As host of one of the few remaining national blues radio programs, Danny Marks is well-positioned to discuss the current state of blues music in Canada. As his Bluz FM Saturday broadcast on Jazz FM 91 launches into its 18th year, Marks is aware that this genre has become a niche category and that as far as the blues music scene is concerned he feels it’s too centred around Toronto.
“Let’s face it, blues music is a small sliver of the musical pie. If record stores still existed, the blues section would be located way in the back, upstairs, stuck at the end of the jazz section,” noted Marks at the lack of respect for blues music. “Aside from Holger Peterson in Edmonton and myself, there’s not a lot of radio exposure available. At one point, blues music would be played alongside rock and pop. You had great albums recorded by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton but now it’s so tightly categorized. And it probably doesn’t help that it seems everyone these days are trying to record the album that Muddy Waters has already made.”
With regards to observations from the blues industry itself that the blues scene in Canada is too Toronto concentric, Marks notes that the Maple Blues Awards is never held outside the city and that it would be helpful if the scene could focus on other areas like British Columbia and Quebec. “There’s also a current focus on Women In Blues Music, Sue Foley is a true superstar,” he noted.
For an artist who initially made his mark as lead guitarist for Edward Bear who along with lead vocalist Larry Evoy and keyboardist/vocalist Paul Weldon enjoyed great success with a Number 5 charting song, You Me And Mexico and twice opened for Led Zeppelin at The Rockpile August 18th, 1969 and November 2nd, 1969 at the O’Keefe Centre, Marks moved on in 1972 to become a super sideman for the likes of Rick James, Ken Tobias, Bill Amesbury and Malcolm Tomlinson while establishing house band residences in sadly now-defunct venues like Club Isabella, Albert’s Hall and The Cadillac Lounge.
“People forget that Edward Bear was Canada’s original power trio, we used to have guys from Rush and Triumph at our shows, checking us out,” Marks reflected. “Capitol A&R chief Paul White was a big supporter of ours but when “You Me And Mexico” of our debut album (Bearings) became a big hit in 1969, the label wanted more pop songs like that. But I wanted to record songs that were more powerful.”
Marks insisted on releasing “You Can’t Deny It” from their second album,`Eclipse’ but when that record met resistance, he decided to move on, leaving Evoy and Co to top the Canadian and U.S charts in 1972 with “Last Song” which sold over one million copies in the U.S.
Of his next move to become a super side player, Marks notes “I became obsessed with great guitar players like James Burton (Elvis Presley) and Cornell Dupree, you think of Eric Clapton in Delaney & Bonnie or Derek & The Dominoes. That’s what I was into.”
Marks other aspiration was to do television and radio, goals that were achieved when he hosted Rogers Cable TV show Stormy Mondays and CBC Radio’s The Hum Line, shows that allowed him to promote blues artists and product releases.
Entering his 18th year as Saturday night host of Bluz FM, Marks takes pride in listening to as many blues releases as possible while also continuing his own recording career. He has recorded five solo albums Guitarchaelogy 1996, True 2003, Big Town Boy 2005, A Friend In The Blues, 2012, and Cities In Blue 2016 (the soundtrack for an eight-part tv series which is still available at https://hifi.ca/ with a new release in the works for 2020).
Whether performing live at local venues, more recently at The Revival Club with Jack DeKeyzer and Paul James, airing his radio show or recording new music, Danny Marks is a bona fide triple threat who is determined to keep The Blues flag flying.
By Keith Sharp