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Roger Marshall, and his band The Law, are proof that persistence pays off. They have their first single, “Hiding In The Wide Open”, hitting country radio now, with the full album project due for release on June 20. They have also recently completed a video for the the single and plan to tour extensively starting either late summer or early fall.
Besides Marshall, the Law includes two of his sons: Brandon on guitar and Jesse on drums. Other members are Jeff Ude, keyboards; Bob VanRyn, bass; and Gary “Meatball” McKeenin (former FBC Band member) on guitar.
For Roger Marshall, though, his current success has taken over 30 years to obtain. Originally from Fort Wayne, Marshall has been involved with well known area bands such as The Silver Dollar Band and D.J. and The DJ Band.
“My dad was a musician,” he said. “I was raised around it. His love for country and bluegrass was a big influence on me My first gig was playing guitar in The D.J.Band in 1972. By 1977, I’d started The Silver Dollar Band.
“I met Harold Shed, the producer, when I was playing with the D.J. Band in Auburn. I went down to Nashville with Harold, and he did a single with me called ‘Sweet Country Music.’ We’ve been working together ever since.”
That was just a taste of what the business had to offer, though. Marshall also had the opportunity to be the first to record what would be one of the biggest hit singles in country music. His version of the tune , however, never saw the light of day.
“My producer, Russ Zavitson, pitched me ‘Achy Breaky Heart’. I had it for over a year,” Marshall explained. “I was supposed to record the song. Everything that was set up with Billy Ray Cyrus was mine. Russ took the single into Capitol Records, and they told him, don’t come in here and ever bring a song like that ever again. He even had death threats because of that song.”
By this time, however, the album that was planned for Marshall was shelved. Shedd and Zavitson went on to have enormous success with Cyrus. Marshall went on to continued touring, waiting for another shot. By the mid 1980s, Marshall had his music career drastically altered.
“I ended up with testicular cancer,” he said. “It moved into my lymph nodes and went all through my body. I was supposed to play a show in Detroit, and the doctor just said, ‘No, you’re done.’ It broke my heart.
“I started having radiation five days a week and couldn’t do anything. I gave up my home, quit playing music and sold all my equipment. I was hurting every day and night. and they couldn’t find the source. Finally, they went in and took out seven feet of my intestines.
was pretty bad. They thought I wasn’t going to live and couldn’t believe it when I pulled through. I gained 40 pounds and beat the cancer. That just goes to show you that nothing is out of the question”
Marshall likes to tell how he was fishing with his son Brandon, and his cell phone rang. After finishing the call and hanging up, he turned to Brandon and said, “We have to put a band together. I just booked a gig.”
That was the start of Roger Marshall’s second chance. Originally the band was called Marshall Law, but the name had to be changed for legal reasons.
Marshall also realized that there just might be a place for a veteran musician such as himself. “The music we all grew up loving just wasn’t being represented,” he said. “We’ve lost the music to younger people with big productions. It’s not really the raw music that comes from the heart. That’s how I feel and that’s why I’m still playing.”
Marshall made several trips to Nashville and re-established his relationship with Zavitson. As improbable as it might seem, Zavitson agreed with Marshall about the possibility of an older musician having a chance. Due to the fact that many of Nashville’s major label offices have downsized, smaller labels such as Rannus Recording Company (Marshall’s new label) have a wealth of seasoned business talent to draw from. Marshall, his producer, and his label have come together at the right place and right time.
“I said years ago, I could see country crossing over and pop crossing over,” said Marshall. “It’s expanded way out there now. Acts like Shania Twain have hit both the country and the pop charts.
“The thing that we’re trying to do is come back to a more traditional country style, and a southern rock style. I’m from that traditional era anyway.”
Wherever the music takes him, Marshall has developed a deep commitment to his roots and to the people around him. “If you’re in a band and you struggle hard,” he said, ‘you’ve got to get along with your band members. Remember that without them, you’re nothing, and vice-versa. There’s no star, no big heads.
“One good example of what I’m trying to say is a guy who used to play bass for me on and off over the years, Jim Sells. He was a great bass player, and he became a close friend. He passed away from cancer recently, and I’ve always wanted to give him some credit. We miss him.”
Roger Marshall and The Law have overcome a lot. Marshall’s personal health issues, career near misses and an industry more focused on youth haven’t dissuaded him in the slightest. If anything, it’s made him determined to make the best of this present opportunity. It’s also made him grateful to be in a position where he can take another shot at a life-long dream.
“I’m happy, and all the guys in the band are happy. We have now done something that people struggle for for years. Now we’ve finally gotten to do all this. I just knew that sooner or later it would happen, and the good Lord has made it possible.”