Martin Cook
Archie Watkins
Ron Hutchins
Jack Laws
Troy Burns
Mike Holcomb

Telephone   828.488.3442
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Ron Hutchins
The Inspirations.com
P O Box 1338
Bryson City, NC 28713


Inspirations CDs


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Marvin Norcross Award Winner    2002

SGMA Hall Of Fame Inductee          2003

Piano Roll Honoree                            2005

         Martin is a veteran of the Korean Conflict, a former educator,
(Yes, he really was our teacher), and along with his family he raises Polled Herefords on the family farms.

     When Martin returned from service in 1960, he literally married the "girl next door" Ora Blanche Shular. Their youngest son, Michael, is the real farmer in the family, but 'little sister', MARSHA, helps when she's not working with her mom in the ticket booth at Inspiration Park. When asked what his favorite thing was about his family, Martin quickly replied, "I'm glad that my whole family has been saved.


In the background is Balsam Grove Baptist Church where Martin and his family still attend church. In the distant back is the house where Martin was 'born and raised.
(Smokies talk!)

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The plaque reads as follows:

    Martin Cook is a Gospel Music legend in the truest sense of the word. As a chemistry teacher at Swain County High School in Bryson City, North Carolina. Cook founded the Inspirations Quartet in 1964 by taking four of his students on the road to sing in the big leagues of professional Gospel Music. As the Inspirations manager, Cook built the quartet into a gospel music dynasty; one of the most successful, popular and respected gospel singing groups of all time. The Inspirations are one of Southern Gospel Music's most awarded groups and have tallied a long list of hit songs. Largely a result of Cook's efforts, the Inspirations developed the nation's largest and one of its longest running gospel singing festivals, the Singing In The Smokies. Cook also serves as the Inspirations emcee and pianist. His piano playing style is one of the industry's most recognized and distinctive.

    Cook was the Kingsmen Quartet's original pianist and served two tenures with this renowned group. He also played for the Silvertones.

    Through various roles, Cook is a man of tremendous foresight who has helped shape the path and direction of Southern Gospel Music in times of charting the future, stability in times of change and vision during critical times.

Southern Gospel Music Association
2003 Induction Ceremony Held at Governor's Palace

SGMA_Logo_small.jpg (1378 bytes)                       Special Thanks to Teddy Green for the photos from the Front Row

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Hall of Fame Members Open the 2003 Induction Ceremony
Jerry Goff, Les Beasley, Mosie Lister, Ben Speer, Eva Mae LeFevre, Buford Abner & Glen

     The 2003 Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held Tuesday evening, May 13, 2003, at the beautiful Governor's Palace in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The new format highlighted the induction of Southern Gospel Music personalities: Dwight Brock, Fred C Maples, John Alexander McClung, Otis McCoy, Homer Rodeheaver, Marion Snider, Howard Goodman (Happy Goodman Family), Bobby Strickland (Crusaders), Martin Cook (Inspirations) and J. Bazzell Mull (Mull's Singing Convention) - into the SGMA Hall Of Fame.

     News_HOF_JBMull.jpg (57010 bytes)   A clear audience favorite, as evidenced by the spontaneous standing ovation, was the introduction of 'The Reverend . . . and Mrs. J. Bazzell Mull'. Bro. Mull has literally presented Southern Gospel Music to our entire nation through his nightly clear channel radio program, 'Mull's Singing Convention', which is also seen on Knoxville, Tennessee area television. Before his induction to the Hall of Fame, Preacher Mull, as he has affectionately been known throughout his many years of preaching the Gospel, promptly took a text, -and what else?- preached.

    The inductees were honored with a Tribute Concert including special musical performances by such artists as Gold City, the Dove Brothers, Jeff & Sheri Easter, the Kingdom Heirs, the Dixie Melody Boys, The Inspirations, Greater Vision, the Hoppers, the Florida Boys, Karen Peck & New River and the Specks.

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Martin Cook inducted into Southern Gospel
Piano Roll of Honor

   During the 2005 Grand Ole Gospel Reunion held in Greenville, South Carolina, Martin received the Piano Roll of Honor award recognizing his piano-playing exploits .

       Martin was one of four inducted into the 2005 Class of the Southern Gospel Piano Roll of Honor at a ceremony held in the Hyatt Regency Hotel on August 13. Other inductees included Ellen Kennedy Marsh, Ben Speer and Eddie Crook. The Piano Roll of Honor currently has 36 members, including this year's inductees.

Ellen Kennedy Marsh pictured with Martin >


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    Organized in 11006, the Southern Gospel Piano Roll of Honor is equivalent to a Southern Gospel pianists Hall of Fame. Inductees are selected by a committee that currently includes a cross-section of legendary pianists and other noted contributors to the gospel music profession -Henry Slaughter, Jack Clark, Earl Brewer, Livingston (Livy) Freeman, Charles Key, Tim Gardner, Roy Pauley, Charlie Waller and Lou Hildreth. Inductees are announced each year at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion.  They are chosen on various criteria such as over-all piano-playing ability and contributions to Southern Gospel Music. They are also selected for a particular decade. Martin was honored for the decade of the 1970s; Marsh for the 1980s; Speer for the 1950s; and Crook for the 1960s.

    Martin is one of the all-time longevity leaders among Southern Gospel pianists and his piano-playing style is one of the profession's most recognized and distinctive. He became the first pianist for the Kingsmen Quartet in 1957, serving two tenures with that renowned group. He also played piano for the Silvertones, a regional quartet from North Carolina, before he formed the Inspirations in 1964, helping mold that group into one of gospel music's all-time elite as its manager, pianist and emcee for the past 41 years.

    A recipient of many awards and accolades associated with gospel music, in 2003, Martin was also inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

    He is married to the former Ora Blanche Shuler. Their union produced three children, daughter, Marcia, and two sons, Myron and Michael. Myron has played the upright bass for the Inspirations for more than twenty years. Martin has one grandchild, Caleb Spencer Cook, one-month old son of Myron and Jennifer Cook.

    Marsh is a longtime gospel piano instructor and music teacher as well as pianist for the Kennedy Family of Arkansas. Speer was pianist many years for the Speer Family and is music director for the Bill Gaither Homecoming Tapings and Reunion Concerts. Crook is a former pianist for the Happy Goodman Family, Segos and Tennesseans as well as a veteran recording studio producer and record label owner.

    Slaughter and Waller served as co-masters of ceremonies for the 2005 Piano Roll of Honor program, which besides the induction ceremony, included performances by several of Southern Gospel Music's most noted pianists.

    "I'm deeply honored with induction into the Southern Gospel Piano Roll of Honor," Martin said. "I'm as proud of this accomplishment as any I've ever had bestowed upon me. I praise God for giving me the ability to play a piano and I'm happy to be an inductee alongside so many pianists, each great in his or her own way."

By Tim Gardner


MARTIN COOK ~ One of Southern Gospel's Best

TRADE REVIEW ~ November, 2002 Page 22
Special Thanks to Singing News (Copyright 2002) for permission to share this story about Martin.

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     More people have probably listened to Martin Cook than E F Hutton. There are plenty of reasons why. Now in his sixth decade in Southern Gospel Music, Martin has established himself at the top of his profession in success, stature and respect of his peers.

     "Martin is a brilliant person with many innovative ideas about our business. His advice has helped many Gospel groups and artists advance their careers. When Martin offers his insights into Southern Gospel Music, those in the industry need to listen," says Martin's fellow Gospel Music legend Lily Fern Weatherford.

    Martin's Gospel Music portfolio is indeed impressive. A lifetime singer of Gospel songs and an accomplished pianist, Martin became the first pianist for the Kingsmen Quartet in 1957. He served two tenures with this renowned group. He also played piano for the Silvertones, a regional quartet from North Carolina. He formed the Inspirations in 1964 and has helped mold this group into one of Gospel Music's all-time elite.

    The Inspirations are a household name in any musical genre and models of consistency in the Southern Gospel field. They originated when Martin, a chemistry teacher at Swain County High School in Bryson City, NC, rounded up four of his students and held nightly singing sessions in the basement of his home, purely for fun. Shortly after, Martin, and four high school kids became the Inspirations Quartet. They soon went on the road to sing in the big leagues of professional Gospel Music.

    The Inspirations immediately took the Southern Gospel Music industry by storm and have remained at its forefront for 39 years while achieving tremendous popularity and success. They have traveled millions of miles spreading the Gospel in song and have tallied five radio chart-topping songs nationally, three of which also have been Singing News Songs of The Year - " Touring That City, " " Jesus Is Mine" and the 2002 winner, "I'll Not Turn My Back On Him Now." The Inspirations have received more than two- dozen Singing News Fan Awards as a group and individual artists, including Favorite Gospel Group six times. Martin, the only manager, pianist and emcee the Inspirations have had, has claimed two Singing News Favorite Musician Awards.

     The highlight of Martin's Gospel Music career to date came during the 2002 National Quartet Convention when he received the coveted Marvin Norcross Award, given in memory of the late Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Canaan Records to only Southern Gospel's top contributors and most respected individuals.

     Keyed by Martin's talents as an organizer and administrator, the Inspirations have developed the nation's largest Gospel singing festival, the Singing In The Smokies, which is held three sessions each year at Inspiration Park on a mountain in Bryson City overlooking a majestic panorama of the Great Smoky Mountains. The Fourth of July Singing In The Smokies festival in 1976 was recorded in the North Carolina history books as one of the state's great celebrations of our nation's bicentennial.

     Martin was born to John and Ellen Cook of the Caney Fork community in Jackson County, NC on June 29, 1936 only a few hundred yards from where he now lives. Martin has two brothers, Oscar (deceased) and Candler, and a sister, Arbie. Martin married his lifetime sweetheart, the former Ora Blanche Shuler on June 3, 1960, the day after Ora Blanche graduated from high school. Their union has produced three children, daughter, Marcia, and two sons, Myron and Michael. Myron has played the upright bass for the Inspirations for over twenty years. The Cooks are active in their home church, Balsam Grove Baptist in Cullowhee, NC, where Martin has served in various capacities, including pianist for more than fifty years. He also has long been active in many civic and community affairs. Martin and Ora Blanche sponsor scholarships each year for high school seniors to attend Western Carolina University, his alma mater.

     Known for his humbleness and love for his fellow man, Martin Cook is an obedient servant of God who has kept his priorities in order. It's doubtful Southern Gospel Music has ever had a more admired artist, or a nicer individual. He truly is one of the industry's best.

TRADE REVIEW ~ By: Tim Gardner - Used by permission of Singing News, Inc

• Martin Cook • Archie Watkins • Ron Hutchins • Jack Laws • Troy Burns • Mike Holcomb •


                                                          Copyright 2000-2018 All Rights Reserved ~ Ron Hutchins, P O Box 1338, Bryson City, NC 28713
                                                          Telephone 828.488.3442 M-F, 10 a.m - 5 p.m