Q&A with Marlon Montgomery, son of Mike Montgomery (Back Street Crawler) set to a release tribute album for his father

"Music is one of the greatest forms of expression and provides people with a voice, and want to see it continue to be used to convey important social messages to the community at large, whether it is political, social, economic, or just plain bringing hope and joy. Music is a tremendous medium to convey a message and story. Some artists may have introverted personalities but speak volumes with every note they play on their instrument."

Marlon Montgomery: Crawling Spider

Marlon Montgomery, son of Back Street Crawler songwriter and keyboardist Mike Montgomery is set to a release tribute album for his father titled ‘Crawling Spider - A Tribute To Mike Montgomery Vol.1 The LA Sessions’ (Release Date: October 30, 2020). The compilations includes special appearances by multiple players with notoriety and connections to Montgomery which include John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, Terry Slesser, Terry Wilson, and Tony Braunagel who were members of Back Street Crawler along side a plethora of other stand-out musicians. A sweet pairing of old notes with a new tune, the album’s 15 tracks include reinterpretations of rockers from Back Street Crawler and Mike Montgomery’s bluesy R&B outfit Rough House. Additionally, Executive Producer Marlon Montgomery hand-picked favorites of his father's catalog some of which were recorded but never released. Texas legends Omar & The Howlers contributed a previously recorded cover, while Bill Leverty & Jimmy Kunes cover Back Street Crawler’s first single ‘All The Girls Are Crazy’. 30 years after his death from lung cancer and 40 years after Back Street Crawler’s ‘The Band Played On’, Mike Montgomery’s songs continue to capture the ears of loyal fans and new listeners. In debut album of Back Street Crawler (1975), Montgomery wrote, or co-wrote eight of the ten tunes and handled vocals on both 'All the Girls Are Crazy' and 'Survivor'. Mike Montgomery’s music lives on, and it is a fitting honor that his legacy is saluted and carried forward into the 21st century.                (Photo: Marlon & Mike Montgomery)

Mike Montgomery earliest musical memories were of listening to Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles on the radio and responding deeply to their music. He also had his young soul stirred by the gospel quartets at Kansas tent revivals. By the age of eight, he knew that he wanted to make music like the blues, country and rock and roll that affected him so strongly. When he was nine he succeeded in talking his grandparents into getting him his first guitar. When he wasn't plunking on that he was trying to pick out Jerry Lee Lewis or Floyd Cramer licks on the old upright piano in the Montgomery living room. At 15 he'd formed his first band and did his first recording at songwriter Glen Sullivan's Oklahoma City Studio. Mike went on to study music at Oklahoma City University before moving to Fort Worth, Texas and later to Houston. There he joined Bloontz, a blues-rock band which moved to New York after securing a recording deal with Evolution Records. While living in New York he was hired by Johnny Nash to become Musical Director and form a backing band for the singer. Montgomery was also active on the New York session scene, recording with David Bowie / Lulu, and Blood, Sweat & Tears among many others. In 1975 he was approached to replace Ian Hunter as front-man in Mott The Hoople but decided to respond instead to legendary guitarist Paul Kossoff’s request that he move to London to form a band with him. Back Street Crawler was quickly signed to a deal with Atlantic Records. After leaving Crawler in 1976, Mike recorded a solo album with an all-star cast of friends (Thin Lizzy, Blood Sweat and Tears, Meatloaf, etc.). Mike moved back to New York in the early 80's and had been involved in a variety of projects, including the scoring of the film "Vice Squad". Johnny Winter, Roy Buchanan, and Rick Derringer are among the many artists he worked with during this time. He later formed the band Rough House a primal mixture of blues, R&B, and high octane rock and roll.

Interview by Michael Limnios                    Photos by Marlon Montgomery's archive

How has the Rock n' Roll Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Growing up with rock n' roll parents has probably done the opposite as some would expect, I think it's made me actually a bit more reserved and careful (as I've seen it all, including all the dangers and mistakes). So, I've tried to learn a bit from others poor choices and mistakes. Although, I am still a rocker at heart and in the soul! I think one thing it has done is tinted my glasses to be a bit more skeptical and cautious especially when doing business and trusting any politician.  

How do you describe CRAWLING SPIDER sound and songbook? Why do you think that Mike Montgomery (music) continues to generate such a devoted following?

I think the music is best described as house-rocking blues and rock n roll!  I believe that these songs pass the test of time due to their authenticity. As Tony Braunagel told me recently, "Mike wrote songs from his sleeve, like, "One More Cup Of Coffee, And One More Cigarette". You could see him sitting there."  My Dad also studied the great poets and authors to further craft his story-telling and songwriting skills. A great example of my Dad's storytelling and ability to take the listener on a journey is the song Jason Blue. My Dad especially enjoyed diving into the un-ordinary like the occult and one of his favorite poets Charles Bukowski for inspiration.             (Photo: Back Street Crawler, 1975)

"One of the biggest lessons has been a reminder of how hard it is to break the existing traditional models, and how difficult it is to get the various groups (artists, venues, promoters, managers, labels, producers etc...) in the industry to align to move forward on anything and to create CHANGE. Although, I have seen an amazing spread of the music community supporting each other as best as they possibly can."

What´s been the highlights in his career so far? What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you?

I would say highlights of my Dad's career would have been his time in the Johnny Nash band, an original member of Kossoff's Back Street Crawler, the sessions with David Bowie and Lulu, the work he did with Johnny Winter and Rick Derringer and his solo album (some of the demo tracks which are included on this Crawling Spider album) that he got to record with an all-star cast of friends. 

Some of the crazy stories I've heard about my Dad's antics have made me laugh. But, one of my favorite stories, one that is both funny and touching is that my Dad one night while hanging out at the Portobello Hotel in London was able to get Jimmy Page to jam with him (Jimmy on Banjo). The song? He picked the theme song to the movie 'The Third Man' which was Grandma Monty's favorite movie and song.  

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Having connected with and stayed in contact often with Tony Braunagel and Terry Wilson who my Dad had played with in Bloontz, Johnny Nash, and Back Street Crawler has been amazing. Seeing those guys, and Terry's wife Teresa James still playing has been inspiring. Tony was also pivotal in developing my love for the Blues, by sneaking me into the House of Blues every Monday night when I was a young kid. Knowing these guys allowed me to put together this tribute album with all the right people. My Dad taught me to do what you love (no matter what it is), and always give 100%. That has been great advice and has presented me with great opportunities.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

A lot of the music that is out there today (at least what is pushed) lacks the raw emotion and passion of the past. Paul Kossoff is a perfect example of that passion, where you can FEEL every note. My hope is that we will have bands and artists that can carry the torch and pass it on to the next generation. I am thrilled to see bands like Tedeschi Trucks keeping the flames alive. My fear is the continued watering down and commoditization of music.                   (Photo: Marlon with his rock n' roll parents)

"Growing up with rock n' roll parents has probably done the opposite as some would expect, I think it's made me actually a bit more reserved and careful (as I've seen it all, including all the dangers and mistakes). So, I've tried to learn a bit from others poor choices and mistakes. Although, I am still a rocker at heart and in the soul! I think one thing it has done is tinted my glasses to be a bit more sceptical and cautious especially when doing business and trusting any politician."

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Right now, it's saving our venues. Where I am currently living in Austin, which is dubbed the 'Live Music Capital of The World', venues are closing left and right due to the pandemic. One study mentioned that up to 90% of Austin venues may need to shut down if provided with support (or the re-opening). Outside of the pandemic, I want to see more musicians get paid fairly for their work, and one of my passions over the years has been brainstorming over potential new models for the industry, especially the independent artist. I am currently very big on the stream-to-own model and I am working on a project that hopes to implement this in a big way. Stay tuned! 

How to start the through of Atxmusic? What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experiences in the music paths?

atxmusic.fan was born out of a desire to help local artists during the pandemic, by providing a centralized spot where fans can listen to and discover local talent and help support their favorites with tips through Venmo, Cash App, Paypal, etc... As we come out of the pandemic, we have some big plans for atxmusic.fan becoming THE digital music hub and community of Austin. As mentioned earlier, we are also very big on wanting to support the local venues in discovering innovative revenue streams to help them recover and thrive. 

One of the biggest lessons has been a reminder of how hard it is to break the existing traditional models, and how difficult it is to get the various groups (artists, venues, promoters, managers, labels, producers etc...) in the industry to align to move forward on anything and to create CHANGE. Although, I have seen an amazing spread of the music community supporting each other as best as they possibly can.  

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications?  How do you want it to affect people?                                   (Photo: Marlon & Mike Montgomery)

Music is one of the greatest forms of expression and provides people with a voice, and want to see it continue to be used to convey important social messages to the community at large, whether it is political, social, economic, or just plain bringing hope and joy.

Music is a tremendous medium to convey a message and story. Some artists may have introverted personalities but speak volumes with every note they play on their instrument.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would probably go back in time to one of my Dad's shows. First, to be able to spend some more time with my Dad again and second to see a great rock show! 

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