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Marshall Crenshaw

The pop-minded singer/songwriter Marshall Crenshaw built up an impressive body of work over the course of his career, showing a fine craft for everything he approached while stubbornly following his own creative muse to reach that end. To call Crenshaw's career "interesting" would be putting things mildly. He starred in several movies and portrayed John Lennon in the road-show version of Beatlemania. His songs were featured on several film soundtracks and covered by such diverse artists as Robert Gordon, Bette Midler, Kelly Willis, Marti Jones, and the Gin Blossoms. He assembled a bunch of like-minded show business acquaintances and issued a book about rock & roll movies entitled Hollywood Rock & Roll. He assembled compilations for record companies (most notably Hillbilly Music...Thank God! for the short-lived Bug Music label) and contributed chapters to books on vintage guitar collecting. In short, Crenshaw is a true rock & roll renaissance man, and his own music remains as commendable as his alternate projects.

Born in Detroit and raised in the surrounding area, Marshall played in a number of different bands in high school, eventually landing in his first professional combo, ASTIGAFA (an acronym for "A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed for All," cribbed from the back of Sgt. Pepper's). Although nothing releasable came from this venture, the experience cemented the basic ingredients of Crenshaw's style that would surface full bloom at the dawn of his solo career. According to Crenshaw, "That band really didn't have a high profile in Detroit, but I was using that time, working alone, woodshedding, gathering information. Around '73, I just stopped listening to the radio and just became immersed listening to old 45s from the '50s and early '60s. It seemed to me that there was more immediacy in those records than the stuff that was on the radio at that time." But just as his ears learned to love echoey mono '50s records, his songwriting influences went in an opposite direction: "One batch of stuff that I really feel that I was strongly influenced by was a lot of the R&B-pop kind of stuff that was around in the early '70s. I just love that romantic kind of R&B kind of sound, all those chord changes in those tunes."

Unfortunately, Detroit was not a musical hotbed during the late '70s, so Crenshaw responded to an advertisement in Rolling Stone and auditioned for the Broadway musical Beatlemania instead. Hired as a John Lennon understudy, Crenshaw moved to New York City and quickly found himself in a heady, competitive situation. After completing his six-month "Beatle boot camp" training, he appeared in the show for six months in Hollywood and San Francisco, then finished up his remaining six months with the production on the road. Though he found the show creatively stifling, it made him sit down and figure out what kind of music he wanted to create. After buying a four-track recorder, Crenshaw began making demos whenever he was home.

Marshall was soon armed with demos galore and began dropping them off to any show business connection who might listen. Additionally, his younger brother was playing drums in Crenshaw's trio, which was starting to plug into New York City's burgeoning new wave club scene. An early fan of the trio's music was local scenester Alan Betrock, who had recently launched his own label, Shake Records. It was Crenshaw's debut single, "Something's Gonna Happen," on Betrock's label that kicked up enough noise to bring major-label interest knocking at his door. Signing with Warner Bros. in 1982, Marshall recorded five well-crafted studio albums before parting ways seven years later to sign with MCA for one album, Life's Too Short. During this flurry of activity, Crenshaw also flexed his acting muscles, portraying a high school bandleader in Peggy Sue Got Married, Buddy Holly in La Bamba, and making a guest appearance on the Nickelodeon series Pete and Pete.

Emerging from a three-year hiatus, Marshall then signed with the independent label Razor & Tie and released a live album, Live: My Truck Is My Home, in 1994. He also penned the Top 10 single "Til I Hear It from You" for the Gin Blossoms, providing the band with their highest-charting single to date. A new studio effort, Miracle of Science, followed in 1996. The 9 Volt Years, a collection of demos and home recordings, appeared in 1998, and a year later Crenshaw returned with a new studio effort, #447. Although Crenshaw's audience had waned considerably since his '80s heyday, his albums still received critical accolades for their power pop prowess, and he was enlisted to write the humorous title track for the film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story in 2005. Following the movie's release two years later, Crenshaw returned to his own work with 2009's Jagged Land. ~ Cub Koda, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

rotuserp
Just saw him for the first time at a small place in NJ. He immediately struck me as a unique artist and with just his guitar and voice performed an excellent & engaging set.
Mary Jean And 9 Others is my favorite album- oh yes- I mean vinyl. Every song is a gem!
Great music, from my point of view, transcends the present and takes you somewhere when you hear it. Anytime I hear Marshall's work, I immediately feel something unique. He is a virtuoso by any definition and his music is timeless. Great artist.
I suppose all of us here have finicky taste in music....thi s guy is tops! Trying to one day complete the collection.
Crenshaw is fantastic. I love listening to Someday, Someway. It reminds me of Buddy Holly's songs. I do NOT understand why he is so underrated.
mcfeen
The guy is incredible.
kvons1
Marshall Crenshaw---a rather obscure and under rated artist. Long & Complicated- - - g r e a t tune amongst others.
janas_02476
Life's Too Short just might be the most under rated record in pop history. MC is an incredible live talent (he will play a few incredible Chet Atkins instrumental s ) and supposedly knows the chords to every pop song every written.
Probably one of the most underrated musicians of all time!!!!
apryl_wime
This album is fantastic. I used to have it on cassette.
dic_camarill o
Marshall Crenshaw is awesome! His tunes are so catchy and they make me smile. I grew up listening to him! Short, cool songs! You gotta love it!
rwitman21
Paul: if she does, will you adopt me? You lucky, lucky man.
Flew down to Santa Monica in February to catch both shows at McCabes Guitar shop - my Christmas present from my girlfriend. Now gonna see him here in Seattle next Friday. Liv'n the dream. Two years ago for Chrismas she flew us to Edmonton so I could see and meet Elvis Costello. I should marry her.
rwitman21
Also, I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in the Upper Midwest, "Someday, Someway" was a bona fide hit. If casual listeners up here knew MC, they knew him from that single.
rwitman21
The bio forgot the fine augmented reissues of his early albums for Rhino.
No commercial success? One phrase "casting pearls before swine". Also "no one ever went broke underestimat i n g the taste of the American public".
kingery2935
Gawd I miss this s**t!!!!!! Kids today have no idea what the real music is like.
My all time favorite and the only autograph I've ever gotten :-)

Wonderful stuff - a treasure beyond measure. Great live act as well. Catch him if you ever get the chance!
chevrier3
He is DA BOMB. I shall never get tired of listening to this true American pop genius. I have every album he has recorded. Marshall's lack of commercial success will go down as one of life's great mysteries. However bold this may sound, I would match his musical abilities and songwriting with Lennon and McCartney any day. He's just that good.
jayjaynng
Another thing - people talk about his singing, songwriting, etc., but nobody mentions his guitar playing. The guy is excellent! He's unique and creative. Like his singing, his guitar phrasing and timing are his own and don't copy anyone. Check out his solos, background chording and instrumental s on the #447 album. Great stuff!
jayjaynng
I listen to the #447 album at least once a week, and this is about five years after buying it. Not a weak song in the bunch, and the three instrumental s are even excellent! The lyrics, the unique phrasing can only be Crenshaw. Brilliant!
tfraser588
Saw him most recently at the Triple Door in Seattle...so l o show...very fine and contemporary performer even after all these years
love it
Again, we see a multi-talent e d individual who puts his hands in a recording, acting, singing,.... as stated from mlpollock { under-rated }. At least he is not swayed by the masses - he is doing what he wants to - thank you Marshall.
jpr
simply fine fine music

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