The Prison Song

JOHNNY CASH and Merle Haggard have moved on and pretty much left the prison song to Buzzy Martin.  The Sebastopol musician and author has an entire repertoire, inspired by the time he spent teaching guitar to inmates at San Quentin. An aim of his music, and of the book that a Bay Area film production company seeks to make into a movie, is to alter the course of troubled kids who might be bound for cells.  Saturday night, Buzzy played a set at Penngrove’s Twin Oaks Roadhouse, warming up for Medicine Man. Afterward he and his wife, Laura, were headed for their car when an older fellow in work clothes and boots called out to him.  He told Buzzy, “I was incarcerated at San Quentin for 32 years, and you singing those songs made me feel like you were singing about me.”  Better than a bucket of tips.”

– Chris Smith, Press Democrat

“Hey! Don’t Shoot I’m The Guitar Man! I should have known that Buzzy Martin, the author of this unique book would have had a wonderful story to tell. This is such a mesmerizing book, you feel like you’re in prison along with Buzzy’s students. I certainly recommend this book, not only to musicians, but also to families who might have at risk youth or loved ones that are incarcerated. Eventually this retrospect of a music program in a prison setting will become a block buster film and then, there will be many more people moved, because of Buzzy’s work giving so much of his time, helping the less fortunate, all through his spirit of music.”

Hal Blaine
World’s Most Recorded Musician
Member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Member of Nashville Musician’s Hall of Fame

Don’t Shoot! I’m the Guitar Man

Buzzy Martin’s acclaimed book about San Quentin Prison, a city of lost souls.

Don’t Shoot! I’m the Guitar Man is a personal story. Related with the author’s unique style and subtle humor, it gives the average person an “inside look” at prison and the inner workings of a music program in San Quentin State Prison.

Click Here: Amazon Purchase Link

Praise for Don’t Shoot! I’m the Guitar Man

“Buzzy’s book captures the mood and specter of the novitiate’s introduction to the world inside prison walls. What he finds, learns, and shares is the common humanity that still exists in spite of it all. As one who has spent his career in the criminal justice system, I can vouch for its authenticity and also the novel journey it took me on.”

Elliot Daum, Superior Court Judge

“My two trips to San Quentin State Prison for parole hearings did not allow me to obtain nearly the depth of knowledge your repeated trips inside the facility afforded you. It did, however, provide me enough information to know that your book reveals the truth about life inside the Q. Your stark description of prison life, and the impact on prisoners’ lives, is chilling in its honesty.”

Jeff Weaver, Chief of Police

DON’T SHOOT! I’m the Guitar Man” is a stunning portrayal of every day life in the Big Q. Buzzy Martin’s search for meaning is revealed with his work through music. Buzzy’s book depicts a not so glamorous account of a city of lost souls. The only glimpse of hope from the hours of being like caged animals are the two hours these inmates spend strumming the guitar and singing at the top of their lungs with Buzzy. For a close up view to a dead end street, young “Juvenile Hall Gang Bangers” might read this powerful book about life in San Quentin Prison. Having worked with juvenile offenders for over twenty-nine years, I believe these true-life stories grab the attention of the reader immediately and illustrate the shocking reality of young inmates in a prison culture who are preyed upon and changed for life.”

– Matthew R. Fenske, Assistant Superintendent
Kent County Juvenile Detention Facility

“It was with great interest that I read, “Don’t Shoot, I’m The Guitar Man” by Buzzy Martin. His book immediately captured my attention and held it to the last page. His writing is vivid and descriptive, creating a vision of life within San Quentin Prison that still haunts me to this day. I was especially touched by his message to young people in trouble that they should not fall into the trap of believing being sentenced to San Quentin is somehow a badge of honor. It is a brutal place where all honor is destroyed and everyone falls victim to the lowest depths of degradation. I hope those who read his book would come to understand how severe the penalties of incarceration truly are, and anyone who believes living in the “Q” is acceptable will quickly change their minds.”

– Robert Tavonatti Principal, Court School and Juvenile Hall

While I have toured San Quentin on several occasions, Martin’s daily reports in “Don’t Shoot I’m The Guitar Man” bring to light aspects of prison life of which he makes us more aware. I have spent much of my career working with incarcerated juveniles and share Buzzy’s wish that those youth at risk of adult criminality get an accurate picture of what may lie ahead. Prison life is not what delinquent youth may think it is and Martin is more that “the guitar man”. He is the right messenger for those of us who should be listening.”

– Robert G. Gillen, Chief Probation Officer Retired

“After twenty-seven years of working in San Quentin a person finds that there is no longer the perspective or view that you offer in your piece. I want to thank you for pulling a string, and finding a note in me that I thought was busted and had long gone dead.”

– Len Carl, Correctional Officer Retired

Read an Excerpt

The following PDF articles can be read with Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Download Adobe Acrobat Reader

The Land of Lunatics: H-Unit

Download a pdf of the excerpt: The Land of Lunatics: H-Unit

Reviews & Articles Reviews

Letter from Robert G. Gillen, Chief Probation Officer, retired, Sonoma County

Grand Rapids Press article – No rock star, “Guitar Man” finds helping kids his calling. article – Don’t Shoot! I’m the Guitar Man.

Sonoma West Times and News article – May 1, 2008

Sonoma West Times and News Letter to the Editor – Oct. 16, 2008

Radio Interviews

KSRO Center Stage: 09/08/10

KSRO Radio Promo

KZST Showgram

KSRO Live: 08/03/11

“It has been my pleasure to read Buzzy Martins’ “Don’t Shoot I’m The Guitar Man”. I am a teacher who works with at risk youth incarcerated in Juvenile Hall. The kids I work with are involved in gangs, drugs, violence, and the court system. Though the work is rewarding, it is at most times difficult at best. I am continually looking for reading materials that my students can learn from. I would highly encourage all at risk students to read this book. It does not preach nor attempt to scare but tells the story of one mans experience teaching a music program to inmates locked up behind the walls of San Quentin Prison. The language is not difficult, the concept important, and the journey you are taken on through the words of Buzzy Martin makes for an emotional impact on the reader.”

– Celia Lamantia
MA Education, Juvenile Hall Teacher

Scroll to Top