Though the actor and comedian was drawn to the instrument’s high lonesome sound, it served as a prop in his early comedy routines. His influences included John McEuen (later a founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), Doug Dillard of the Dillards, and David Lindley (banjo player for the Mad Mountain Ramblers, an acoustic ensemble that Martin heard during a stint at Disneyland).
This according to “Banjo: Obsession is a great substitute for talent” by Mr. Martin, an article included in The Oxford American book of great music writing (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 2008, pp. 402–406).
Today is Martin’s 70th birthday! Above, with some friends in 1977; below, live in 2014.