All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Sara Martin

Sara Martin

Although overshadowed in the annals of blues history by her contemporaries Gertrude “Ma” Rainey and Bessie Smith, Sara Martin was a true pioneer in her own right as a performer and recording artist. Martin was a popular vaudeville act on the Theater Owners' Booking Association (TOBA) circuit that showcased African-American artists, and she also enjoyed a prolific career as a recording artist on the OKeh and Columbia labels.

In the 1920s she made well over 100 records on those labels, often recording songs she co-wrote, such as “Mean Tight Mama” and “Mama's Got the Blues.” Martin also worked with some of the other early blues giants of the day, such as W.C. Handy, “Georgia Tom” Dorsey, and Fats Waller, before leaving the blues scene in the early 1930s.

Although Louisville did not match the vitality of such jazz and blues centers as St. Louis, New Orleans, or Chicago, it had developed its own vibrant music scene by the late nineteenth century, when the blues singer later known as Sara Martin grew up. Born on June 18, 1884, Martin grew up in a city ruled by harsh racial segregation. By 1900 Louisville had become known for its string bands (with guitar, banjo, and violin) and jug bands (with musicians using various combinations of gallon jugs, kazoos, mandolins, guitars, and harmonicas). Martin later brought one Louisville string-band guitarist, Sylvester Weaver, with her to New York City for one of her recording sessions in 1923; the tracks became the first-ever blues recordings that featured a guitar accompaniment.

Read more



Album The Complete Recorded Works by Sara Martin

The Complete Recorded...

Document Records




Bessie Smith Bessie Smith
voice / vocals
Ma Rainey Ma Rainey
voice / vocals
Ida Cox Ida Cox
voice / vocals
Sippie Wallace Sippie Wallace
voice / vocals
Victoria Spivey Victoria Spivey
voice / vocals
Mississippi Sheiks Mississippi Sheiks
Blind Willie McTell Blind Willie McTell
guitar, 12-string
Lucille Bogan Lucille Bogan
voice / vocals
Bertha "Chippie" Hill Bertha "Chippie" Hill
voice / vocals

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.