News From The Pit

This Old Guitar
By Jimmy Brown

As many of you may already know, Saturday, July 13 was the big retirement send-off at Kentucky Kingdom for Mom's Music owner Marvin Maxwell and his lovely wife Beverly. I was honored to participate in what was likely a world record for most bands (100 plus) performing in a single day event, or something to that effect. Now, if you happen to know Marvin, this larger-than-life type of send-off is not at all surprising. Though I understand the actual behind the scenes work was done by Marvin and Beverly's three kids and a host of volunteers, it takes someone who can think big in the first place to inspire such an event and if you know much about Marvin, thinking big comes naturally. Let's face it, somebody's got to do it. Might as well be Marvin!

As the old saying goes, the fruit does not fall far from the tree, so I was not surprised that the Maxwell kids could pull this one off. Prior to the event, there were several nice, local articles about Marvin, his family and the impact he had on the music scene in Louisville. I enjoyed the articles, and also in playing out at Kentucky Kingdom. Got to see some old friends, congratulate Marvin and Beverly on a job well done, and generally have a good time going down memory lane, particularly during the evening's finale with Elysian Field, Soul Inc., and Lonnie Mack. This process got me to reminiscing a little, and I though I would share a few of my personal experiences with Marvin and some of his contemporaries.

Little do they know the profound impact they had on my own life. Though many of my memory cells have burned out or faded away, there are still a few moments I distinctly remember. The first time I saw Marvin's band, Soul, Inc., play must have been 1965 or 1966, at the Carl Casper Custom Car Show battle of the bands. I was around twelve years old, and the band members must have been in their late teens. What an institution the Custom Car Show has been: hot Rods, girls in bikinis, and teens rockin' out at the band battle. Stood in front of the stage while Soul Inc. rocked out with their soul-influenced rock. Man, they were something to behold. I mean, I had heard the neighborhood garage band up to that point, but nothing like this. Though I do not remember any of the band members in particular at that moment, the total experience was permanently etched in my brain.

My next Marvin experience came a few years later, probably in `67 or `68. It was the first time I met Marvin Maxwell. He was working at Baldwin's, next door to WKLO Radio on Walnut Street. I was this scrawny little teenage kid, and I was looking at the bass amps, and Marvin, in his typical larger-than-life personality, gave me the complete sales job on why I should get a Baldwin Exterminator bass amp. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, if you know Marvin, you will not have any trouble picturing this scenario. Naturally, I couldn't hardly rub two nickels together back then, but that did not deter Marvin from bringing it on. Let's face it, Marvin pretty much has one speed, and that's full tilt. I remember being dumbfounded by all of his energy, and I never forgot that day. That was back when everything happened around Fourth Street and the immediate surroundings. I should mention that though I did not buy a Baldwin amp, I eventually bought a Kustom amp from Ralph Lampton at Durlauf's and a VOX Panther bass from Houston Jones at Tillers, and I took my first bass guitar lessons at Baldwin's. So, even though Marvin did not sell me my first bass stuff, his music-playing and music store energy sure inspired this kid.

As a side bar to all this, as my wife and I were enjoying the night listening to Elysian Field, Soul Inc. et al, I commented to her how some of these people on stage had effected my life, from my first encounter with Soul Inc. to Marvin at Baldwin's to other episodes. Dennis Ledford, Mark Miceli, Rudy Helm and Frank Bugby all played a part in shaping my own destiny. Frank Bugby was the guy at the car show who knocked my socks off with his guitar playing. Little did I know at the time how much that seed would grow in me, as far as wanting to play music. Though I was too young to go to Changes Unlimited, and Kaleidoscope, I do remember hearing these great bands and many others at Hogan's Fountain, the Iroquois Park amphitheater, The Windmill, The Double Calf and many teen clubs and high school dances.

A little later on, my dear friend Dennis Ledford asked me to sub for him in a one nighter type band, doing covers and standards at mostly private places. He was managing the Subway Boutique, the South End's premier head shop at the time and couldn't get away in time to make the first set. It was the summer, I was fresh out of high school, registered to attend UK that fall, when Dennis asked me to fill in. Though just a novice bass player at the time, I said sure, I would do it. One thing quickly lead to another - Dennis became the guitar player, I became the regular bass player, I cancelled my registration to UK, stayed home and went to JCC, and most importantly, began my real world musical education, playing with Dennis, Mark Miceli, Rudy Helm, and a host of others. I should mention that the bandleader for this gig was a female drummer/singer, Diane Mohr, who at one time was part of the Carnations. Playing with these people was for me like the apprentice working with the journeymen. They were all just enough older than me at the time to have that sort of feeling, at least from my perspective. I really got my feet wet playing with these players. They welcomed me, schooled me and made me feel like one of them. Since they were all people I had looked up to through the late `60's/early `70's, it really made me feel good.

Let's fast forward to Marvin's send-off July 13. I am sitting with my wife Mary Jane, and while Elysian Field is on stage (Dennis, Mark, Rudy, Marvin, and Jimmy Settle), I mention to Mary Jane about the time Dennis asked me to sub for him with Diane Mohr in `73. Just think, if Dennis doesn't do that, I go to UK, probably get a business degree and end up a banker, CPA or stock broker or something. Mary Jane about fell out of her seat when I mentioned that. "You, with your personality, a banker?!", she replied. "You must be joking." The non-conformist rebel in me believes she is right, and Dennis's request for me to fill in for him was meant to be. So here we are, nearly thirty years later, I am still playing my bass and running a guitar store. Man, oh, man. Little do these pioneers of the Louisville rock scene know how much they shaped the destiny of this one person's life and for the better, I might add. As Marvin mentioned in one of the recent articles, "there ain't nothing like playing music." So it is with a debt of gratitude that I say "Thank you" to Marvin and his many bandmates. You surly impacted my own life. Some more directly than others, but nonetheless, you all played a part. Congratulations, Marvin and Beverly on a job well done.

Well I guess that's all for now.

Until next time.

Keep Rockin

P.S.. Frank Bugby, who played his guitar while standing in the shadows the other night, reaffirmed what I thought as a kid: man, can he play the guitar!