Singer-Songwriter Craig Martin Laid To Rest

Country songwriter Craig Matthew Martin Sr. died suddenly this month at age 52.

The vocalist and hit tunesmith passed away on July 3 and was buried in his native West Virginia on July 11. Martin is best known for co-writing the Tim McGraw hit “Don’t Take the Girl.”

By coincidence, his cowriter on that song, Larry Johnson, died exactly three weeks before Martin did. In 1994, “Don’t Take the Girl” became the breakthrough No. 1 hit for McGraw. It sold two million copies and earned its writers a BMI Award.

Craig Martin was born in Wheeling, West Virginia. He formed a successful regional band at age 15. Following high school, he worked as a correctional officer. He moved to Nashville in 1991 and was signed as a recording artist for Mercury/PolyGram in 1992-94.

Believing in his warm, baritone singing voice, but evidently not his songwriting, the label rejected “Don’t Take the Girl.” As a result, Martin took to song to McGraw.

Craig Matthew Martin Sr. spent much of his time in Nashville billed as “Craig J. Martin.” He was a staff writer at Dennis Morgan Music and co-wrote with such top names as Morgan, Hank Cochran, Billy Don Burns, Marty Haggard and Kent Blazy.

He wrote songs for George Jones, Southern Comfort, Creed Fisher, Rod Stewart, Gerald Smith, The Backstreet Boys and Coly Preston. Clinton Gregory recorded several Martin songs, including the music-video fan favorite “She Did.” Western Flyer scored a Top 40 country hit with his “What Will You Do with M-E” in 1996.

He also continued to record, himself, notably releasing the singles “I Have a Dream,” “Let Him Walk You Home” and “I’m a Kid in Trouble.” He performed at such local venues as Nashville Shores, The Listening Room Cafe and the Maxwell House Hotel. He also worked as a Lyft driver.

Craig Martin died of a sudden “cardiac event,” according to his son, Keith. The family established a GoFundMe account to pay for his funeral expenses, and the effort achieved its financial goal within a week of his death.

Surviving are his five children, Amanda, Craig Jr., Keith, Sami and Scarlett, plus two sisters, two brothers and six grandchildren. Arrangements were handled by Altmeyer Funeral Home in McMichen, West Virginia, and he was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Wheeling.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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