Bill Martin aka Cowboy Bill
Comedian Cowboy Bill Martin has built a loyal following of fans from coast to coast the old fashioned way – by working the road and bringing the funny. The Texas native headlines all of the most prestigious clubs and theaters across the U.S. and Canada plus just returned in fall of 2009 from headlining his first tour of the Middle East for our Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Red, White and a little Bluer Tour.
A regular in Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo week, Martin has also toured with country music’s elite including George Strait, legendary singer, George Jones on an 18 city tour of Canada and was recently on the CMT Most Wanted Live Tour with Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts and Chris Cagle.
In a recent interview, Cowboy Bill was asked what it was like to be on the CMT tour. "Well the best way I can describe it is like this," he said. "You know how every time you meet a beautiful woman, she usually has that not so attractive friend? Well this thing was Paisley, Rascal Flatts and Cagle. Apparently I’m the ugly chick!"
But don’t let the name fool you. Critic Punch Shaw of The Fort Worth Star Telegram says, "Martin is not your typical country-cowboy comic. There’s no talk about trailer parks or inbreeding. Sure he wears cowboy garb on stage and he speaks with a Texas accent but his comedy touches people of all cultures. In performance, he’s apt to remind you of Gary Busey with an edge. That is especially applicable, especially when Martin flashes a toothy grin and gives a gee-whiz shrug of his broad shoulders."
Bill began his career in 1996. He had recently divorced, been fired from his job in advertising and his Grandmother was dying of lung cancer. Not exactly the things that you would typically build a stand-up comedy career around, especially since nobody around him thought he was funny. Even his own mother said to his father after Bill told her that he was going to be a comedian, “He wants to be a comedian? I don’t think he’s funny.” Turns out she was wrong and audiences everywhere have been laughing ever since.
Martin, 35, is originally from Blue Mound/Saginaw, Texas, just north of Fort Worth. "The inspiration for my comedy came from a culmination of things: From about high school graduation till my 29th birthday, I had three close buddies all commit suicides after they broke up with a girl; My grandmother had been diagnosed with lung cancer; I was miserable working in the field I went to college for; And I was going through a divorce of my own."
So instead of taking option A, like my buddies had picked, I picked option B. And one day I just sat down and started writing and I came up with an unpublished book called, Life Under the Neon Moon Now that She's Gone and Took the Dog with Her. And it read like stand-up," Cowboy Bill said.
A natural performer, Cowboy Bill says it was his ailing grandmother who spurred him on to "Find some happiness in his life." Cowboy Bill says, "I told her I wanted to do stand up and she encouraged me to go for it and then I reluctantly said, ‘what if I lose the house?’ She looked me in the eye and simply told me to ‘buy another’. She told me not to live in the ‘would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.’ And this was from a woman who was dying of cancer. So that’s what I did. (as he laughs). I lost a house and found a career."
And it is a good thing that he did, because now we can all laugh with him. After shooting up through the clubs and then touring with everyone from Strait to Jones and Foxworthy to Loretta Lynn, by 2004, Bill said he still felt that he hadn't found his "voice" on stage. “I was making a lot of money, but still felt like I was not talking about the stuff I wanted to.”
So that fall he hired a new manager and the first thing that they did was look at the act and say, “is it funny or is it memorable?” Steve Cox of Scott Dean Management said, “I knew he had funny, I just wanted him to have more of his heart on stage.”
But what makes Bill different on stage is that he wasn’t scared to go outside of his comfort zone. “After Blue Collar hit, it seems like every comic out there was trying to be them – and ‘Redneck it’ up”, says Bill, “and I didn’t want to do that. But when you have a name like Cowboy Bill, peoples expectations are that you are going to be just like them.”
And Bill set out to let it all hang out on stage on the road, back in the clubs. “I’ve toured with all 4 of those guys, and the reason why America loves them is because they are funny first and foremost; and ‘country’ second. And that’s the reason so many guys have tried and failed behind them, they get it backwards and think America is going to love them because they sound like Jeff or Ron or Larry but they don’t bring the funny first. I didn’t grow up in a trailer house, so I am not going to write jokes about them. Hopefully when you leave the show, you will see that I have more to offer than just a twang.”
One thing is for sure, the top bookers and club owners in America think he’s on the right path and with thousands of fans in his fan-club; America seems to think they are right. The result from finding that truth on stage is now he has a show that is smart (something you can’t say with most country acts), truly funny, real and it’s got heart.
Bill released his first DVD in 2007 for Aspirion Records of Nashville called, “Live from the Star Dome: Power of Laughter” and he is in the works to film his second DVD this fall called, “The NutCracker”.