Judy's family would like to thank you for your love, compassion, and emotional support as we lay our precious mother to rest.

Judith Elaine (Bess) Martin

April 14, 1940December 22, 2022
Obituary of Judith Elaine (Bess) Martin
Judith Elaine Martin (Judy) of Nashville, TN, departed our presence on Thursday, December 22, 2022 at the age of 82. Judy was born on Sunday, April 14, 1940 in Ashland City, TN. Her parents, Grover Franklin (Big Jeff) Bess and Emma Pearl Rediker (aka Emily Roberts) moved their new family 20 minutes east to work in Nashville's country music industry. Judy attended Glencliff Elementary and Middle Schools and spent her freshman year at Franklin High School in Williamson County where she was proud to be a cheerleader. Her loving daughters describe her as a simple, pure, honest, strong, smart, talented, determined, committed, country girl, who always loved us, unconditionally. Judy sang on her father's WLAC/WSM live radio shows called "Big Jeff and the Radio Playboys" where he launched the careers of many top session musicians, artists, producers, and publishers. She married Roger Smith (a guitarist in her father's band) and they had their first child, a boy named Roger Dale Smith (1956-2020) when she was 16 years old. Her talented, loving husband, was 7 years her senior, and had long suffered from a lung disease. He became gravely ill within 3 years, and sadly, passed away. It happened so fast, that Judy felt as if she had become a 19 year old widow and single mother to her energetic toddler, Dale, overnight. She later married Opry guitarist, O'Dell Martin (1938-1985) from Allegre, KY, and gave birth to 4 more children: Sharon, Renee, Tina, and Odie. They met at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge (her father's and stepmother's World Famous Honkytonk on Broadway) in between playing shows on The Grand Ole Opry. O'Dell was a guitarist for Patsy Cline, Dottie West, Faron Young, and many others, while Judy sang on shows with Ray Price, The Carter Family, The Duke of Paducah and The Cherokee Cowboys. It was Judy's favorite female vocalist and best friend, Patsy Cline, who inspired her to sing. She said, "If you ever get serious about your singing career, girl, you're really going to give me a run for my money!" Patsy had just given her the maternity clothes she wore while carrying her own children. When Judy received the devastating news of her best friend's tragic death in the plane crash of 1963 (that also took their friends Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, along with pilot Randy Hughes) she stopped singing. Many years later, Judy finally took Patsy's advice, signed with SPAR Records (circa 1970), and recorded her first 2 songs on a single 45 record. Ralph Emery loved both the A and B sides so much that he played her songs regularly on his radio show for weeks saying, "Judy Martin is Nashville's Next Big Thing!" When faced with a heavy touring schedule to promote her songs on radio stations across the country, she made the difficult decision of giving up her dream, because she knew her absence would be much too hard on her kids, not to mention her marriage. She wanted to be a stay at home mother to protect her children and raise them properly. Judy knew the toll it would take on her kids and marriage, if she toured, and she was just not willing to make that sacrifice. Judy was content being a homemaker, loving mother, and supportive wife to O'Dell, the love of her life, who shared the stage and studio for 30 years with some of Nashville's greatest legends. Kitty Wells, Faron Young, Donna Fargo, Mel Tillis, and Hank Thompson, just to name a few. Billy Dean was 19 when O'Dell discovered, promoted, and introduced him to Nashville recording executives, producers, and publishers that he knew in Nashville. He mentored Billy and toured with him as bandleader, along with his daughter, Renee Martin, who was Billy's duet partner and backup vocalist at 17 years old. After 24 years of marriage, O'Dell passed away, suddenly, on July 21, 1985 due to a tragic car accident. He was 46 years old when Judy became a widow, at 45, for the 2nd time. Being a musician's wife isn't easy, as she was left with no insurance settlement, savings, or income. Faced with the overwhelming financial responsibility of supporting the youngest 2 of their 5 children still living at home, she remained strong. In the midst of her grief, she began working full time in retail to provide for her family. She and her children were honored to accept an award on behalf of O'Dell when he was inducted into the Kentucky Thumbpicker's Hall of Fame in 1999, along with his mother, Ellis Martin, who was also a pioneering KY Thumbpicker. For nearly 7 years, her daughters cared for her 24/7/365 while Judy battled dementia, spending the last 20 months living in hospice care at The Lebanon Center for Rehabilitation and Healing. Her health began to further deteriorate from Wednesday, December 14, 2022 until December 22, 2022 when she started declining very rapidly and made her peaceful transition into the loving arms of her Lord and Savior, Jesus. A visitation for Judy will be held Wednesday, December 28, 2022 from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM at Forest Lawn Funeral Home, 1150 Dickerson Road, Goodlettsville, TN 37072. Her Celebration of Life service, beginning at 2:00 PM, will be officiated by Pastor Bob Cook and Renee Martin (Judy's middle daughter) who will be sharing her mother's life story, with heartfelt love and gratitude for her sacrifice, on behalf of herself and her sisters, Sharon Burroughs and Tina Wilson. Judy is preceded in death by her husband, James O'Dell Martin, and her son, Roger Dale Smith. She is survived by her daughters, Sharon Martin (Brad) Burroughs, Renee Martin, Tina Martin (Jonathan) Wilson, daughter-in-love, Shirley (Dale) Smith, son, James O'Dell Martin II, grandsons, Chad Burroughs, Dylan (Shannon) Smith, James O'Dell Martin III, granddaughters, Chelsea Laine Burroughs (Terrence) Logue, Chandler Burroughs (Brennan) Allison, Ashley Martin, Haley Martin, Lacey Martin, great granddaughter, Maddie Rae (Smith) Allison, great grandson, Kai Hendrix Logue, and great granddaughters-in-love, Miah and Jade Logue. Judith will be laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in the "Meditation" garden. Serving as pallbearers are Judy's sons-in-love, Brad Burroughs and Jonathan Perez, grandsons, Chad Burroughs and Dylan Smith, and grandsons-in-love, Terrence Logue and Brennan Allison. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.ForestLawnFuneral-Goodlettsville.com for the Martin family.

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Past Services

Wednesday, December 28, 2022


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Celebration of Life

Wednesday, December 28, 2022