Bill Martin (musician)

For other people by this name, see Billy Martin (disambiguation).
Bill Martin MBE
Birth name William Wylie MacPherson
Born (1938-11-09) 9 November 1938
Govan, Glasgow, Scotland
Genres Pop music
Occupation(s) Songwriter, music publisher, impresario
Years active 1960s-present

Bill Martin MBE (born William Wylie MacPherson,[1] 9 November 1938,[2] Govan, Glasgow, Scotland) is a Scottish songwriter, music publisher and impresario. He has been presented with three Ivor Novello Awards, including one as Songwriter of the Year.[3]


Bill Martin was born William Wylie MacPherson to Ian and Letitia (Letty) and has an older brother, Ian. They lived in Taransay Road, Govan, near the Fairfield shipyard. Martin was educated at Govan High School, 3 years ahead of Sir Alex Ferguson and in 2011 they were both inducted into the inaugural Govan High Hall of Fame. After WW2, many of the Glasgow tenements were pulled down and the Macpherson family moved to Priesthill, a new housing scheme on the south side of Glasgow. Having tried, and failed to build a career in the shipyards, Bill completed his apprenticeship as a marine engineer. Although he'd actually written his first song at 10 years of age, it was during his apprenticeship that he heard Bobby Darin's song "Dream Lover" which convinced him that his future lay in songwriting. In 1960, Bill and his new bride, Margaret (Mags) went to South Africa for two years and on their return, he determined to make songwriting his primary focus. He spent hours in Denmark Street or "Tin Pan Alley" as it's better known and finally, in 1963, he had his first song released on record in 1963, with "Kiss Me Now" by Tommy Quickly Unfortunately the song was released on November 22nd 1963, the day that President Kennedy was assassinated and light hearted songs were not the order of the day ! .[4] In 1964 he entered into a writing partnership with Tommy Scott. As Scott & Martin he had success with such acts as the Irish trio The Bachelors, Twinkle, the Irish folk band The Dubliners, Van Morrison, and Serge Gainsbourg.[4]

In 1965, he met Phil Coulter and the two became established as a successful songwriting team that lasted more than ten years (Martin for the lyrics, Coulter for the melody). They had records with such (mostly UK) acts as comedian and baritone Ken Dodd, American R&B artist Geno Washington, Los Bravos, Dave Dee & Co, The Troggs, Mireille Mathieu, George Harrison, Dick Emery, Tony Blackburn, Cliff Richard, Sandie Shaw, and Elvis Presley.[2]

Between 1967 and 1976 they had four No. 1 hits in the UK: "Puppet on a String", "Congratulations", "Back Home" and "Forever and Ever".[1] Martin is the only Scottish songwriter to pen four UK number one hits for four different acts.[3] There were also numerous Top 10 hits including the Bay City Rollers' "Shang-A-Lang",[5] "Fancy Pants" by the glam rock band Kenny,[6] "Requiem" by the Scottish pop group Slik,[7] and "Surround Yourself with Sorrow" by Cilla Black.[8] In 1975, Martin and Coulter were joint recipients of an Ivor Novello Award for 'Songwriter of the Year'.[2]

The Bay City Rollers had a No. 1 hit in 1976 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart with "Saturday Night", a song that was not released as a single in the UK.[2] There were three No. 1 hits in the US for the songwriters, the other two (which were chart-toppers on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and the Adult Contemporary listings respectively) being "Thanks", performed by Bill Anderson, and "My Boy", sung by Elvis Presley.[4][9]

In the early 1970s, Martin bought the former home of John LennonKenwood, St. George's Hill – although he later sold it and now lives in Belgravia, London.

The songwriters also wrote for the films The Water Babies and Carry On and a number of television theme songs. Having triumphed in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest with "Puppet on a String", the first UK entry to win the competition, they finished second the following year in 1968 with "Congratulations" from Cliff Richard.[2][10] In April 1968, the British music magazine NME reported that Martin and Coulter were being sued by the Irish songwriters Shay O'Donoghue and Aiden Magennis, claiming that "Congratulations" had the same chord sequence as their song "Far Away From You", recorded eighteen months earlier by Doc Carroll & the Royal Blues.[11] In 1975, Martin and Coulter reached the Eurovision final for the third time, this time writing Luxembourg's entry, "Toi", for Coulter's future wife, the Irish singer Geraldine. The song finished fifth in Stockholm. Their final attempt at Eurovision glory was in 1978, when their song "Shine It On" finished third in the UK heat A Song for Europe sung by the Glaswegian, Christian.

As successful songwriters, record producers and music publishers, Martin and Coulter became a wealthy and powerful partnership in the music industry. Apart from being writers-producers of their own songs, they started a publishing company called Martin-Coulter Music, and signed such other songwriters as Van Morrison, Billy Connolly, Christy Moore, Dónal Lunny, Eric Bogle, Sky, Midge Ure and B. A. Robertson.[4]

Although he continued to write music, Martin found himself gravitating to the business side of the music industry by the 1980s. His partnership with Coulter ended in 1983 when Martin bought out Coulter's share of the business. He later sold the company to EMI.[2] In his business career, he successfully built up and sold numerous companies in such diverse fields as music publishing, marketing and properties. He once owned the rights for Van Morrison and East/Memphis Music Corp., which he sold respectively to Chappell Music and Rondor Music Catalogue.

In 1983 he produced the musical Jukebox, which had a six-month run in London's West End and was acclaimed in the Royal Variety Performance of that year.[4] In 1984 he was executive producer on the Elkie Brooks album, Screen Gems. Martin continued as a songwriter, music publisher and producer with Angus Publications. In 2000, he associated with Sony/ATV Music which sub-publishes his catalogue, while he acquires music catalogues for his partners.

Martin was awarded the Gold Badge Award, for services to the music industry, by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors in October 2009.[12] In November 2012, he received the Sunday Mail Living Legend Award.[4]

Honours and awards


  1. 1 2 "Artist: Bill Martin". Second Hand Songs. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Bill Martin - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Bill Martin - Songwriter Celebrity Speaker Music Publisher Producer". 7 February 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Bill Martin - Songwriter Celebrity Speaker Music Publisher Producer". 7 February 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  5. Thompson, Dave. "Shang-A-Lang - Bay City Rollers : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  6. Thompson, Dave (26 September 2000). "The Singles Collection Plus - Kenny : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  7. Thompson, Dave. "Slik - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  8. "Surround Yourself with Sorrow - Cilla Black : Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  9. Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard book of number one adult contemporary hits (First ed.). Billboard Books. p. 200. ISBN 0823076938.
  10. "Congratulations - the best song never to win Eurovision? | M Magazine M magazine: PRS for Music online magazine - PRS for Music Online Magazine". Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  11. Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 183. CN 5585.
  12. "Gold Badge Awards winners". 28 October 2009. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  13. 1 2 3 "Bill Martin, Esq Authorised Biography – Debrett's People of Today". 9 November 1938. Retrieved 30 December 2012.

External links

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