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Marley’s Ghost Offers Eclectic Fun In Concert At Dusty Strings

by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 16 October 2017

 

Dan Wheetman, one of the founding members of Marley's Ghost, during recording sessions for the latest album, 'The Woodstock Sessions.'  Photo provided by Marley's Ghost

Dan Wheetman, one of the founding members of Marley’s Ghost, during recording sessions for the latest album, ‘The Woodstock Sessions.’ Photo provided by Marley’s Ghost

When Marley’s Ghost appears at Dusty Strings, on Saturday, October 21st, the band will play a diverse mix of musical styles – just as fans have come to expect from this eclectic band.  Marley’s Ghost performs songs from its catalogue, now going back decades, as well as genre standards and new original works written by band members.

While Marley’s Ghost flits through the genres during concerts, shaking up standards with stunning ease, audiences can also expect a fun show.  “The fun we are having on stage translates to the audience,” explained Dan Wheetman, one of the four founding members of Marley’s Ghost, “It’s a positive thing.”

Skill, And Musicianship

A rare opportunity for quality music covering all genres.

A rare opportunity for quality music covering all genres.

“The band is so eclectic.  There is no direction that we won’t attempt,” Wheetman acknowledged, “We don’t play disco or rap, but we have no connection with those genres.  We wouldn’t serve those genres well.”

Marley’s Ghost will play what its members know – which appears to be just about everything.  Wheetman can rattle off the genres, and it covers a wide spectrum:  delta blues, black gospel, folk, bluegrass, Americana, rock, stone country, roots, and, of course, reggae.

“It’s fresh,” Wheetman said, “It’s what’s kept the band together.”  The band’s six members are all accomplished, professional musicians.  “Everybody in the band plays at least two instruments,” he explained.  Three of them area also singer/songwriters, and five members provide vocals, so Marley’s Ghost has material and musicianship covered.

Yet, “the band has always been about the song,” Wheetman observed, “We do a lot of harmonizing.  The band is really vocally oriented.”  They play multiple instruments on albums and at shows, but it is the fondness for vocals, and an open approach to the music, “is what has kept the band together for 32 years,” Wheetman said, “We all share a commonality.”

Marley’s Ghost performs covers of well-known and well-loved songs, written by other artists, rearranging them and even changing the genre at times.  They also play a lot of original music, some written by Wheetman.  “Over the years the songs have changed,” Wheetman said about their catalogue, “We still play songs from when we started.”  For the latest Marley’s Ghost album, ‘The Woodstock Sessions’, recorded at the Levon Helm Studios and produced by Larry Campbell, the band revisited some of its original pieces, rearranging and making them fresh.

Members of Marley's Ghost (l. to r.) Mike Phelan, Jerry  Fletcher, Dan Wheetman, Ed Littlefield Jr, and Jon Wilcox.  Photo Doug Plummer

Members of Marley’s Ghost (l. to r.) Mike Phelan, Jerry
Fletcher, Dan Wheetman, Ed Littlefield Jr, and Jon Wilcox. Photo Doug Plummer

“We all came into it as individual performers,” Wheetman said about his band mates.  Marley’s Ghost started as a four-piece band, with Wheetman, Mike Phelan, Jon Wilcox, and Ed Littlefield Jr.  In time, they brought on Jerry Fletcher as a drummer.  According to Wheetman, Fletcher now “sings the impossible parts,” and plays accordion and piano while Bob Nichols plays drums.

Going On ‘Without It’

The eclecticism of Marley’s Ghost may come in part from the individualism of its musicians, but their skills and musical knowledge make it easier for these pros to collaborate and explore different genres.

Ultimately, Wheetman believes the eclectic style of Marley’s Ghost is what has kept the band from hitting the big time.  Instead, the band stays honest and open to the music, and Wheetman enjoys that.  He’s played with big stars, and seen how it can change and warp (“you become the song,” he said) some individuals.  “The music business has changed,” he said, “for someone to make it today is almost a contrived thing.  The record companies decide.”  As Wheetman observed, the members of Marley’s Ghost like to say, ‘We couldn’t wait for stardom, so we went on without it.’

Members of Marley's Ghost (l. to r.) Jerry Fletcher, Dan Wheetman, Mike Phelan, Jon Wilcox, and Ed Littlefield Jr (not pictured, Bob Nichols).  Photo by Doug Plummer

Members of Marley’s Ghost (l. to r.) Jerry Fletcher, Dan Wheetman, Mike Phelan, Jon Wilcox, and Ed Littlefield Jr (not pictured, Bob Nichols). Photo by Doug Plummer

Wheetman acknowledged that he hasn’t done too badly for himself.  “All I’ve ever done is music and theater,” he said, “and I’ve raised five kids and own a house.”  And Marley’s Ghost still gets to record albums, and work with amazing talents.  With the freedom they’ve found working outside the establishment, they’ve released themed albums – a cowboy one (‘Jubilee’, produced by Cowboy Jack Clement,) and a gospel album (‘How Can I Keep From Singing’) – as well as “we did some all over the place,” Wheetman explained.

The name of the band contributes to its legend.  “Years ago, Jon got an offer to play for a big party.  They wanted a band that could play Irish and dance,” Wheetman recalled.  The band needed a name, and they started with a desire to honor Bob Marley, a musician they mutually admired.

Yet, the name also refers to Jacob Marley, of ‘A Christmas Carol’, and Wheetman compared this to the way the band switches genres, and musical eras.  “It’s honoring the past, without being tied to it,” Wheetman observed.  After 32 years, Marley’s Ghost honors its own past, while shaping its future.

The latest album from Marley's Ghost, recorded at Woodstock and produced by Larry Campbell.

The latest album from Marley’s Ghost, recorded at Woodstock and produced by Larry Campbell.

The band has been created by the creative influences of all its members.  “It’s everything that everyone brought in together,” Wheetman explained, the contributions of skilled musicians blending together.  “Hopefully that carries the honesty of the original,” he said, “but also reflects who we are today.”

‘The Best Ones’

As one of the members of Marley’s Ghost who writes music, Wheetman acknowledged that he still gets to introduce original pieces.  “I still write,” he said, “I’ve written three songs in the last few days.”

When asked about his inspiration and process, Wheetman explained, “I have two modes.  A song can come out of anywhere.  I’m a genre writer.  I can write a song that is in a certain genre.  It has served me well in my theater life.”  The first mode draws on daily experiences and encounters, finding heartache or spirituality in the mundane.  “I take them any way they come.  Sometimes I will write out a poem.  Sometimes I will just wake up and a melody is in my head.”

The second mode, Wheetman said, brings “the best ones.”  These are the songs that just come, “You’d better get a pencil and channel it,” he observed.  This is when the song appears, without any effort, and almost fully realized.

When it comes to introducing a new, original song to his band mates, Wheetman said, “It’s a pretty egalitarian situation.”  The whole band will play the song, and Wheetman said, “It’s pretty obvious to everyone if its working or not.”  The song may be performed as written, or members will contribute their own touches.  Ultimately, Wheetman said, you have to be willing to allow for changes.  “If you want it to be a band song,” he explained, “They have to be able to put their own fingerprints on it.”

Collaborating, members of Marley's Ghost at the Levon Helm Studios.  Photo provided by Marley's Ghost

Collaborating, members of Marley’s Ghost at the Levon Helm Studios. Photo provided by Marley’s Ghost

When Ghost Appears

On October 21st, at 7:30p, Marley’s Ghost will be performing at Dusty Strings, in the basement in Fremont.  Dusty Strings welcomes many great musicians, of many different genres, but this time it is possible to see (and hear) nearly all genres in the one show.

Purchase tickets now for this first-time-only concert by Marley’s Ghost at Dusty Strings.  Tickets cost $20 in advance, and can be purchased in the shop, by calling 206-634-1662, or through the DustyStrings.com website.  Tickets at the door will be $25, if available.  The Dusty Strings venue has limited space so get your tickets now!

 

 


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©2017 Kirby Laney.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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