So long to Bill Martin, ‘The Mailman’
On television, on radio, in the newspaper.
One of the most recognizable figures in Austin’s gospel community, Bill “The Mailman” Martin passed away over the weekend. He was 82.
Now he was called “Mailman” for two reasons.
One, he actually was a mailman, retired from the postal service since 1992.
And, two, when it came to gospel music, whether he was playing or singing, he always delivered the goods.
Because of our similar names, there are some friends in Austin who started calling me, “Mailman” many years ago.
The real Mailman was the dean of gospel announcers after he made his radio debut in 1980. He was the founder and president of the Texas Gospel Announcers Guild.
His name is synonymous with gospel music in Austin, delivering the good news Sunday mornings from 5 to 11 a.m. on KIXLAM 960 in Austin.
According to several biographical sources, in addition to spinning inspirational records old and new, he announced upcoming concerts and special events, read prayer requests over the air and basically acts as town crier for anything church-related.
“Listening to Martin’s robust, Carolina-accented voice, it’s hard to believe he wound up a disc jockey out of sheer circumstance,” stated the Austin Chronicle.
As part of the St. James Baptist Church congregation, it was his job to bring the pastor’s sermon from the church to KIXL and introduce it on the air.
One fateful Sunday morning, the announcer abruptly quit and the station’s desperate owner, asked Martin to fill in. He obliged, and everything went relatively smooth until the third week, when the man appointed to train Martin got sick and didn’t show up.
The Mailman was born in Asheville, N.C. and served his country in the Air Force for four years including a tour of Korea. He was also stationed at Bergstrom Air Force base in Austin.
“Sometimes it takes people longer to find the purpose God has for their life,” Martin told the Chronicle. “As I look back over my life, I feel this was the purpose God always had for me.”
Again, while I never met him, I will miss seeing his name everywhere as he spread the good word in the best way possible, through his love of music.
Here are five religious tunes that appeared as radio hits:
1. “People Get Ready”— The Impressions, Curtis Mayfield, lead singer. “... there’s a train a’ coming...”
2. “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”—Helen Reddy. From Jesus Christ Superstar.
3. “Turn, Turn, Turn”— The Byrds. Roger McGuinn plagiarizes the Bible (Ecclesiastes).
4. “Jesus Just Left Chicago”— A funky Jesus takes a road trip with Billy Gibbons.
5. “Dropkick Me Jesus, Through the Goalposts of Life”—Bobby Bare. Just a little humor.