Marty Rowen: Local live music legend


Their residency started 12 years ago at Dodge Street Bar and Grill on Fat Tuesday when former owner and bar manager Bob Berzofsky put an ad in the paper to promote the first gig, saying “with two B-3’s back to back, the fat sound would be even fatter.” Thus, Fats Hammond was born.

And he was right … so right that a local videographer, Beth Cloutier, has taken it upon herself to document and film an independent movie about Fats Hammond. Hoping to release it by next year, she’ll shop it around to various film festivals. She knows of no other musical line-up quite like Fats Hammond anywhere and we have such access to them right here on the North Shore.

Back in the 70’s, Fats Hammond organ player Marty Rowen was part of an 8-piece blues band, rehearsing in a space at The Swizzle in Lynn, but also playing concerts with the likes of James Cotton, Commander Cody and James Montgomery. He also had a three year residency at the Terrace Lounge in Lynn with his instrument of choice at the time — a Fender Rhodes.

He brings that child-like insight into his weekly residency gig at Dodge Street every Tuesday night with bandmates Ken Clark (Hammond B-3 organ), Benny Benson (drums) and Mike Mele on guitar.

His key to keeping these nights fresh? Never rehearse. That way it’s always new, even if you’ve played the same song a hundred times. There are a hundred ways to play it differently, he says.

I have loved Marty Rowen’s playing for many years. He combines an almost childlike joy and love of learning that is inherent in all great musicians, with great mastery and understanding of music shared by all good teachers.

We recently sat down for another lesson on the guitar neck and combined it with a talk of his musical life, how he started and where he is heading.

Marty started playing piano at the age of four and it’s safe to say he’s never looked back. He started gigging at the age of 12 in a rock band, playing bass at the First Baptist Church in downtown Lynn. He did his first solo concert a year later, renting a Kimberly 6 pick-up guitar to play two original instrumentals.

Marty has been in love with music since he was a child, and he still gets that gleam in his eye when talking about chordal relationships on the guitar, or about improvising on his signature B-3 organ with his bandmates. He is a consummate musician with years of on the job training.

And he’s outspoken about backing venues that support live music.

“When you hear a band or artist out there that you really like, make sure you tell the management and the artist that it was enjoyable,” he says. “That kind of feedback is so important to musicians who are playing original music, especially. They are giving you the best that they have, so they deserve your attention and comments. Hopefully, the venues that support this type of musical interaction can continue to stay alive.”


I asked Marty if a solo CD is in the future for him and it is — he just has to decide if it will be piano or guitar. His dream would be to have a great-quality ‘live’ recording done at a gig. That way the spontaneity and excitement of having an audience would be captured.

Currently, Marty also teams up with guitarist Dave Brown, drummer Dave Mattacks for a trio that tears up audiences wherever they go. He also does a duo with Mike Turk who plays chromatic harmonica, as well as duos with Mike Miksis on upright bass and Mike Mele on guitar. His combinations are unusual mixes and blends of great talent that all work in their own unique way. You can tell he loves all of the musical paths he’s walking these days.

Catch Marty locally while you can. You will never be disappointed in his music or passionate performance.  He is truly an inspiration to all who hear him.

Fats Hammond - Myspace

julieBy Julie Dougherty

Julie Dougherty has been singing since the mid-sixties, performing folk music at coffeehouses in the Boston area, such as the Unicorn Coffeehouse and the King’s Rook. She has traveled much of the country singing Irish music, original folk-rock music, country-rock music in the 80’s, and has made several trips to Nashville, where she placed two original songs with two major publishing firms. She has also hosted a songwriting cable TV show called Songwriters In The Round.