Montgomery Baptistís act popular among senior adultscomment (1)
September 19, 2013
By Neisha Fuson
When Phillip Martin threw together a few songs for his 95-year-old cousin Mary Kate and her friends at a Montgomery nursing home, he never dreamed it would be anything more than a one-time event.
That was in 2007, and since then Martin has performed more than 250 times as The River City Band.
Martin performed his one-man show “A Walk Down Memory Lane” for the Sunshine Club of First Baptist Church, Pelham, on Sept. 10.
With songs like “Hound Dog,” “Hey Good Lookin’” and “Rock Around the Clock,” Martin had the nearly 50 senior adults of the Sunshine Club clapping along and singing the words they remembered from their youth.
Audience members said the show “brought back memories.”
And that’s partly why Martin continues to perform for nursing homes, assisted living centers, churches and other groups, he said.
“If you could see the looks in folks’ eyes when they remember something, they light up,” Martin said. “I get a kick out of entertaining … and I like talking with folks afterward.”
And because of The River City Band, Martin was recently inducted into the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.
Born and raised in Ensley, Martin played football through high school and was an All-City and All-State player. He attended Auburn University on a football scholarship and earned his master’s degree from Samford University in Birmingham.
Martin worked at IBM for 30 years before retiring. He said music really wasn’t a part of his life until he decided to break out of his “introverted shell” and play for his cousin.
After that first performance, Martin said he went up to a nursing home resident and asked her what she thought of the songs.
“She struggled to get out the words ‘I had fun,’” Martin recalled. “A nurse then called me over and I thought I was in trouble but she said that woman had a stroke 5 years earlier and that was the first time she’d said anything.
“That scared me,” he said jokingly. “I thought I better start trying to do this more.”
Never formally trained in music, Martin plays the piano by ear and sings songs he “grew up with.”
Paul Moore, associate pastor and director of senior adult ministries for First, Pelham, said someone had heard of The River City Band and suggested Martin come perform at the Sunshine Club’s monthly fellowship meeting and meal. Moore organized the event with Martin and it “had a good turnout” and was “wonderful.”
After several songs, Martin encouraged the Sunshine Club to visit family and friends who live in nursing homes. A visit “means the world to them,” he said, and is another motivation that keeps him singing and playing songs for senior adults.
“Something keeps drawing me back,” he said with a smile.
He and his wife, Gloria, are members of Vaughn Forest Baptist Church, Montgomery, and have one daughter and four grandchildren.
For information about The River City Band, visit http://therivercityband.webs.com or to speak with Martin, call 334-799-6696.