Lou Martin

Our friend and colleague Lou passed away on Friday 17th August 2012.

From Mick Clarke:

Lou was a unique talent and the best company you could have. My good friend for forty four years. R.I.P. Lou.

From Bill Thorndycraft:

My first memory of Lou Martin was in early 1968, at the time of Killing Floors formation.
Mick Clarke and I had just recruited Mac and Bazz and advertised for a blues pianist in Melody Maker. An 18 year old lad from the Greenwich area of London responded to the ad and Mac and I arranged to visit him at his family home where he had an upright piano on which he practised and for us to assess his suitability for Killing Floor.
I recall asking him what his musical influences were and he came up with a list that included BB King, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis, Memphis Slim ,Otis Spann and Meade Lux Lewis as well as the Paul Butterfield BandI then asked if he would play a 12 bar blues for us which he proceeded to do and at which point I could feel a shiver run down my back. Mac and I were completely bowled over and had no hesitation at inviting him to join us with the rest of the band for a jam After this visit I remember calling Mick Clarke and informing him of this incredible Boogie pianist who was keen to meet the rest of the band and join us. The rest is history and Lou joined us and fitted in with us perfectly, both musically and personality wise. His playful and gentle humour and sense of fun and comical perspective on life, made him a joy to spend long hours with travelling to and from gigs in the back of our Transit van.
His playing suited and complemented perfectly, Killing Floors high energy take on the blues. After Killing Floor, Lou went on to join Rory Gallagher in the mid 70s with an ex Killing Floor drummer, Rod DeAth and went on to record and play on many of Rorys most popular albums and spent many years touring the world with Rorys band.
He also played with Chuck Berry amongst others as well as with the Mick Clarke band with whom he recorded with on occasions.
He remains to this day the most exciting Rock/Blues Pianist I have come across, up there with Jerry Lee and Little Richard.
He recorded on our first 2 albums and then again 35 years later on the Zero Tolerance album, shortly after which his health started to deteriorate significantly.
His contribution to Rock Blues I am sure will continue to appreciate long after his passing away.


Now available as a free download..
Mick Clarke and Lou Martin - "Happy Home, the other bits.."
Full album download of a rehearsal tape from 1996 - Lou at his most relaxed. Completely free - you may wish to donate to a charity of your choice.
Listen and Download Here

From Geb Ring:

My memories of Lou date back to the earliest days of Killing Floor, when Mick and I shared a flat in Tooting. Mick was on his way to becoming the guitar legend he now is, and I was making a mess of being a student. With the formation of KF, Lou came on to the scene. In the relatively short time I knew him he made a deep impression. He was warm, generous of spirit, and above all, very funny - quick to latch on to the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of language, taking particular delight in the pun.

His musical tastes were wide and informed his inimitable playing style. He was a genuine talent and a special person. I believe it says something about his quality and strength of personality that after 40 years I can still remember him vividly and with such warmth. He will be greatly missed and I deeply regret that I did not get to see him in more recent years.

God bless you Lou and rest in peace.


From Pete Buckland:

I got to know Lou quite well. In 1971 I was living in Thorton Heath south London, and Lou would stop over in the house were I was living, as he was going out with my land lady, Hillary. I remember him as being fairly reserved, a good guy who would love to talk passionately about music. For his family and friends there is a rich legacy of recordings and video clips to remind them of happier times.

Born in Northern Ireland but raised in Woolwich, South London, Lou learned to play piano at a young age. Taking classical piano lessons and reaching a high grade he also started to listen to the blues and boogie pianists who would influence his professional style..notably Memphis Slim, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis.

The potent combination of these styles combined with Lou's own talent and enthusiasm created a powerful and exciting young player, and when Killing Floor came to visit in 1968, after Lou had answered an ad in the Melody Maker music paper, they were knocked out.

Lou's style was an important part of the early Killing Floor sound and his playing received excellent reviews. When the initial band band broke up as the British blues boom waned, Lou went on to work with numerous other projects, before rejoining Killing Floor towards the end of their life, (first incarnation) along with Bill, Rod De'Ath, Mick and Stan Dekker on bass. When Killing Floor finally metamorphosed into the new Cliff Bennett band, Lou was there.. indeed it was he who had introduced the band to Cliff. But almost immediately a new call came, from one Mr. Rory Gallagher.

Rod De'Ath was already working with Rory, and had told him about this fiery pianist that he knew. Rory was intrigued, and after a quick audition he augmented his three piece band with, for the first time, keyboards. The line-up stayed together for seven years and toured extensively all over the world. They played major venues such as the Albert Hall in London, The Hollywood Bowl and Budokan in Japan. In the course of their American tours Lou jammed with Otis Rush in his Chicago club and was asked to join Albert Collins' band. A full length feature film was made of their Irish tour by producer Tony Palmer, and shown on general release around the world. Five albums were released.. "Tattoo" "Blueprint" "Calling Card" "Against the Grain" and the huge selling "Irish Tour".

When their time with Rory was finally over, Rod and Lou decided to fulfil a long time ambition and put a band together with Mick Clarke and "Mac" McDonald. With Stevie Smith fronting the band they formed "Ramrod". The band toured Ireland and had some success in London, but unfortunately the times were against it.. punk music had arrived, and bands such as Ramrod had no chance at all of securing a record contract. Despite the valiant efforts of band members, particularly Rod deAth, the band broke up after just a year.

Lou and Rod were now booked for a tour of Europe backing Chuck Berry. The tour line up included Muddy Waters and was a huge success, being repeated soon afterwards. Lou's stories of life with Chuck are legendary.. but you must ask him yourself!

Over the following years Lou took up long residencies as a solo pianist, and also recorded with Mick Clarke on several of his albums. In the early 1990's he joined up with Scottish band "Blues'n'Trouble", relocated to Edinburgh and went back on the road full time. The band recorded several albums and toured extensively across Europe. Following this Lou worked full time with Mick Clarke's band, again touring regularly across Europe, and played on the Killing Floor reformation album "Zero Tolerance".

Lou continued to work in various projects such as the "Band of Friends" and other Gallagher tributes. He also worked occasionally with Nine Below Zero, Gwyn Ashton and Mick Clarke. Subsequently Lou unfortunately suffered a stroke and was unable to play for some years before his death, although Rory's roadie Tom Driscoll can report that he was still able to hit the streets on his mobility scooter and make it to the nearest pub. Lou never lost his spirit or his humour - he got to see the sea one last time and passed away in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Top photo: Bill Thorndycraft. Lou with Chuck Berry, Alexander Palace London 1979 by courtesy of David Cooper.

Lou remembers..

The band formed in 1968 as a chicago styled blues band..Material/reportoire featured covers of Junior Wells,James Cotton, Elmore James performed in the style of the Paul Butterfield/Charlie Musselwhite band courtesy of Bill's Records.We rehearsed and then looked for places to play which was relatively easy in those days.

There was a considerable blues boom going on ever since John Mayall and Eric Clapton paved the way and the scene was quite full of guitar fronted bands playing BB King- Albert and Freddie. Our style was much more down - home with southside influences blending with the newly arrived sound of Canned Heat and just a little sprinkling of west coast hard rock.

After finding ourselves an agent,we had opportunities to support some of the big acts of the day e.g.Jethro Tull, Georgie Fame, Ten Years After, the Nice, Yes, Chicken Shack etc as well as acts as diverse as The Herd, Jr Walker and the all stars, Arthur Brown and Consortium all of which gave the band exposure and in general we were increasing our popularity whilst still adhering to our bluesy roots.

Through one of the promoters who booked American Blues Stars, the offer emerged to back Howlin' Wolf.We all reacted along the lines of 'Howlin' Wolf with Killing Floor, 'his number' - brilliant. Alas some other more moneyed orientated band hijacked the job and we alternatively got the tour with Freddie King instead. A good move as it turned out...

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