Sonia: Danny Marks, Im turning the tables on you. Youre
the one whos been interviewing me for my last nineteen guest sessions.
Now its my turn. The worm has turned in effect.
Danny: The worm has turned.
Sonia: Yes, and Ive got some questions that Ive been thinking
about asking you and never quite got around to it.
Danny: Well, fire away, Sonia. Im 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, isnt 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 youve helped in my life as as a person whos designed
my website for me, as someone whos 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 Ive unofficially adopted
you. Well make it legal some day.
Danny: O.K. Thats fine with me Ill sign the papers anytime.
Sonia: O.K. Now, when you were playing were 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 didnt want to settle on just 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
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 youve 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 didnt get as much credit as they deserved,
thats for sure.
Danny: Well, yeah. Because they were all the best sidemen In Los Angeles.
Sonia: Now,your dads was 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 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 its very much like a friend and its like a person because
its got everything from a head. Its got a neck. Its
got a beautiful body, if its 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. Its just the greatest its
the best instrument there is. Its 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, Were
Danny: Wow. I though you were going to say, because as everyone from
Chet Atkins on down knows, thats 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 Im standing up or sitting down but I will
say this that there are some guitars that I havent played for
a while and there are some that wont let me go out of the house
without them. Theres one guitar that was made on my birthday that
anyone whos seen me play in the last few years, especially during
the summer at the big festivals, thats the only guitar that I
take with me. Its 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 Ive 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 dont know where theyre coming from.
It needs a little tweaking. It still has a weak spot or two and its
in mint condition and it wont let me put it down at home.
Sonia: I can tell that youre 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 theres
less of it. That cant 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: Thats 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 dont 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.
Its 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. Ill 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 Ill 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 shes great
and you hope it will last for a while because frets do wear out. They
have to be filed down and re-crowned.
Sonia: O.K. Thats really great. I found that fascinating.
Danny: Im glad you did.
Sonia: One more question, and its loaded. You pretty much represent
yourself. Youve got gangs of talent so youve 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. Im 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. Thats
the part I can bring but if they say, We need a guitarist who
can do a little
I say, Well, why dont
you call one but when you need Danny Marks, Im the guy to call.
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.
© Sonia Brock 2006