Guitars, Bass, Tuba, Vocals

Born 31st December 1945

Martin first joined Man in the summer of 1969 and his debut gig was at the Marquee in London on August 11th that year.

Tracking Martin's career through the sixties South Wales jungle is a tortuous business. He first surfaced playing bass in The Jets during the early sixties alongside Plum Howells on vocals, Tony Court on drums, and John Phillips on guitar. The Jets appeared often around the Swansea, Oystermouth and Skewen club scene. Early in 1964 Tony Court was replaced by Billy 'Doc' Evans who later went on to become one of Clint Space's Tremblin' Knees. Billy passed away in the summer of 1999 and as a mark of respect Martin and Plum played an old Jets number at his funeral. Martin briefly left the group in late 1964, heading across to replace Maldwyn Stevens in The Vikings, and meeting up with Pugwash Weathers along with Peter Shane and Mike Turnham. Soon after, The Vikings changed their name to Brothers Grimm and then Martin was off again, back to The Jets who by now had also recruited guitarist Deke Leonard.

The Jets - John, Billy, Plum and Martin
The Jets - John Phillips, Billy ' Doc' Evans, Plum Howells, Martin Ace

Although Deke was in and out of The Jets, Martin stayed on until late 1966, surviving a name change to Smokeless Zone and the arrival of Terry Williams on drums. He and guitarist Brian Breeze played together briefly in Ace/Breeze until Martin and Terry Williams joined The Bobcats in the early part of 1967. Summer 1967 saw the formation of The Dream as Martin and Terry joined forces with Deke Leonard and Wes Reynolds. In The Dream Martin played guitar, primarily a Gretsch Country Gentleman lent to him by Taff Williams, and he covered vocals alongside Deke with Wes Reynolds filling the bass spot and Terry Williams of course on drums. When Deke answered the call to join Man in November 1968, The Dream disbanded. Terry and Martin joined up with Tony 'Plum' Howells and Link Conway to form Plum Crazy which kept Martin busy until summer 1969.

Martin joined the Manband in 1969 as a replacement for Deke Leonard who was returning to Wales to support his ailing wife Fran. Martin simply took over Deke's guitar parts and vocals and the group carried on much the same as before. An intensive touring schedule around mainland Europe was still being pursued thanks to manager Barry Marshall's policy of keeping them busy abroad while trying to extricate them from the clutches of the clueless Pye records. When Deke rejoined in March 1970 Martin stayed on. Deke explains; "Martin, freed from the strictures of a set instrument, did what the hell he liked. Sometimes he would pick up a guitar and whip off a solo, sometimes he would play percussion, and sometimes he would perform a tightrope walk along the top of the balustrade that ran around the stage. Had he fallen it would have been a fearsome drop, but he never did. Another of life's great mysteries. The audience, in much the same state as we were, loved every minute of it."

The Flying Ace
Martin Ace - Flying

With the major personnel reshuffle that took place in October 1970, Martin took over the bass guitar spot from the departing Ray Williams. His contribution to the evolving sound of the Manband was significant, and several of their classic songs originate with Martin. From the first UA album 'Man', the song 'Country Girl' came with him and Deke from The Dream. 'Romain' was written in two parts; the lyrics tell the story of Martin's unhappy meeting with Belgian police officer Romain Bracx; the music first appeared as 'First Song Rock And Roll' with different lyrics, and was written back in the last days of Plum Crazy. During the recording of the album Martin married George Morris, sister of Deke's wife Fran, and promptly set about teaching her to play guitar and bass. From the next album 'Do You Like It Here Now' come 'Manillo' and the fractured multi-layered masterpiece of 'Many Are Called But Few Get Up' which features Martin's lyrics. He was present on the two classic limited edition live albums 'Greasy Truckers Party' and 'Live At The Padgett Rooms Penarth', but at the end of April 1972 left Man to work with wife George on their 'Flying Aces' project.

The Flying Aces earliest recorded release was the song 'Welcome To The Party' contributed to Man's 'Christmas At The Patti' double 10" LP. During 1973 Martin and George worked with singer, raconteur and roadie Vyvyan 'Spiv' Morris on the Happy Days tour which accompanied Help Yourself around much of Britain during the early part of 1973. Spiv was married to Martin's sister Sue for a number of years but they later divorced.

Happy Days
Clockwise from top left Dave Charles, Martin Ace, Vyvyan Morris, Ken Whaley, Malcolm Morley, George Ace. (Richard Treece can just be made out behind Dave Charles)

The Helps 'Return Of Ken Whaley' LP was briefly released as a limited edition boxed set including a free 'Happy Days' LP. Martin also played a major role in Deke Leonard's solo career, playing bass on all but two tracks from both 'Iceberg' and 'Kamikaze' and playing in the Iceberg road band during the latter part of 1973, including the 'Up For The Day' tour supporting 'Man', despite having resigned prior to the tour starting. Accompanied by George and eldest daughter Jo, Martin had a good tour. In Glasgow he heckled MC Spiv Morris whilst teetering on the balcony balustrade at the City Hall. In Manchester, at the Airport Hotel, he introduced himself to comedian Tommy Cooper after entering the hotel bar dressed swami-style in just two towels, and later removed a splinter from the great man's thumb with the aid of a sewing kit pin.

In 1974 Martin and George again teamed up with Spiv to form The Splendid Humans, which also included drummer Stuart Halliday, guitarist Richard Treece, and occasionally featured both Tweke Lewis and Clive John. Further work with Clive John followed through into 1975 and included Clive's solo LP 'You Always Know Where You Stand With A Buzzard' and then in March the call came from the USA where Ken Whaley had decided to leave Man during a lull in the 'Slow Motion' tour. Ace flew out to the rescue, and was in place in time for the group's link up with San Fransisco legend John Cipollina. Martin always regarded his latest association as a temporary role but he stayed with the Manband until August - a period which included the live recording of 'Maximum Darkness' and a tour of Europe supporting Hawkwind - before heading back to George and the Flying Aces once more.

Ace the Ace
Martin - Flying Aces era

The Aces were joined by Micky Gee on guitar and, from the collapsing Neutrons, Phil Ryan on keyboards and Stuart Halliday on drums. Before long however Ryan had returned to Man for The Welsh Connection, and Halliday had joined up with Will Youatt, Jimmy Davies and Jeff Singer for a spell in Alkatraz. Martin and George invoked the Dave Charles clause for a short while. This unwritten clause specifies that Dave Charles has to play with every group associated with Man at some point in their existence without ever actually playing for the Manband directly. Soon the line up changed again, with ex-Badfinger drummer Mike Gibbins and guitarist Richard Treece joining up, and an occasional appearance from Phil Ryan during the summer of 1977. Towards the end of the Flying Aces they were starting to draw a crowd but by August 1977 Martin was becoming dissatisfied with the way things were progressing and announced that the group were splitting up. In a later TWC interview he reflected; "I'd been in a reasonably successful group, and I just wanted to come up to somewhere near that level so we could sustain the family and just do what we wanted to do".

1978 saw Martin and Terry Williams replacing key personnel in Nick Garvey's band The Motors with Bram Tchaikovsky and Ricky Wernham making way for them. Despite a very recent No.5 chart hit with 'Airport' the band was on verge of decline, and the personnel changes did little to improve their fortunes. It was March 1980 before the release of Tenement Steps, the final Motors album which produced a passable single in "Love And Loneliness" but didn't impact on the charts. After the failure of two further 45s, "That's What John Said" and "Metropolis", the band split up.

Martin spent some time helping out on the Stiffs UK tour, acting as guitar mechanic and occasional MC. During 1981 the single 'Sad Party/Eating' was recorded and released. He was again heavily involved in Deke Leonard's post-Man career, contributing extensively to his third solo album, 'Before Your Very Eyes' and to two tracks on The Force album 'Force's First'. In the early eighties he had a spell working with Micky Jones backing local singer and Elvis impersonator Peter Singh in the The Screaming Pakistanis. Then there was a Dutch tour with acoustic guitar player and singer David Tipton which also involved ex-Gentle Giant drummer John 'Pugwash' Weathers. 1983 was just around the corner.

Martin and his heavy metal.
The tuba was used in the song
'(Something In My Heart Says) No'
Shepherds Bush Empire - 13th September1997
Heavy Metal

Martin's main instrument is a rosewood neck 1963 Fender Precision, originally red but for a long time finished in black and sporting a stainless steel scratchplate. The guitar was originally owned by Maldwyn Stevens from the Vikings, changing hands for £70 plus Martin's Hofner Commitee. During Man's 1991 tour of Germany the bass was restored to its former glories. When supporting Crystal Blue Persuasion the Fender bass is substituted by its larger acoustic cousin, and to round out the fundamental family Martin has also been known to heft some polished brass in the shape of the tuba. "I took it up in the 1980s," he explained in a 1997 TWC interview, "and actually played in the City of Swansea concert band for 18 months in 1986-1987, but then other commitments got in the way." But to try and describe him using the instruments he plays though rather misses the point. Since the 1983 reformation Martin has taken on the mantle of onstage spokesman more or less permanently, and also carries a hefty share of the group's offstage management. He maintains a watching brief on the Manband Bulletin Board and on the various web-sites, and an occasional Manband Communique has emanated from the South-Wales fastness that is Terrace Road in Swansea.

An area of Martin's work that remains undiscovered territory for many Manfans is his interest in Welsh folk music. Recently he explained his relationship with the folk group Cromlech; "While George and I were splitting up I was working with Tommy Jenkins (a former soul band trumpeter turned folk-singing guitar picking crumhorn player) on some traditional Welsh Folk music that he had discovered in the St.Fagan's Museum near Cardiff. He had already assembled a group: Peter Stacey on flute, whistles and bodrhan and his girlfriend Stevie Wishart on fiddle, the Celtic harpist Delyth Evans and Chris Dendle on 12 string guitar and the group was called Cromlech. When Emilio Cao, the Galician harpist, heard of Tommy and Cromlech he made a personal pilgrimage from his home town of Santiago de Compostella to seek him out."

"Upon finding Tommy in his house in Brooklands Terrace they immediately formed an important personal and musical friendship which was to have as much an effect on the two of them as it was on me. I moved in with Tommy and his family and from that base we proceeded to delve into the mysteries of Welsh Folk Music. Tommy went to Galicia to play on Emilio's album. When he returned full of enthusiasm for Galicia and its scene we couldn't wait to get over there. We made an album called 'Gwilyth Y Bore' (Morning Dew to you lot) which contains some of the most beautiful music it's been my pleasure to play. We toured Galicia and Brittany several times roistering and boistering as only we knew how, made loads of friends and then went our separate ways."

Martin also appeared in the cult movie 'Twin Town'. Set in Swansea this black comedy features the dope-smoking, car-stealing, glue-sniffing Lewis twins as chickens coming home to roost in a town rife with corruption and class tensions. One reviewer observed; "While chronicling some appalling acts of revenge within its tiny community, it also portrays that community with disarming honesty and a deep appreciation for the absurd. In what might be the dark side of Bill Forsyth's "Local Hero," or a Preston Sturges farce, "Twin Town" seldom sneers at Swansea, choosing to find humour in the army of eccentrics who inhabit it." Martin's cameo appearance - in characteristicly subdued clothing - as the Rockin' Sikh confirms that he can certainly handle a drink, provided of course that it's coming for him from the right direction.

Through the summer of 1999 Martin took his tuba and continued his acting career in a valleys tragi-comedy about a baker and his daughter. Martin recounts; "The filming went okay and I've finished my bits. Jonathan Pryce, Rachel Griffiths, Kenneth Griffith, Ioan Gruffydd, Ruth Madoc, Mary Hopkin, Anna Mountford, Cerys Matthews, Llyr Evans and others feature in it. It's a comedy with music and a feelgood factor." The film was eventually released as 'Very Annie Mary', but has so far attracted little attention.

So whilst the above is a summary of Martin's musical (and acting) career, what of the man behind the bass? Deke; "When his blood is up he is, by and large, unstoppable. A force of nature". Deke again; "Ace is one of life's front-men, to use him as anything less is a waste of resources". Deke once more; "I asked Martin if he had any brakes at all. He thought for a moment and said; "No, I don't think I have. One day you'll read about me in the history books. I'm destiny bound". Martin on Martin; "I'm totally fearless (ask anybody)". Adrian Angove on Martin's fashion sense; "Sartorially elegant in lounge suit and purple brothel-creepers. He looks like everybody's uncle in the dying stages of a wedding party!". Martin on Martin's fashion sense; "Some people make comments about my appearance but it honestly doesn't bother me." Martin on the miners' strike; "It's ironic, when we were fighting the tories and Margaret Thatcher I had some of the best times in my life. Going on marches, supporting the women up the Valleys. Billy Bragg asking me to sing before he came on to more than a thousand people at Swansea Leisure Centre and joining him onstage for "Stand Down Margaret" at the end of the concert."

Martin on Man; "We are still pretty much unmotivated by the financial demands of modern life particularly where Man is concerned." To keep his hand in whilst Man are off the road Martin is involved in any number of side projects as well as taking a firm paternal interest in Crystal Blue Persuasion. Poco Loco, Defenders Of The Faith, The Racketeers, the Tydfil Thunderbolts and The Silverbirds (in partnership with Micky Jones and Merthyr Tom) have all benefitted from the presence of Ace the Bass. The Flying Aces reformed for a one-off appearance at Man's fifth Welsh Convention at The Astoria in November 1998.

Martin's three children all seem to have inherited some musical genes. Jo (whose mum is George Morris) of course appears regularly with Crystal Blue Persuasion, and her half sister and brother Lauren and Joshua (whose mum is Lynne Smith) are continuing the trend. Lauren plays a mean piano, while Josh has begun to find his own voice, playing guitar and singing in various clubs local to his home. Josh by the way is also the proud owner of Terry Williams' old Ludwig Super Classic Drum Kit. "You know the one," says Martin, "Many Are Called, Greasy Truckers, Spunk Rock, Bananas, need I go on?"

Martin - balancing the bass at the end of 'Many Are Called But Few Get Up'
Shepherds Bush Empire - 13th September 1997
Circus Ace