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The Legacy of Martin and Morris

Sallie Martin (1896-1988) was born in Pittfield, Georgia. She sang in Churches in Georgia, then moved to Chicago where she met Thomas A. Dorsey. She joined his trio in 1932. She organized a music store for Dorsey and kept the records and accounting, making his business of selling his songs become profitable.

Kenneth Morris was born in New York City and studied piano in his school years. Kenneth entered the Manhattan Conservatory of Music after graduating from high school and formed a jazz band. When the band was playing at the 1934 Chicago World's Fair, he became ill will tuberculosis and had to leave the band. He stayed on in Chicago to recuperate.

Morris took a job as a music transcriber in Chicago, and maintained that position until 1940, when he and Sallie Martin joined forces to create a publishing company called Martin and Morris Music, Inc. 

In addition to co-founding the Chicago publishing company with Kenneth, Sallie also formed the Sallie Martin Singers during the same year. 

The publishing business thrived, with Sallie's keen business sense and Kenneth's songwriting talent. One of his his best-known songs is Dig a Little Deeper in God's Love, published by Martin and Morris in 1947. Just a Closer Walk with Thee was also published by the company. Kenneth had heard a railroad porter singing the song at a station stop on a trip between Kansas City and Chicago. After resuming the journey, he began realizing the potential of the song, so he stepped off the train at another station, took a train back to the station where he had heard the porter singing the song, wrote down the words and music, added some words of his own, then published this great song.

By 1945, sheet-music sales was in the six digits, and Martin and Morris became the major publisher of black gospel music, publishing the music of the gospel movement into the 1970s.


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