Markiss & Shades of Color
@ Biscuits & Blues, May 2, 1997

John Markiss was 17 when he started playing with the blues legends in the clubs around Chicago in the early 70's. He was among a group of young black blues performers at the time who were embraced by the older generation of blues players in town. Markiss and some of the other young players, like Lurrie Bell and Michael Coleman were seen as the musicians who would be carrying on the blues torch.

A turning point in his blues career came as the young Markiss attended a Howlin' Wolf show and was asked to join the Wolf on stage to play guitar along with Hubert Sumlin. He wound up touring with Wolf. In addition to Wolf, Markiss has played with the Muddy Water's band, Mojo Buford, Syl Johnson, Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, the Kinsey Report, Lonnie Brooks, Son Seals and many of the other Chicago blues artists over the past 25 years.

In the mid 80's he moved to Minnesota to play with Ipso Facto and other world music groups. He started the blues band Shades of Color in 1988 and was voted the best new group at the Minneapolis black music awards that year. Recently Markiss has played with the International Reggae Allstars and Shangoya. His new Shades of Color band has been performing since last fall with the current line up of Fredrico Lawler on bass, Brian Alexis on drums, and Mike Dripps on keyboards.

The blues are John's roots and his recent show at Biscuits & Blues featured an evening of outstanding Chicago blues. The first set started off with a fitting Memphis Slim number Every Day I Have The Blues and followed with Stormy Monday with Markiss singing like he meant every word of it - like he truly felt the blues. Markiss has a good blues voice that expresses the deep emotions of the blues. During the second set his version of Muddy Waters Mannish Boy brought this Chicago classic into the 90's (or colorized as Markiss said) with a smoother feel to it than the original. During this song the drumming of Brian kicked in and really rocked for a short solo. John's blistering guitar then took it to a new height and finally John and Fredrico got down and funky and then added some deep soul at the end. That was a pretty exhilarating experience.

Markiss plays guitar with an emotion and feeling that displays more than just technical virtuosity. He has a soulful feeling, a certain touch on the guitar, that elicits strong feelings in the listener. Shades of Color plays some great Chicago blues in a style that doesn't just mimic the original song but takes the listener on a musical journey that breaths new life and freshness into the blues. Keep an eye out for their shows around the Twin Cities. These guys are good!

Copyright 1997 by Ray M. Stiles. All rights reserved. All reviews are copyright protected. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.