Standing at the corner of Biltmore and Hilliard in front of the Orange Peel where Marcus King and his band would later play, a white van towing a trailer begins veering closer to my position as I flick a few ashes of my first cigarette of the day toward the concrete walkway.
The vehicle slowly drives past me taking a wide right onto Hilliard when a mane of flowing golden brown hair pops out of the passenger’s side window and out bellows this singular word, “Bob.”
The individual behind this street corner drive by shout out turns out to be Marcus King himself, welcoming me in his own unique way, as he had invited me to the band’s sound check for their headlining performance at the 14th Annual Make-A-Wish benefit concert.
The van parks curb side and one by one King and his fellow band mates in the Marcus King Band, Jack Ryan (drums), Justin Johnson (trombone/trumpet), Matt Jennings (organ) and Stephen Campbell (bass) stumble out, each greeting me with a variety of handshakes, hugs and head nods as they begin to unload their gear and the process of hauling it into the belly of the Orange Peel.
A short amount of time passes before King and the remainder of the band take to the Peel’s stage. King himself is heavily involved with the process of arranging the band’s gear and the sound checking of each and every instrument.
He’s methodical and deliberate, patiently thinking out each move as if he’s playing a game a musical chess in his own head. At one point, prior to the full fledged band sound check, King makes his way over to Jennings and the two share a few words as King plays a few notes on Jennings instrument of choice, the organ.
This interaction provides a moment of levity while also seemingly being an integral part of King’s primary mission, to make sure he’s personally doing everything possible to ensure that the band puts on a performance worthy of the audience paying to see the band later that evening.
Following sound check I find myself immersed in a musical oriented conversation to the side of the stage about drumming with local musician Christopher Chappell Pyle, son of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and drummer for Lynyrd Skynrd, Atrimus Pyle, both of whom will be performing later that night as well. To the right of Chappell Pyle and I King is seated atop a bar stool strumming what I think may be a 1973 Gibson Les Paul Deluxe.
While fiddling around on the instrument King mentions to another individual how the brand’s quality greatly declined following the sale of the company back in the early 1970’s. King is referring to Gibson being taking over by Norlin Musical Instruments in 1974, which coincided with a widely held industry opinion that Gibson Les Paul guitars would never be the same following this transition.
Normally I might take this kind of musical observation coming from a nineteen-year-old as aberrant, however, as it pertains to King’s playing and the man himself both come off as old soul oriented and wise beyond their years. The fact that King knows the history of the Gibson Les Paul company thus comes off to me as entirely appropriate.
Following a brief conversation with his girlfriend outside of the Orange Peel King agrees to walk me north towards Nightbell, the Asheville eatery I had chose for our sit down.
Marcus King is what most would refer to as a prodigious talent. The sheer mastery of blues, soul, R&B and rock guitar is something that even the vast majority of the greatest players on this planet today spend a lifetime honing.
However, for a select few, their talent seems destined from the womb, seemingly passed onto them genetically via tiny musical specs of DNA. Count King among these individuals as anyone that bares witnesses to King performing will surely walk away with the opinion that this man was literally born, if not preordained, to wield an axe on stage.
Those facts not withstanding it comes as no surprise to find that King is a direct descendant of musicians. His father Marvin King, a respected blues guitar player in his own right and his grandfather, who played guitar as well, were both instrumental in King’s musical journey.
“The first guitar I ever really owned was a Squier Stratocaster that I got from my dad on my seventh birthday but prior to that I think I was playing a miniature scale Les Paul,” said King.
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