The Bruce Marshall Group

The Bruce Marshall Group
Night At Tupelo Music Hall

By Karen Nugent
February 2008

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The Bruce Marshall Group got a terrific kickoff on Jan. 18 as they geared up for the International Blues Competition in Memphis at the end of the month. The Boston Blues Society is sponsoring the band.

A special fundraiser at the Tupelo Music Hall in Londonderry, N.H. nearly filled the classy new venue. Marshall said about $1,300 was raised, including nearly $500 alone from a raffle for the band’s CDs.

The show was recorded live that night, with the disc available at the end of the show. The rest of the earnings, Marshall said, came from ticket and CD sales. He said steady donations have also come via the band’s Web site.

Besides Marshall, who smoked on electric, acoustic, and resolectric guitar, the band - his regular ensemble - consisted of John Donahoe on electric fiddle, sax and mandolin (yes, he played all three, a lot, all night. And the fiddle is a beautiful shade of electric blue;) Dave Cournoyer on guitar, Jeff Manjeau on bass, and Steve Wolpe on drums. Although Marshall does the bulk of the singing, Cournoyer can hold his own, at times stealing the thunder, and Donahoe is great on backup vocals.

They did two sets, and were called back for an encore, sprinkling a few classic blues songs (“I’m Ready,” “Messin’ With the Kid” and “Help Me”) with many original tunes and some country-flavored rock.

“Help Me” was the big hit of the night, bringing a group up on the two postage stamps that served as dance floors. The club really could use a proper dance floor – maybe they clear out tables on other nights. It’s a BYOB establishment, but the newly renovated room provides stacks of wine and beer glasses, and plenty of corkscrews. Light meals - wraps, cheese and cracker plates, chili, and sandwiches - are available, at good prices, along with soda and desserts.

Marshall said he plans to do six or seven songs the band played in Londonderry for the 25-minute set in Memphis. All of them are originals and include: Last Call, Dancehall Sweat, I Need a Raise, Say Little, If Dreams Were Money, Sorrow’s My Mistress, and Three Chords and the Truth.

Marshall, a Sudbury native who has been in the Boston music scene for years, paid tribute to the Marshall Tucker Band, doing “This Ol’ Cowboy” in the second set. It turns out Marshall was in the Toy Caldwell Band, with Caldwell being the founder and lead guitarist for the Marshall Tucker Band. He also wrote many of their tunes. Caldwell, who died in 1993, left the MTB band in the 1980s, and hired Bruce Marshall to be his lead singer, keyboardist and guitarist for two years.

Marshall’s own band was founded in 1991, and has toured extensively. They have five CDs released by AMT Records. Marshall, who was the runner up in the 2006 Boston Blues Challenge, performs more than 200 shows a year with his band, and with his duo partner, the fabulous James Montgomery; and as a solo act. He has shared the stage with the likes of B.B. King, James Brown, and Greg Allman.

The International Blues Competition, the world’s largest gathering of blues acts, is sponsored by The Blues Foundation and its affiliates, including the Boston Blues Society. Last year, more than 90 bands and 60 solo or duo acts competed, from 34 states and eight countries. The finals will take place on Feb. 2 at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis. Prior to the finals, musicians and bands have a rollicking good time in the famous Beale Street clubs.

If the Bruce Marshall Band kicks butt down south like it did that chilly night in New Hampshire, they’re sure to bring home the gold. Let’s all send good vibes, and more donations if you can spare it, with them!

To donate, or for more information, visit To read more about the competition or The Blues Foundation, visit

photos by Eric Scott Smith
more photos here...

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