By Matt Bauer
Ask Eric Martin how he’s feeling two weeks before his retirement party and you’ll hear the grateful words of a person lucky enough to have lived their dream.
“Man, I’m blessed, I’m so blessed,” he says over the phone with a hearty laugh. His 40 year career as an MC and promoter with Grand Slam promotions will be highlighted with “Eric Martin Unplugged—The Retirement Party” at The Adams Mark Hotel on March 30th which will feature an appearance by Loose Ends featuring Jane Eugene.
The Nickel City born and bred Martin’s first foray into the music industry came at the tender age of 16 thanks to his older brother Leon—a member of the venerable WNY soul institution The Exoutics -who got him a job at the Freedom Train then located on Main St. near Utica “back in the day.” When he was 18 he was hired to spin records at the ever popular Sylvester’s Night Club owned by Sylvester Johnson on Fillmore Avenue. Some of the early hallmarks of Martin’s career include MC’ing a Maze & Frankie Beverly and Phyllis Hyman show at Shea’s and a Juneteenth festival concert at the now demolished War Memorial Stadium which featured BT Express, Unlimited Touch and Tom Browne, among others.
The S.O.S. Band, Atlantic Starr and Loose Ends are among the distinguished artists that Martin has brought to the city and his work is driven more by a love of the good groove than by remuneration.
Enterprising and hard working, Eric maintained employment throughout his career as a promoter, working for 22 years for the Buffalo Board of Education, 20 years at Dunlop Tires, six years with BFNC and four years with Big Brother Big Sister.
“I don’t do the events to make money,” explains the former Bryant and Stratton business major. “I do the events to put smiles on people’s faces. Music is a big part of life and your favorite shows and artists—those are good memories. For me I just enjoy filling up a room and seeing people smile. That’s always been my love for music.”
That’s not to say that the concert industry in general, and having a home base in Buffalo specifically, haven’t posed their challenges.
“Buffalo’s a very tough market,” says Eric. “ A lot of establishments aren’t open to Black promoters. I find that’s the hardest thing. There could be a lot more music festivals and a lot more generation of money for the economy. A lot of folks don’t open the door to different nationalities. We’re still behind when it comes to that because many major cities have music festivals and I’m looking to establish a major music festival here.”
Although the upcoming bash at the Adams Mark is billed as a retirement event, it really marks the beginning of a new stage in the life of the 56-years young music lover as he mentors his three talented children, Erica, Eric and Aaron, to carry on his legacy (he fondly refers to them as the ‘New” Grand Slam). He’ll have more time now to focus on new ventures, and the legendary parties at the Pearl Street Grill he said, will continue.
With the death of his mother, who he refers to as his “best friend,” taking its toll, Martin (who lives in Buffalo with his wife Tracy, the mother of their three children) has wisely chosen to take some time to relax and regroup, but he’ll never end his admitted addiction to music.
“Music is a good therapy,” said the product of Buffalo Public Schools #22, #61 and Bennett High. “ For this show March 30th I’ve got half of my friends coming back home. It’s going to be a great night in Buffalo!”
While we look forward to the party and the announcement of a major music festival in Buffalo that he’s teasing, Martin shares this career advice for those interested in the music industry:
“Follow your dream and never let anybody tell you what you can’t do. I’ve got to be the most blessed guy in the world. There’s people that have to force themselves to go to work and here I’m standing doing something that I love for 40 years.”
(For ticket information to “Eric Martin Unplugged” call 308-3328. Tickets are also available at Hair to Go Natural, 227 Main St, 883-2000 or Hair It Is Salon, 580 Elmwood Avenue, 464-6807. Age 25 and older, casual attire. See you there!)