Inductee: George Martin (producer; born 1/3/26)
Although disk jockey Murray the K dubbed himself the “Fifth Beatle,” that title properly belongs to producer George Martin. With the exception of Phil Spector’s post-production on Let It Be, every Beatles recording-from the first single ("Love Me Do") to the last album (Abbey Road)-was produced by Martin. He also gave them their first recording contract, signing the fledgling foursome (with Pete Best still on drums) after an audition at Abbey Road studio on June 6th, 1962, at manager Brian Epstein’s request. Martin’s expertise as a producer and arranger, coupled with the personal rapport he developed (despite being 14 years older than the eldest Beatle) made him indispensable in the studio. The Beatles’ recorded output, by the group members’ own admission, owes much to Martin’s input as producer, arranger and musician.
Prior to his association with the Beatles, Martin produced classical, jazz, pop and humor recordings for the EMI label group. He worked with Peter Sellers, Spike Mulligan, Dudley Moore, Stan Getz, Judy Garland, Tommy Steele, Cleo Laine and others. As head of A&R for EMI’s Parlophone label, Martin signed the Beatles, who had previously been turned down by Decca, Pye, Phillips and EMI itself. In addition to overseeing the Beatles’ recordings, Martin produced other Merseybeat acts, including Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, and Cilla Black. He contributed soundtrack music to A Hard Day’s Night and Help, and recorded instrumental albums of Beatles tunes-including Off the Beatle Track (which reached #111 in the U.S.) and The Beatle Girls-with the George Martin Orchestra.
In 1965, he left EMI to set up his own production company, Associated Independent Recording (AIR), though he continued to work with the Beatles. In the late Sixties, he oversaw the design and construction of AIR Studios in London, one of the most successful studios in the world. In the Seventies and Eighties, Martin worked prolifically as a producer of albums by Mahavishnu Orchestra, America (seven albums), Jeff Beck (two albums), Gary Brooker (of Procol Harum), Neil Sedaka, Jimmy Webb, UFO, Cheap Trick, Ultravox, Kenny Rogers, and Paul McCartney (Tug of War and Pipes of Peace). In 1979, Martin opened AIR Studios Montserrat, a state-of-the-art facility on a Caribbean island. Although it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1989, Martin and his partners broke ground on a new AIR studio complex in England in the early Nineties. Martin has also written an autobiography (All You Need Is Ears) and edited a how-to book (Making Music). In his introduction to the latter, he wrote, “Of all the arts, music is the most sublime, and touches the heart of every human being....I believe it is a powerful force.”
In the mid-Nineties, Martin returned to the vaults and to his familiar role as Beatles producer, unearthing and preparing previously unreleased Beatles tracks for the three-volume Anthology series. He was knighted “Sir George Martin” in 1996. A year later, Martin produced his 30th #1 hit in the U.K., Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997,” a charity single recorded shortly after Princess Diana’s untimely death. It became the best-selling single of all time and, in Martin’s words, “probably my last single. It’s not a bad one to go out on.” After five decades in the music industry, Martin formally bowed out of record production with a final project, In My Life, a collection of Beatles songs recorded by actors and musicians.