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Martin and Morris Music Company Records

Martin and Morris Music Company  Search this
Morris, Necey, Mrs.  Search this
Martin, Sallie  Search this
Morris, Kenneth, 1917-  Search this
O'Neal Twins, The  Search this
Rasberry (Raymond) Singers  Search this
Singing Caravan, The  Search this
Ward (Clara) Singers, The  Search this
Bowles, Lillian  Search this
Bradford, Alex  Search this
Cleveland, James  Search this
Crouch, Andrae  Search this
8.7 Boxes (28 boxes)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sheet music
Business records
circa 1930-1985
Scope and Contents:
The Martin and Morris Company Records date from ca. 1930 to 1985 and document a neglected part of the American music historical record. The collection is particularly important because of the company's contributions to the field of Gospel music. According to Horace Boyer (in We'll Understand It Better....), Martin and Morris Music Company was the only music house that would publish compositions by others than themselves during the heyday years of Gospel music (ca.1945-1965). From the collection it can be noted also that Gospel music in the United States was a grass roots activity. Insight as to its development and distribution can be gained through study of the firm's records.

Some of the more well known musicians whose compositions were published by Martin and Morris include: William H. Brewster, Dorothy Love Coates, Lucie Campbell, Alex Bradford, Sam Cook, and Raymond Rasberry. In addition to the noted musicians, several lesser-known artists and members of churches and pastorates from around the nation were published by Martin and Morris and their music was distributed throughout the country and around the world.

Included in the collection are printed Gospel sheet music and music song books, photographs, and business records and ephemera that illustrate the company's business operations. The collection is arranged in six series.

Series 1: CORRESPONDENCE, 1941 1980, consists of four document boxes of materials dating from 1941 through 1980. The correspondence relates to arrangement, cost, and publication of songs from other music companies and individual composers and songwriters. Also included in this series is information pertaining to copyright of song titles, settlements of law suits, and other correspondence concerning disagreements between Martin and Morris and songwriters. The correspondence is arranged by year, and thereafter alphabetically by last names within each period.

Series 2: BUSINESS And FINANCIAL RECORDS, 1940 1978, documents the ordering, sales, publication, and distribution processes of the Martin and Morris Music Company, Inc. Consisting of four document and three flat storage boxes, the materials include bank books, order books, ledgers, and journals. Also contained within this series is one document box of materials consisting of agreements and contracts between Martin and Morris and others; copyright and permissions documents; company invoices; corporate income tax returns; financial statements, and business advertising ephemera, such as programs, calendars, catalogs, and receipts. Many of the books ledgers and journals in this series had bits of paper stuck between the pages. They have been filed in "ephemera folders" of the same number as the book. Items are tagged with information indicating original locations.

Series 3: SHEET MUSIC, ca. 1930 1985, consists of nine document boxes and one flat storage box of song sheets in octavo and full size. Dating from the 1940's to the 1980's, the series comprises music published by Martin and Morris (3A), music distributed by Martin and Morris (3B), and works produced and distributed by other publishers (3C and 3D). Materials are arranged by publisher. Under each publisher, materials are arranged alphabetically by title.

There are two boxes of song titles in Subseries 3A: Music Published by Martin and Morris. Some of the more recognizable ones are: Go down Moses, God be with you till we meet again, I couldn't hear nobody pray, I want two wings, I'm Climbin' Up on the rough side of the mountain, Lead me, guide me, No cross, no crown, Stand by me, What do you know about Jesus ( He's alright). Composers and performers include Doris Akers, Rev. James Cleveland, Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, C. A. Tindley.

Subseries 3B: Publishers Distributed by Martin and Morris is in two parts. The first is arranged by publisher, including the Lion, Savgos, and Savoy companies. The second comprises miscellaneous copyright owners & publishers distributed by Martin and Morris. Many of the titles in this section were arranged by Kenneth Morris. Included in this group, which is arranged by title, are compositions performed by artists such as Alex Bradford, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, AndraƇ Crouche, Rev. J. G. Moore, The O'Neal Twins, The Raymond Rasberry Singers, and Donald Vails. Some illustrations of the above groups are included in this section.

Representative publishers included in Subseries 3C: Other Publishers are: Margaret Aikens, Boosey & Hawkes, Bowles, Lucie Campbell, Theodore Frye, Frazier-Cleveland, Roberta Martin, Sallie Martin, Chas. Pace, Theodore Presser, Raymond Rasberry, and Dorothy Akers. The oversized materials from this series appear in Box 9.

Subseries 3D: Miscellaneous Publishers consists of compositions from publishing companies that have three or less sheet music titles appearing in the Martin and Morris Music Company Records. The compositions are arranged alphabetically by title. Compositions range in date from 1930's to the 1980's and include works written or performed by such greats as the Clara Ward Singers, the Davis Sisters, The Golden Tone Singers, Cleavant Derricks, and Eddie Simmons. There are dozens of titles included in this section. Among them are: He is my all and all, If I can help somebody, and Rock of Ages. Also included in this section are Christmas titles and some pop tunes. The oversized materials from this series appear in Box 9 which consists of folio sized music. Among the composers is Thomas Dorsey. Donald Vails is numbered among the performers. Many of the pieces in folder 2 contain color illustrations. A listing of titles and composers also has been compiled for this folder and is included therein.

Series 4: SONG BOOKS, ca. 1930 1985, consists of 5 document boxes of song books in octavo and full size. Dating from the 1940's to the 1980's, the series comprises music published or distributed by Martin and Morris (4A), and works produced and distributed by other publishers (4B and 4C). Materials are arranged by publisher. When needed, under each publisher, materials are listed alphabetically by title. Composers and performers include Alex Bradford, James Cleveland, The Davis Sisters, Sallie Martin, The Roberta Martin Singers, The Singing Caravans, and The Clara Ward Singers. There are lesson books included in the boxes marked Other Publishers, and the final box of miscellaneous publishers includes lesson books for jazz and blues piano, and guitar. The oversized materials from this series appear in Box 9.

Series 4C: Miscellaneous Publishers, comprises miscellaneous copyright owners and publishers, and is arranged by title. It consists of song books from publishing companies that have three or less titles appearing in the Martin and Morris Music Company Records. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by publisher.

Series 5: ADVERTISING PHOTOGRAPHS, nd., contains photos that were often submitted for publication on the covers of music or flyers or other advertising materials distributed by the Martin and Morris Music Company. This half document box of materials includes photos of Kenneth Morris, Joe May, the Spirit of Memphis Quartette, the Raymond Rasberry Singers, the Singing Caravan, and Martin & Morris Studios' personnel, among others. Materials are undated, and some remain unidentified.

Series 6: ADVERTISING EPHEMERA, ca. 1935-1979, the final series of the Martin and Morris Music Company Records, also comprises one half document box. It contains ephemera such as newspaper clippings, calendars, publicity materials, and programs.
The collection is divided into six series.

Series 1: Correspondence, 1941-1980

Series 2: Business and Financial Records, 1940-1978

Series 3: Sheet Music, circa 1930-1985

Series 4: Song Books, circa 1930-1985

Series 5: Advertising Photographs, undated

Series 6: Advertising Ephemera, circa 1935-1979
Biographical / Historical:
Kenneth Morris (1917-1988) and Sallie Martin (1896-1988) were co-owners of the nation's oldest continuously-running Black Gospel music publishing company. Martin and Morris established the firm in Chicago, Illinois and it remained in operation from 1940 until the 1980's. Martin spent most of her time on the road with her singers advertising the compositions published by the firm. Morris remained in Chicago arranging, composing, and notating music. Along with his wife, Necie, Morris also handled most of the company's paperwork.

Kenneth Morris (8/28/1917-1988), Gospel music publisher, arranger, composer, and innovator, was born in New York. Although he began making music in church as a youngster, he commenced his professional career as a jazz musician. In high school, and later while studying at the Manhattan Conservatory of Music, the ever changing Kenneth Morris Band was often billed at hotels, restaurants, and lounges. He and others of his band traveled to the "Chicago World's Fair" in 1934 to perform dance music for the day and evening concerts. Because of the heavy schedule, Morris became ill, and was forced to leave the band. However, he decided to stay in Chicago, and there met members of the Gospel music community. Among them were Lillian Bowles and Charles Pace. He spent six years with Lillian Bowles Music House, and in 1940, partnered with Sallie Martin to form Martin and Morris Music Company.

Kenneth Morris' partner, Sallie Martin (11/20/1896-6/8/1988) was a noted Gospel musician as well. Born in Pittfield, Georgia, her mother was a traveling musician. After her mother's death (ca. 1912), Martin moved to Atlanta, then to Cleveland, Ohio (1917), and finally settled in Chicago, Illinois (1919). In each of these cities, she sang in church choirs. In 1932, she auditioned for and joined the Pilgrim Baptist Church chorus lead by Thomas Dorsey. And in 1933 she began traveling with Dorsey to help promote his songs. Together they founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses. Martin left Dorsey and toured briefly as a soloist. She partnered with Roberta Martin for a short time, then went on to form her own women's group (The Sallie Martin Singers). She continued with the group and in 1940 she joined Kenneth Morris to form Martin and Morris Music Company.

Martin retired from music in 1970 and sold her portion of the business to Morris in 1973. A pioneering Gospel musician, she was widely known through the tours made by the Sallie Martin Singers. Their performance style influenced musicians across the country and around the world. Among her students were Dinah Washington, Jessy Dixon, Delois Barrett Campbell, and Alex Bradford.

The Martin and Morris Music Company (1940-ca. 1988) was a long awaited "dream come true" for Sallie Martin. As a frequent attendee of the First Church of Deliverance, pastored by Reverend Clarence H. Cobb, Ms. Martin often relayed her desire to him. A popular minister known as "the preacher," Cobb hired Kenneth Morris as his choir director. Morris became a pioneering and innovative Gospel musician. He is noted for the introduction of the Hammond organ to the Gospel music sound. Sallie Martin often sang with Kenneth Morris's Choir. And Cobb persuaded Morris to go into business with Sallie Martin. Martin was a great natural talent, but had no formal music training. She needed a partner who could write and arrange music.

Morris bought out Martin in 1973. And about 1978, he acquired the Theodore Frye and the Roberta Martin catalogues. The Bowles and the Beatrice Brown catalogues were also added to the firm's inventory before Mr. Morris's passing. When he died, Martin and Morris Publishing was the only surviving Black Gospel sheet music distribution house in the nation. His widow continued the business for some time after his death. There was little interest in the company by other family members, and requests for materials were dropping off. With little help and lighter profits, in 1993 Necie Morris began packing up and disposing of the company's records. For more information see We'll Understand It Better By and By, Bernice Johnson Reagon, ed., 1992, SI Press. Clickhere to go to scope and content.
The collection's acquisition was facilitated through Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon's long-time research on Gospel music. Among the contacts made in her research was the late Kenneth Morris. Dr. Reagon made it known to Chief Archivist, John Fleckner that the Morris family was clearing out the building which the firm had occupied since the 1940's. Mr. Fleckner made contact with Morris' widow, Mrs. Necie Morris, and selected the collection materials for the Museum during an August, 1993 visit to Chicago. Related objects, a large building sign and a banner advertisement, were acquired by the Division of Cultural History.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright restrictions. Contact Martin and Morris Music Company Records: Kenneth Morris, Jr., 913 Cordoba, University Park, IL 60466.

For performance rights contact Reginald Morris, 7400 S. Euclid Ave., Chicago, IL 60649 (773) 643-9492, e-mail:

For clearance of Martin and Morris Music compositions on television contact Otubusin and Associates, Kristina Monkel, 77 W. Washington Blvd., #1204, Chicago, IL 60602 (312) 251-1480; e-mail:
Gospel music -- 1930-1990  Search this
Ephemera -- 20th century
Sheet music
Advertisements -- 20th century
Photographs -- 20th century
Correspondence -- 20th century
Business records -- 20th century
Martin and Morris Music Company Records, ca. 1930-1985, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Martin and Morris Music Company Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Online Media:

Somebody Touched Me; If Mother Knew

Carter, Clarence  Search this
Bowles, Lillian M.  Search this
Frye, Theodore  Search this
Recording artist:
Professor Alex Bradford  Search this
Specialty  Search this
Physical Description:
vinyl (overall material)
overall: 7 in; x 17.78 cm
Object Name:
Sound Recording
ID Number:
Label number:
Accession number:
Catalog number:
See more items in:
Culture and the Arts: Entertainment
Data Source:
National Museum of American History

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