I can’t imagine touring city to city, keeping late nights, and having to answer the same press questions day after day. I get it. It’s tiring, and there are both good days and bad; and on top of it all, artists then have to answer the same old queries. But, this is what makes for a good journalist; to keep things fun and creative, to have someone engage in conversation, shed the funk (if it’s needed), and show themselves. Especially when one admires an artist and isn’t just doing it to get his or her name in print. I like to write about things I truly believe in, and with which I have a kinship.
From the moment we were introduced, I could tell Marcus King was a little tired and fed up with the same old humdrum. I did the best I could to entertain him, as much as he and his music entertain me. I had to query the past household jams, three generations deep. “My grandfather, my father and me shared the same understanding that music can bring people together and that’s what we did at family traditions, holidays and get-togethers. We all would celebrate our fellowship.”
Marcus’ family tradition goes roots deep, including the folklore of his grandfather almost making the cut into the world of country music but just falling a few steps short. “When he was in the military and stationed in Ramstein, Germany, he had his band and it was all U.S. military, and they were all country musicians. They would go around to all the officer’s clubs and sometimes an artist would come in, alone, and my grandfather’s band would back them up. The story that I heard was Charlie Pride came in and they backed him up and several other artists as well, which is cool to me.”
Marcus has done his family proud, landing himself on the stage of The Grand Ol Opry, amongst other places, but let’s first focus on the matter at hand. To end up on the stage of the Opry is pretty much saying the industry has excepted your soul of all things granger, and while accomplishing this, this cat has risen as the cream of the crop. “That was a tear fest. It was such a blessing to do that and do it in my grandfather’s honour is more so of a blessing. His whole life started with music and he worked on the farm. As the story is told, the field was plowed kind of haphazardly because if you held the plow down the mule would pull it, but you had to push it down so you could truly plow the field properly.”
“I guess this particular day he was tired and he didn’t push it down enough and he got beat for that. He thought to himself, ‘I’ve had about enough of this’ so he lied about his age and entered the army and got shipped out the next week during World War II. Prior to that, he had entered a competition around Blue Ridge as a fiddle player and they were looking for the top players in Nashville that predate Hank Williams Sr’s first hits. They were kind of looking for the first round of cats to come up and play on these recordings and he later found out he won that competition but he never got to make it out there because he got shipped out beforehand.”
Now if you’ve never worked on a farm you don’t understand what hard labor is. My back is broke from being a scrawny kid climbing into a tractor at 6 am and dealing with the dwells of farm life. I think there’s a song out there called, “Sharecroppers Blues” and you should take the time to take a listen and understand what gives blue-collar Americans the blues. But reverbing back I riff with Marcus about the writing prestige of El Dorado, his debut solo recording released on January 17th, 2020, via Fantasy Records. I’ve pondered long and hard about the fact that Marcus considers El Dorado his debut release. The guy has an amazing back catalogue of albums that I cherish near and dear when opting for blues-related tunes.
“This was a solo album, one in which my band wasn’t involved in, so my band not being there with me constituted it being a debut solo album. This was a co-writing venture and a special one because I had a lot of things to say. Sometimes I feel I owe it to the song to be able to truly say how it needs to be sung, and I have the life experience and vocabulary to do so. With this record, I was able to do that because we had very seasoned writers who came in helped me to forge the words in a way I felt truly comfortable with. Before this record, I did all the writing on my own and usually wherever inspiration would find me, be it the bathroom or the green room.”
So what’s Marcus’ thoughts regarding being crowned king among Albert, Freddie, and BB? “I’m blessed to be mentioned in a conversation with those guys, but I don’t think I cut the mustard enough to be in line with those folks. I’m not good at anything else, but this is what I’m going to have to do whether anyone likes it or not. I like to feel anything that has a pulse. I can find inspiration through anything. Be it the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees or whatever, there’s music in everything. If it has the proper conviction behind it, and you can tell someone is doing this emotionally and not just to make a buck, I can get behind that. I just like real music.”
I think Bob Seger sings it quite eloquently for those of us that can only imagine heading out to the highway. ‘Well, you walk into a restaurant, strung-out from the road. And you feel the eyes upon you as you’re shaking off the cold. You pretend it doesn’t bother you but you just want to explode.’ One might think that the life of rock n’ roll is all fast times, hard liquor and fine women, and while it can be, there are moments you need a break. Besides the sustenance of music, we all got to eat, so I question what’s the best truck stop food in America, as salvation can be found at the occasional pit stop for grub. “(laughs) If there’s a Denny’s you got a chance of getting some warm eggs and it’ll take a while. They’ll be warm and it’s not fast food, but I do appreciate their time.”
And with that, before my cheeseburger and fries hit the tabletop I have to hit the commode and exclude last night’s cerveza meanderings until the next time I get to hit the highway in a delegation of the next Marcus King concerto representation.