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Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die

Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die

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By Aaron Parrett

Dave Martens of Havre, Mont., has been collecting music for most of his life. His uncle Roger was a musician in Missoula who taught him his first guitar chords, but he also instilled in his young nephew a deep love of classic country and rock ‘n’ roll.

“I started collecting Jimi Hendrix records when I was about 9,” Dave said. “And whenever we’d visit Missoula, I’d collect show posters from local bands and go into Rockin’ Rudy’s and ask for any records by the bands on the posters.”

Martens’ childhood obsession eventually turned into a hobby focused on ferreting out and archiving obscure Montana music. He honed his musical skills in college (at Missoula), where he played in an alternative country band called The Best Westerns. He meanwhile began compiling an impressive collection of Montana musical artifacts: old cassette tapes, rare 45s, LPs recorded in studios like Valtron in Helena, Mont., and even a few old 78 RPM discs featuring Montana players and singers, such as Lindy Ness from Miles City.

Martens also continued to amass an amazing collection of band posters, some dating back to the 1950s. In Missoula, he became a DJ at the local indie radio station, KBGA (89.9 FM), which opened his eyes to Montana’s punk and post-punk scene from the late 70s to early 90s.

Eventually he realized he needed to get this long-lost music back into the world where like-minded fans could appreciate it, too. Toward that end, he launched an archival website called Lost Sounds Montana, where he could post audio from the highlights of his collection. (That website can now be found on Bandcamp, under “Lost Sounds Montana.”)

In 2015, Martens made his first foray into the production business, putting out a double album of 1960s Montana rock bands, which he called Long Time Coming. He sold the albums via mail order out of his garage in Havre, and, when he was sold out, he started production for releasing an album by The Frantics, a 60s band out of Billings. The album met with great acclaim when Martens released it in 2018. In 2022, he put out a compilation album of the punk and post-punk stuff he’d archived, called Without Warning.

Martens’ efforts have garnered high praise. Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam noted in his comments on the back of the Long Time Coming LP that “No one knew about these bands except for their respective communities, until now. Who knows what might have happened if any one of these bands had moved to L.A.?”

Fellow music archivist and documentary filmmaker Doug Hawes-Davis of Missoula said, “Every state needs a Dave Martens, and Montana is incredibly fortunate to have him. To call his music preservation work ‘challenging’ would be the understatement of the year. Tracking down the recordings—from cassette, reel-to-reel, or well-worn 45 RPM singles from the 60s or earlier—and recovering and digitizing the media, and locating the artists, dealing with copyright, etc. etc. etc. is a huge labor of love that is an amazing gift to music fans.”

Even though he works a full-time day job as a speech therapist, and he does ski patrol in the Bear Paws in the winter, and he plays in a half dozen bands, and he volunteers for numerous causes—not to mention he’s a husband and father—Dave continues to collect and put out forgotten or long-neglected Montana music. Right now he’s working on compiling an LP of the 1960s Helena band, Night Raiders, who had one song featured on Long Time Coming.

“They had put together a full album on acetate at Valtron Recording Studio in Helena, which was never released,” Martens said. “We tracked down the master tapes, got them digitized, and we will soon be able to deliver to the world this lost album from 1966.”

He also has now collected enough 1970s music to put out a companion album to the 1960s-oriented Long Time Coming, but finding the time proves more of a challenge every year.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said, grinning his signature grin. “Tough to balance having a job, a family, skiing, playing music, and trying to put all this music out there.”

The most rewarding efforts in life are always a labor of love, and Martens’ enthusiasm and joy for Montana music is contagious. He’s truly a high-line ambassador for great, forgotten sounds from the Treasure State. MSN


Martens’ digital archive has moved over to Bandcamp, where you can download his album reissues, but also treat your ears to the timely sounds of dozens of obscure, neglected, or otherwise forgotten Montana musicians. Visit lostsoundsmontana.bandcamp.com to listen. He also hosts a YouTube channel worth checking out: youtube.com/@lostsoundsmontana3467.

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