Kim Martin, also known as Mary Ellen Marth, is a writer, entertainer, and band leader who has found acclaim recording and touring the United States and Canada since the 1960s. Born and raised on a farm in Minnesota, Ms. Martin discovered her musical gifts at a young age and some of her earliest memories are of practicing by singing to the birds and squirrels outside her bedroom. By the age of 5, she had been singing and taking tap dancing lessons for several years and had already developed a strong stage presence and a love for performing. She got her start not long after, when her mother took her to Minneapolis to audition for the backing band on “Slim Jim’s Radio Program,” a regionally-broadcast variety show who immediately hired her to appear as a regular featured singer.
The attention the young Ms. Martin received from “Slim Jim’s Radio Program” soon led to other gigs, and as she grew older, her performance abilities continued to improve. By her teen years, she was acting and singing in a weekly three-act stage play and band broadcast from Bismarck, North Dakota, and she found a passion for country music that would come to define her career. She became a regular singer and instrumentalist for several Twin Cities-area bands including the Norm Larson Trio, the Stinson Brothers, and Del Clayton and his 17-Piece Orchestra, and often filled in as a rhythm guitarist for various country outfits across the state, building a reputation for being a skilled and versatile musician. During this time, Ms. Martin started experimenting with writing her own music. Recognizing that her creativity was not limited to singing and performance, she began writing short stories, poems, and articles about her experiences for newspapers and magazines in addition to original songs.
In 1960, Ms. Martin shifted into the role of band leader, starting The Kim Martin Show to showcase her talents as a performer and her sizable catalog of original music, including “They Took You and Me (And Little Jimmy Too).” Since then, she has toured the United States and Canada both solo and with The Kim Martin Show and recorded with Nashville’s Alleluia Productions and renowned country producer Gerry Peters’ Midi-Magic Studio. Throughout her career, Ms. Martin was the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, most notably being crowned the Midwest Country Entertainers Association Queen of Country Music in 1977, a title she considers a career highlight. She went on to be named Entertainer of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year in 1978, and Songwriter of the Year in 1980, while The Kim Martin Show was awarded Best Band of the Year in 1979.
While touring and recording music, Ms. Martin enjoyed success in real estate investment, establishing Marth Properties in Minneapolis in 1972. She has also been active in the Columbia Heights Owners Association and the Minneapolis Multi-Housing Association since the early 1990s. Passionate about genealogy, she has been affiliated with the Vesterheim Genealogical Museum and the Norwegian American Museum for more than three decades, and she is an active member of the Winneshiek Genealogical Society, the Fillmore County Historical Society and the Minnesota Historical Society.
In recognition of her long and varied career in country music, Ms. Martin was inducted into the Mid-America Hall of Fame in 2007. She considers her life “full and blessed,” and is proud to have been successful in entertainment without sacrificing compassion or integrity. Ms. Martin emphasizes that she has always fought for the underdog and highlighted real, relatable stories in her music. She advises others that although the entertainment industry is male-dominated and often difficult, “if you love the business, don’t give up no matter how many knockdowns might come your way.”