Marty Raybon is a true artist whose music has stood the test of time. Whether listeners have heard the Grammy-award winning tenor as a solo artist or as lead singer of the popular Country group Shenandoah, they have quickly learned that Raybonâ€™s heart and soul are poured out through his songs. Marty has enjoyed a long-lasting career in Country, Bluegrass, and Gospel music. Through all of his accomplishments, however, Marty will be the first to tell you where every good thing in his life comes fromâ€”and itâ€™s from the God who loves him.
Marty was born in Sanford, Florida, but he grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. He recalls growing up with his brothers and sister there. â€œIt was a wonderful childhood. Music always filled our house. My brothers, Rick and Tim, and I sang together a lot, especially songs about being brothers. So we loved â€˜brotherâ€™ acts, like The Osborne Brothers, Jim and Jesse. Our father, Kenneth, was a fiddle player and he taught us harmony parts. He was my biggest influence in music, not just because he knew how to make it work, but because he knew how to love it. He taught me how to love it.â€
Marty also recalls some of the biggest spiritual influences in his early years. â€œBilly Graham was the most soul-stirring spiritually. Also, my older sister, Kathy, has always walked very close to the Lord. She was such a wonderful example of how to be Christ-like.â€
When Marty was in third grade, he sang in a talent show at Brookview Elementary School. â€œI was eight years old. I sang the Johnny Horton classic, â€˜The Battle of New Orleans.â€™ Now, to some it may seem strange, but I knew from that night on that singing to people was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.â€
In 1985, Martyâ€™s dream came true when he formed the country band Shenandoah with Ralph Ezell, Stan Thorn, Jim Seales, and Mike McGuire. Marty was able to do what he loved bestâ€”singing to crowds. â€œFor 12 years we ran up and down the road not even realizing we were having the time of our lives. We realized early on that people were not just coming to our shows because of the hits, but also because they wanted to take their minds off of everything else. They bought a ticket to our show, and we owed them that. We were grateful to realize that.â€ Marty also says he learned early on that his job was a privilege. â€œI realized that the Lord has blessed me with a wonderful gift in doing what I get to do. Having the opportunity to stand before people and sing has always meant a lot to me.â€
The group Shenandoah enjoyed many successes and awards during their 12 years as a band. For Marty, the moment that stands out the most in his career was when his group Shenandoah won TNNâ€™s Viewerâ€™s Choice Award in 1989 for â€œFavorite Newcomer.â€ Marty recalls, â€œThat was voted on by the people who were fans of country music, and at that point in our career, they thought we were worthy to have it.â€
In 1997, Marty felt the Lord leading him in a new direction in his career, and he left the group (Shenandoah has recently joined ranks again for the Shenandoah â€œRELOADEDâ€ Tour.).
He released several gospel/country albums as a solo artist and recorded the song â€œButterfly Kisses,â€ which was did very well on radio, with his brother Tim. The two were finally getting to do what they dreamed of as boys, singing in a â€˜brotherâ€™ act as The Raybon Brothers. The two never toured, but did enjoy success with their hit radio single.
Raybon has met people he only dreamed of meeting and talked with some that have changed his life. â€œI was always a fan of Merle Haggard. To be able to sit down and have a conversation with him was something I never would have believed Iâ€™d get the chance to do, but I got to do that. I also had the opportunity to meet and spend time with Pastor John Hagee and his family from Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. I really appreciated his spiritual insight and integrity.â€
Marty has gotten to fulfill his childhood dream again and again as he sings to people all over the world. â€œI have to say that every good thing that has ever happened to me has been because of the Lord. Through prayer and the trust in who He is, I can come to understand His sovereign will for my life. I depend on His direction on all the avenues of my life and try to stay on that path. Although I have failed at times, my failures only lead me to know that He loves me and wants the best for my life.â€
The Lord is definitely using Marty in a big way, and not just here at home. On a recent trip to Costa Rica, Marty was touched by the people and their love for the Lord. He was also impacted by their need for a building to have church in. He felt the Lord leading him to get involved by providing a building for the people to meet in and a place to grow their church. To learn more about his church-building project, and to find out how you can help, visit www.icm.org/martyraybon/
Marty is especially looking forward to a special experience in August at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. He will be appearing in the Christian Country Expo event, including the special â€œSalute to Our Heroes,â€ which hits very close to home for him and his family. â€œI have always felt a great deal of respect for the men and women who serve in the US military. I guess I didnâ€™t realize how much until our son, Matthew, went to Iraq. To truly understand what they were giving up when they were willing to go into battle and give their life for their country, it just causes that much more respect. We live in freedom because of the price of youth and blood. Veterans are not only to be saluted but should be truly honored.â€
Whether he is honoring our military, building churches across the ocean, or living out his lifeâ€™s dream at home, Marty knows where the true success lies, and thatâ€™s at the heart of God. Loving and following the God who loves him is what Marty Raybon is all about.
To learn more about Martyâ€™s current projects, visit his website at www.martyraybon.com, follow him on Twitter (@martyraybon), and like him on Facebook (Marty Raybon). For booking Shenandoah, contact Michael Weinstein at American Artists. For booking Marty Raybon and Full Circle, the bluegrass band, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the SGN Scoops story on the Christian Country Expo here!
By Paige Givens
First published by SGN Scoops in April 2015. For current issues of SGN Scoops digital magazine, visit the SGN Scoops mainpage.