Martin Hayes was born in 1961 in Maghera, Co. Clare, into a musical family; his grandmother played concertina, his uncle Paddy Canny was national fiddle champion and his father is now celebrating a half century as fiddler and leader of the Tulla Ceili Band, probably the best known of Irish ceili bands and major stars of the dance band scene of the 50s and 60s. It was no surprise that the young Martin, who got his first half-sized fiddle at the age of 7 would follow in the family footsteps, going along to Tulla Ceili band gigs and later joining in. He played with the TCB for some 7 years and was also active in competition, winning a half-dozen all-Ireland fiddle championships (2 of them in the senior competition) and a whole slew of other awards. He learned his music from his neighbours and relations, rather than records and big-name groups, picking up the slow, lyrical Clare style.
After college and a spell setting up his own business, he moved to Chicago and took up the fiddle again after a dry spell. He spent a number of years playing on the local circuit as well as playing with the short-lived rock band, Midnight Court. His success in Chicago made him one of the best known fiddlers in America and lead to his first US album, on the Green Linnet label. He is now based in Seattle, tours extensively and continues the oral tradition by teaching, both in the US and in the Willie Clancy summer school, at home in Clare.