Woods and Popey

Written by Teresa Dennard.

The most expensive cup of coffee he ever bought!

How does one go from living in London, England, to living in Gary, Texas? Why, love, of course! Martyn Popey was raised in Norfolk, England, a place not too different from East Texas. He learned to play the guitar at 15 and joined his brother’s rock ‘n roll band. When finished with school, Martyn became an electrician and did his apprenticeship until he was 21. He’d soon had enough of being on a construction site, so he went to London to get a music degree at Trinity College of Music. He played all kinds of music—from jazz and rock to country and rockabilly.  

Gae-Lynn Woods was born in Dallas and graduated from high school in Beckville. She received a degree in accounting and finance from Texas A&M University and landed a job with an international bank. Traveling to various countries around the world, Gae-Lynn landed in England for a four-week stay. “I decided one weekend to travel on the train to Paris,” recalls Gae-Lynn. “It was springtime. Flowers were blooming, birds were singing and people were in love. It was just disgusting so I decided I would go back to England and work rather than being around all the lovebirds!” Little did she know that her decision to return early would change her life forever. You see, Martyn Popey was also on that train.

He had barely made the train. One of the band members had left his passport in the hotel and had to return to get it. Where he was seated, he noticed a lovely girl sitting just a few tables from him. She was talking to a young man and Martyn wasn’t sure if they were traveling together. He caught her eye. She smiled at him. As everyone was getting off the train at Waterloo Station, he hesitated a bit, but decided to take a chance and say hello. He asked Gae-Lynn if he could buy her a cup of coffee. “Of all the countries I had traveled to, I had never been stopped in Customs...until the cute guy on the train wanted to meet me,” remembers Gae-Lynn. They held her up for 45 minutes trying to figure out if she needed a Visa to work in the UK because she had been in and out of the country so much. She was afraid that Martyn wouldn’t wait. Just as she went through the sliding doors after being released, he stuck his head around the corner. “It’s the most expensive cup of coffee I’ve ever bought,” says Martyn.

In June of 2000 the couple got married at Yosemite National Park and eventually moved to London together where Martyn continued with his music career. After a few years, the couple decided they’d had enough of the big city life. They bought a place in Gary--remodeled the house, cleared the land, built some fence, bought some cows. “I had lived in the country in England and had been around cows,” said Martyn, “but never really took care of them, so we kind of learned as we went along.” The hardest part, they discovered, was keeping their cows in the fence and the neighbor’s cows out. Martyn figured he was through with music…he’d just be a farmer. The first winter someone delivered some hay and asked what he did and Martyn replied, “I’m a musician.” The man suggested he meet the guys from Project String Power.

It wasn’t long before Martyn’s musical talents were in full swing again. He began teaching guitar lessons, playing upright bass with the Marshall Symphony, playing guitar with the Sounds of Swing Band, and playing jazz with Mike McGowan, professor of music at Panola College. He plays a Gibson ES 350 made in 1947 because “it’s hard to get that old sound with new equipment.” While Martyn was immersed again in his music career, Gae-Lynn began writing. The first book she wrote was actually inspired by Bernie Tiede. “He is the one that triggered the desire in me to write. I was getting on a flight to Japan and picked up the Dallas Morning News. It had the story about Bernie and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s Carthage!’” Gae-Lynn has two published crime novels and they’re both set in an imaginary county in East Texas that “might resemble Panola County just a tiny little bit.” The Devil of Light and Avengers of Blood are Cass Elliott crime series and are available as eBooks on Amazon.com, iBooks and BarnesandNoble.com. Both books have received many 5-star reviews. “I’ve written a blog post about the Bernie movie saying it’s pretty close to reality. People will tweet me and ask if I’m from Carthage and if I knew Bernie.”

Martyn and Gae-Lynn left London to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, but they soon discovered living in the country in East Texas was not as quiet as they had hoped. “So far we have had a tornado on Christmas Eve, a gas pipe explosion right down the road and at least two earthquakes.” With a very strong English accent, Martyn says it’s probably more difficult for Texans to understand him than it is for him to understand the southern Texas drawl. “I grew up listening to rockabilly music, so I kind of understood the language before I got here. There was an old George Jones record called How Come It, Dad Gum It, so the first time I heard Gae-Lynn say ‘dad gum it,’ I knew what she was saying.” After six years of living the farm life, Martyn and Gae-Lynn have just about got it figured out. Their Brangus cattle herd pretty much take care of themselves and the ancient donkey they have keeps the varmints away. Martyn is teaching guitar lessons to about 20 students and also works with String Power’s rock group called Texas Made. “They’re doing really good, but we need a teenager that wants to sing.” He has begun playing solo jazz at venues around the area such as Los Pinos in Pittsburg (December 6 and 20), the Blue Frog in Marshall and also performs with the Sounds of Swing. Gae-lynn is currently working on a third book in the Cass Elliott crime series. Visit her website to find out more about her books and to read her blog post.   For guitar or upright bass lessons, visit Martyn’s website.