Player Spotlight - Marcus King
By Strings Direct – 29 August, 2023
It seems that to carry the name King automatically graces you a path to join the the greats of guitar through some mystical force that is not seen or heard, merely felt and walked.
We find ourselves heading down south to the picturesque Greenville in the seat of South Carolina to take a look at a new King for this generation... Marcus King.
Marcus King is a young player who appears to be wise beyond his years in both technical complexity and pure soul, a Guitarist that transcends genre but definitely has roots in his influences.
There have been many King’s that have come before, but this one is both awe-inspiring and revolutionary; always respectfully paying homage to the legacy of his forefathers.
Marcus King was (metaphorically) born with a guitar in his hands. Marcus started to hone his guitar playing at the very late age of three years old… Late you say?... Well considering he was born into such a strong musical family you could say he was still on the fence between learning to walk and learning the six string.😉
Marcus quickly developed into playing live by the age of 11 alongside his father, Marvin King, a local blues hero and notable musician himself.
Another fundamental figure in Marcus's life was his grandfather who was a country guitarist with a love of Gibson Guitars. Most notably a 1962 ES-345 that was his lifelong musical companion and which Marcus of course became infatuated with. All of these influences began to mould the guitarist we see today into something quite spectacular.
Moments with Mentors and Peers
From a young age, Marcus quickly made quite an impact on the scene, capturing the eyes and ears of several iconic guitar players. Warren Haynes has been a significant role model (and collaborator) for King in the early days of his development.
“Marcus is the first player I’ve heard since Derek Trucks to play with the maturity of a musician well beyond his age,” Haynes says. “He’s very much influenced by the blues, but also jazz, rock, soul music, and many timeless genres of music. You can hear the influences, but it all comes through him in his own unique way. He has one of those voices that instantly draws you in, and his guitar playing is an extension of his voice and vice versa.” Warren Haynes
Haynes was part of the foundations that put King on a path to stardom. The Marcus King Band’s debut album, Soul Insight (2015) was released through Hayne’s 'Evil Teen Records'. Haynes produced the band’s self titled second album in 2016, also appearing on the track “Virginia”.
It would be easy and also lazy to categorise Marcus King as a generic blues player. If you take the time to listen and indulge in this young mans playing, you will hear a variety of styles and influences presented in a raw and unapologetic fashion.
King himself prefers not to pigeon-hole himself into one box or style. The blues influence is of course heavy and embedded into his veins, but his jazz expressions are also very distinguished from a background of attending the 'Fine Arts Centre' of Greenville, South Carolina for two years. It's here he disciplined his ear and defined his theoretical musicality.
Hailing from a generation that naturally leans towards innovation, King has most recently been involved with none other than 'The Black Keys' front man Dan Auerbach. This new venture is beautifully captured and described on Marcus's own official website.
“A 24-year-old guitar phenom and innovative songwriter, Marcus King can simultaneously switch from swaggering rock to supersonic soul – with his vocal powers taking centre stage on debut solo record El Dorado, out now. The album is a Dan Auerbach produced, genre-bending release from a world-class young talent, that will establish him as one of the most soulful voices of his generation.”
Carter & The King…
Marcus King is of course a guitar star of the modern age in his own right, he's come up the traditional way and carved his path and place amongst some of the most respected players of our time. But, we all now know that greatness takes momentum and exposure to really interact with a vast and limitless audience.
The power of a video in a guitar store in the modern age can be almost career defining, that store being Norman’s Guitars of course. 👌 In the video above we see a very young King (aged just 18) mesmerising the store with his soulful playing and epic blues vocal.
It seems that once players begin to get involved and demonstrate Vintage Guitars at the store, it catapults their status into a whole different realm.
We now see King with millions of views on YouTube and Instagram and rightfully so.... he’s a special talent.
“Music is kinda like your dog sometimes, you feel like it’s the only thing that’s never gonna hurt you. The only thing you can really trust.” (Marcus King 14.01.20 - Rolling Stone Magazine)
This newly gained popularity and discovery swiftly led to Gibson producing a custom shop signature model for Marcus.
A truly artful and painstakingly accurate replication of his grandfathers 1962 ES-345, known affectionately as “Big Red”.
King of Strings…
So now we come to the defining question, what strings does a young guitar hero trust and create their signature sound in?
String choice, gauge and brand is truly every guitar players individual voice and Marcus King puts his faith and gains his raw and and unapologetic tone from Elixir Strings. 🤘
“Elixir Strings feel the best to me, last the longest, and never get rusty! Life is too short for rusty guitar strings.”
Marcus has been using Elixir for 5-6 years and always comments on the positives of their performance and reliability.
His go to set as standard are the Elixir Nanoweb 11-49 Nickel Electric Guitar Strings.
“When you get your guitar out of the case, the strings still feel fresh even after it's been sitting there. I just like how long Elixir Strings last.... I recommend them to everyone."
The very informative Elixir video below shows Marcus discussing his strings in great detail and really displays how seriously this man takes his tone.
"I can 100% back up everything he describes here from personal experience of having Elixir Strings out on tour" (Phil, Strings Direct Staff Member)
The key features to note here are the fact that Elixir strings of course have a long lifespan along with consistent performance.
The way the strings react to various temperatures and environments described by Marcus here is absolutely spot-on. I've experienced this myself, taking the guitar out of the case ready for a gig and barely having to tune it as it seems to have held well throughout travel and variable climates."
The Nanoweb series from Elixir is their most popular electric string range but they also have other coated options too in the Polyweb and their latest offering, Optiwebs... their thinnest coating yet.
The fact that Marcus has managed to convert his father over to Elixir Strings after being set on another string brand for many many years is another testament of his truly inspirational character and the quality of the Elixirs.
This young player truly is a regeneration of a timeless generation. ✌️ ☮️