1914 - 2011
Hugh Martin, internationally acclaimed popular music composer, arranger, performer, and accompanist, worked at the Voice Prophecy accompanying Del Delker from 1982 to 1986. Best known for his Christmas song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Martin was a vocal arranger and composer for several successful Broadway musicals from the 1930's through the 1960's.
Hugh was born on August 11, 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama, one of three children of Hugh and Ellie Gordon Robinson Martin. His father was an architect and his mother a musician who started teaching her son piano when he was four. Martin sang in the Broadway show Hooray for What?, along with Ralph Bane. While the show was still running, Martin formed a male quartet, The Martins, which included Bane as one of its members. They sang on Steve Allen's radio program and were also featured in Irving Berlin's musical Louisiana Purchase.
Bane and Martin became friends and began collaborating on songs of their own. In 1941, Richard Rodgers and George Abbot chose them to write the songs for the show Best Foot Forward. In 1944 they wrote the original music for the Hollywood musical Meet Me in St. Louis, starring Judy Garland. "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was one of its songs. The Martin/Bane partnership continued for several more years.
In 1964, Martin worked with songwriter Timothy Gray to produce the Broadway musical High Spirits, a play based on Noel Coward's play Blithe Spirits. It was a hit and included several songs that continued on their own as successful popular numbers. He was musical director of the highly successful 1979 Broadway show Sugar Babies. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in1983.
Through the years, Martin played frequently as a preferred accompanist for Judy Garland. He assisted her often, including when she sang at the famous New York Palace Theater. He also accompanied Eddie Fisher when he performed at the Palladium in London, England.
Martin's interest in religion started in 1960 when he was working in London. Several years later, while listening to the radio, he heard Del Delker sing on the VOP broadcast. He would later observe that her voice captivated him and, although he was not ready for sermons or Bible study, he tuned in to the broadcast regularly just to hear her sing.
In 1979, following a hospital stay during which he shared a room with William Lester, a Seventh-day Adventist minister who shared his faith with Martin, he was baptized. Within a year he shared with Delker his wish to someday accompany her. In 1980 he moved to Newbury Park, near the VOP, hoping that an opportunity to realize his dream would materialize. Over two years later, when an opening at VOP occurred, he was invited to join the VOP as Delker's accompanist.
She described that experience in her autobiography, observing that because he was older and somewhat frail, he couldn't go on extended trips. Even so, they did travel widely, he accompanying her and sharing his testimony of how he became a Christian and joined the church. After he retired in 1986, they continued as close friends, and when she taped her 50th anniversary video in 2002, he accompanied her as she sang his Christian version of his enduring Christmas song, now titled, "Have Yourself a Blessed Little Christmas," one which Delker and John Fricke had helped him rewrite in 2001.
Martin was living in Encinitas, California, at the time of his death on March 11, 2011, at age 96. His autobiography, Hugh Martin, the Boy Next Door had been completed and published in October of the previous year. He was survived by hs brother, George.
Sources: Wikipedia (2012); Interview with Del Delker, 17 February 2005; Del Delker, Her story as told to Ken Wade, 2002, Pacific Press Publishing Association. Additional information can be found in his autobiography, Hugh Martin, The Boy Next Door; Claire Noland, "Hugh Martin Dies at 96," Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Los Angeles Times, Mardh 12, 2001.