Sonia: Danny Marks, I'm turning the tables on you. You're the one who's
been interviewing me for the last nineteen guest sessions. Now it's
my turn. The worm has turned in effect.
Danny: The worm has turned.
Sonia: Yes, and I've got some questions that I've been thinking about
asking you and never quite got around to it.
Danny: Well, fire away, Sonia. I'm delighted to have this opportunity
to have the tables to be reversed and for you to be wearing that hat
of the questioner and for me to be talking about myself incessantly.
Sonia: Well, isn't that the best part, eh? What was your first
Danny: My first gig was probably in a church basement somewhere in
the north Toronto area. There was a church where the bands used to play.
Could have been in a church basement. Could have been in a high school
but our first real road gig we took the bus and our gear and our speakers
up to Collingwood. We played there because I knew a girl who wanted
to book our band up there.
Sonia: Hey, knowing a girl helps!
Danny: Certainly. It certainly has helped knowing you all this time
and how you've helped in my life as as a person who's designed my website
for me, as someone who's been there, always giving me really caring
and loving advice. Someone I can turn to for questions about the blues.
You have totally been my Blues Mama.
Sonia: Ah, God bless. Well, you know I've unofficially adopted you.
We'll make it legal some day.
Danny: O.K. That's fine with me I'll sign the papers anytime.
Sonia: O.K. Now, when you were playing we're you doing Rock? Was that
Rock that you were playing?
Danny: Well. I guess so. I think that what happened to me was that
I grew up and most formative era was in the early 60s when everything
was everywhere and being exposed to the best you could imagine in all
forms. You didn't want to settle on any one but when it came to the
band, yes. We were playing songs like "Louis, Louis" - "Secret Agent
Man" - Elvis stuff, you know and Jimmy Reed, "You Got Me Peeping, You
Got me Hiding" that sort of thing.
Sonia: So, you were doing covers but you were doing GOOD covers.
Danny: Oh Yeah. Only the good stuff but there was just so much good
stuff of all kinds. The first agent that every heard me play the lead
guitar in a band said, "You know you've got kind of a country sound
to your music" and I could never really figure out why at that time
but it must have been listening to James Burton and all that country
stuff that we loved. You know James Burton played on the Ricky Nelson
records. He was just the greatest country picker back then.
Sonia: Ricky and his band didn't get as much credit as they deserved,
that's for sure.
Danny: Well, yeah. Because they were all the best sidemen In Los Angeles.
Sonia: Now your dad's a player too.
Danny: Yes, indeed, and dad, in fact, was another one of those guys
that straddled the twin worlds of country and blues, as well as everything
else. His big role it was in Guys and Dolls but that was in the Youth
Group or the temple choir, you know. They put on a amateur production.
Dad loved all that stuff. He listened to Cab Calloway growing up. He
played the harmonica and he used to go in front of a crowd by himself,
with his harmonica, and a little harmonica as well, and play Turkey
in the Straw and win talent contests all over the city of Toronto when
he was a kid.
Sonia: Wow! I never knew that. You come by it honestly.
Danny: I do believe I do.
Sonia: Yeah. Speaking of instruments, and not of harmonicas but guitars
in this instance, I understand that you have a few of them.
Danny: Yeah, well, I do. I do have a few guitars and I love the guitar
because the guitar is all kinds of things. Among the many things it
is it's very much like a friend and it's like a person because it's
got everything from a head. It's got a neck. It's got a beautiful body,
if it's a really nice guitar, and it sings for you and plays with you
and it keeps you company and you can hug it and you can hold it. You
can go with it in front of people and make people smile and make people
rock. It's just the greatest it's the best instrument there is. It's
like the heavenly harp.
Sonia: That reminds me of a story from the 60s where a fellow took
his guitar into a washroom stall with him and when asked why said, "We're
Danny: Wow. I though you were going to say, because as everyone from
Chet Atkins on down knows, that's where you get the best reverb and
you need that reverb on your guitar.
Sonia: How many guitars have you got, Danny?
Danny: Uhm, well, I guess a couple dozen or so.
Sonia: Do you play them in rotation?
Danny: Well, usually I'm standing up or sitting down but I will say
this that there are some guitars that I haven't played for a while and
there are some that won't let me go out of the house without them. There's
one guitar that was made on my birthday that anyone who's seen me play
in the last few years, especially during the summer at the big festivals,
that's the only guitar that I take with me. It's very special. Imagine
you had a guitar born on your birthday. Your not even playing a separate
thing. You might as well be playing your arm.
One of the newest guitars that I've just got is called a Silvertone
Jupiter. It was made by the Harmony Company in 1961. It looks like the
top of and old Formica table. Picture it. Black with gold fleck paint
on it and multi bound in white ivroid. This guitar is very, very light
and it sort of a cheapo guitar but it was made in America when even
cheap guitars were really great, had lots of integrity. This guitar
is telling me stories. I don't know where they're coming from.
It needs a little tweaking. It still has a weak spot or two and it's
in mint condition and it won't let me put it down at home.
Sonia: I can tell that you're an expert on vintage guitars.
Danny: Yeah! Well, I mean, I noticed about 1964, suddenly, the penny
was about half as thick, or maybe 2/3rds. I thought ('65 I think it
was) why is the penny, suddenly, still worth a penny but there's less
of it. That can't be. I noticed stuff was not being made and that was
around the time that Fender got sold to a big conglomerate, things got
sold and Kennedy was killed and something happened. Planned obsolescence
took over from pride in workmanship.
Sonia: That's a really good point.
Sonia: I understand that you recondition guitars. That you know all
the bits and pieces and parts, where they come from and where they should
Danny: Well, I don't know about all of the work that you can do on
them, as far as pulling frets and replacing frets goes. I can only do
the fine tuning stuff that a guy with some screwdrivers and a little
bit of steel wool and some lemon oil. I can do that fine tuning. You
see a Fender Stratocaster is almost completely put together with screws.
It's the adjustment, the find adjustment of the screws that hold the
springs that work the tremolo, so a guitar that I would get, I can do
the the tweaking but I cannot do the refinishing or the re-fretting.
I leave that up to the masters but as a guitarist I can do that little
fine tuning that makes them work for me. I'll sit with one, week after
week, and then, perhaps, I realize that it needs a different kind of
a piece and I know exactly what piece should be on every vintage guitar
that I get. If something has been replaced I'll find an original piece
and replace it with that.
The Strats are a special animal and they require a real finely-tuned
setup. Even after the Luthier, so called, gets through with them the
player gets in there and tunes it and balances it because there are
springs in the back that balance this fulcrum tremolo bit that is on
a knife edge that pivots. So, how tightly your strings and how tightly
your springs are set they offset each other and make the playing action
just perfect. You tweak it down and, you know what, now she's great
and you hope it will last for a while because frets do wear out. They
have to be filed down and recrowned.
Sonia: O.K. That's really great. I found that fascinating.
Danny: I'm glad you did.
Sonia: One more question, and it's loaded. You pretty much represent
yourself. You've got gangs of talent so you've certainly got a product
worth having but how do you get gigs?
Danny: Gigs come to me from various places. You know I have my website
http://www.dannym.com. People can
phone me about gigs. People can email me. I'm easily found and certainly
very searchable on the Internet. People offer me gigs and more and more
as the years are going by and as things are going by for me I only accept
a gig if people say, "I want you to come and be Danny Marks. I ask what
part of Danny Marks do you need. That's the part I can bring but if
they say, "We need a guitarist who can do a little......" I say, "Well,
why don't you call one but when you need Danny Marks, I'm the guy to
Sonia: I really like that. This has been a great interview.
Thanks very much!
Included in this interview a song Danny and I recorded together.
A one take wonder, I might add
* Midnight Special
It, plus the interview, can be heard at
© Sonia Brock 2006