Friday, August 20, 2010
Marquise Knox: Wise Beyond His Years.....
The expression “Old man in a young man’s body,” certainly applies to Marquise Knox, who at 19 seems to have the depth of a bluesman three times his age or older.
The Granada, Mississippi native, who now lives in St. Louis, has caught the attention of the blues world’s elder statesmen.
He has jammed with Honeyboy Edwards, Homesick James and Louisiana Red. Eighty-one years his senior, the late St. Louis legend Henry Townsend once told him: “you date back to my day!” And Bobby Rush did a couple of shows with him.
He fell under powerhouse guitarist Michael Burks’ wing when Burks played on”Man Child,” Knox’s 2007 release.
Not uncommon for someone his age, Knox reportedly likes rap, but his commitment is to the blues and his deep vocals and precisely-timed guitar licks draw standing ovations, such as the one he received after a performance at this year’s Pocono Blues Festival.
One reason could be that blues is literally in Knox’s blood: He is cousin to two St. Louis heavyweights, harmonica giant Big George Brock and the late guitarist Bennie Smith.
BBP got to know Knox a little better during this brief interview:
BBP: You’re an amazing guitar player, where’d you learn to play like that?
Marquise Knox: I earned from my grandmother and my uncle.
Knox: And from my grandmother’s brother Clifford.
BBP: Tell me a little about yourself, where you’re from…
Knox: I’m from Granada, Mississippi. I was born February 8, 1991. I’m 19 years old and I live in St. Louis now. The blues is what I want to do.
BBP: How old were you when you first picked up a guitar?
BBP: What drew you to it? What made you pick it up?
Knox: There was a guitar, layin’ around my house and my grandmother and my uncle knew how to play so I guess you could say it was in the family. Somebody was going to play the guitar, so I’m the one.
BBP: So do you write most of your own songs?
Knox: I did a few covers today but I’ve got a lot of my own too.
BBP: Tell me, you know I’ve noticed that you have a real good relationship with the bass player (Russell Sims). How long have you guys been playing together and do you guys work it out before performances.
Knox: We just do…Whatever we’re going to do we just do it on the spot. I don’t have a direct set if I want to do things I just do it.
BBP: who are some of your favorite guitar players, who are some of your influences?
Knox: I like BB King, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters.
BBP: You kind of moved toward the rock end a little bit. Do you like any rock guys?
Knox: Naw I’m just a bluesman. And R & B. Black music. I’m not no rock and roller.
BBP: I was curious, a lot of kids your age listen to the hip hop. To find a 19-year-old who listens to the blues, that’s kind of a rare thing. How do you explain that?
Knox: Well it was something that I wanted to do and I did it. I can rap a little bit but rap is not my style, I pursued the blues. And the guitar. I learned to play the guitar before I learned how to sing. So I think it all went hand-in-hand with one another.
BBP: Your friends ever give you a hard time for playing blues, which they might see as old folks’ music?
Knox: No, no. They like it.
BBP: Where have you been touring so far?
Knox: I’ve been over in Germany, Switzerland. We been in a few places.
BBP: How did the Europeans react to you?
Knox: They love it, they love it. I can’t understand what they say but they love it. (laughs)
BBP: Well this audience seemed to love it too I mean they stood up, they clapped. How did you feel about that?
Knox: If they didn’t do that then I didn’t do my job right.
BBP: What do you think of this blues festival?
Knox: Oh, it’s nice. I like it. I like the mountains. You get to see different things, meet different people different parts of the world, so I like it up here.
BBP: Now, if someone wanted to play as well as you what would you tell them to do?
Knox: Practice. Practice. That’s it. Practice. Learn it all. Try to. Whatever you want to do, learn it. It don’t hurt to try learning something else either.
BBP: How about the shortcuts? Any shortcuts?
Knox: No I never took no shortcuts. All I did was pick up the guitar and start playing. It’s natural, I know. But some folks, I know everybody’s story different but if the good lord but with the guitar, I feel at home with the guitar so It’s natural.
BBP: How many hours a day did you practice when you were coming along?
Knox: I practiced during the night, I never did practice during the day, I played a little bit during the day, I did most of my learning at night.
BBP: Play for hours?
Knox: Yeah, I’d wake up in the middle of the night, play for a couple of minutes. Whatever comes up I try to figure it out on the guitar.
BBP: When you played in the middle of the night you didn’t wake your parents up?
Knox: No I played my guitar in bed, unplugged.
BBP: Where do you want to take your music?
Knox: All over the world, all over the world, or as far as I can. I don’t want to get too big. I want to get known.
BBP: This album you have out now, was there a certain theme that was behind it or something you’re trying to say with it?
Know: No, I just …that was something that I wanted to do too. So I did it. Nothing I do has a purpose. Cause it’s the blues. My natural.
BBP: how did you end up in St. Louis?
Knox: Family moved, so I had no choice but to come up there (laughs).
BBP: How does your family feel about this? Supportive?
Knox: Oh yeah, very supportive.