Back in the 1970s, Chance Martin was Johnny Cash’s right-hand man. He pulled double duty as stage manager and lighting director for the Man in Black, who rewarded Chance by handing over his own D35 Martin guitar. Chance used the acoustic guitar to write a psychedelic country record, In Search, which was privately released in 1981. Only 200 copies were ever pressed.
Three decades later, Chance Martin has a found new job at Sirius XM, where he serves as the right-hand man to a different sort of outlaw: DJ Cowboy Jack Clement. He’s also reissuing In Search. The songs are great, anchored in old-school twang and irreverent humor… but the stories that Chance tells in the accompanying oral history are worth a listen, too.
“After I wrote ‘Loser Till You Win’ and ‘Dusty Roads of Yesterday’ on Johnny Cash’s Martin,” he says, “I wrote this song called ‘Mr. Freedom Man,’ which was also published by the House of Cash. This Hollywood industry guy came to visit Jim Kilgore, the lighting director of the Cash show, who had become a friend of mine. Jim told him about me and the mansion and the peacocks and sent him out to see me and hear my song ‘Mr. Freedom Man,’ just a guitar and vocal demo. And he flew me to Hollywood; I stayed in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and had a ball. For one song! Anyway, he had a big office there, but he was really in the casket business; I figured that out. The third day, he wrote me an expense check for a couple hundred dollars. I went to cash it in the hotel lobby, but they pulled me over and told me the check wasn’t no good. I went back to his office, got up on his desk where he was sitting, kicked everything off it. And I told him, you bounced a $200 check on Mr. Freedom Man! I said, you don’t get to do that but once. We’re done. It only gets worse after this: that was my motto.”