Frank Marino was the finest and most underrated guitarist of the 1970's. Marino and his Canadian supergroup Mahogany Rush toured the world's arena rock circuit highlighted with appearances at the era's largest outdoor festivals (California Jam II, Florrida World Music Festival, Bill Graham's "Day on the Green", etc.) and recorded an extremely impressive collection of music that is revered among many of today's contemporary rock guitarists.
He was extremely gracious in sharing a few thoughts about music, family and faith (note his reference to "Matthew 6:34") with jungleroom.com...
Your version of "Johnny B Goode" was a crowd favorite during Mahogany Rush shows. In light of the recent passing of Chuck Berry--any thoughts you care to share about his playing techniques?
I don't think I can add anything that hasn't been well-said by others. Chuck Berry is one of those generational musicians who influenced music itself, to say nothing of the number of musicians he inspired (especially guitar-players, although not exclusively). As for technique, I'm really old-school about that subject. I don't even see technique as being germane to an appreciation of musicians. It may be applicable if one simply wants to study such things analytically, but I just don't think of music that way. I just listen to it with my ears (and my heart, obviously) and that sort of communion can not be, nor should not be analyzed on any technical level, in my opinion. Music is for the ears, and the ears are for hearing it. I is not meant for the eyes, nor even for the analytical mind. To me, analyzing the technique of an inspirational musician is rather like focusing on the sentence-structure or grammar of a sage or prophet. We miss the point.
Did you have any input with the reissues of "Juggernaut", "The Power of Rock and Roll", "Live" and "What's Next?" on the Rock Candy Records label?
Although I was asked to contribute to these releases, I declined. I have a long-standing issue with the parent company that grants these sub-licenses. Consequently, I can not participate in something that I am contesting for other reasons.
If so, are you happy with the final results? In your opinion, (taking into considering that you produced the Mahogany Rush albums) are the new releases faithful to your original work?
I have not heard them nor seen them, so I can't comment directly. But I can say that, based upon every other release of my material through third-parties after-the-fact, I have yet to have heard any that remained faithful in terms of production or quality. They were all of inferior quality in my own opinion as the original producer. The exceptions to this are the few remasters of my earlier and later material, that I worked on personally for Just In Time Records. Those are, in my opinion, superior to the originals, and by a lot. As for the ones you mentioned, I'll just have to wait and see how they come out. Certainly it's not impossible that they could be good, but if they are they will be the first ones to have done so, from my point-of-view.
It is admirable that you gave up touring in favor of a normal/settled family life in 1993. Will there ever be a time to get out and play more often--or have you had enough of the traveling and politics of the music business?
I like to tour when a tour is fun. A tour is not fun if you have to do it. Actually, if you have to do it, that pretty much defines that it isn't fun. So I keep it loose, do it when I want to (assuming promoters offer the dates) and try to enjoy it in short bursts. Unless some unexpected event happens with regards to my music, like if my next release suddenly meets with unprecedented demand, I expect that future tours will be of the smaller variety for me. But if some future release does, in fact, result in unexpected world-wide desire for me to tour, I will do it gladly. It will all depend on the existence of genuine demand. I'll follow it where it leads, but I won't chase it nor try to invent it where it clearly does not exist.
Robby Krieger is going out on the road briefly for a few shows--think you could ever do something similar with a 2017 version of Mahogany Rush?
Of course, subject, however, to what I answered in the last question.
Was Krieger a big influence on your playing?
I don't think he influenced my actual playing as much as he did my thought-process about music itself, and phrasing. I love what he does, I love the approach. He's one of my earliest influences in that regard, along with Cipollina, Garcia, Hendrix, Winter, Santana, Allman and a few others.
Are you a fan of the Memphis music sound?
Is there really any musician, especially from my time, who isn't?
Any opinions about Elvis Presley, the blues players (Albert King, BB King, etc.), Hi Records (Al Greene, Ann Pebbles,etc.) Stax, etc...?
As I said above, these are the very roots of the tree. I'm just one of the branches. All of these artists planted, and further generations watered. And look at the growth that resulted. I can't say enough about my appreciation for all of them.
Did you ever study any of the rockabilly players (Luther Perkins from Johnny Cash's band, Scotty Moore with Elvis, etc.) when discovering guitar?
No, but that's because I never studied musicians at all. As I said earlier, I can't look at music as studying. I just can't. It makes no sense to me to approach it that way, literally. I can't even get my head around the concept of studying music analytically. That would be like trying to study conversation, or even love. What I hear, I absorb. What I absorb, I think. What I think, I play. Isn't that a little like learning language as a child? We hear, absorb, think and then simply speak. And that's long before we go to schools to study it. Well, in the case of technical things that I do, like electronics, mechanics, sciences, physics and even my love of theology, those things I have studied quite deeply, and continue to do so. But music and conversation, love and things of an inner nature I have not, and will not. Indeed, I can not. But as to the guys you mentioned, certainly I love all of them to a very great degree. I just can't explain why in technical terms, no more than I can explain why I love sweet things to eat. I mean, can anyone explain why they technically like eating, for instance, chocolate? And while there are probably some scientists somewhere who did study the love of chocolate, and have come up with all sorts of reasons for it, I don't think you'll ever find an actual chocolate-lover who will explain it to you that way, indeed they'll think you're nuts for asking them to do so.
Were you familiar with the work of Memphis guitarist Shawn Lane? Eric Gales?
Oh yes, certainly. And both of them are greatly appreciated, and deservedly so.
When did the relationship with Leber/Krebs end?
That was around 1981 or '82, or thereabouts. But I have spoken to David many times since then. We have maintained a cordial friendship and mutual respect over the ensuing years. My departure from David's management firm was not acrimonious. My departure from CBS, slightly later, was markedly more than a little contentious.
Any thoughts you care to share about the "Marathon of Rock" tour in 1980? That was one heck of a lineup: Angel, Mother's Finest and Humble Pie opening for Mahogany Rush. Were any of these shows filmed? Do you have any photos from this tour that you would consider posting online?
How does that old line go? "...It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." I had quite a bit of fun during that tour, but it was hard in some respects. Certainly all of the musicians were great, and we all got along. I loved that. But it was a bit grueling, and there were some musical politics involved where the record company was concerned. None were filmed, to my knowledge. I don't keep old photos of me, or really anything career-related in that regard. It feels kind of strange to keep pictures of oneself. But some of my family members may have some things. I'd have to ask to be sure. But the sort answer is, no I do not have anything.
What would you tell your children if they wanted to work in the music business?
Well, all three of my daughters are, in some way, connected to music and/or arts and entertainment. My eldest daughter is a perfect-pitch classical soprano, a University-trained composer/arranger, well-versed in piano and some woodwinds, as well as some harp, and is also involved heavily in musical theater and amateur off-Broadway shows, singing, acting and dancing. My middle girl is active in Media Arts and Photography, and plays fluent guitar and some violin. She wants to play second guitar in my band and, I dare say, she really can do it. She can play a lot of my stuff. So we'll see about that. And my youngest also plays guitar as well and is an amazing lyricist. She is involved with her boyfriend who is an accomplished Country/Folk/Americana musician, playing pedal-steel as well as guitar, banjo and mandolin. So, I guess they chose to do what they are doing and they are all doing it quite well, and quite honestly.
What is life like for you and family these days?
Well, these days I'm just finishing the work on an upcoming 12-hour DVD. I did it years ago, but it was severely damaged on the audio drum-tracks, and it took me quite a while to repair it, literally cleaning it up beat-by-beat. Anyway it's done now and I hope to have it out this year.
There's a sample of it on YouTube and on our Facebook page (OfficialFrankMarino) if you want to see it. I don't have the link but if you search YouTube for "Frank Marino - The Answer - DVD" you'll see it.
There is also one called Frank Marino - O Little Town Of Bethlehem. Or, as I said, you can go to the Facebook Page.
(Editor's note: here is the link to "Frank Marino - O Little Town Of Bethlehem")
Do you still have the SG you played at the Cal Jam 2?
Are there any contemporary guitar players that you appreciate?
I'm really, first and foremost, into the guys from my past, from the late sixties. But there are still some who are a bit older that are still doing stuff that I admire, like Tommy Emmanuel for instance. He's probably at the top of my list. I also rather like Derek Trucks too. Once again, I stress this is because of their approach, especially Trucks... it's not about any technical thing. I just like it and would love to play with these guys because real cool music would no doubt come out of it. And then there's all the jazz guys. I like just about every single one of them, but I especially like Kenny Burrell and Pat Martino. I also appreciate some of the guys who approach things quite differently than I do, guys like Marty Friedman, Vinnie Moore, Uli Roth, James Byrd... hell, there's quite a whole lot of them, too many to mention. I have to say there are more that I appreciate than those I do not. I may not play what they play, I may not be influenced by their approach, and I may not even put their records on in some cases, but when I hear them I appreciate their dedication and ability nevertheless...
Do you have any desire to record a new album or would you say the record business is dead and it would be a financial waste of time?
I always have a desire to do a new record, every single day. It has nothing to do with business. I once coined the phrase "Business has no business in the Music Business". So the fact that the business is dead, and make no mistake, it certainly is, has nothing to do with whether or not anyone should record an album or make music. We clearly see the absurdity in suggesting that a painter should stop painting because there may not be an outlet which might commercialize his paintings, or that a poet should refrain from writing for similar reasons. Why should it become a question where music is concerned? Isn't it simply another form of expression, like painting or poetry?
Is there anything in the vaults that might see the light of day--unreleased albums, live tapes, photos, filmed performances, etc?
Of the old days (70's) there is precious little, if any. Of the later days (80's) there is some. Of the very latter days (90's to the present) where live stuff is concerned, I have over 80 hard drives of shows I've recorded live since about 2000/2001. And then, of course, there is the upcoming DVD. Where all of this will end up is anyone's guess. I don't ever plan anything, not even dinner. Plans are fools' errands, because they fail or come up somewhat short. Everybody knows that and has had it happen. We call it Murphy's Law. But purposes are different. So I don't plan. But when I do something, whatever I decide to do, I try to do it with a purposeand then get it done. And only when outside events suggest that the time is right will I commence acting upon it. A proverb in the Old Testament explains it well, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established." Likewise, Jesus expounds on that theme in the New Testament, and I paraphrase only a portion, "Don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." So I try to not worry.