Pete Martinez

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MAVERICK: If water is the west’s new gold then COUNTRY SINGER PETE MARTINEZ is onto platinum

Sep 03, 2007 By Nancy Clark

Editor, Frontier Airlines Wild Blue Yonder

In an era of bratty hip-hop celebs that defrock hotel rooms out of boredom and gain superstardom for their misbehaving ways, it’s easy to see why Pete Martinez flies under the radar. Impeccably mannered, starched and tucked in, he carries none of the self-absorbed bravado of a performer on the rise. Instead he holds doors open wide for the ladies. He makes a point of praising the server in the room who brings him a cold one and doesn’t recognize him. And he dives into genuine dialog with the menfolk about, well, manly things like river runs and Fourteeners.

All the while he’s carefully taking the pulse of the audience he’s about to play for. Are they ready for him to rock the room or in a mood for a ballad? His interest is in playing to engage them, whether it’s to a party of five or a throng of 5,000. When he finally takes to the stage, his Guild in hand and black felt cowboy hat tipped low, he’s got it locked down.

Martinez’s sound—somewhere in between a croon and a yodel—fixates the room. "He's a throwback to the 1940's movie idol genre,” says Lannie Garrett whose namesake is the Clocktower Cabaret in Denver where Martinez stars on occasion. “That gentlemanly soft spoken charm, the cowboy movie idol smile, he’s got that gentle demeanor offstage, and he's down home onstage with just enough sexy thrown in. His fans love him."

His style is as if he’s courting past fans and future-past fans. Indeed, when they hear “I Would For You,” (www.PETEMARTINEZUSA.com) his latest album including the title song of the same name, they’re fast converts to country.

In Martinez’ world, the relative distance between his version of having arrived (he dreams of playing the Grand Old Opry or Red Rocks Amphitheatre) and his hometown of Casper, Wyoming is measured over four-plus decades. He was only four years old when his father put his first guitar in his hands. Friends and family would gather round the living room to pound out their favorite tunes by country legends Merle Haggard, Hank Williams and Elvis. Martinez, who to this day cannot read music, showed his preternatural musical ability at an early age being able to play any song he heard first time out of the chute. And he made himself more than useful tuning by ear the guitars for everyone in the living room that were off by a fraction before the playing commenced.

At the University of Wyoming, mathematics fascinated mechanical engineering student Martinez who had already assembled his first three-piece band “Powder River,” highlighted by coming to perform in Denver for then-Mayor Federico Peña. He kicked off his post-grad engineering career with Greeley-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co., which took him to Fairfield, California for an eight month stint where he introduced his music to the West Coast rodeo crowds with kudos. When Martinez made it back to Denver in ’91, he placed a call to the Denver Buffalo Company where he auditioned with a broken string and a bout of the flu to win the role of house performer. He formed a band by the name of Way Out West with Bob Ake, setting attendance records all along the Front Range and today performs with co-producer and band leader, John Macy.

Music is just one of the natural resources Martinez plays in.

When he left engineering, he was immediately recruited by Greg Morris, CEO of Fuller & Co., to sell ranches in Wyoming and Colorado, making deals for spreads thousands of acres in size. He moved on to become an independent real estate broker which is where the parallel between his music and his life experience tuck in together. Recording his latest album in Nashville, he fielded more than 300 songs before choosing which ones he’d include on his label. “Bull Rider” is a first-person-confessional of his own experience as a bull rider of some repute. Martinez claims he quit riding bulls when “testosterone went down and wisdom went up.” He breaks into a gleaming smile.

Just as lyrics are an inextricable part of the country music message, water is essential to survival in the west. So four years ago, Martinez founded Teton Water Group with the purpose of assisting Front Range agricultural landowners and municipalities develop their water assets.

It was Martinez who helped the City of Aurora find a location for its $754 million Prairie Waters Project which will pull from the river near Brighton, send it 34 miles south to Aurora, and treat it in the 40-day, six-step process. Martinez, wearing his black hat and riding in his red truck with his Blue Heeler, Sadie, and Border Collie, Princess, was the sole negotiator between the farmers with qualified land and water rights and the city. His composure and sincerity won over any objections paving the way for water filtered through the project to ultimately be blended with mountain water, increasing Aurora’s supply by 20 percent upon completion in 2010. The Prairie Waters Project, created when the city faced the risk of running out of water in 2003, is the first large-scale water-reuse project in Colorado, the state's first big water project in 40 years. His role in the deal earned Teton Water Group an invitation to become an associate member of the Denver Water Authority.

“Mostly,” says Martinez in his inimitable steady way, “it was the ability to create lasting and quality relationships. I love the balance of being able to work with agriculture, engineering, and water.” There’s a little bit of Casper in him yet. And there’s a viral quality to Martinez’ appeal. His renaissance talents have recently been tapped to play the Democratic National Convention to be held in Denver in 2008. Twice last year he played for Vice President Dick Cheney as a dinner guest in their Washington D.C. home as well as performing the last Presidential Inauguration Ball in Constitution Hall, D.C. Vegas is in his repertoire too. His last stay there was to play the 2006 Wrangler National Finals PRCA Rodeo.

Martinez has a gig to get to, this one a weekday night charity event, one of many for which he's donated his performance for a good cause adding $3,000 to the evening's net at the live auction. Chances are, he'll walk his audience through a few stories of his growing up years, creating the intimacy that audiences yearn for. Maybe he'll even tell the story of growing up in an era when chores were done with no questions asked and adages were a routine part of everyday life. Then he'll likely break into a chorus off his new album, "Don't Start Something...You Can't Finish." The moral? Well, if it's Country, there's got to be a moral.