In 2003, wildcatter archivists in West Texas made a compelling discovery in a fireproof safe that had been buried behind a storefront farmer’s co-op. That discovery was a series of four-track musical recordings by pitching legend Pedro Martinez.
Unbeknownst to even those who believed they knew him well, Martinez spent his offseasons in the oil fields south of Midland. Under a crudely assembled lean-to with a rooster painted on the south-facing panel, Martinez, his Dreadnought acoustic with sunburst finish, and his heirloom pedal steel crafted some one of the most lucid and poignant country ballads ever — or never — heard. His only accompaniment was a snare drum he’d positioned under the nose of a nearby pumpjack.
Those four-track recordings and the home-drawn album cover seen above are the only remaining evidences of Martinez’s silent passion — other than some fawning handwritten liner notes by Ricky Skaggs that were also found in the safe. Martinez has never spoken of or even acknowledged these avocational pursuits, and whether he is chagrined or lifted up by the discovery of his recordings is likely forever the province of the unspoken.
Martinez’s recordings are available for listening and physical inspection in the basement of Marfa (Texas) Public Library, so long as you bring your own latex gloves and headphones and call ahead (ask for Gladys). While a full appraisal of Martinez’s works is highly recommended, the following is a representative amuse bouche: a selected lyric from the song “Shanty of the Lucky Bastard,” which is found within the collection:
My horse always told me I’d wind up in prison.
He’d eat his oats and tell me other things, too.
But you know me, I never did listen.
I just wanted to talk about yooooooouuu.
My pistol always told me to change my ways,
With muh peyote stash and muh borrowed cash.
But you know me, I play it as it lays.
Got high on peyote and gave a chupacabra all muh cash.
I used to always quit before I faaaaaiiiiled,
But now this lucky bastard’s going to jaaaiiiilll …
And if you’re gonna tell me goodbyeeeeeeeeayayayayay,
Well, I’ll live for now, but in 50 years I’ll dieeeeeeeeeayayayayay.