Two shooting stars of Southern rock


One Step Ahead of the Blues, Geoff Hanson

The Carolinas will be represented well at this weekend’s sixth annual Ride Festival. The two hottest up-and-coming rock ’n’ roll bands in the South will be in Telluride this weekend, turning heads and blowing minds.

From the Old North State, Big Something will play Saturday on the Fred Shellman Memorial Stage (Town Park’s main stage) and also on Sunday night at the Moon at O’Bannon’s. 

From the Palmetto State, The Marcus King Band performs at the Sheridan Opera House on Friday night. On Saturday, they will play immediately after Big Something on the main stage before tackling their third gig in 24 hours at the Liberty Bar on Saturday night. 

Indeed, The Marcus King Band plays more than any band at the Ride Festival, but if anyone can do it, it’s Marcus King, as he is all of 21 years old. And the scary thing is, he’s been on the scene for almost a decade. 

King, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, has music in his veins. He’s a third-generation blues musician who began his career before he was even a teenager, playing in his father’s band. His father is Marvin King, who himself started out playing in his father’s band.

King says he learned different styles of music from his father and grandfather: “My father taught me the blues,” King recalled in an interview with Jam Base. “My grandfather turned me on to a lot of honky-tonk music, stuff like Chet Atkins and George Jones and Willie Nelson.”

The result of his musical upbringing is a style King calls “soul-influenced psychedelic Southern rock.” His six-piece band marries psychedelic R&B and soul with Allmans-style Southern rock and roadhouse blues. 

The Marcus King Band features Jack Ryan on drums and percussion, Stephen Campbell on bass, Matt Jennings on keys and organ, Dean Mitchell on saxophone, and Justin Johnson on trumpet, trombone and backing vocals.

King is a protégé of Allman Brothers guitar player and Gov’t Mule founder Warren Haynes. The two met when King was 17 years old and he went to The Georgia Theater in Athens, Georgia, to see Haynes play. The next night, King was shown the setlist before the show and to his astonishment, he was on the setlist as a guest. 

“That kind of threw me for a loop,” King says of the evening. “That was really game-changing — a life-changing thing for me to do. It was nothing we had run through or rehearsed, I just kind of jumped on.”

King and Haynes have been working together since. Haynes signed King to his company Evil Teen Management, has been a frequent on-stage collaborator and produced King’s fantastic sophomore record, “The Marcus King Band.” 

“Marcus is the first player I’ve heard since Derek Trucks to play with the maturity of a musician well beyond his age,” Haynes says. “He’s very much influenced by the blues, but also by jazz, rock, soul music, and any timeless genres of music. You can hear the influences, but it all comes through him in his own unique way. He has one of those voices that instantly draws you in, and his guitar playing is an extension of his voice and vice versa.”

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