James, popularly known as Pappy, was a legendary jazz musician, bandleader and community organizer. Born in Ashville, North Carolina and raised in Niagara Falls New York, he began his love of music as a trumpet player, later changing to upright bass. As a teenager, he started performing in the band at North Junior High School and later at the Ontario House. With his brother John ‘Spider’ Martin, a 2018 Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame Inductee, they traveled throughout the United States and Canada, performing with top recording artists such as Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Ruth Brown, Etta Jones, Alvin Shephard, Johnny Griffin, Billy Taylor and Betty Carter. Pappy, dedicated to his pursuit of music, became a band leader performing in all the popular nightclubs to include Little Harlem, Pine Grill, Revilot, Royal Arms, The Moon Glow, Shalimar, Town Casino, Blue Note and of course his favorite, the Ontario House. His love and passion for jazz propelled him to be a community organizer and activist dedicated to lifting the lives of others. He founded the Love Supreme School of Music in Buffalo New York, a school that has launched careers of many local and national musicians and still operates today. He also co-founded Buffalo’s Masten Jazz Festival that has been a mainstay summer music event in Buffalo for more than 25 years and now bears the name of the Pappy Martin Legacy-Masten Jazz Festival. The Pappy Martin Legacy Jazz Collective, run by his daughter Dawn, was also created as an organization committed to develop, build and execute programs focused on jazz appreciation, knowledge and understanding. Although Pappy moved to Buffalo, where he received many accolades and awards, his legacy carries over to Niagara Falls, where he is still highly revered and remembered as a Jazz Icon. His performances at the annual Lewiston Jazz Festival were always a special treat.
It is our ‘supreme’ pleasure to honor and welcome James ‘Pappy’ Martin as a Legacy Inductee of the Niagara Falls Music Hall of Fame Class of 2021.