Julian Junior Marvin is commonly known as the guitarist for Bob Marley and The Wailers. With his new upcoming tour on the way, Junior takes us on a trip down memory lane. Reminding us of the lessons Bob Marley left behind in his music and how those lessons are still impacting his music...
So how does it feel to be coming back to London?
It feels great! My first concert was at the Rainbow in North London. It was a amazing experience that I'd never forget. And it will be great to come back and go up and down the English coast, and perform. I am looking forward to it.
In light of recent controversial politics will you be using this tour to spread a certain message?
Well it is pretty much the same message from Bob's time. The message is one love, positive vibrations and spiritual vibes, you know. Whether you are Rastafarian, Christian, Jew or Muslim we all need to practice more love and not be so scared of each other all the time.
So it's just being able to reinforce what Bob sang, wrote and talked about in the 70's coming up, through the 80's. Nowadays a lot of young kids when they come to us say 'Are you going to sing One Love or are you going to sing Three Little Birds.' I guess they heard the music through their parents or their grandparents. This message seems to transcend through the decades and through the generations, up to now the message remains the same. And we are honored to be able to continue performing that music.
Even if we write new songs it is still with the same theme, a message of one love you know. Bringing people together was what Bob felt was his responsibility, now it is a responsibility for everyone.
So how did the meeting with Bob Marley and The Wailers come up?
I actually met Bob Marley on Valentine's Day, February 14th 1977, because of Chris Blackwell. He was the CEO from Island Records. I was very good friends with a band called Traffic and they got me work at Island Records and also introduced me to Chris Blackwell.
Then I started out doing a session for him on a Toots and the Maytals record called Reggae Got Soul. And I think that they had not really experienced a guitar with Reggae on that level, and they were quite impressed with what I did, and what I was given in terms of making Reggae more appealing to a bigger audience.
So my experience with Blues, Rock and Reggae kinda of like meshed together quite well and most people like it, surprisingly. Then I was invited to work with Bob on two of his albums, Exodus and Kaya. They both went on to be very well acclaimed and sold very well. It gave me a good footing to be a member of the Wailers.
What was the initial meeting with Marley like?
Well I didn't know that I was going to meet Bob Marley when Chris Blackwell came to pick me up on Valentine's Day. He made me cancel my dinner with my girlfriend but he assured me that it wouldn't take too long and I'd still make my date.
We went to Chelsea which is a very fashionable part of London at the time and we walked into this house. This house that had like some 7 storey's, one of those pure old British houses, it was a very solid house, you know a very big house, a nice area. We walked in on the ground floor and Bob had his back turned towards me. So not being told that I was going to meet Bob Marley, I was like whose this guy with big dreads and a big aura, you know. I said to myself its gotta be Bob Marley.
He turned around and it was Bob Marley, he kinda like grinned and then we both grinned and slapped five and talked about music. Then he said 'We've had our eye on you and we would like you to come an join the Wailers.' Then it became awkward! Because you know, the goose bumps came up and I was like, 'Who me, you talking to me.'
It was a very good experience meeting him, I remember it very, very well, very vivid, and I actually had my guitar with me cause I thought that I was going to do a session in the studio. So he said ' Well come and jam a couple of songs with me.' And we played Waiting in Vain and Exodus. I guess he was still putting those songs together for the album and we jammed for about an hour and half. He stepped further and said, 'Wow, you have gotta come and work with us.'
We know that you turned down a deal with Stevie Wonder to play with Bob Marley. Did that affect your relationship with him?
Like I said I got a call from Chris Blackwell on Valentine's Day and he didn't know that I had also got a call from Stevie Wonder on the same day. Cause I was till kinda in shock and he added to the shock by taking me to meet Bob Marley. So I was really confused at the time and I kept pinching myself to see if it was real, and I spoke to Stevie, who was very good friends with Bob at the time. They actually did a concert together in Jamaica and he'd written Reggae songs like Master Blaster and Boogie on Reggae Woman.
When I told him that I was offered a job with Bob and it wasn't a long term contract he said: 'Well okay, go ahead and try, and if it doesn't work out give me a call.' A couple of years later we did meet in Philadelphia at a music convention that was put on by famous producers and song writers. Bob Marley was the featured artist along with Stevie Wonder.
So all three of us where in the same place at the same time performing and Steve was great, very supportive and actually helped Reggae in America. By recording the Reggae songs that he did, Master Blaster was a top ten hit, Boogie on Reggae Woman did very well as well which helped Reggae a lot in America. Because they have so many choices of music in America and Reggae at the time was struggling to get in there.
Bob had a hit with Exodus and a hit before that Rational Migration, and a big hit with Could be Loved. The longevity of these songs has always been very important and we are very proud that it is still there.
Do you have any interesting stories with Bob Marley and The Wailers?
Well when I first joined the band they thought that I was from Ethiopia, and then they thought I was from America. Then they actually discovered that I was actually Jamaican and I think they were a little bit disappointed.
How did you feel when you discovered that they found the Bob Marley tapes?
Oh man, I was so excited about it you know, that's a gem right there and I just hope that they make good use of it and maybe pay us some too.
Has fame affected your consciousness in any way?
Well I am still waiting for it to kick in!
What English artists are you listening to at the moment?
Well there are many English artists that I liked growing up. I was a big fan of Led Zepplin, Eric Clapton, the Beatles, Traffic and of course I was a big fan of many American artists like Jimi Hendrix. My first job was actually with a Blues singer guitarist by the name of T-Bone Walker and I learnt a lot from him, and today I like Cold Play but there are so many artists that I like now and it hard to single them out, you know.
But the musicians coming from the UK and Europe had a big influence, especially in America and around the world and I think it is still the same. A lot of trends are started in the UK with music, and it's like okay, lets catch up.
What would you feel a swimming pool with if it could be anything?
Food. Non perishable food to help feed some of the starving people around the world.
It's been great chatting to you
The Wailers head out on their UK headline tour this March. Tickets are on sale now and available at www.gigsandtours.com