Singer. Songwriter. Guitarist. "Someday, Someway." Co-writer of the No. 1 hit "Til I Hear it From You" by the Gin Blossoms. Golden Globe nominee for the "Walk Hard" soundtrack.
OK, he also played Buddy Holly to Lou Diamond Phillips' Richie Valens in the '80s movie "La Bamba."
Marshall and I have a long history together … unbeknownst to him.
At the first show of his that I attended (Jan. 16, 1992), I was downstairs at Toad's Place in New Haven using the pay phone before the fun began. The booth was right across from the dressing room. Here I am, taking annoying questions from the copy desk, and MC walks in, guitar case in hand, and pauses.
He gave me a suspicious glare. I waved.
A decade later, I saw him play a tiny pub in Dallas. After the show, he came out to the bar and we talked. Turned out, he had lost his wallet before the show. So, I bought him a Shiner Bock.
He played the same pub the next summer. We talked about his appearance on a Nick Lowe tribute album along with another one my faves (and, I learned, one of Marshall's), Graham Parker. I asked him if heard GP's latest album at the time. He said he hadn't.
We flew up to Connecticut to see my family the next week. Turned out Marshall was playing a free concert with Freedy Johnston in Westport.
So we went to the show. I spotted him before the show, re-introduced myself … and handed him Graham's CD, Deepcut to Nowhere.
"You said you didn't have it," I said. He seemed grateful, but also a bit freaked that I "followed" him from Dallas. Pure coincidence, MC, I swear it.
But then, when I left the newspaper business, my colleagues made up a fake front page that included an article about my many alleged celebrity stalking over the years. He was on the list.
So, Marshall Crenshaw rocked my house party for two hours along with his regular drummer, Diego Volglino, and bassist Byron Isaacs.
My music-fiend friends in attendance, several of whom are "bass players" (they understand why I put quotes there), all commented on how good Byron was.
one of the songs on it, too. This last tidbit I should have known at the time since I just listened to the album by the former drummer of The Band the day before.
And I read the liner notes while listening to it, too. In fact, the CD was sitting on the desk in my office … WHERE I WAS HANGING WITH THE BAND BETWEEN SETS.
Big, frickity frick-frick, Homer-esque, triple-dog D'OH!
Byron, forgive my ignorance. I am so not worthy of your presence. Can I brew you up some more hot tea?
Back to the show -- awesome. This, despite the fact that it was misty with a windchill of minus 16 (approximately) and the propane heater we had on stage kept blowing out. As I said to the attendees afterward, it's not often you get to have a man with Marshall's credentials rock your backyard while running the risk of simultaneously electrocuting him, exposing him to frostbite and setting him on fire.
Aside from the musical highlights, including opening with one of my faves "Fantastic Planet of Love," my favorite parts on the evening included:
-- Fetching hot drinks for the band and crew (Marshall only took a large mug of hot water to wrap his fingers around for warmth between sets). This is the closest I have ever come to being a roadie. I'm just glad they didn't ask me to get them groupies. I've never been THAT good at any job.
-- Learning that Diego the Drummer let Murphy out of his crate in the basement (not punishment, just protecting him from the food and liquor and vice versa) and played with him before he took the stage. You, Murph, have been petted by one sweet timekeeper.
-- Seeing my goofy kids and their buddy, Andrew, play air guitar throughout the entire show.
-- Talking baseball with the band between sets. Marshall had recently been to Yankee Stadium to watch his home team Detroit Tigers play.
-- Learning later that My Love asked the crew who had brought the Coke. The kind you drink. She found a bottle on the patio while they were setting up. A big no-no in our home as she works for the better company. But an inappropriately hilarious question to pose to them, nonetheless.
When the evening finally ended, I realized Marshall and the guys left before I could add a few more autographs to my collection and get a formal photo with everyone. But I don't blame them, their fingers were blue from the cold.
"It's an odd sensation, playing your instrument when you can't feel your fingers," to quote Bryon between sets.
But Marshall did leave me a gift. Late that night, draped over our underused treadmill in my basement, I found the clothes he changed out of before the show.
I'm sure he left them there by accident.
I think. Maybe. Hmmm.
Speed-dialing My's Love Blackberry …
* * * * *
- Photos: Justin Murray and Richard Shapiro
- Thanks to Anders the sound man (hope you made it back), the cola-drinking roadie (I'm very sorry I forgot your name), all my friends who attended and those you who couldn't but sent your regards, and My Love for pulling this whole thing off.
- Marshall's clothes were not harmed and returned safely.
MARSHALL'S SET LIST: Fantastic Planet of Love; There She Goes Again; 2541; Someone Told Me; Whenever You're on My Mind; Alone in a Room; Dime-a-Dozen Guy; Crying, Waiting, Hoping; Right on Time; What Do You Dream Of?; Passing Through; Long and Complicated; Spell is Broken;Valerie; From Now Until Then; Favorite Waste of Time; Someday, Someway; Cynical Girl.