Marvel at Hall of Fame Show
Ken Marvel describes swamp pop as taking a country song, “changing the bass line and kick drum and adding triplets on the piano.”
Marvel grew up listening to music like that, such as T.K Hulin’s “I’m Not a Fool Anymore” or Jivin’ Gene’s “Breaking Up is Hard To Do.”
“My sister used to go across the river [to Louisiana] and would bring a bunch of those records back,” he says.
Later Ken took up piano at age 8.
“I was running around the neighborhood with this kid, and we’d go to his house and raid the icebox and one day he got on his piano and played boogie-woogie. That’s all it took for me.”
He played neighborhood pianos until one day a woman told his mother, “You need to buy your son a piano.”
The Marvel Band will perform at the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame Show, joined at the Bowers Civic Center in Port Arthur Jan. 23 by Marcia Ball (2010 Hall of Fame inductee), Susan Pierce and UltraSuede (doing this year’s Joplin tribute), Jivin’ Gene and Still Cruisin’ featuring Cheryl Guidry and Kenneth Babino. Also inducted will be Jin Records producer Floyd Soileau of Church Point, La.
The Marvel Band features Randy Creel on guitar, Larry Campbell on bass/organ, James Richardson on drums, Doug Deane on tenor sax and Tim Palone on trumpet.
“The band’s been together about six years,” Ken says. “The line-up has changed over time. The current line-up is other musicians that have played around Southeast Texas and we’ve become friends.”
Marvel went on to sing with Hulin and Jivin’ Gene, but it was at G.G. Shinn’s club in Lake Charles where he came to feel like a part of the Texas/La. music scene. He then had a series of regular dates in Alexandria, La., but eventually felt the strain of driving from Beaumont to Alexandria on weekends.
In 2003 Ken recorded his first CD “Mr. Swamp Pop,” which had seven original songs by either Marvel or Steve Grisafi.
In 2008, he released “Swamp Pop Music,” which contained all-original compositions. Both were recorded at La Louisianne studios in Lafayette, La., birthplace of Little Bob and the Lollipops’s “I Got Loaded” and Dale and Grace’s “I’m Leaving It Up To You.”
The latter features three musicians whom Marvel calls “the three best sax players in Louisiana” – Pat Breaux, Jon Smith (who toured with Edgar Winter’s White Trash) and Jason Parfait.
“I had ideas for songs for a long time,” Marvel says. “I had some time on my hands and started putting some of them down, and I soon realized that not a lot of people were putting out original swamp pop. I think Don Rich did a little bit, but mostly people are doing remakes of the oldies.”
The Ken Marvel Band’s Web site is www.kenmarvel.com.
Advance tickets for the Hall of Fame show are $22 through Jan. 22 at The Penny Record in Bridge City, 333 W. Roundbunch Road, or The County Record in Orange, 320 Henrietta St. Admission at the door is $24 and free to children 12 and under accompanied by an adult. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.