Her goal was to break new ground for Black artists in a field dominated by white performers. Given that she was African American and a woman, she was aware that it was not a walkover. In the 1960s, it was uncommon for a Black woman to perform country music, but Linda Martell did so in order to break down barriers.
After the publication of her single “Color Him Father,” she went on to become one of the most well-known African-American female country singers, according to Rolling Stone. In the 1960s, Martell made history by becoming the first African-American woman to play at the Grand Ole Opry. Here are three additional details about the vocalist that you should know.
Her real name is Thelma Bynem
Thelma Bynem was first born on June 4, 1941 in Leesville, South Carolina. One of the neighborhood DJs suggested she change her name to Linda Martell and stated she needed a memorable stage name. She reminded the DJ of “Linda,” he claimed.
Her father was a pastor when she was little. At the age of five, she began singing in the church, and by the time she was seven, she was preparing meals for her parents and four siblings. Before forming The Anglos with one of her sisters and a cousin, Martell and her three brothers performed in a gospel church ensemble. The group played in late 1950s at neighborhood clubs. “A Litte Tear,” their debut single, was released in 1964. The single, which was created by the New York-based label Fire Record, did not fare well in sales as a result of subpar advertising.
Martell frequently gave performances at Charleston Air Force Base and ultimately gained popularity for his country songs. Shelby Singleton first noticed her in this time frame, in 1969. She received his Plantation Records contract, and the following year, she dropped the ground-breaking single “Color Him Father.” That summer, the song entered the Top 25.
Color Him Father helped her become the first Black woman to appear on the Grand Ole Opry
Following the release of her song, Martell became the first African-American woman to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville, Tennessee, where country music shows have been televised on a weekly basis since December 1925. In August 1969, she performed and was given a standing ovation. Charlie Pride was the first Black guy to perform on the Grand Ole Opry stage two years before she did. In 1970, Martell also made appearances on Hee Haw and The Bill Anderson Show.
Her career ended abruptly
She only ever released one album, “Color Him Father,” during her musical career. Three of her four singles that were released made it onto the music charts. According to allmusic.com, her tracks “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Bad Case of the Blues” twice entered the Top 60 hits. But prejudice played a big part in her early retirement in 1974. After Singleton began supporting a white country musician, she had quit Plantation Records. Because she was still bound by her agreement with Plantation Records after departing, Martell was unable to record for any other company. She began singing in local clubs before working as a school bus driver and later in special education classes for kids.