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by Janet Nesler

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If you would like a unique evening of good food and great entertainment, visit Tom and Linda Martin's Country Music Highway Cafe in Ashland, KY.

"For five years every time Tom saw a small restaurant he said it would make a great country music highway cafe," said Linda Martin. Tom Martin has finally realized that goal because for the last 14 months The Country Music Highway Cafe has been in business in Ashland, KY. The Highway Cafe is a small town cafe with a homey atmosphere, good food, and a stage. The cafe
showcases local talent to give the performers in this area a place to perform.

Well known local entertainer and Fraternity Recording artist Steve Free, who plays the singer/songwriter circuit of Festivals, Schools, and coffeehouses throughout the mid©west, plays there regularly. "I think it's great what the cafe is doing for the local artists," said Free. "Tom Martin is an old friend, so I play there at least once a month with band members Tim McIntire and Nate Free to support Tom."

Another well know singer/songwriter Rob McNerlin from Ashland, KY is a regular at the Highway Cafe. "It's a good place to try out new songs," said McNurlin. You can write them that day and try them out that evening on a live audience."

Other entertainers from Portsmouth who might be seen there are The Lemon Lilies, J.D. Hurt, Jim Evans, Amanda Murray and Emma Smith.

"There are so many talents that come from this area, we wanted to honor them all. We started the Highway Cafe as a tribute to all the talent that has come from this area and is yet to come," said Tom Martin.

Besides local talent the cafe stage has held some big name entertainers. Rickey Scaggs and his band came through and played awhile. The Drifter's have played at the cafe. Others are Marty
Brown and The Billy Ray Cyrus band. Emmy Lou Harris and her band played for three hours one night.

The wall of the cafe holds autographed photographs of many well known stars, most who has passed through and stopped by for a good meal. When the Judds were in down during Christmas sent an autograph and their best wishes for success for the cafe.

"People in the industry come here," said Martin, "Promoters, Representatives from Radio and TV Stations come to see the talent. Billy Ray Cyrus Fan Club President, who is from Australia, came one evening and said she didn't want to leave."

The cafe is open to any talent during the week, but showcases the more well known talent on Friday and Saturday night. No alcohol is sold in the cafe so the younger talent may have a chance to perform. There is no age limit, no one is too young or too old.

"I look at it as a well of talent we have in this area," said Martin. "They take a cupful of this water to Nashville, Los Angeles, New York and make stars out of these people. But the
well is here. A good example is to take a look at some of the talent, such as Billy Ray from Flatwoods, The Judds from Boyd County, Rickey Scaggs from Lawrence County, Loretta Lynn and Christal Gayle from Johnson County, just to name a few."

"We hope to help new talent to find success, but so many of these people who are trying to make it have day jobs and can't travel to Nashville or Los Angeles or New York. We do all we can for them here. We would like to turn Ashland into the hub of the music industry of Eastern Kentucky. We have great recording studios here in Ashland. These people know what they are doing and have Hi Tech equipment to do it with. The thing they lack in this area is the distribution and we are working hard to try and do that."

The Cafe works through related enterprises, Rising Star Promotions owned and operated by Debbie Williams and Misty Marshall Music owned and operated by Kathy Murphy.

"We are a licensed ASCAP arena and will soon be a licensed PMI so all copy write material can be performed here," said Martin. "As well as the printed information given to performers, we draw off the inter net to help them grow. We want to be part of the industry."

Several of the regular performers have gone on with their careers from the Cafe. Louis McNeal has a contract for eight of his songs to be recorded and produced by the management of John Robert Montgomery and McNeal has been invited to play at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville in March.

"Tim Dixon got his feet wet on the Highway Cafe stage. It was the first time he had ever performed in front of anyone," said Martin. "We shopped his music around Nashville because we had a lot of belief in Tim. He has been invited to play at the Bluebird Cafe in January."

There are all types of music performed such as blue grass, gospel, rock. jazz, blues, and folk. Hundreds have performed on the cafe stage in the last fourteen months. Nurses, several
Bankers, school teachers, hostesses, even a doctor. Anyone who has an interest.

"The Cafe has a special place of honor for my best friend, Mike Murphy, who passed away a year ago," said Martin. "He was a member of the band Zachariah. Most of Billy Ray Cyrus band members were former members of Zachariah. Mike Murphy was a song writer on Billy Ray's first album "SOME GAVE ALL". Murphy coªwrote "Never Thought I'd Fall In Love With You" which sold 23 million copies at the latest count."

Looking at plans for the future Tom and Linda Martin would like to open five more Highway Cafes in different small towns such as Portsmouth, Pikeville, Prestonsburg and Paintsville.

The Country Music Highway Cafe has no cover charge and serves steak dinners, shrimp dinners, serves breakfast all the time, home©cooked cornbread and beans. They also feature memorabilia of the stars in a corner gift shop.The Cafe is open from 8:00am to 3:00am on weekdays and on Friday and Saturday is open 8:00am to 4:00am. During the week the stage is open from 7:00pm to 10:00pm and booked from 10:00pm to Mid©night.

While Linda Martin is the owner of The Country Music Highway Cafe Tom Martin's title is Artist Developer. They reside in Westwood, Kentucky.


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