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A rock star at 19, Marks has carved an important place in Canada’s music scene

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Toronto’s own Danny Marks is a multi-talented, multi-tasking music man who has lived many lives in his four decades as a guitarist, songwriter and media personality. (Photo: Supplied)

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Danny Marks has broadcast his JazzFM.91 blues show, BLUZ.FM, for nearly 20 years.

Jason Schneider wrote in fyimusicnews.com, “The show has given Marks free reign to explore the genre’s hidden corners through his boundless knowledge of the Blues, and to tell stories about the connections many artists share, along with illuminating the influence they’ve passed down.”

“Danny is one of those rarities inhabiting radio these days. Well-versed in the blues and sensitive to its heritage, he’s able to deliver without grinding his thoughts into a word salad. That’s why we appreciate the characters (like Danny) who bounce around the edges of our lives”, said Bill King, a well-respected author, musician, music journalist, photographer and broadcaster.

“Danny and I go back 50+ years and first jammed away on CITY TV with an all-star cast consisting of funk brother Rick James, violinist Ian Guenther, bassist Don Vickery, drummer Malcolm Tomlinson and hosted by recently departed Larry Green, called Music Friends.  Both of us have now come full circle today hosting shows on JazzFM.91,” King added.

Marks told me he’s “a musician broadcaster,” but he is known to so many as a founding member of Edward Bear, the rock band named after the classic A.A. Milne character Winnie-the-Pooh; they made an immediate splash in 1969 with the chart-topping single, “You, Me and Mexico

The son of Toronto-born Benjamin and Sylvia Marks, his Jewish family has Romanian and Polish roots. The Marks’ were among the founders in 1954 of Toronto’s Temple Sinai, the third Reform Jewish congregation in Canada. “While I’m not an observant Jew, I often struggle to understand the Jewish part (of my) character and wonder where my ancestors were from and how it might have affected my career as a musician and as a broadcaster.”

Marks, from 11 years of age, wanted to play guitar.  His parents first got him a ukulele, but eventually gave him a guitar with the warning that he was “going to learn real music on this, not that rock and roll.” He took lessons from Tony Bradan, Canada’s father of modern guitar. But Danny was “more interested in playing the songs of the day, many of which I play today. One of my albums, Guitarchaeology, in part, was dedicated to Tony Bradan,” he said.

As a teen, in the 1960s, radio was one of his best friends. “It was a time of inclusive vision,” reported fyimusicnews.com.  “Turn your radio on – The Ronettes, Dion, Bert Kaempfert, Otis Redding, Conway Twitty, all on the same charts!”

An interest in drama coincided with his musical aspirations. He attended the New Play Society, where he studied with Dora Mavor Moore. That skill plus his music knowledge stood him in good stead some 20 years later, when he became a fixture on CBC Radio.

Danny wanted a real electric guitar, “like the big boys played.” His first real instrument was a cherry red Gibson 1963 S.G. Junior. During his teen years he landed his first gig with the group The Whisky Sours. When the band split Danny, at 16, began to focus more on the blues. His sound changed when he started playing a Les Paul with singer Larry McEvoy, organist Craig Hemming and drummer Dave Brown.

Signed to Capital Records, Edward Bear became a North American favourite and topped the charts with their best-selling debut album called Bearings. Marks’ renditions of Everyday I Get the Blues and Hideaway influenced “(various) band members of Rush and Triumph. (They) were often our concert attendees,” he added. “We somehow bridged the gap between blues and pop, getting the hit singles but really stretching out in concert.”

“I was a rock star at 19, but a has-been at 22,” he told me. So Marks headed to Hollywood, California and started to play with fellow Canadian Neil Merryweather’s group Mama Lion. That didn’t last long. Returning to Canada, he auditioned for Rick James, who had a group with guitarist Danny Weiss called Jericho, “comprised of the cream of Toronto musicians, managed by Albert Grossman.” 

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During the mid-1970s, Danny toured as a “hired gun and worked hard to learn the music business from the bottom up.” He was a sideman for Canadian songwriters Bill Amesbury and Ken Tobias, winding up with singer songwriter Malcolm Tomlinson. He recorded “two great albums on A&M and tour(ed) with the Average White Band.” He also worked with Rita Coolidge, Bo Diddley, Ronnie Hawkins, Craig Russell and Stephen Stills.

Of the change in popular music tastes at the beginning of the 1980s, he said. “As a new decade was dawning, a new attitude was coming over music; dinosaur bands were out, punk minimalism was in, short hair was cool, retro was hot, and I was ready to make the move out of the shadows into the light.”

Marks began MC-ing Saturday afternoon jams at Toronto’s Hotel Isabella and hosted his first cable TV show. He was happy to “get off the road and work the local bar and club scene during the 1980s,” he told me. 

After establishing himself as a rock and blues session musician, Danny Marks started a TV show and playing fun smaller venues. (Photo: Supplied)

Then radio opportunities came calling. Danny guested during the mid-80s on CBC Radio’s ‘Basic Black’ on a number of occasions and soon had his own series called ‘Under The Covers’ and ‘Duets’.

He also appeared on other shows including ‘Benmergui Live’ and ‘Radio Noon’. With David Bailey, a Rogers Cable TV producer, he created ‘Stormy Monday’ which ran for seven years across Canada. He also had a show called the ‘Hum Line,’ a CBC mainstay. 

Cities in Blue is a music travelogue series with Danny Marks showing the present & future of the Blues in places like NYC, New Orleans, Memphis, Kansas City, Mississippi & Houston. (Photo: Supplied)

Over the years, Marks has released five albums: Guitarchaeology, True, Big Town Boy, A Friend in the Blues and Cities in Blue.

Cities in Blue is the basis for a TV series of the same name, to premiere December 3, 2021 on HIFI TV. “It is currently being shown on BBC First and A.side,” Marks said.

Long ago, Marks saw bluesman and pioneer guitarist/violinist Lonnie Johnson perform in Toronto. He credits Johnson as “my inspirational angel who helped make this TV show happen” which highlights Marks’ vast blues knowledge as he tours New Orleans, Memphis and Chicago where the blues evolved.

Back to his family’s Temple Sinai roots and a look at the future. Marks has begun discussions to collaborate with Cantor Charles Osborne on “an idea to put on a show all about ‘Jews and Blues’”. Stay tuned! 

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com, the Canadian Partner of IPREX Global Communication.  He is a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary

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Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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