In the footsteps of giants
Growing up in Greenville, S.C., singer and guitarist Marcus King looked not only to his bandleader father for inspiration, but to musicians like Duane Allman, Dickie Betts and Haynes. Because Haynes came from roots similar to King’s, when mutual friends introduced Haynes to King’s music, the Gov’t Mule frontman signed the burgeoning Southern rocker to his Evil Teen Records label.
That connection meant that King was also working with Haynes’ management team, “and they wanted us to come be part of the fun,” he says of the Christmas Jam. “We’re really stoked about that.” The Marcus King Band performs on the Asheville Music Hall stage, a move upstairs from One Stop, where the group appeared last year.
One of the perks of playing the Jam by Day is a ticket and backstage pass to the main event. “The whole thing was a beautiful experience,” King says of last year’s show. “Seeing Bill Kreutzmann was a powerful thing. … Getting to know Warren and the rest of the folks was really nice, and going to the pre-jam the night before was one of my fonder memories.” Of the acts taking the stage this year, King is especially excited to see The Doobie Brothers and the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
In fact, guitarist Derek Trucks (who fronts that band with Tedeschi, his wife), has more in common with King than most of the jam artists. King, like Trucks, was a child prodigy and played his first shows as a preteen. “When I was going into nightclubs playing as a 12- or 13-year-old, it was like, ‘Look, I’m here as a professional musician and I’d like to be treated as such,’” he says. “Sometimes I had to make it clear that I’ve worked hard to get where I’m going.”
King’s work — he’s nearly a decade into his career, though he’s not yet 20 — is paying off. He’s getting ready to record a follow-up to his debut album, Soul Insight, and was recently recognized by Gibson guitars in the feature, “30 Under 30: A New Generation of Players.”
The Marcus King Band has also opened for the likes of Foo Fighters, Johnny Winter and Gov’t Mule, though the musician admits that he still gets the jitters. “I try to hide it, but I’m certainly a little star-struck meeting these people,” King says. The good news — and this bodes well for Christmas Jam performances down the road — is that, “I’ve always been a lot more comfortable on the stage than off the stage.”
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