Fifty years after Linda Martell’s ‘Color Me Country,’ current singers discuss her legacy

A black and white portrait of Linda Martell.
A black and white portrait of Linda Martell.
Linda Martell. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In 1969, Charley Pride scored his first number one on the country charts, proving, once and for all, that a Black man could be successful in the White world of country music. With hopes of replicating his triumphs, Linda Martell quite literally stepped onto country music’s stage that same year, when she walked into the Ryman Auditorium and became the first Black woman to play the Grand Ole Opry.

Born in 1941 in Leesville, South Carolina, Martell grew up singing in the church, and brought congregations to their feet with her buttery vocals. …

Reflections on Music City’s Musical Legacy

Illustration by Carmen Johns

US Census data reveals that, for the 12-month period ending July 1, 2016, Nashville was growing at a rate of 100 people a day. It’s a nearly unbelievable statistic until you meet a few people, hang a little bit, and realize that the town is, indeed, made of transplants, that very few people are actually from here. We call them unicorns, the ones who are — the homegrown, Middle Tennessee born-and-breds who didn’t just show up one day with with starry eyes, a tattered backpack, and an acoustic guitar. The others, like me, neither native nor naive, remain nameless.


Andrea Williams


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