BACK TO THE FUTURE: EDDIE MARS RETURNS HOME
By DOC LEHMAN
NOTE: Click on thumbnails to enlarge!
So here’s the scenario. You grow up in the rock ‘n roll era of the 1960’s & 1970’s with ‘the gift’, a gift of musical talent and you utilize that gift, that passion to become a professional musician, a dream that many had during that time period when everyone wanted to be a rock star. And now, today, all these years later, 35 years later to be exact, not only are you still a working professional but after immersing yourself in all the musical programs offered during your high school years of the 70’s, you are about to return to play for your former classmates. Such is the case of keyboardist Ed ‘Eddie Mars’ Marthey of the small town of Orrville, OH, known far and wide for Smucker’s jelly and (in)famous basketball coach Bobby Knight.
Marthey, a seasoned pro who’s pretty much seen and done it all, is going to do what more than one has thought about over the years, bring his band, Liquid Sky, to play for his former classmates for the 35th class reunion, in this case the Orrville High School (OHS) Class of 1976’s 35th reunion that will be held September 16-17 this year.
Ed Marthey hammering the keys in high school.
“I am totally psyched about playing our reunion,” stated Ed Marthey recently, one of Orrville’s successful and highly talented musical sons. “Playing gigs are about the only thing in this world that don’t make me anxious. I don’t get stage fright. The scariest parts of any club show for me are A) the restroom, and B) getting paid at the end of the night. This is not just another gig, but I have so much confidence in these guys’ ability to rock a place inside-out, playing the gig is the least of my worries.”
Having attended high school with Marthey and watching him perform, especially back in the days of the 70’s and 80’s, it’s always been clear that he has the knowledge, talent and aptitude for all things musicial. His tastes in music, even back then, were varied. He has a true appreciation and vast knowledge for the art. Even back in the 60’s and 70’s I knew that Orrville had produced a lot of many talented musicians, several who went on to become professionals like Ron Jarvis, Jack Schantz, Randy Coole, Marthey and others. Must be something in the water, or maybe in the jelly!
When the 35th Orrville High School Class of 1976 Reunion committee starting planning the reunion for later on this year it was decided that instead of pre-programmed music the reunion should feature what we all grew up with, namely live music. Attending rock concerts and buying albums and 8-Track tapes was the norm back then. Live music flourished then whether it meant attending concerts in Akron, Canton andClevelandto the high school gym to local watering holes and other rented venues. I remember attending more than one concert in farmer’s fields!
Ed "Alice Bowie' Marthey
So it was decided that a live band would be appropriate. After all, we grew up with live music so, at this stage of our lives we might as well rock it one more time before all the rocking we do is in rocking chairs!
And if you’re going to hire a band to play, why not hire a professional one that features a member of your own graduating class? Hence, Liquid Sky, Marthey’s current band based in Akron will be spotlighted at the reunion in September. It seems appropriate.
Liquid Sky is a group of five very talented men who have crafted a show which has something for everyone, particularly those who want to rock. The band specializes in music that most other rock-n-roll bands don’t usually play while keeping it highly danceable. In short, they are rock without apology.
“It feels good!” exclaimed keyboardist Ed Marthey of Liquid Sky, of the prospect of playing in front of his former classmates. “I really think our class will have the funnest reunion ever. We’re the rock ‘n roll generation, the kids today are still listening to music from our time! And we’re playing it and not just the songs every cover band plays, but because of the combined talents of these musicians we can perform songs that will totally rock the joint to smithereens.”
Ed Marthey during his CONTRABAND days
Liquid Sky consists of Marthey, Ben Powers, Brad Johnson, Bruce Lindamood and Chip Maggio.
“This is the most talented bunch of guys I’ve ever worked with,” continued Marthey. “Our bass player is Ben Powers, who is the current drummer for the P-Funk All Stars (formerly Funkadelic) and our singer, Brad Johnson, amazed everyone at the most recent party/jam at the Sportsmen’s Cabin last November by belting out ‘Over the Hills & Far Away’ and ‘The Ocean’ by Led Zeppelin. This band started out as a Dream Theater tribute band, then began to learn big nasty rock songs from the ’70s & ’80s. We do some Yes, some Journey, a bunch of Zeppelin, some Genesis,Styx, Floyd, Rush, Foreigner, Golden Earring, Living Colour.”
“Regarding live music versus someone’s ipod loaded with bubblegum and country, there will be no comparison. I’ve missed some reunions because I knew there would be taped music and probably music that I hate. I’m hoping everyone in our class still alive will show up and groove with us, because I truly believe that this will be our best reunion ever!”
During high school Marthey played and participated in all the musicial entities offered by the school, learning musical technique, theory and exploring the musical worlds of not only rock ‘n roll but classical music, jazz, the list goes on. His tastes are wide and varied and he knows what he likes. And doesn’t. And he has never been afraid to express his opinions.
He may not remember but I can recall once telling him about the virtues of one of my all time favorite bands, Mott The Hoople back then, and Ian Hunter when he went solo after Mott split. Marthey would have none of that as I recall him stating they were average at best. I was shocked and dismayed! Marthey liked bands like Yes, I liked Mott The Hoople. But even though they still remain one of my all time favorites, one couldn’t help but respect what Marthey had to say because he had the training, knowledge and gift of being able to play music. Any type of music.
Ed Marthey (far left) & Roger 'Mouse' Greegor laying it down
Other than fiddling around with a bass guitar and being in a short-lived rock band called the Poorboys (with a tip of the hat to John Fogerty) in junior high at John R.Lea Intermediate School, the only musical talent I have ever had was playing a jukebox. And try finding one of those these days!
“Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendricks,” were the names Marthey offered when asked who had inspired him outside of high school. He was also quick to point out the fellow musicians, his peers, who inspired him in high school. “Jack Schantz, Chris Conway, Mouse Greegor, Randy Coole.”
Marthey also retains many special memories of the OHS music programs he was involved in.
“Every year on the last day of summer marching band pracitice, one team of us would grab band director Don Carpenter, walk him up to the pool and throw him in,” recalled Marthey. “While another crack team of commandos would break into his VW van and push it somewhere several blocks away and hide it. One time they wedged it between two trees.”
“My favorite teacher: the late Perry Hosmer, our jazz band director and teacher of music history and music theory. He inspired generations of OHS musicians with his knowledge, humor & stories. He once played in the Kay Kaiser band in the ’40s.”
As was pretty much the case at every high school around the country during the 70’s Marthey was in his share of bands with fellow Orrville and Wayne County musicians, of which there was an enormous talent pool at the time.
“In 1973 I joined Magwich Applebee, a band that practiced on (Bob) Shiflett’s front porch on Crown Hill Road in Orrville,” remembered Marthey. “Bob Shiflett on rhythm guitar, Marty Wilson on drums, Steve Hanna on bass, and Jerry Kirven and a drifter/hippie from out of town named Detroit Buchanan on dual lead guitars, and Johnny Kirvin singing. Oh yeah, Bob Weygant ran around in a sparkly shirt and played tamborine. We played Orr Park after the fireworks in ’73 until about 1:00 AM on the main diamond to a huge crowd.”
“Magwich Applebee was around for a couple years. We played several times at that crazy bar inMassillon, and of course a bunch of parties. I think it broke up when lead guitarist Detroit Buchanan took off drifting again. He had ass-length hair, one pair of holy jeans, and a psychedelically painted Gibson SG with strings so old they were rusty. He was very charismatic and fun to hang out with.”
“We also played a few times at Kimpean’s Cafe inMassillon. By that time Billy Hendricks was on drums. I think Billy and I were 16 and they let us drink there. Billy would order about nine kinds of booze in the same glass and one night mid-song he turned around and puked a torrent of red stuff all over our cases. That place was a trip, complete with real prostitutes.”
“I think the next band that actually played gigs was The Winged Spaniel Threat. Later on it became Contraband which that was ’78 – ’79. It was a horn band that did lots of weird stuff like ‘Frankenstein’, ‘Time’ by Floyd, Brian Auger, ‘Earache My Eye’ by Cheech and Chong, ‘I’m The Slime’ by Zappa. We played Columb’s, the Red Baron, Sportsmen’s Cabin, a bunch of parties. Mike Sommers on guitar, Henry Bevins on bass, Mouse Greegor on drums, Dean Lambert on trumpet, Danny Sauers & Steve Barkey on saxes.”
From then on Marthey was in a succession of bands, nearly everyone remembered to this day by those who appreciated live music.
CONTRABAND in action!
“The next band I was in started in ’79, Transit, with Billy on drums, Phil Dalessandro on guitar, Vinnie Carpenter on bass and the late Dean Lambert on lead vocals,” revealed Marthey. “We played at Columb’s, Wilmot Tavern, bunches of parties. We did Floyd, Hendrix, Tull, Jeff Beck, and a lot of obscure songs by Free, Spooky Tooth, Nils Lofgren. This band actually played Caskey’s for your brother’s birthday party, a B.O.T. production!”
Caskey’s Family Campground & RecreationCenteris where the OHS Class of ’76 35th reunion will take place.
“In ’80 I joined up with Rick Ciconnetti, Matt Chastain, Henry Bevins and a female lead singer whose name i can almost remember, we were called Crossfire,” Marthey continued. “We did Genesis, Yes, Tubes, Police, Lover Boy, Men At Work, and even ‘Blinded By Science’ by Thomas Dolby. We played the Theatrical inWoostera few times, some roadhouse down by Loudonville called something like the Wagon Wheel, parties of course, and some clubs I can’t quite remember!”
“From ’81 – ’83 I managed Groucho’s in Orrville and wasn’t in any bands. In ’84 Ron Jarvis came by the bar one night and mentioned that the reggae band he was in needed a keyboard player. I auditioned a few days later and got the gig. We rehearsed in Bob the Conga Player’s basement in Shaker. I often stayed for days with two of the guys just off Coventry. We decided to call the band First Light, and for the next 14 years it was a full-time job.”
“Carlos Jones, now of the PLUS Band, sang lead and wrote most of the songs, probably upwards of 100 in all. Chopper played guitar & bass; Gino Long played bass & guitar; Bob Caruso on congas & percussion; and Rod Reisman (now with the Prayer Warriors & Outlaws I&I) on drums. At first we had a trumpet player named Steve Maurer, when he left we hired Rob Williams, now of the Afro-Cleveland Orchestra & Ernie Krivda Trio, on saxes & flute.”
With First Light Marthey was living the dream as a musician, playing gigs at high profile establishments all over northeastOhio, going on the road and making recordings.
“We played an average of 250 dates a year, mostly on the road,” explained Marthey. “We played from Michigan down toSouth Carolina and over to the East Coast from the Carolinas up toMaine. In Cleveland our home base was Peabody’s in Cleveland Heights and we held the attendance record at Peabody’s DownUnder in the Flats for years. Until we broke it again. We did Tommy’s inRocky River, Quinn’s Live on the extreme east side, Cheers, Hank’s and The Phantasy inLakewood.”
“In the Flats we played Biggie’s The Basement, Fagan’s, Downunder, Splash, the Nautica, Shooters and a lot of colleges. We were big in Bowling Green, Athens, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Kalamazoo and so many other places I can’t remember.”
The band also played gigs with some national and internationally known bands and performers. The list is impressive to say the least.
“We opened for The Clash, The Wailers, Eek-A-Mouse, Augustus Pablo, Steel Pulse, Taylor Dayne, Meatloaf, Ziggy Marley, Yellowman,Third World, Aswad, Al Stewart, Donovan, Toots & The Maytals, Burning Spear and others,” said Marthey.
Ed 'Eddie Mars' Marthey
The band also spent considerable time in the studio.
“We did five recordings,” stated Marthey. “A vinyl EP called ‘Musical Uprising’ in ’85, a CD titled ‘Meltdown!’ in ’87. We also recorded and released two cassette albums, ‘The Official Bootleg’ and ‘Live At The Empire. In ’94 we released ‘Groove Telepathy’, which had two songs of mine on it and I designed the cover.”
“We broke up in ’98. During this time I was also writing and performing songs with Chris Conway in the Visitors. We played OrrPark on July 4 a few times, Rehm Pavilion and some other places and parties.”
One of Marthey’s fondest memories of that time was when the band opened for The Clash at Cleveland Public Hall.
Marthey then pursued a solo career as well.
“I began to play solo after that,” said Marthey. “I’d been playing weddings since high school.”
In fact, he played at my brother’s first wedding.
“I had a regular Saturday night gig at the Clarion River Lodge inCook Forest,Pennsylvaniafor over a year,” continued Marthey. “I also played Woogel’s in Woosterand the Starboard Side in Orrville.”
“I moved to Boulder with my then-wife for six years starting in 2000, right after I recorded my first solo CD, ‘Springtime On Mars’. I played solo, worked in three different bands, and had a job at Kinko’s out there.”
“We moved back here in ’06, and I was immediately beseiged with offers to join bands. I got my solo sets up and running and began playing at the Montavino in Wooster regularly.”
“Soon after that I joined Lost Highwaywith Chris Conway on bass, Mojo Edwards on guitar, Ben Powers on drums and George Bersch on lead vocals, harp & acoustic. We didn’t play very often because we were all so busy. The last time that band played out was last August (2010) at the Orrville Rib Cookoff.
“When Mojo left the band, Ben said he was in a great prog band that needed keyboards. I joined (Liquid Sky) after one rehearsal. Ben Powers on bass, Bruce Lindamood on guitar, Chip Maggio on drums, and Brad Johnson on lead vocals. We’ve rehearsed for a year and a half, and the crowd at the Tap House loves us. We’re talking with an agent now, with the intent to break into Cleveland & beyond.”
For the past year or two, Marthey has been a busy man on a mission.
“Last winter i got a call from Gino Long, from First Light, with an offer to play with him and Chopper in a reggae/rock band called Outlaws I & I featuring Butch Buchanan on lead vocals and Spanky Carter on drums,” explained Marthey. “We’ve played clubs all over Cleveland. Recently Spanky left and we put in Rod Reisman of First Light on drums. Recently we did our first show with Rod, and it was so slammin’ I thought the Maple Grove would implode. Our next gig is May 28 at some club inMadisonand May 30 at WhiskeyIsland, the club, not the island!”
Recently Marthey made a musical connection with yet another Orrville talent, a generation younger, but an exceptional talent.
“About three months ago I got a call from Gretchen Pleuss to play in her band,” commented Marthey. “I jumped at the opportunity. She writes her own songs and has a strikingly beautiful voice. We’ve rehearsed twice a week since then , and recorded a demo. We had some bookings, but yesterday Gretchen called a meeting and put the band on hiatus while she figures out what she wants to do in life. She’s 20 and just finished school. Hopefully before too long we’ll take up again. Until then she’s playing solo, with me doing duets with her occasionally.”
“Which brings us right up to today. The Visitors are getting back together, we’ll play the Orr Rib-off an August 12. Chris is releasing a new Visitors recording soon. The first since the cassette album we recorded in ’87. I’m doing the CD cover for that and there is a host of unbelievably good players contributing their talents on it.”
So in addition to the busy schedule of gigs with current band Liquid Sky, Marthey has a full plate of gigs that will keep him busy this year. He joined Liquid Sky a year and a half ago and hasn’t looked back. “Like I said, this is the most talented bunch of guys I’ve ever worked with.”
The Orrville High School Class of 1976 will be holding their 35th Class of ’76 Reunion on September 16-17, 2011. The activities will kick off on Friday evening September 16 at Orrville High School prior to the annual Homecoming Football game for a tailgate party and will continue on Saturday September 17 with an all day and evening gathering at Caskey’s Campground & Recreation Center located northeast of Orrville where OHS Class of ’76 alum Ed Marthey & Liquid Sky will be performing.
For more information on Liquid Sky visit their Facebook page at: LIQUID SKY
For more information on the OHS Class of ’76 35th Reunion visit the reunion website at: OHS Class of ’76 Reunion
NOTE: LIQUID SKY will be performing at Ripper Owens’ The Tap House in Akron on June 11, 2011!
(c) 2011 Bangagong/Doc Lehman