"Modern blues players are often inspired by those greats who came before us."
Tommy Marsh: Damn Good Music For Damn Good Folks
Tommy Marsh and Bad Dog have been together as a band for a little over a year and are already heavy hitters in the Ventura Music Scene. Blending and bending the Blues, Southern Rock and Jam band genres to a unique hybrid the band has become extremely popular with fans of all three. Presently they are preparing to record their first compilation of songs primarily written by their namesake. Tommy Marsh is lead singer, and one of two lead guitarists in the band. Before coming to Ventura 2 years ago Tommy was the front man for the The Tule Devils in Central California.
Tommy Marsh moved to Ventura for love having met his soul mate Tammy a Ventura County resident at a show in Three Rivers Ca. After arriving in Ventura Tommy started going to local Jam sessions to play and meet local musicians. Tommy became a regular at The All Star Blues Jam at The Bombay Club every Wednesday. Last year Tommy was asked to begin hosting this show every week and under his leadership it has become a formidable player in the Southern California Blues scene attracting amazing players every week. Alastair Greene, John Marx, Guy Martin, Teresa Russell and many others are regular guests at this tremendous show. When Tommy began to look for players to fill out his band BAD DOG he drew from great players he had met at the local Jam Sessions.
Tommy Marsh and Bad Dog are regulars in and around Ventura County and they are a band you can’t see without saying something like DAM or Holy Crap… Tommy’s strong vocals and guitar playing along with BAD DOG’s super human SKILZ make for a musical experience that is rare and fills the senses. The Bad Dogs are: Tommy Marsh (Vocals & Guitar), Michael Katnik (Vocals & Keys), Steve Hinojosa (Vocals & Guitar), Stan Taylor (Bass) and John Lacques (Drums & Comedy)
When was your first desire to become involved in the blues?
Thank you for including me in your long list of blues players that you have interviewed. I am grateful for the opportunity to share with you what The Blues means to me.
I started playing guitar in the late 1969. I was 8 years old and I was fascinated with music in general. My mother was a fantastic pianist and my father played guitar so there was no escaping the music gene. I loved listening to old records with my Mon and she had a Ray Charles record that I absolutely loved. It had a couple of songs that pulled at my heart strings. “Cryin Time” and “Let’s go get stoned” These melodies spoke to me. I learned how to play the 3 cord blues very early and I still play them today…
What have been some of your musical influences & what were the first songs you learned?
My mother was a huge influence o me because she was the most loving person I have ever met. Music flows from within you and being open to this is something I learned from her. She played the piano with such expression and sensitivity. Musically speaking some of my biggest influences are players not generally associated with the blues… I became aware of Southern Rock and Roll in the early 1970’s. The Allman Brothers were fairly well known for playing blues and Duane Allman was one of my early hero’s, THEN I came across Lynyrd Skynyrd. My sister had The Street Survivors album and once I heard that I was hooked. The guitar work that Skynyrd produced in the early 70’s is some of the finest ever recorded. Huey Thomason from The Outlaws was also a big influence in my playing. I suppose one of the first songs I truly learned all the way through was Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s door… but Deep Purple’s SMOKE ON THE WATER would be a close second.
Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
A few years ago I had a really killer band that I had put together. We were playing every week at The Tachi Palace Casino and were doing quite well there. It came to pass that I hired a guy to come in and play with us. He was an extremely talented harmonica player and vocalist. He played a few months with us. The short version of this long story is that he conspired with members of my band to form another band behind my back and when my contract at The Palace came up for renewal they had negotiated to replace us. It was the end of that band and a couple of long time friendships. It is funny looking back that I did not see it coming… But I live my life always believing in people. It is a trait I learned from my mother and I would not change it.
Right now is The Best Moment in my career. I am so incredible lucky. I have a WORLD CLASS band…. I have been getting some really incredible opportunities to meet and play with people who I idolize. On July 8th The Bad Dog and I, will be playing with my all time favorite blues artist Chris Cain at a show here in Southern California. I them enjoy it sharing the same stage with him.
What does Blues offered you & why do you play the blues?
Of all the types of music that I listen to and love The Blues is the one that really speaks to my soul. It bears the scars of all of life’s emotions and pours them out upon the listener in simple and often searing clarity. Pain and pressure, love and loss, fear and freedom are all common themes of great blues songs. This is what draws me. Woos me and keeps me coming back for more. B.B. King’s Thrill is Gone is one such song for me. It has many emotions clearly defined and though I have heard this song and played it thousands of times it ALWAYS speaks to me. My reasons for playing the blues are less clear than the reasons I love to listen to it. Many of the songs I write are not what you would consider mainline blues…. BUT my guitar is my guide and it most often brings me right back to the blues. When I sit down and pick up my guitar to play 99 out of a 100 times my first notes will be deep and dark blues licks. They emerge from inside me like a spring coming up out of the ground.
What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?
There was a time in my life when I had to give up the full time musical pursuits and work full time. I have 3 children and music wasn’t paying the bills. I worked for 20 years as a maintenance mechanic. I repaired machinery for several food manufacturing companies. I actually made quite good money doing this. I think that working a full time job for so many years has allowed me to be more in tune with reality. Some musicians are pretty out there… if you know what I mean.
Tell me about the beginning of the band. How did you get together and where did it start?
Michael Katnic is an astonishing keyboardist and vocalist who was playing with the Great Ashford Gordon when they met. There was an immediate connection because Tommy LOVES Hammond Organ and was specifically looking for an organ player. Ashford had just recently moved to Arizona and Michael was looking for a new opportunity. Michael’s scorching organ solos, lead and harmony vocals coupled with his amazing energy are a key part of Bad Dog’s vibe.
Tommy met Stan Taylor at The All Star Blues Jam when he was playing with the house band. Stan is a Gibraltar esc bassist. Stan toured extensively with Led Zepagain, a premier Led Zeppelin tribute, band for several years. His abilities are astounding and his attitude is awesome. Stan makes it easy to play with his solid as a rock groove and his great soloing. “I am honored that Stan plays with us” says Tommy, “He is a real pro”.
John Lacques auditioned for Teri and The Tornados a band Tommy plays with in Ventura. The Tornadoes chose a different player for their opening but Tom saw something electric in John’s playing and hired him almost immediately. John is endorsed by Paiste Cymbals and is a crazy good player. He has an amazing sense of humor. He brings flair to both his conversation and to his performance.
Smokey Steve Hinojosa was the last member to join Bad Dog. Smokey is a regular at The All Star Blues Jam and Tommy had played with him many times as host of the show. “There was always a magic when Steve and I jammed and each time we played together the bond between us grew.” Not only is Steve a great guitar player and singer… He is a marvelous human being and is someone I just needed to be around…So I asked him to join the band”
How do you describe the Bad Dog’s sound & why choose this name?
The band has a strong Blues and Jam band mix with some funky ass grooves thrown in. We don’t sound like anything you have heard…
Which is the “philosophy” of the band? How do you describe Tommy Marsh’s style?
I don’t think we really HAVE a philosophy. We play DAMN GOOD MUSIC FOR DAMN GOOD FOLKS….
How’s that for a Philosophy?
Are there any memories from the Bad Dogs, which you’d like to share with us?
Honestly EVERY SHOW with this band is a great memory… I guess that is why it works to well… We just really get off playing with each other.
Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the blues.
As I said before I think Blues has such a huge appeal because it captures nearly ALL of man’s emotions in one way or another. My wish for the blues would have to be that it never becomes overly “main stream” Too much damage gets done when things get TOO popular.
How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?
Performing always has a surreal quality for me. I am just so freaking happy to be playing in front of folks. I think that when you are happy on stage that really connects with people. I tend to talk about my songs a bit and this weems to draw the audience in. Being nice to people however is the best way I have found to connect to them. Being grateful for their time is truly how I feel and I try to let them know that.
What are your experiences from The All-Star Blues Jam at The Bombay Club?
The All Star Blues Shows were really a great experience for me. There were some of the most amazing musical moments I have ever experienced happened there. I will never forget them. Ventura County has some of the finest musicians I have ever seen and I have had a chance to play with many of them. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this great event.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
Play what makes you feel good inside… look for positive influences to guide your music where it should go. Play as often as you can. Learn a trade that will help you make money while you pursue your career in music.
Is there any similarity between the blues today and the “BLUES OF THE OLD DAYS”?
Modern blues players are often inspired by those greats who came before us. I CERTAINLY AM. I think todays Blues is an exciting hybrid of the past mixed with the inspiration of this new generation. I think the Blues is alive and well and it will continue to be a driving force throughout the world for many decades to come…
Which of historical blues personalities would you like to meet?
Ray Charles, Albert King, Gary Moore, Alan Collins, Ronnie Van Zant, Duane Allman, Muddy Waters
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