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 contrapuntal 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.
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.