To say Marshall Crenshaw is a rock ’n’ roll enthusiast with a deep and broad appreciation of the genre is an understatement. Casual fans may remember the bespectacled singer-songwriter for his early 1980s earworms “Someday, Someday” and “Whenever You’re On My Mind,” when he was in a fairly regular rotation on MTV. Or for his cameo playing 1950s legend Buddy Holly in the 1987 biopic “La Bamba.”
But the Michigan native’s passions have had him pop up in far more corners of the music industry. In addition to hosting “The Bottomless Pit,” a radio show that airs on New York’s WFUV 90.7 FM on Saturday nights and streams nationwide, he has maintained a healthy recording and touring career while occasionally being pulled into a myriad of musical projects. And at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, he comes to Laguna Grill & Rum Bar for a show with special guests the Dan Burke Acoustic Band.
Not only did he pen the Golden Globe-nominated title track for the 2007 biopic spoof “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” he was hired to curate a collection of 1950s and 1960s country music (1989’s “Hillbilly Music ... Thank God, Vol. 1”) and wrote a book about Hollywood’s rock music connection (“Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Movies”).
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Currently, a documentary and musical tribute to African-American record producer Tom Wilson (Bob Dylan/Simon & Garfunkel/The Velvet Underground) are currently in Crenshaw’s creative crosshairs, with the former targeted for a late 2018 release. Not bad for a guy who got his start playing John Lennon in the late 1970s national touring company of “Beatlemania.”
“I’m trying to make a documentary about a record producer named Tom Wilson. So I’m working on that. Simultaneously with that, I just started working on a Live at Lincoln Center salute to Tom Wilson,” Crenshaw says. “That’s just really getting started, and we’ve already gotten yeses from a lot of great people. I’m not going to name any names, but that’s a thing that is really starting to take shape. I hope it doesn’t fall off the face of the earth, but the whole thing is looking pretty good.”
The seeds for Crenshaw’s latter-day birth as a radio DJ were planted after appearing on a show hosted by Steve Earle on the late Air America, where the insurgent country icon had guests play their favorite records and talk about why they liked them. Shortly after playing a show at the Bowery Ballroom as part of the DKC/MC5 reunion tour, a conversation with friend and Dictators’ frontman Handsome Dick Manitoba revealed the latter was about to take a job as a DJ on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on Sirius/XM. It was just the push Crenshaw needed to pursue hosting his own radio show.
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“When Handsome Dick said (he was getting a show), I found myself being a little envious. I thought I’d get myself a radio show and that was it. I started doing it. I knew somebody in my neighborhood that owned a radio station and I asked if I could go on the air. I was terrible, but I kept doing it until I got comfortable at it,” he explaines. “Now my mind is just wired to do it every week, and I really love it. It’s a really good platform for me. I look at it as being another kind of artistic exercise.”
The Bottomless Pit is a self-described weekly roundup of items from Crenshaw’s personal record collection that numbers at about 3,000 records. With about 75 percent of it being material that he has a personal connection to, some of the sources date back to the music enthusiast’s childhood including “Bo Diddley’s 16 All-Time Greatest Hits” and an extremely rare 45 of John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” on a blues and silver Atlantic Records label. It’s this kind of passion that flows through Crenshaw’s performances, whether he’s playing solo with nothing but his two guitars, a foot-stomp board and his imagination or teaming up with instrumental garage rockers Los Straitjackets for a current tour.
“I never make up a setlist. I just walk up there, start playing one song and then try to figure out what would go well afterwards. I just try to wing it and go with the spur of the moment,” he says. “But with Los Straitjackets, we’re going to do a lot of old rock ’n’ roll songs and left-field covers.”