Perhaps, instead of calling him the “Magician”, guitarist extraordinaire Marlon McClain’s nickname should be called the “Chameleon,” because of his innate ability to change right before the music aficionados eyes and adapt or adjust his multitude of talents to enhance any genre of music or take a project to the next level.
If there is a problem with McClain, it’s where he is, behind the scenes or out front banging out classic licks that were influenced by Jimmy Hendrix’s classic sound, the funk and soul of James Brown, and Terry Kath of Chicago Transit Authority as a youngster growing up in Portland, Oregon. At age 12, he received his first guitar from his parents as a gift and learned to play it by reading Mel Bay’s Modern Guitar Methods, apparently a good student. Good enough to establish a local band *Pleasure* with his lifelong friend, Nathaniel Phillips, an internationally known and accomplished bassist in his own right, releasing 6 albums on (Fantasy Records) 1975 -1981 and touring with legends such as Grover Washington, Earth Wind & Fire, Cameo, Kool & The Gang, George Benson, and the Crusaders.
Pleasure was a risk taking, horn driven band with jazz overtones that accentuated their rock/funk/soul foundation. Songs like Glide, Future Now, Joyous and Sassafras Girl are still old school staples on urban ac radio today. www.concordmusicgroup.com/artists/Pleasure/
For many in the business, the only way to keep up with McClain and his sequestered, low-key behind the scene lifestyle is to read the trade publications to see what he is up to or the notes compiled on newly released music. He is at home in the studio or performing occasionally on the road, but his love is producing and writing for other artists.
As a writer - producer, McClain has written songs for ,Tower of Power, En Vogue, Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber , David Frizzell, George Clinton, Pleasure, Eric Benet & George Benson; contributing to over 50 million in album sales worldwide. He was also the guitarist for Motown Grammy award winning group The Dazz Band, contributing as a writer - producer to the Hot Spot, Wild & Free, Rock the Room, Under The Street Lights and Time Traveler albums. His association with band leader saxophonist Bobby Harris led to the formation of Major Hits Records and the launching of Charlie Wilson’s, formerly of the Gap Band, solo career with UAC #1 song “Without You” in 2000 from his album “Bridging the Gap”. Back in the early days, he and his still partner David Leiken through their company Mac Man Music Inc., were discovering groups such as Nu Shooz, the Portland based group that skyrocketed up the Billboard Charts with their Grammy nominated hit “I Can’t Wait”, losing out to Bruce Hornsby & the Range that year, 1987. The Jeff Lorber Fusion, Kenny G, Shock “Let’s Get Crackin” and the Dan Reed Network
McClain has also worked on albums with The Jazz Crusaders (Soul Axess), Smokey Robinson (Intimate), Boney James (Pure), Curtis Salgado (Clean Getaway) Atlantic Starr (All In The Name Of Love), Stephanie Mills (Something Real), Maurice White, Regina Bell (Reaching Back), United We Funk (SOS Band, ConFunkShun, Dazz Band, Midnight Star, The Bar-Kays, Roger Troutman), Shades of Soul (Shades of Soul) Gerald Albright (New Beginnings) Motown Year By Year: The Sounds Of Young America (Arranger), Tim Bowman (Tim Bowman), George Benson (Songs & Stories) virtually a Music Hall of Fame list of performers; which highlights McClain’s diversity of skills and respect among his colleagues.
So much respect and support, that many of his industry friends have been encouraging him, some would say begging, to get out there more and showcase his talents, for a change, a tough sale but eventually he caved in to pressure, from his three children (Brielle, Marlon ll, and Celeste) and wife Manette. His family was keenly aware of his achievements and work with other artists, but they wanted him to put his signature on a project.
McClain has done just that with, *TBD* a guitar driven mix of fusion, funk. R&B, and jazz with undertones of rock and blues. It is a follow up to his 1981 Fantasy Records release “Changes”, which featured special guests Jeff Lorber, Steve Smith, and Randy Jackson. *TBD* includes collaborations with Damien Erskine (bass), Phillip Martin(sax), Patrick Lamb(sax), Jeff Lorber(keys) & guitarist Tim Bowman.
Marlon says that many of the ideas and concepts for the songs on TBD came to him while being on the road with Guitars & Saxes. G&S featured Jeff Golub, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum and Tim Bowman with an all-star backing band. “I had such a great time, working and playing with those talented musicians, that it inspired me to write songs like “The Big Picture” (co-written with Jeff Golub) and “Dreaming of You” (co-written with Tim Bowman)” other notable tracks are “TBC” which is a tribute to James Brown, “Get What You Want”, “Just Chillin” and the sexy smooth “This Is”… The album really is a reflection on my many years in the business and all of the great artists, producers and writers that I have been fortunate to work with.
Like the changeable Chameleon, there is a time and place to be recognized and to be incognito. In the case of Marlon McClain, there is a time to remain behind the scenes and a time to be visible. This time around, there is no mistake where Marlon McClain is, in the spotlight, where he should be.