For over fifty years, Mac Martin has led a high quality Bluegrass band in the Pittsburgh area. Although Mac and his Dixie Travelers have not made a large number of personal appearances outside of the region of western Pennsylvania, their quality recordings have won them a dedicated audience among fans of traditional Bluegrass throughout the world. Martin has shown an especially able knack for taking good quality songs from the near forgotten past and developing excellent arrangements of them that fit the style of the Dixie Travelers. A life-long resident of Pittsburgh, Mac, whose parents come from Ireland, listened both to the Grand Ole Opry and Wheeling Jamboree since childhood. In his teens, he and a friend named Ed Brozi formed a duet, developing a rich repertoire of country songs learned from the radio, records and songbooks. During the latter part of WWII, young Mac served as a Navy Seabee in the Pacific Theater and on the island of Okinawa. All this time, he continued to learn songs and add them to his repertoire. After the war, Mac returned to Pennsylvania and formed a country band, in 1948, called the Pike County Boys, which he described as akin to Bluegrass but initially without a banjo. They worked clubs in the Pittsburgh area and did weekly radio programs at area Pittsburgh stations. In the mid-50’s, Mac took on as band members fiddler Mike Carson and banjo player Billy Bryant. This established the center of the group with a full Bluegrass sound. Taking the name Dixie Travelers, they did irregular club work for a couple of years until 1957, when they began appearing at Walsh’s Lounge. They played one and sometimes two nights a week at Walsh’s for some nineteen years – possibly the longest running, continuous stand in Bluegrass history. Throughout their careers, Mac Martin and the Dixie Travelers have displayed a consistent quality of straight traditional Bluegrass that is virtually unsurpassed by a semi-professional band. While their form may be more limited than some, their standard of musicianship, which has always put distinctiveness ahead of commercial expediency, is indeed admirable. A host of loyal fans and a handful of superior recordings rank among their legacy to date.
Ivan M. Tribe
Ironically, one of the reasons Mac Martin & The Dixie Travelers have not become more widely known among Bluegrass followers is that the music they play is nothing but authentic, genuine Bluegrass music. The Dixie Travelers don’t play rigidly structured, formalized oldtime Bluegrass, although no one is more conversant with the great traditions of country music than Mac Martin…….instead, the Dixie Travelers are five fine musicians united as a common purpose: creating great Bluegrass music.
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