Marcus Martin was born in the Aquone community of Macon County. Best remembered for his masterful fiddling, Martin was a multi-instrumentalist, playing the banjo, harmonica, and dulcimer. He was also an accomplished traditional ballad singer. He learned much of his repertoire and technique from his father, Rowan Martin, a fiddler who, he reminisced in later years, “could play the sweetest you ever heard.”
Martin grew up in a farming family, but over the years he tried his hand at many different professions. When he was a young man he worked for a drygoods company, filed saws for loggers, and was the postmaster of the community of Rhodo. In later life he worked in the laundry at a textile mill in Gastonia, and as a clerk and then watchman at the Beacon Mill in Swannanoa.
In his youth, Martin often played unaccompanied for square dances in Macon and Cherokee Counties. A favorite fiddler of Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Martin played for many years at Lunsford’s Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, opening the festival with the tune “Gray Eagle.” With Lunsford he performed as far away as Renfro Valley, Kentucky, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Martin is a source for unusual tunes that are played by old-time fiddlers today, including “Lady Hamilton” and “Jenny Run Away in the Mud in the Night.”