Hugh Martin was born in Birmingham, Alabama on August 11, 1914, and began studying music at the age 5 at the Birmingham Conservatory of Music. He attended Birmingham. Southern College and his original intention was to be a classical musician, but he had fallen in love with George Gershwin's songs, and decided on a career in popular music.
Moving to New York City in the mid 1930’s, Martin worked as a vocal arranger for many of the most successful Broadway shows of the period, including Cole Porter's DuBarry Was a Lady (1939), Vernon Duke's Cabin in the Sky (1940), Rodgers and Hart's The Boys from Syracuse (1942), Jules Styne's High Button Shoes (1947), and Jules Styne's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949).
In 1937, in addition to doing the show's vocal arrangements, he was a singer in the Broadway production Hooray For What?. Another singer in that show was Ralph Blane. Not long after the opening of the show, Martin organized a vocal quartet called The Martins, and he included Blane as one of the singers. The Martins appeared on Fred Allen's popular radio show and also appeared in Irving Berlin's 1940 musical Louisiana Purchase, for which Martin and Blane were the vocal arrangers.
Soon, Martin and Blane began collaborating on songs of their own, and in 1941 Richard Rodgers and George Abbot, chose Martin and Blane to write the songs for a new Broadway musical to star Nancy Walker. The show was called Best Foot Forward, and included the standards "Buckle Down Winsocki", "Wish I May", "What Do You Think I Am", "That's How I Love The Blues", and "Ev'ry Time".
In 1944, Martin and Blane wrote the original songs for the classic Hollywood musical Meet Me In St. Louis, starring Judy Garland. The score that contains what are probably their best known songs, including "'The Boy Next Door", "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas."
In 1945, Martin and Blane wrote "Love" for Lena Home to sing in the film Ziegfield Follies. In 1948, working alone, Martin wrote both words and music for the Broadway show Look Ma, I'm Dancin'. The show starred Nancy Walker and included the songs "Tiny Room" and "If You'll Be Mine". In 1951 he again worked alone on both words and music for another Broadway show Make a Wish, which included "What I Was Warned About".
Re-teaming with Blane in 1955, the two wrote the song “An Occasional Man” for the film The Girl Rush. In 1961, there was a revival of Best Foot Forward, which included a new song “You Are For Loving”, written by Martin and Blane.
In 1964, Martin began collaborating with songwriter Timothy Gray. The two produced a new Broadway musical High Spirits, based on a Noel Coward play Blithe Spirits. The musical was a hit and included several brilliant songs, most notably “I Know Your Heart", "If I Gave You", and "You'd Better Love Me".
Throughout his career, Martin remained active as a performer, most memorably as Judy Garland's accompanist when she first played the Palace, and as Eddie Fisher's accompanist at London's Palladium. He was also music director of the 1979 Broadway hit Sugar Babies, which starred Mickey Rooney.
Hugh Martin currently resides in Encinitas, California.