin the night of this reporter’s attendance was renowned fiddle player Speedy Price of Frisco.
Price joined Martin in a rendition of fiddling tour de force “Orange Blossom Special,” and Price picked up the mandolin to join Martin in “Dueling Banjos.”
All four musicians capped the evening with the Den’s theme song, “Enjoy Yourself,” by Guy Lombardo, a spirited ditty that perfectly captured the Den’s ethos and had the audience clapping in a rousing finale.
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