Q&A: Eddie Martin
Founder of King Edward and the B.D.’s talks about 50 years of music – and now dealing with cancer.
For nearly half a century – the 50th anniversary comes next year – the band King Edward and the B.D.’s has been a staple on the Central Virginia music scene. Eddie Martin is the founder and keyboardist, the only original member still playing with the group. “King Eddie” is still rockin’ – despite a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. He shared a lifetime of memories with us recently – but he’s still not talking about the band’s name.
We talked in the Easy 100.9 studio. Here are excerpts.
BILL BEVINS: HE’S A BIT OF A LIVING LEGEND IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA: HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS, KING EDWARD, OF KING EDWARD AND THE B.D.’S, IS WITH US THIS MORNING. EDDIE MARTIN, GOOD TO SEE YOU, BUDDY.
EDDIE MARTIN: How are you doing, Bill?
BB: I AM DOING GREAT. WE’RE VERY EXCITED ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BAND. … YOU STARTED A BAND – LIKE A LOT OF KIDS DID– IN HIGH SCHOOL.
Yeah, Bill, we did. Back in John Marshall High School here in Richmond, we first started playing as a group called “The Igniters.” And we were doing a lot of cover stuff by The Beatles, Rolling Stones and groups like that.
BB: WHAT YEAR WAS THIS?
This was in 1966, and we just weren’t comfortable doing it because all the bands were doing it. We liked Motown and a lot of the R&B music that was coming out, and a lot of us played in the John Marshall Band and the Cadet Corps, and we had horns and stuff. So we said, “You know, why don’t we try to put together an R&B band?”
BB: EVERYBODY ELSE IS ZIGGING, LET’S ZAG.
Yeah, let’s zag. So we put together the horn section, and we started to do some work in the studio. It was a garage, actually; we called it our “studio.”
SHELLY PERKINS: AT WHAT POINT DID YOU BECOME KING EDWARD AND THE B.D.’S?
Well, when we formed the band, that’s when we decided to change the name from The Igniters to King Edward and the B.D.’s. That was late-’66, ’67.
SP: I DO KNOW THAT KING EDWARD AND THE B.D.’S WERE ACTUALLY ONE OF THE FIRST BANDS IN VIRGINIA TO BE AN INTEGRATED BAND.
Yes. John Marshall High School was, of course, a city school and we were integrated back then. And one of the gentlemen who was in the Cadet Corps was Ashberry Brett, a saxophone player. His father was a doctor, and we liked him and, back then, all of us grew up understanding what was going on at the time, and everybody to us was the same in school. The kids in school didn’t look at integration as a big issue, because we were all kids and we all got along together and lived together. So when the time came to bring him in the band, we said, “He can play a horn! He’s got a good stage personality, he’s a fantastic person.” And he fit right in with us.
BB: ONE OF THE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT YOUR BAND IS THAT IT’S NOT A BAND; IT’S A FAMILY.
That’s one thing the B.D.’s have always been. We looked out for each other, we took care of each other, we helped each other’s family members through crises.
SP: ONE OF THE GREAT MYSTERIES ABOUT YOUR BAND IS WHAT THE “B.D.” STANDS FOR. WILL TODAY, EDDIE MARTIN, BE THE DAY THAT YOU SHARE WHAT THE KING EDWARD AND THE B.D.’S STANDS FOR?
Well, Shelly and Bill, I love ya’ll both. Bill, you know that.
BB: I THINK IT’S A “NO.”
SP: THAT’S OK, EDDIE. I CAN TAKE A SHOT AT IT. EVERYONE’S BEEN GUESSING. YOU COULD BE THE “BIG DADDIES.” WHAT WAS MY FAVORITE? “THE BACHELORS OF DIVINITY.”
[laughing]: We played at Emory & Henry [College] one time. That’s how they booked us.
SP: FANTASTIC. I’LL GET IT OUT OF YOU ONE OF THESE DAYS.
That’s OK. We’ll write it down, like the Coke formula.
BB: SO LET’S MOVE TO A DIFFERENT AREA. WHEN YOU HAVE A FAMILY AND YOU HAVE A FULL LIFE THAT IS FILLED WITH ALL THIS MUSIC AND ALL THIS JOY THAT YOU BRING TO OTHER PEOPLE, YOU ALSO HAVE SOME PROBLEMS AND YOU’VE BEEN GOING THROUGH ONE [WITH CANCER]. HOW IS THE FAMILY DOING, AND HOW ARE YOU DOING?
Bill, I’m doing pretty good today. It’s been kind of a rough summer for the Martin family. I’ll give you a little insight: I do K-9 search and rescue, and I had a bloodhound named Maggie Mae. And in June she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we ended up having to put her down in July, which was very sad because I lost a pet but I also lost a partner that served the community. I’ve been having some issues with my stomach, so I finally went to the doctor. In August, I went in and they did a CT scan and they found cancer in my pancreas on the tail end. Hopefully there is a possibility they can do surgery if the chemo works – and hopefully it will go into remission. I got a huge backing of proud support on Facebook, and I know the station’s behind me 1,000 percent.
BB: VERY, VERY PROUD OF WHAT YOU’VE DONE HERE IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA, BOTH WITH THE RESCUE SQUAD WORK AND TOUCHING SO MANY LIVES WITH YOUR MUSIC, AND WE’RE ALL BEHIND YOU; WE ALL LOVE YOU. I’M PROUD TO KNOW YOU, AND I’LL BE PROUD 10 YEARS FROM NOW TO INTRODUCE YOU ON STAGE AGAIN.
Well, you know, next year  is our 50th year. Fifty years this band has been around playing. And we got some plans next year. We’ll try to put together a show, and a better, major headline act will hopefully come with us to help us celebrate and put on something, probably do it for charity.
SP: FIFTY YEARS. IT’S KING EDWARD AND THE B.D.’S. THAT’LL BE SOMETHING ELSE.
We’re looking forward to it.
BB: OUR VERY SPECIAL GUEST IS EDDIE MARTIN, THE GUY WHO STARTED THE BAND AND STILL LEADS THE BAND.
Yes, one of our slogans back in the ’60s was, “They call us coffee, because we grind so fine.”
For more: kingedwardandthebdsband.com or Facebook.com (search “King Edward & the BD’s Band”).
Bill Bevins and Shelly Perkins, teamed as a Richmond radio fixture since 2001, are morning hosts with Easy 100.9.