You’ve just touched down on the surface of Mars! This is the official web site for the visual artist and,singer/music composer and, it includes a large gallery of John’s oil paintings and, FREE MP3 soundclips.

JohnMars.com
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Featured Photograph

Fraser Loveman

May 18, 2018

1946 (Greenock, Scotland) ~ 2018 (Niagara Falls, Canada) Rest In Peace

photo circa 2017 : courtesy of Tim Hillman

My dear friend, the former lead singer of The British Modbeats and, The Village S.T.O.P. has passed away.  Fraser Loveman was truly one of a kind and, God, whoever she is, discarded the mold when he was created.  What he did as an extremely flamboyant performer in the 60’s and, 70’s took some real courage.  First of all, in 1965, he must have had the longest hair of any man in the province of Ontario, Canada.  In those days, propogating such a look meant that, when you walked down the street you were completely opening yourself up to derision from the general public.  Nothing could phase Fraser.  The hippie scene was just starting in Toronto’s Yorkville Village, but, for a guy coming out of St. Catharine’s, the  get-ups that he wore onstage were truly outrageous and, involved a vision that was often ahead of any of his contemporaries at that time.  If you go to my FUN page, you will see a feature that I did on the Mobeats circa 2010, when they were involved with some reunion shows, and, that piece shows some vintage 1960’s black & white publicity shots that exhibit some of these highly original costumes.

Click here to go directly to Modbeats FUN Page feature.

L to R : Fraser, Robby, Grieg

Besides an inordinate amount of time spent studying 45rpm records and, rehearsing his singing via those records , Fraser had to spend a fair bit of time sewing these one of a kind, self invented fashions !  As a self taught artist in more ways than one,  thousands of aural and, visual influences were dissected and, lovingly absorbed by the time he was 20 and, was becoming a known performer.  Curtains that had been deaccessioned by some of the  British Modbeats mommies were turned into giant bell bottomed trousers and, vests for himself and, his bandmates.  Pre- Janis Joplin, perhaps influenced by British pop songstress Sandie Shaw, Fraser/Modbeats began a habit of performing in bare feet.  At their mid 60’s gigs at Ontario teen dances at fairgrounds, community halls and, hockey arenas,  their unexpected visual appearance and, garage band sound caused a furor that delighted the youngsters and, worried the older folks.  Fraser’s well rounded vocal sound took some of the edge off of the raw vibe of the group.  It was a highly original, exciting mix.  Fraser’s affable dad managed his son’s new fangled singing group, The British Modbeats, who at one point, travelled all the way to New York City to perform with poppa in tow to supervise the tour.

L to R : Joe Colonna (bass), Robby Jeffrey (drums), Fraser, Mike Gorgichuk (guitar), Grieg Foster (guitar)

Because of his British roots (his family had moved to Canada in 1953) , Fraser travelled back to Britain in those days of “Swinging London” and, besides his already extensive knowledge of the roots of  Rock ‘n’ Roll, he was, he was now hip to what was going on in the new music that was then emanating from England. Of course all of the new, 1960’s English popsters were influenced by the American 1950’s music that Fraser Loveman already knew so well. Relatives in Scotland also sent the latest UK records to him and, the record collection that Fraser’s older sister, Mae Loveman had started him on when he was a pre-teen was by then growing out of control.

Fraser around the time of the 1990 Modbeats reunion
shows, including one at Lulu’s Roadhouse in Kitchener.

Since the band did not write songs, Fraser pulled in things that he’d heard from both sides of the big pond .  As a result, by the time it was released in 1967, the “Mod Is … The British Modbeats” LP incorporated sounds from the many disparate musicians that Fraser was influenced by at the time ~ Doris Troy, Cilla Black, Lulu, The Merseys, Manfred Mann, Spencer Davis Group, The Pretty Things, The Merseys, The McCoys, Chris Kenner, Cannibal And The Headhunters, Wilson Pickett had all frequented his personal turntable and, the band covered them.  About 10,000 of “Mod Is …”  were pressed. Today, collectors will pay $ 750 or more for a mint copy of that British Modbeats album.

British Modbeats circa 1965 L to R: Mike, Robby, Fraser, Joe Front: Grieg

While people like Ruth Brown and, Howlin’ Wolf had kickstarted the motor that drove Fraser musically and, remained lifelong favourites, Fraser always stayed up to date. Following the Mod period, during the Village S.T.O.P. era, psychedelic groups and, the San Francisco sound became an influence, and, the lone S.T.O.P. 45rpm single from 1969, “North Country” b/w “Vibration”, shows the influence of late 60’s groups like Big Brother And The Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Cream and, Blue Cheer. Fraser’s warm vocal sound and, Paul Marcoux’s soaring lead guitar work remain impressive to this day, even if the recording was made under less than ideal circumstances (“in some guy’s basement in Hamilton”, according to Fraser).  A thousand copies were pressed of a record that may someday be worth a thousand dollars in the collectible world.  It can currently fetch $ 500. To me,  it is simply a psych masterpiece.  It’s a legendary ‘cult’ item of the first degree in terms of Canadian music recordings.

Modbeats circa 1966 L to R; Mike, Fraser, Robby, Grieg, Joe

Speaking of rare records, rarely have more been seen than what I saw in Fraser’s collection of 45s.  I used to go into radio stations to do on-air interviews when I was an active performer and, I have scarcely seen more 45s at any radio station. His collection was crazy good fun.  The history of pop music, particularily Rock ‘n’ Roll was pretty much all carefully archived there. To sit entranced at Fraser’s apartment on a Friday or Saturday night was much more fun than going out someplace with him for the night.  Fraser loved to hold court and, expound on the history of the music.  Maybe I myself already knew a lot about what he was preaching but, his opinions were always fascinating and, amusing and, his knowledge of records often went well beyond my own. Ask for an obscure song and, he had a copy of it (or three) !  I shall treasure those times with Fraser, lovingly, forever.

I was just a kid when I first saw Fraser from up close performing with the Village S.T.O.P. He had a great charisma. He came on stage forthrightly with a pleasant manner about him and, an utter confidence about him and, you knew that something cool and, fun was about to happen.  I learned a few things about stage presence that night that I carried with me throughout my own little singing career.  So, thanks for that, Fraser.

In one of his personal letters to me (1983) where he was commenting on his performing career with the Modbeats, Fraser simply said “we made people happy”.  In my own opinion, that’s the job that a good entertainer always tries to do.  When you can see that some of the people in your audience have forgetten their daily problems for a little while, you’ve done your job!  Fraser always tried to do that job as an entertainer.  He strived to make the people happy and, that should be his epitaph.

John Mars spring 2018

Click here to read a 2 part interview with Fraser Loveman by John Mars ~ “The Fraser Loveman Story” Blitz Magazine # 45 (March/April 1983) and, Blitz Magazine # 46 (May/June 1983).  Plus an amusing hand written personal note from Fraser Loveman to John Mars.

Click here to see Paul Marcoux’s history of the Village S.T.O.P.  citizenfreak.com/artists/104891-village-s-t-o-p

New book on MILES DAVIS

April 10, 2017

University Of Chicago Press cover photo: Veryl Oakland

John Mars was extensively interviewed and, quoted by Bob Gluck in his most recent book, The Miles Davis Lost Quintet And Other Revolutionary Ensembles. Since it was published, Bob has become a full Professor Of Music at the State University Of New York at Albany. Congrats to Bob !!

Miles Davis’ early “electric” bands and, the offshoot groups that were formed by the alumni of Miles’ band including CIRCLE , are the subject of Bob Gluck’s latest tome. Two of John’s historical photographs of CIRCLE members Anthony Braxton and, Barry Altschul are included, in the book, which was published by The University Of Chicago Press. John’s musical descriptions and, anecdotes regarding these heroes of his whom he met when he was quite young, were happily related to Bob and, are also prominent in the book and, it’s extensive ‘notes’ section.

The recent Sony Records release on Miles Davis entitled; Live In Europe (The Bootleg Series Volume 2) is the companion piece to Bob Gluck’s book and, according to John: “It’s very difficult to describe such recondite music in words, but, Bob somehow managed to get that done. Bob is a composer/musician with his own, original sense of adventure and so, it’s not just an academic book. It’s a scholarly description, but, somehow, still very a accessible description of the music, if you are a novice. Get this newly issued album of Miles’ music and, get Bob’s book ! You will be handsomely rewarded and, gain an understanding of what is to me, still incredibly fresh music. When historic music is brilliant, it remains eternally fresh ! ”.

Sony Legacy Recordings cover design: Josh Cheuse

The complete interview with John Mars can be read by clicking here.

Fans of Anthony Braxton will also want to get a copy of Time And Anthony Braxton by John’s friend and, musical colleague, Stuart Broomer, which was published by The Mercury Press in 2009.

submitted by Krista Stahl April 2017

  • Click here to read the critical response to The Miles Davis Lost Quintet and Other Revolutionary Ensembles |
  • Click here for more info.

Haiku : George Puleo

October 27, 2016

George Puleo at Sportsmen’s Tavern, Buffalo, May 6, 2015 photo credit: johnmars.comTo see John’s appreciation of the extraordinary guitarist GEORGE PULEO and his band, HAIKU on the FUN PAGE, please click here

Kenny Marco

September 30, 2016

Kenny Marco at the Brantford International Jazz Festival, 2016 by johnmars.com
Kenny Marco at the Brantford International Jazz Festival, 2016 by johnmars.com

On Sunday, September 18th, 2016, the great Canadian guitarist Kenny Marco, returned to his home town and, appeared at the Brantford International Jazz Festival. Ken was once a member of Motherlode, Grant Smith And The Power and, he has also played lead guitar on albums by Etta James and, Jackie deShannon. “When I Die” by Motherlode was #1 across Canada for two weeks in 1969 and, it is still heard daily on oldies radio stations like Zoomer Radio etc. Ken and, John are both from Brantford and, Ken has always been a mentor to John.

Says John: “When I was a kid, I saw Motherlode at the Brantford Collegiate Institute ‘Triple Gym’. What an amazing gig. I and, my then current band (The Martians) were standing there with me right in front of the stage, to see this Motherlode show, just before they went to # 1. This was Stan Baka, my guitar playing buddy and, Kevin Cosman, my bass playing buddy. We were so inspired by these guys when “When I Die” hit the radio. A guy from our home town is on this incredible record? We couldn’t believe it. Brian Jones had just died and, I way truly bummed out. Then, this record amazing record comes along and, you actually knew one of the guys on it, and, you are just a lil’ kid. Wooowie? The soul … the connlc008388-5946trapuntal thing they had going on … to this day, I never get tired of that record and, it still sounds great and, sounds right up to this minute and, sounds not at all dated, whenever I hear it on radio. Just the other day, I mentioned the song to my fellow singist buddy Russel deCarle (Prairie Oyster) and, he said the exact same thing to me ~ ‘I can never get tired of that record’. My other dear pal Jack deKeyzer was sitting up with me late one night (and, I am talkin’ 5:30 am) a few years ago and, I played the original 45rpm copy on Revolver Records for him. When it ended, Jack looked at me with his mouth hanging open and, asked me if I could please play the 45 again right away please”.

But, what really makes someone a true blue mentor? John was also very much influenced by Ken’s demeanor, from the time he was young.

“This man was and, still is a total gentleman. I learned from him that, as an entertainer, you should always be humble. He didn’t directly tell me to behave any which way or anything like that ~ I just learned from being around him. He has always had such a truly lovely personality about him. There’s something else that I learned from Kenny when I was just a youngster and, this is really quite funny and, again, it’s not like it was something he was trying to directly instruct me on or anything like that …it just happened one day as I watched Kenny’s fingers absolutely float over that fretboard. Watching his fingers moving like that on that Fender Telecaster was just so nuts to me, as a kid.

photograph of Kenny Marco and, his (blind) dog Odessa by johnmars.com 1981
Kenny Marco and his (blind) dog Odessa by johnmars.com 1981

It’s like it was that moment where I started to understand that there really is a huge difference between a gift and, a lot of practice and, talent and, a whole lot of practice. Right away, I said to myself ‘OK, John, you are NEVER going to be able to do that. I’m maybe talented, I’m thinking. I’m not freakin’ gifted like that at all. So, I thought to myself, almost right away ~ ‘you’d best pick a different job here!’…I was playing the drums and, I was singing as a kid and, later, I became a singer instead of a guitar guy. I knew that I wanted to be involved in a Rock ’n’ Roll/ R&B band, but, at a young age, I could tell that I was NEVER going to be able to play an instrument on the level of a Kenny Marco. So, I thought to myself ‘You’ll have to find someone who’s that good on the guitar ~ that’s what you are going to need and, it’s not going to be you doing that. Since then, I must say that I have been blessed to work with the likes of Jack deKeyzer, Danny Weis, David Essig, Lloyd Garber, Mike Ardelli and, Stan Baka. All these gifted guitarists! ”.

CLICK HERE to read an interview with Kenny Marco : Kenny Marco story: Grant Smith & The Power/Motherlode” by John Mars, Blitz magazine, Number 43, July–August 1982.

 

 

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John Mars Oil Painting Entering Permanent Collection of the Woodstock Art Gallery

August 31, 2016

“Painting” 2007 by John Mars oil on panel 30 1/8” x 24 3/8”
“Painting” 2007 by John Mars
oil on panel 30 1/8” x 24 3/8”

John Mars has an oil painting entering the Permanent Collection of the Woodstock Art Gallery. You will have a chance to see the work soon, as it will be exhibited from October 14, 2016 until January 9, 2017. This will coincide with a major exhibit of photographer Greg Staats work, which has been curated by Patricia Deadman.

Everyone is welcome to attend the opening event on Friday, October 14 @ 5pm, with opening remarks by the director, Mary Reid at 5:30pm.

The Woodstock Art Gallery is located at 449 Dundas Street, Woodstock, Ontario. The phone number is (519) 539 – 6761.

www.woodstockartgallery.ca

The Skye

August 29, 2012

Video from the Terry Sumsion Benefit Show is now available for viewing!

“The Skye” written by John Mars and Paul Chapman

The rest of the performances from the show are also on YouTube, and can be viewed below :

The videos were filmed by Dan Copeland and, Jim Unsworth and, are courtesy of CDVideo.ca.

Willie “Big Eyes” Smith 1936 – 2011

September 16, 2011

John’s friend Willie “Big Eyes” Smith died on September 16. He was 75.

Born in Helena, Arkansas, Willie moved to Chicago as a youngster and, his mother influenced him by introducing him to the music of Muddy Waters. Initially, Willie was immersed in the harmonica and, his first great acheivement was playing the harp on Bo Diddley’s 1955 recording of “Diddy Wah Diddy”, while still a teenager.

Willie began hanging around at rehearsals at Muddy Waters’ southside Chicago home and, he once told John the story behind how he got his start in the music business. Says John …

” What Willie told me was that Muddy let him hang out at his house when Willie was just a kid. They didn’t need a harmonica player – they had Little Walter ! But, Muddy liked Willie a lot personally and, for a while, Willie became Muddy Waters’ valet / roadie type of man. Then, around 1961, Willie got a chance to do some fill in work for Muddy’s drummist, Francis Clay. Willie knew that he wasn’t gonna get into THAT band on the harmonica, because the legendary “Little Walter” Jacobs had THAT job? So, Willie picked up on the drums. Everybody was supposed to have a nickname in those days and, for a while, Willie became ‘Little Willie’ but, then Muddy said something like : ‘We already got enough guys who are named Little something or other, I think’ . Little Walter was there and, he’s kinda famous er what ? So anywho, one day, a smiling Muddy Waters looked Willie over and, he said ‘You gotta have a different name other than ‘Little’ – you are ‘Big Eyes’ and, that is how Willie got his nickname from Muddy”.

Between 1961 and, 1964 Willie drummed for Muddy but, the work was not consistent at that time and, Willie became discouraged and, ended up working driving a taxi and, doing restaurant jobs. But, The Rolling Stones and, The Animals helped to bring Muddy’s name to the attention of a previously negligent world. In 1968, Willie went to see Muddy again at a Chicago nightspot and, ended up sitting in on the drums. From 1968 until the end of Muddy’s performing days in 1980, Willie became the drummer and, played on Muddy’s 6 classic Grammy Award winning albums, including “Hard Again”, “I’m Ready”, and, “Muddy ‘Mississippi’ Waters Live” (those 3 discs were produced by Johnny Winter for Blue Sky/Columbia Records, who worshipped Muddy to the point where he got everything right and, Muddy actually started to sell LPs !?).

In 1980, Muddy’s health began to fail and, so Willie co-founded The Legendary Blues Band with fellow Muddy Waters band alumnus “Pinetop” Perkins (piano) and, that same year Willie’s group appeared in the Belushi/Ackroyd movie The Blues Brothers, backing John Lee Hooker on “Boom Boom”. Willie can be seen on the drums in a close-up, in this major motion picture that did so much to promote the songs of roots musicians such as Sam And Dave, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and, Ray Charles. Once again, the world had previously been previously somewhat negligent? But, the roots of Rhythm And Blues and, Rock ‘n’ Roll will never die and, so …

Eventually, Willie and, his group, The Legendary Blues Band, got to open concerts for The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and, Eric Clapton. Besides performing with The Legendary Blues Band, Willie began to make his own solo albums, singing and, playing the drums and, in 2000, he recorded a song that JOHN MARS and JACK deKEYZER custom wrote for him, called “Big Wig Woman”. Willie thought that John’s lyrics for this number were particularity hilarious and, that Jack had executed a very Muddy type guitar lick on the recording.

Willie at an Electro-Fi recording session with Billy Boy Arnold by Andrew Kempa
Willie at an Electro-Fi recording session with Billy Boy Arnold by Andrew Kempa

In February, 13 2011,at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith received a Grammy Award (Best Traditional Blues Album) for his “Joined At The Hip” album with Pinetop Perkins. By this time, Willie was again playing the harmonica on record, as well as singing. Says John Mars …

” I was so glad to see Willie live to see some sort of recognition on his own. Besides his sense of humour, what I remember best about him were casual conversations that he and, I had about all the different types of shuffle beats that drummers like Al Smith (with John Lee Hooker) and, Francis Clay (with Muddy Waters/John Lee Hooker) used to use. Willie was a great shuffle beat drummer and, he liked to talk to me about this type of stuff. I had been a drummist when I was a kid, before I became a singer so, I was always interested in what he had to say about playing the drums. Willie really understood how lazy the little trips on the snare are supposed to feel, when you are shuffling. You’ve got to be a lil’ bit delayed with your snare work, to make it sound cool…you should never clobber the beat. So, he and, I would go over all these cool ‘feels’ in our conversations about how the drums should be played in a blues shuffle or a slow blues. Drumming is all about independence between your hands and, Willie also really knew how to switch all that up. You know, you sometimes reverse what you are doing between the left and, right. Ambidextrous shit !

Willie’s drums had this crazy, swirly, psychedelic finish and, I am pretty sure that they were a really old ‘Stewart’ set from around 1967. I bet that he bought them in a South Side pawn shop or something ? The bass drum, floor tom and, tenor tom all had the resonating heads removed. When Willie packed up his drum set, he would put the big ride cymbal and, other cymbals into the bass drum, then put the floor tom into the bass drum as well and, walk out and, load this pile into his van, then come back for the rest, so that it was just two trips out to the van. He didn’t have any cases for the drums.

I first saw Willie play the drums in around 1972 with Muddy at The Colonial on Yonge Street in Toronto. I was just a kid and, then, a drummer/singer in my own little high school Rock ‘n’ Roll band, John Mars And The Martians with Stan Baka on guitar. We couldn’t go into the bar there at the tavern but, underaged folks like us could sit in the balcony we stayed well behaved and, had enough cake to buy a couple of Cokes. I was in awe at gigs like this. I saw Thelonious Monk at the Colonial with my dad when I was a youngster so, I knew the scene. At that time, going to see Muddy, it was one of those things where you don’t even dream that you will get to meet someone like Willie Smith, let alone later in life, actually become acquainted with him and, have the guy think enough of your writing to get a song from your own self ?

"My Last Picture Of Willie" by Andrew Kempa, 2011
“My Last Picture Of Willie” by Andrew Kempa, 2011

I remember the week that Willie was in Toronto working on recording my song, Big Wig Woman for his Blues From The Heart album with Jack deKeyzer (my co-writer), Michael Fonfara, Alec Fraser and, Al Lerman backing him. Initially, I had a line in there that said something like ‘skinny leg women just bring me down’. Willie made me change the line, saying to me ‘I like the big girls with the real big legs but, I pretty much like the ones with the skinny legs, too. So, I can’t sing that line, you gotta change it, because I can only sing the truth’ “.

submitted by Krista Stahl

John Mars Paintings at Woodstock Art Gallery February 26 – April 2

February 1, 2011

The exhibit runs from Saturday, February 26 until Saturday, April 2, 2011.

There will be 2 chances to meet with John during the run of the show :

  • opening day of the show ~ Saturday, February 26th from 2-5pm
  • closing day of the show ~ Saturday, April 2nd from 2-5pm

Woodstock Art Gallery
447 Hunter Street
Woodstock, Ontario
519 – 539 – 6761

Regular gallery hours are:
Tuesdays 11am – 5pm
Wednesdays 12 noon – 7pm
Thursdays & Fridays 11am – 5pm
Saturdays 10am – 5pm

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Danny Weis in Laguna Beach

May 15, 2010

Danny Weis (Rhinoceros, Iron Butterfly, Bette Midler, Lou Reed, John Mars) has moved back to California from Toronto. Here is a recent pic of him at Laguna Beach that was taken by his Canadian wife, Michelle Finney.

 

Arlene Laskey at the Brantford Arts Block May 15 – June 6

May 1, 2010

John Mars and, Arlene Laskey at the Glenhyrst Art Gallery, Brantford. Photograph by Mike Tutt (Arlene was John’s art teacher in Grade Nine)

Arlene Laskey
“The Map Is Not The Territory”

An installation about the lived experiences of women. Includes 21 portraits and, wall mounted boxes of personal objects.

Brantford Arts Block
80 Dalhousie Street, Brantford
519 – 753 – 9400

the opening is 7 – 9pm on Saturday, May 15 and, the show continues until June 6, 2010.