The Gary Markasky Project will be doing double duty on Saturday.
The band will open for ZOSO to kick off the River Rock at the Amp concert series at the Warren Community Amphitheatre, and then it will head up Mahoning Avenue for its own headlining show at the Little Wing Cafe.
It will be Markasky's first time playing at the amphitheater, although he almost made an appearance last year.
Photo by Cyndi Wolfton
Former Michael Stanley Band guitar player Gary Markasky leads The Gary Markasky Project.
''I was there with Michael Stanley, but I didn't play,'' he said. ''I was going to sit in with them and do a couple of songs, but I had to get to my own show.''
Markasky played guitar in the Michael Stanley Band from 1977 to 1983, when the Cleveland group had a top 40 hit with ''He Can't Love You'' and set attendance records with back-to-back sell-outs at Richfield Coliseum and a four-show run at Blossom Music Center.
It might not have happened if Rick Derringer had been quicker about making up his mind.
''Myron (Grombacher, who played drums with Markasky in Allegheny Workhouse when they both were in high school) and I had just gone up to New York to audition for Rick Derringer,'' Markasky said. ''He was trying out like 40 different rhythm guitarists. He also needed a drummer and liked Myron a lot. I came back the next day and heard Jonah (Koslen) was leaving (the Michael Stanley Band) and they wanted to offer me the gig.''
It worked out for everyone. Cleveland guitar player Neil Giraldo decided to audition for Derringer after hearing that Markasky was going with MSB. Giraldo and Grombacher ended up getting the job with Derringer and later backed Pat Benatar (Giraldo also married her).
''We were all buddies,'' Markasky said.
While Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck are some of his favorite guitarists, Markasky also was influenced by Phil Keaggy (Glass Harp), who he used to walk home from school with when they both went to St. Christine's in Youngstown. Seeing Keaggy play is one of the reason he first picked up a guitar.
''I had him show me a few things on the way home from school, then I started teaching myself to play,'' he said. ''Then I hooked up with Myron Grombacher and we started playing together. We'd sit up in his cellar or my bedroom and bang away all night.''
There were many highlights with MSB, but one of Markasky's favorite memories is an Atlantic coast tour where they opened for Jeff Beck.
''I had lunch with him every day,'' he said. ''No one plays like Jeff.''
The Gary Markasky Project - Markasky, lead guitar and vocals; Joe Fabian, bass and vocals; Joe Dunkel, vocals; Jeff Spencer, harmonica, guitar and vocals; and Jim "JR" Richley, drums - allows Markasky to show off his own guitar style, both on classic rock and blues standards as well as those MSB hits.
''What I wanted to do was take all the material I'd been writing that never got on MSB albums and do some of the things we did with MSB and represent it in a more aggressive way, maybe a little heavier," he said.
Eventually, he would like to release some of those originals, but he doesn't know when it will happen.
''I have some of them recorded, but they're not completely finished,'' Markasky said. ''I need to get some time to get everyone together, but a lot of us have other jobs.''