Artists: Martin Stephenson and The Daintees
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Martin Stephenson and The Daintees Biography
Martin Stephenson is one of the many artists who broke through in the early eighties, but he managed to retain not only his fan base, but also his credibility. This was despite the fact that his career had taken a number of twists and turns, seeing him move with ease from eighties pop, through to roots music, with a few other stops in between.
Born in County Durham on the 27th July 1961, Martin first became aware of music as a teenager. In fact it was down to an older friend at a youth club that the young Martin first heard the music of Frank Zappa. Other influences however were about to be brought to bear as Punk exploded across the nation and Martin was fired up enough over the ‘anyone can do it’ ethic, to take up the guitar himself.
Whilst working as a carpet fitter by day, Martin played guitar at night in his first band, The Strange Relations. By the age of nineteen, Martin heard ‘Runaway Boys’, by the Stray Cats on the radio and was inspired enough to give up his day job, fully immersing himself in music, which he did at first by busking on the streets. Shortly after however, Martin formed the Daintees and things began to move quickly. By 1982 the band were recording and became one of the first to sign to the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne label, Kitchenware, which released the debut single ‘Roll On Summertime’. Shortly after this Martin and the band signed to the major London Records Label, an occasion that was celebrated by a meal of fish and chips, eaten at the local chippy. Thus so it was, that Martin and the band signed their major record contract, on a wall outside a chip shop!
The Daintees released five albums during their initial period together, with the band reforming in 2001, resulting in a live album.
Following the initial break up of the Daintees, Martin headed out on a tour of highland café’s and folk clubs. This was probably a kick against the commercial direction the record label had wanted him to move in. By the time of his album ‘Yogi In My House’, Martin had signed with the independent, Demon Records label. The album was an eclectic affair, although considered by many to be one of his best. Featured tracks included, ‘Dance The Last Goodbye’ and ‘Gone The Gypsy Davey’, which reflected Martin’s roots influences. The album also contained performances from friends like Jools Holland and Pauline Murray, who was another native of the North East, having fronted the punk band, Penetration. The album was one of two released in 1995, the other being ‘Sweet Misdemeanour’.
The rootsier side of Martin’s influences however have never been far from the surface. As far back as the Daintees debut album ‘Boat To Bolivia’, there had been a track dedicated to the Reverend Gary Davis, titled, ‘Tribute To The Late Gary Davis’.
In 2000 Martin was invited to take part in a project which was dear to his heart. He was invited to North Carolina to make field recordings with Dolphus Ramseur, who guided Martin around the region and recorded him playing with some of the older musicians such as, Etta Baker. The resultant double album ‘The Haint Of The Budded Rose’ is a veritable musical journey through a particular region, rich in music and folklore, which bears repeated listening.
Another recent project is ‘Down To The Wood’, which is again a field recording of Martin alongside Jim Hornsby. This was recorded in the Shining Cliff Woods, Ambergate in the Peak District. Other roots based albums have followed including ‘The Disciples Of Merle and Doc’, ‘The Church and The Mini Disc’ and ‘The Lilac Tree’. A more recent recording has been ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ featuring, Johnny 'Fats' Sutherland and Isaac Sutherland.
In an industry which sometimes celebrates mediocrity, it is the very diversity of Martin Stephenson's material that makes him such a highly thought of and individual talent. Martin stands apart in a class all of his own and one that ultimately provides a refreshing change from the norm.