Jon Wilcox of Marley’s Ghost chats Bluegrass for the Greenbelt
Drawing inspiration from bluegrass, folk, country, R&B, reggae, and gospel, Marley’s Ghost has recorded nine genre-defying albums in the last quarter century. The band members are Mike Phelan, Dan Wheetman, Jon Wilcox, Jerry Fletcher, and Ed Littlefield Jr. Their latest effort, titled Ghost Town, was produced by the legendary Jack Clement.
Greenbelt Alliance: Who are you and how would you describe Marley’s Ghost?
Jon Wilcox: I was the founder of Marley’s Ghost with Dan Wheetman. I play mandolin and guitar and write songs. The band has been around, off and on, for 25 years. Somehow we’ve stayed alive even though we’ve all done different things occasionally. It started out as a combination of bluegrass, rhythm and blues, and reggae. Danny Wheetman and I were serious trad-folk guys as well, and that’s the heart of the band. I like to think of the band as basically an updated folk group.
GA: What is the story behind the name Marley’s Ghost?
JW: A Christmas Carol is certainly the main reference. If you know the band’s repertoire, there is an element of honoring the past and the future. And at the time the band was put together, Dan Wheetman and I were huge Bob Marley fans.
GA: What artist had the biggest influence on your music?
JW: I think the biggest influence was the New Grass Revival. They were breaking all the rules—playing acoustic music with energy. At the same time, there was something roots-y as well as modern about it.
GA: What do you like about the Bay Area?
JW: San Francisco is the best city in the world for one thing, and I’ve seen many of them. I’ve been playing the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley for 30 years. The Bay Area is really the spiritual home of the band.
GA: What environmental issues are you passionate about?
JW: I’m from Santa Barbara, so most of the people down here are heavily involved with saving the ocean. Just about everyone in the band is rabidly environmentalist, and we’re delighted and happy to be involved with Bluegrass for the Greenbelt.
Marley’s Ghost will be performing at Bluegrass for the Greenbelt on June 4 along with Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands, The Kathy Kallick Band, The Tuttles with A.J. Lee, Arann Harris & The Farm Band, and more!
– Alex Chen, Communications Intern