|"Rev." Marc Falconberry (BluesPhotos by Don McGhee)|
As a teenager, musician “Reverend” Marc Falconberry learned about blues music by sneaking into nightclubs in Detroit’s black neighborhoods. On Sept. 21, Falconberry will be doing the teaching as the featured performer at the Jazz & Blues series at the Southfield Public Library.
Falconberry will perform a solo acoustic set, followed by a set of electric blues with his full band. As is standard during the library concerts, Falconberry will sprinkle in some information along with the music.
“I do a lot of slide, Robert Johnson-type stuff,” Falconberry said. “I also do some stuff from musicians who are not so well known. B.B. King’s cousin, Bukka White, is one of my biggest guitar influences. I’ll throw in some original stuff similar to what he would do that I’ve learned off records and old movies.”
“I like for people to learn about the music and its origins,” said event organizer Don McGhee. “It’s sort of a guiding principle for me that blues and jazz are really the original forms of American music and have influenced lots of other types of music. Music is not just entertainment. It’s a big part of who we were, who we are, and, probably, who we will be in the future. Who better to talk about the music than the people who do it?”
Falconberry, a Detroit native, first picked up a guitar at age 14 in 1964 and practiced for hours in the basement each day. By the next year, he was ready to perform in public and eventually played in several rock bands that were influenced by the Rolling Stones and the blues-tinged British Invasion rock bands.
“The teen shows would be over by 11 o’clock and we would be all geeked up with nothing to do,” Falconberry said. “Along with my close friends who would dare to do so, we would go to the black clubs. That’s how, basically, we learned.”
He watched and studied Detroit performers like Bobo Jenkins, Mr. Bo, Chicago Pete and even John Lee Hooker, as well as visiting performers such as Sam Lay and Paul Butterfield, all while keeping a low profile because he was underage and didn’t want to get tossed.
“A lot of those guys would save their best stuff for the end of the night.”
Falconberry, who also cites Hound Dog Taylor and Mississippi Fred McDowell as influences, will be backed up during his electric set by bandmates Joe LaBeau (baritone and tenor sax), Wesley Smith (bass) and Jon Johnson (drums).
“They’ve all been with me a long time,” Falconberry said. “Wesley has been with me for over 25 years, Joe 20-plus and Jon the same thing. When you work with guys for a long time, they automatically know what you are going to do if you have to extend a song for some reason. They follow right along. There’s a big advantage musically with that.”
Falconberry has released three CDs – “Irreverend Blues,” “Blues All Live” and “Ten X the Blues” – that will be available for purchase at the concert. Lately, he’s been performing quite a bit down south and realized that there aren’t that many performers still playing traditional slide guitar blues.
“It’s a lot more rare than I thought it was. When I talk to people, even guys that play slide guitar down south, they say, ‘I’ve never seen anybody doing what you’re doing before.’ They just don’t see that many guys doing this live.”
Falconberry received his “reverend” nickname from a representative of the old Blues Factory agency.
“I used to do a Son House version of ‘Grinning in Your Face’ (a cappella). The idea was to gather some time while the band was trying to fix something. I was doing that one night, when the guy from Blues Factory said, ‘He looks like a reverend preaching the blues.’ Without telling me about it, they put it in the flier for my next gig. I called them up madder than hell and said, ‘At least you could tell me you wanted to do this.’
“They actually did me a favor, because people thought it was pretty cool and people seem to like nicknames.”
All these years later, Falconberry is still preaching the blues.
“Somebody’s got to do it. We’re the older guys now and it’s up to us to keep it going. I promised them I would.”
Catch “Reverend” Marc Falconberry and his band in concert at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21 in the Meeting Room at the Southfield Public Library, 26300 Evergreen Road, Southfield. Admission is $3. Children ages 12-under are admitted free. The Jazz & Blues series is sponsored by the Friends of Southfield Public Library and the Detroit Blues Society. For information, call (248) 796-4200.
To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com