top of page



  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
  • Spotify

A pioneering force hailed as the unsung hero of the genre, Linda Martell (82), was the first commercially successful Black female artist in country music. Martell had the highest peaking single on the Billboard Hot Country Singles (now Songs) chart at #22, “Color Him Father,” by a Black female country artist in the history of the genre in 1969, until Beyonce’s “Texas Hold ’Em” debuted at #1 on February 21st, 2024. Martell was notably the first Black woman to play the Grand Ole Opry stage.

From humble beginnings in her home state of South Carolina, Martell began performing with her family before being discovered as a solo act on Charleston Air Force Base. She moved to Nashville in 1969, and released her Top 25 charting debut single the same year which preceded her first and only album, Color Me Country. Color Me Country climbed to the Top 40 on the Billboard Top Country Album chart, featuring three charting singles and receiving praise from Billboard for its authenticity, “Linda impresses as a female Charley Pride. She has a terrific style and a true feeling for a country lyric.” The album earned her bookings on Hee Haw and package shows with Waylon Jennings and Hank Snow as well as the first of 12 total appearances on the Grand Ole Opry.

Though the album was deemed a success, Martell’s talent and tenacity still faced racism by audiences shouting racial slurs and hateful words at nearly every live show. It was a constant reminder that, as Rolling Stone recounts, “she was a black woman, singing in a genre dominated by white acts” and at that time in Nashville, much of the industry was run by corrupt white men. With her final single “Bad Case of the Blues” underperforming, she found herself shelved by her label and essentially blacklisted by “the town” resulting in her eventual, emotional and devastating, departure from country music and Nashville in 1974.


Martell blazed trails many never thought possible in the 1970s that continue to impact and shape the country genre today. In 2021, CMT recognized Martell with the Equal Play Award for her groundbreaking strides that went mostly unrecognized by the mainstream country music industry even to modern day. She released one album, but courage is her legacy.

Other black country artists continue to carry her torch, including Rissi Palmer who became the host of the Apple Music Show she named “Color Me Country” after Martell’s renowned album, and has used her platform to elevate Black female voices in the genre striving for equality. Recent acknowledgement for the impact of her legacy from modern artists like Maren Morris – who recognized Martell in her Academy of Country Music award winning speech for Female Vocalist of the Year in 2020 – to most recently Beyoncé, featuring Martell on a spoken word track titled “The Linda Martell Show” on her eighth studio album, Cowboy Carter, further legitimize Linda Martell as the pioneer that she is and will ensure her music, story and legacy are remembered always.

This Fall, Martell's granddaughter, independent filmmaker Marquia Thompson, discusses the importance of telling her grandmother's groundbreaking country story in an emotional and enlightening, yet heartwarming documentary about her life, titled, “Bad Case of the Country Blues.”

Image by Ryan Arnst
Linda Martell - Color Me Country.webp
Image by Matt Botsford

Learn more about the long awaited documentary film Bad Case of The Country Blues: The Linda Martell Story



Rissi Palmer™ has lived and breathed country music her whole life. But as someone who knows the genre better than anyone, she’s decided that enough is enough: “It’s time for country music to know where the f**k it came from,” she says. We couldn’t agree more. On her radio show Color Me Country, the singer-songwriter brings to the forefront the Black, Indigenous, and Latinx histories of country music that for too long have lived outside the spotlight and off mainstream airwaves. Listen in as Rissi has riveting, funny, and necessary conversations with country music’s most vital and underrepresented voices.

Image by Oscar Keys


Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page