Pepe Martínez (José Martínez León, 8th September 1922 – 1984) was a Spanish flamenco guitarist born into a musical family, in the Seville quarter of Macarena. His mother, Isabel, was famous for her singing of religiously inspired Saetas, a vocal style which has since been incorporated into the flamenco palo.
Pepe Martínez was a virtuoso exponent of ‘Flamenco Lírico’, a style of playing which emphasises the melodic as well as rhythmic elements of flamenco. His musical style reflected his warm personality. His playing, even more than many other flamenco guitarists of the time, was strongly influenced by that of his mentor, Ramón Montoya.
Pepe Martínez initially excelled in accompanying the cante and baile before developing a solo concert career. As an accompanist he played with such artists as Pepe Marchena, Niña de los Peines, Pepe Pinto, Juanito Valderrama, Niña de la Puebla, Niña de Antequera, Pepe Aznalcollar, Pepe Guillena, Niño de la Huerta amongst others.
Pepe was cited by Carlos Montoya, in the New York Guitar Review, as being one of the very finest flamenco guitarists of his generation along with Manolo de Huelva, Sabicas, Mario Escudero and Niño Ricardo.
Pepe Martínez made many recordings throughout his career, in Spain, France and the UK, on Columbia, Belter, Discophone, HMV, Odeon, Hispavox, Decca, Odean, Guilde Internationale du Disque and Discophon.
The BBC made a documentary on his life (“My Friend Pepe Martinez”) as part of a series about the spirit of Spain. Pepe also featured, along with Andres Segovia, in a French television film titled Sortileges du Flamenco.
During his career, Pepe Martínez played guitars by Archangel Fernandez, Marcelo Barbero and Manuel Reyes. It was Pepe Martínez who introduced the young Manuel Reyes to the workshop of Marcelo Barbero.
His pupil, Prof. Malcolm Weller, of the Spanish Guitar Centre, owns his Barbero guitar.