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martin oram Biography martin oram

Waterfall 1980's 1990's 2000's

So where did it all begin ?

Martyn was born in his grandparents' house in Plymouth, Devon, and lived in Mombasa, Kenya for two years before settling in Bath, Somerset.

He bought an electric guitar when he was ten and started to learn the violin at eleven. After Hendrix died, the electric guitar was soon swapped for an acoustic and Donovan became a major influence, along with the Incredible String Band, Roy Harper, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Paxton. Learning fiddle tunes from Fairport Convention and other LP’s, (which soon destroyed these albums!), he formed “GULL MAC MORNA” with three school friends and they began playing around the local folk scene.

In 1974, he went to Warwick University and was roomed with Keith Donnelly  from South Shields, who played acoustic guitar and shared the same musical tastes. Together they formed WATERFALL, and became residents of the University Folk Club, mixing songs by Jonathon Kelly, Gerry Rafferty, Al Stewart etc with traditional ballads and tunes, and slowly began including their own original compositions.

(photo by Peter Groves)

After graduating in 1977, they took the plunge and decided to commit themselves full time to music. Joining an alternative country/rock band for 6 months, called “VAN DE HOOG’S ELDERFLOWER REMEDY”, (with Martin Bell , later of the WONDERSTUFF), they quickly learnt all about PA systems, sleeping in vans and life on the road.

WATERFALL were still playing floorspots whenever possible in folk clubs up and down the country, and in September 1977 they recorded their first LP “THE FLIGHT OF THE DAY” at Woodbine Studios, a 4 track studio built into the front room of Johnny Rivers’ small terraced home in Leamington Spa. (Now available on CD – see discography).

In February 1978, Martyn and Keith were playing at Lanchester Polytechnic Folk Club (previous residence of Steve Knightly ), in Coventry when they were stunned by the voice of one of the floor singers, Gilly Darbey , and so WATERFALL became a trio.

After another six months of floorspots and self-promotion, WATERFALL began gigging full time, and on 1st November 1978 had their first national radio broadcast on BBC Radio 1’s “Kid Jensen Show”.

They recorded the LP “THREE BIRDS” for the Avada record label in spring ’79, at Millsteam Studios in Cheltenham, produced by Johnny Coppin.     (“Oram’s fiddle playing is appealing” Melody Maker Album Review 6/10/79.)

Constantly travelling the length and breadth of England, playing in folk clubs and colleges, they also toured in Germany, Belgium and Holland, where a live recording of a gig at the Matrix Folkclub, Rotterdam was broadcast on Hilversum 3.
In 1980,
WATERFALL began major support tours with The Hollies, Richard Digance and Gilbert O’Sullivan. Overseas tours now included Cyprus with Harvey Andrews, Dave Burland and Wally Whyton, Gibraltar with the McCalmans, and ten days in Belize with Harvey Andrews and Telephone Bill And The Smooth Operators (featuring Nick Barraclough, now a Radio 2 presenter).Belize was an amazing experience, with one gig on the flight deck of HMS Glasgow, and another deep in the jungle, only accessable by helicopter.

In Spring ’81 they recorded a new LP “BENEATH THE STARS”, at Gateway Studios, London, produced by Phillip Goodhand-Tait, from which Martyn’s composition MON COUER EST LA was selected for a 6 month play on British Airways world flights.

WATERFALL made their first TV appearance in 1981 on BBC Midland’s “Dennis McCarthy’s Weekly Echo”, and then on 24th July, BBC 1 broadcast a half hour “Waterfall In Concert”.
They opened the 1981 Cambridge Folk Festival on Main Stage 1, with Martyn compering the Saturday evening on Main Stage 2.
In October, they performed 2 songs 'live' on BBC 1’s “Pebble Mill At One”. Also that year, Martyn wrote and performed the theme song to Pam Ayres’ video film “PAM’S PARTY

Although critically acclaimed, and very popular on the folk scene, WATERFALL were unfortunately never able to break out to a wider market, and the pressures of touring and sharing lives saw the group split in February 1982. (Keith and Gilly continued playing as a duo under the names “Little Aeroplane” and then “Nothing By Chance”, but in the '90’s separated to begin solo careers.)


Martyn made his debut as a solo artist, singing two of his own songs ‘live’ on London’s Capital Radio in March 1982. In April, he recorded his first solo LP “FLYING SOUTH” in Germany featuring twelve of his own songs. Southern Rag (father of FRoots) compared the LP to early Donovan and Art Garfunkel (Autumn ’82).

An acting debut swiftly followed in the BBC Play “Another Flip For Dominick”, which also featured some of his original music. Other small roles continued through the ‘80’s in “Moonfleet” (BBC), “Lytton’s Diary” (Thames), “Gems” (Thames) and “The Benny Hill Show” (Thames) for example.
He appeared in the cover photo of Spandau Ballet’s LP “Parade” (along with Sam Fox and Patsy Kensit).

In addition to solo gigs throughout England, in 1984, Martyn began playing regular tours in Europe as a duo with Walter F Diet, a German singer/songwriter and this was to be the beginning of a 17 year collaboration as ORAM & DIET. They recorded their first album “TOGETHER” in 1986.

Martyn also occasionally still played with
Martin Bell (later to join The Wonderstuff), Maartin Allcock (later to join Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull, Mark Knopfler and Cat Stevens), Fraser Nimmo , and Chris Haigh, amongst others.

In ‘85/86, Martyn toured as half of “THICKO & ROWNTREE” (“Pillocks ! Comedy singing duo had university audience in stitches” The Sun, 28/9/85), with Ian Durrant , who 15 years later would join him in the LPSO.

In the spring of 1988, Martyn produced and recorded another nine of his own songs for his second solo LP “THE MEN WHO DREAM”, (mastered in Abbey Road Studios, London). Musical assistance was provided by half of Shave The Monkey . (“Without doubt a thoughtful and talented songwriter who deserves interest” Rock ‘n’ Reel Issue 11).

1988 was also the beginning of a partnership with guitarist Mike Martin, firstly in Mike’s London-based cajun band “PEACE ON THE PANHANDLE” (“Stylish and musically stunning” City Limits, March ’88), and then as “LUKE ‘N’ FLOYD”, a multi-instrumental roots country duo (“First class fiddle” The Stage and Television Today, 16/3/89). Mike and Martyn would later form the LPSO


Seeking a new adventure, Martyn and his family moved to Sydney, Australia for the whole of 1990, where he played folk clubs throughout New South Wales, and made many new friends. (“A great fiddle player” Sydney Morning Herald 4/5/90), ( “Fine musician and songwriter … writes songs that are listenable and pertinent “ Cornstalk, N.S.W. April ’90). During this time he added some violin to Margaret Walter’s CD “For The Future And The Past”.

Returning to Europe in 1991, he recorded a new CD in Germany called “PAWNS IN THE GAME” with Walter F. Diet, featuring in addition to his own songs, some jointly written with Walter, including the title track, half in German about two friends who find their countries at war with each other. 1993 saw Martyn and Walter add bass and drums to form the ORAM & DIET BAND, and they recorded the CD “OUR ROADIE’S IN TURKEY”.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, LUKE ‘N’ FLOYD had appeared on “SKY TV” (Lyndsey De Paul: “nice looking fellas !”); at the 1991 Worthing Country Music Festival (“a truly remarkable performance of pure talent” British Country Music Roots Oct. 1991) and recorded their first album, “WOODLOUSE” in London in '93 (“ multi-talented duo who don’t so much specialise as excel in a variety of country styles…an impressive collection of stylish and memorable self compositions and ace picking and fiddle playing and other acoustic delivery. Definitely worth the price of admission.” Rock ‘n’ Reel Autumn ’93).

Continued solo gigging throughout Britain, included Edward Heath's 80th Birthday Party, and on a train carrying the cast of Brookside to their 500th episode party!


In 1999, Martyn and Walter added electric guitar to their sound, changed the band’s name to MAYBUG, and recorded a new CD "GOLFSTREAM" in Germany.
Comparing the band to Lindisfarne, Rock ‘n’ Reel (Spring 2000) said : “there’s an exuberance and real sense of fun that seems to run throughout the album - punchy, confident and unpretentious folk-flavoured rock”.

The year 2000 saw ORAM & DIET peform in Massachusetts, USA for one week in May; and in July, Martyn played with the CHAS McDEVITT SKIFFLE BAND (of "Freight Train" fame) at the Hankasalmi Festival in Finland.

In August Martyn replaced an A.W.O.L. singer/guitarist in the Australian band THE SENSITIVE NEW-AGE COWPERSONSat short notice for the last concert of their British tour.

  Nov 2000:   When Martyn told Brian May that people often comment that he looks like him, Brian said "Well, it's not that bad, is it !!"

In the autumn, Martyn and Mike formed THE LONDON PHILHARMONIC SKIFFLE ORCHESTRA, playing a mixture of celtic, cajun, klezmer, cossack and country/blues with the high energy and fun of skiffle. They headlined at Finland's Hankasalmi Festival in July 2001.

After a partnership spanning nearly 20 years, ORAM & DIET / MAYBUG finally came to an end in October 2001, with Walter deciding to concentrate on his own music - check out www.maybug.de


In August 2001, Martyn sang his song "Drops In The Ocean" at Cropredy Folk Festival with Maart Allcock (left) and Keith Donnelly, and fiddled with Bob Fox, Keith Donnelly, Maart Allcock, trombonist and Gilly Darbey



In July, Martyn played an hour concert of his own songs at the Hankasalmi Festival in Finland (check the reviews page).

In August, he performed as "the fiddler" in the Hornblower TV film, "DUTY", and in October/November toured Germany solo, (check the reviews page).


2003 saw several reunion concerts with Keith Donnelly, as "THE ORIGINAL WATERFALL", 25 years after they last played together as a duo. It was amazing how many old familiar faces turned up at gigs, often travelling long distances, many even leaving their walking sticks at home! See the WATERFALL page.


Martyn released a new CD "A DROP IN THE OCEAN" - a 'best of' his 3 CD's recorded with Walter in the '90's. Martyn also began occasionally touring with German guitarist/singer Michael Strobel, mostly in Denmark.  




In July, he was paid by the EEC ( !!!!! ) to teach at a music camp in Finland for a week, leading up to performances at the Hankasalmi Festival and an appearance on Finnish Television. It was a terrific 'no-sleep' week of strong alcohol, tasty food, swimming in the lake, making friends with mosquitoes and ...........(oh yeah, the music was ok as well)

It was a great summer with the LPSO - they played Cromer, Cleckheaton and Leigh-on-Sea folk festivals, Henley Festival of Music and Arts and headlined again at the Hankaslami festival in Finland - FANTASTIC !   "The Cream Of The Festival" Keskisuomalainen

Check out the band's website  www.lpso.co.uk  for fuller details, photos etc.  



Before the Hankasalmi festival, Martyn taught at their music camp again - more fantastic fun, great music, swimming in the lake in the midnight sun .....

This is where his campers opened the festival outside the station, alongside the railway tracks - the festival always begins to the whistle of the 5.30 arrival from Helsinki !

A great long weekend playing with THE O'REELYS in April, on the maiden sailing of Brittany Ferries' "Pont Aven" from Plymouth to Roscoff to Cork and back, with hordes of Breton dancers stepping away to their jigs and reels. It even spawned a new song, "Pont Aven", recorded on his 2006 CD "The Bridge Of Broken Dreams" (see Discography).



Another fantastic week in Hankasalmi, Finland, again, teaching at the music camp and then accompanying the very beautiful and talented Finnish singer/songwriter Katriina Honkanen on her Saturday night main stage spot and also at the jam session late into the night.
Great songs, fab voice and a lovely person - buy her CD's !!

2006   July : Fantastic time with the LPSO at Skagen Folk Festival in Denmark (immediately rebooked for 2007) and another great week teaching at the Kihveli Soikoon music camp in Finland, before the LPSO's main concert on Saturday night.  
Also joined the beautiful and charming actress/singer/songwriter Irina Bjorklund for her main stage concert.



Summer 2006 : release of Martyn's new CD "The Bridge Of Broken Dreams" - 16 new songs.


December 2006:   Martyn played fiddle on Jackie Barnett's new album 'Wheatfields' released this month.

"top bit of fiddle playing by Martyn Oram; real nice" said Steve Cherelle on his BBC Essex radio show on 3/12/06



2007, 08 and 09

Highlights were festivals at Skagen (DK) each year with the LPSO, and of course the annual music camp and festival in Hankasalmi (FIN) - so many new friends and experiences.

Performing at the songwriter circle at Warwick Festival (2008), and many DK tours and fantastic nights with great buddy Michael Strobel.

A real strange one was playing solo in May 2007 at ex-BBC Controller, Greg Dyke's 60th Birthday Party in a marquee at his lovely home, along with Julie Felix. Woodstock and Anti-war were the themes of the day. While I was playing, dancing together in front of me were Claire Short and David Frost! Melvyn Bragg later said to me "Well Done! You were very good!". I took that as high praise.


(photo be Giles Penfold)


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