Friday, November 13, 2009

The making of music

A band of brothers
by Mike Marcellino

Eight weeks ago, a writing and musical journey began when I again hooked up with an old Army buddy, Tomas Texino.  We served in the Vietnam War together.  Tomas makes a mandolin sing, plays guitar, writes fascinating and funny stories about bluegrass music and whatever else he feels like, like stuff about Rozz Savage rowing around the world and playin' a one-on-one game of basketball against his buddy Bill Monroe shootin' at a hoop that comes outa the trunk of Bill's Cadillac.

My friend played in a cool bluegrass band, "Salt Run," for many years out of St. Augustine, Florida. Never forget our time together as far up in he mountains in Virginia as you can get, for the Carter Family Memorial Concert years ago.

This September, I found Tomas once again after a 10 year absence and we began to see what we could do with some of the poetry songs I'd written.

Well, out came "Amelia Earhart, soft silver wings" about the fearless aviator, just in time for the release of "Amelia," starring Hilary Swank.  I didn't know about the film, but got a MySpace message from her cousin, saying she liked the piece and that she isn't biased and thinks Hilary will win another Academy Award.

Haven't seen "Amelia" yet.  Was waiting for my special invite to a private screening.  The film kinda got ripped up by most critics, but then that's why they call them critics.

Tomas played mandolin on the song, composed it, threw in a bass. Singer songwriter David Dowling was on his guitar for the recording at a house in St. Augustine.  We had dinner together; it was a beautiful night overlooking America's oldest city the Spanish settled in the 1600s.  That recording night was priceless.

Along the way I got back to my first love - surfing.  Body surfed nearly every day for five weeks.  Caught one four foot wave and shot right out the curl.

Then Tomas and I did another piece, "Las Cruces," about living on a tiny horse ranch in the desert hills in southeast New Mexico, near the border.  It brought me back to wandering the streets of Juarez, Mexico, just a few months after getting out of Vietnam and the Army.  I had served as a combat correspondent and photojournalist and met Tomas as he worked helping refugees build a new life and a new village.  They called it "civic action" back then.  I think we need a lot more "civic action" and a lot less killing in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and the streets and Army bases in America.

To record "Flatbush" with musician Randall Leddy I left the surf and  hopped a train to New York City.  Randall's father served in the Special Forces in the U.S. Army.   "Flatbush" is about a writer's view of life in the West Indian neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Special thanks goes to Randall's wife, Stacy Rock, a very talented, emerging singer songwriter.  Yes, that's her read name and she comes from a small  town in the middle of Montana.  Now she's making passionate, music in New York, mixing her classical background with pop,, rock  and folk.

On the way to Brooklyn, I had sort of a homecoming in Baltimore were I was "born and early raised" (a phrase from a song I wrote, "Full moon Baltimore" recorded by my first band, Split Pea/ce in Cleveland).  I performed a solo gig without music at the Baltimore Hostel for a poetry series, "Last Sunday, Last Rights," put on by Pat King, the go to guy for Outsider Writers, a writers' cooperative I've been a part of the past couple of years.  After all these years, I discovered the original "Washington Monument" isn't in DC but in Baltimore.

When I got back down to Florida, limping as my left calf kept freezing up, Tomas and I finished work on our band's fourth song, the hardest one to do - "The Walls of Fire."

In "The Walls of Fire" I traced the sacrifice and courage of American soldiers from the Civil War through World War II, Korea, Vietnam  Iraq and Afghanistan.  We started on it before my trip to New York City but it sounded just too sad.

Tomas figured that Irish tin whistles were just the sound to turn horror into a band of brothers tackling anything and everything thrown at them.  Mandolin and a drum are also in the piece.

Now, I'm wonderin' just what's going on.  In eight weeks, the Mike Marcellino Band has reached 64 among the Top Folk Artist in New York City on the ReverbNation charts.  Not sure what that means, except there are 400,000 bands on that music site and we also rose to 654 in the United States and 965 in the world.

We reached a milestone today, recording the 9000th play on our MySpace music site.

We appreciate people listening and reading the lyrics.

We released "The Walls of Fire" on Veterans Day.  It's an important piece to us, taking us back to 1968 when we served together in Vietnam.  Not sure how we survived; just lucky.  Many of our brothers in arms didn't.

Looking down the road, we hope to put out our first CD, play some paid gigs. No matter what happens with the band, I'll be getting a surf board by spring.

A national award winning newspaper reporter and congressional and mayor aide, I now have my sights set on being a rock star.  Trouble is my eyesight is fading.

We do appreciate people listening to our music and especially their comments.  We hope you'll continue, some day buy a CD or pay a few bucks to hear us play.

After the release of "The Walls of Fire" on Veterans Day I was surprised to get a comment on ReverbNation from a musician, Destination Dawn from Ocala, Florida.

Later I found that "DD" is the Top Alternative Artists in the world on ReverbNation with tens of thousands of fans.  She wrote this about our band -

("Flatbush") Cool spoken word!!!Great music and interesting revelations!!! 

("The Walls of Fire") has great background music and effects that befit the deep revealing words. You have an intriguing style. 

Wishing you all the best and much continued success with all your endeavors!!!
Much Love, 


Hope DD doesn't mind that I included her last sentence.  Her comments are both very sweet and quite encouraging.  

Didn't ask her if she makes any money from her music though.

By the way, thanks to the modern techie miracles I finally figured out, you may listen to Mike Marcellino  right on the ReverbNation Widget on my Networked Blog, "The Point of the Whole Thing."  

Here I thought a "widget" had something to do with croquet.

Band of brothers, by Mike Marcellino, copyright 2009