*First, there was Berry Gordy, the pioneering founder of Motown Records in Detroit. He took average people with extraordinary talent and made them famous. He believed in them, nurtured them and together they became the Motown family whose strong ties still bind those artists together more than 50 years later, even as the artists have gone on to critical acclaim in other arenas.
Now meet Keith Martin, founder of 2 Save Souls Records in Baltimore. His desire is to create a similar musical family here in Baltimore. Beginning with humble roots, too, Martin started his label in 2011 to honor the memory of his late mother, a nightclub singer who performed simply as Opherral, whose hit record rose to #3 on the charts in the 1960s. Opherral was also a songwriter, who wrote for some of the chart toppers of that era under the pseudonym Betty Jose.
Growing up in West Philly, Martin was exposed to some of the originators of the Philadelphia Sound in the sixties and seventies as they passed through his home to work with his mother. Eavesdropping on rehearsals in their living room, sitting in on studio sessions and hiding out in the back of clubs as his mother performed are among Martin’s earliest childhood memories.
When his mother died in 1997, Martin was left behind with her catalog of songs both published and unpublished. He felt there would be no greater tribute to Opherral’s legacy than to share her music with the world. But in preserving her music, Martin discovered similarly talented singers and musicians who needed an outlet for sharing their music with the world. And, 2 Save Souls Records was born.
2 Save Souls Records has nearly 20 recording artists signed and will have a stable of 25 artists by the end of 2014. The 2SSR artists come from the DMV area of the East Coast, the South, Canada and even Africa. Primarily Gospel, their styles vary from neo-soul, hip-hop, urban contemporary, jazz, R&B, Southern bluegrass and spoken word.
The father of three adult children, Martin, like Mr. Gordy, considers 2 Save Soul Records his family. He is known for nurturing his artists, caring about their personal lives as much as their professional lives, and supporting them on and off stage. The artists have also grown close to each other, backing their label mates at live performances and cheering each other on through social media.
Martin has devoted his life to 2 Save Souls Records. He intends to leave the company to his eldest child, Keith Jr., as his inheritance and legacy. Martin says the two souls represented in the company’s name are him and his son. One is symbolic of Martin’s personal transformation. The other is symbolic of Keith Jr., a husband and father whom Martin says he is extremely proud of.
For Martin, 2 Save Souls Records is both legacy and ministry. A licensed minister, Martin’s desire to share the message of the Gospel and impact lives is his guiding mission. With 2SSR, his ministry goes beyond the pulpit walls to restaurants, clubs and community events.
Future plans are for 2 Save Souls Records to expand to outreach ministries including a food pantry for low-income residents, feeding program for the homeless, counseling for domestic abuse and addictions, and weekly Bible study. His motto is: “Don’t wait for a blessing. Be one!”
2 Save Souls Records