fbpx
Connect with us

Create

The Catalyst interview: Marty Jourard, the Motels

Bill DeYoung

Published

on

Martha Davis and the Motels, 2024: Marty Jourard (wearing a hat) is second from left. Publicity photo.

It’s an indelible screenshot from music’s “new wave” period, the early to mid 1980s: Sultry singer Martha Davis, frontwoman of the Motels, in moody, noirish video vignettes created for the band’s melodramatic songs: “Only the Lonely.” “Suddenly Last Summer.” “Shame.” “Total Control.”

The band guys usually had minor acting roles in the videos, but Davis was the focal point, dramatizing the songs’ desperately romantic lyrics.

All these years later, the Motels live again, touring with other period artists in a package show called “Abducted by the ‘80s.”

The tour (including Wang Chung, Naked Eyes and Men Without Hats) stops at Ruth Eckerd Hall June 22.

Davis, of course, is still out front of the Motels. Look carefully, though, for another familiar face from those MTV chestnuts: It’s keyboard and saxophone player Marty Jourard, who joined the group in 1979 – soon after they all came together in Los Angeles – and was a key element in every one of their successes.

Davis and Jourard are the only golden-era Motels in the current lineup.

Jourard grew up in Gainesville, Florida, and witnessed firsthand the explosion of rock ‘n’ roll talent that came from that otherwise podunk college town, including Stephen Stills, Eagles Bernie Leadon and Don Felder and, of course, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

(Back in the day, Jourard and Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch made up two-thirds of a popular Gainesville band called Road Turkey.)

After relocating to California, Jourard joined his older brother Jeff (who was briefly a member of Petty’s Heartbreakers) in the Motels. Jeff Jourard left both bands before the hits came.

Today, Marty lives in Seattle, where he teaches music. He is the author of two books: The Marty Method, a keyboard instruction book, and Music Everywhere: The Rock and Roll Roots of a Southern Town, the Gainesville saga.

He is also – then, now and forever – a Motel.

  

St. Pete Catalyst: Working steadily as a member of the Motels in 2024 – does that feel like a victory lap? Like ‘All these years later, I deserve this’?

Marty Jourard: I just see it as a natural continuation of my musical path; I never know what it’s gonna be. I’m performing songs that I wrote the parts to. And I wrote a few of ‘em. It happened so naturally that I don’t frame it in any heroic terms. I’m just happy to be professionally employed and playing a setlist that I like every song.

Many people who are working at my age are journeymen – they’ll play with whatever band will hire them. And I’ve got the luxury of never having to do that. It’s work, but it’s been highly gratifying artistically. And emotionally.

 

In Seattle, do people know your history?

A mom came to me through the recommendation from somebody who said ‘He’s a good teacher for kids.’ She comes over with her kids, we say howdy-do and I bring them into my music room. Which has a lot of Motels posters and stuff, you know? She’s looking around and thinking ‘Is this guy a fan? I don’t get it.’ I don’t mention it, I say I can teach flute, I can teach your kids sax.

She emailed me later and said ‘I just found out why you’ve got so many of those posters! I just loved the band.’ And I’m thinking well, she didn’t recognize me, so … that says a lot. (laughing) It’s always a plus, but it’s hardly a reason to hire me as an instructor. It’s my ability to teach that’s really doing the heavy lifting there.

 

Martha, of course, is a very visible person. And everyone else has always been ‘the other guys in the band.’ The fact that she wanted you in the project – ‘please come and play with me again’ – that’s got to mean something.

Many good things have come out of my life and my career just because I met Martha Davis. But I also had to come to grips with realizing, when I re-joined, that there would be some sort of hubbub or notice that ‘original member joins after 28 years.’ And nobody gives a damn. At all. I realized, why should they?

My mother once saw the band play the Whiskey a-Go-Go, when I was in the band and my brother was in the band. The first album. We flew her in. And I asked her years later: So Mom, how did you feel, there you are in this club and you see both your sons playing this packed place? That must have been so great!

She goes ‘Actually, I never took my eyes off Martha from the moment she hit the stage till she left.’

I thought Mom, you could have at least lied to me!

The short version is, I’m this guy at stage left sitting behind a keyboard, who jumps up every now and then and plays sax. There have been so many members of the Motels, even before I joined in 1979. It’s not a lineup like U2 or the Beatles, you know? The constant has been Martha and the fact that I’m back just means that we can have the sax solos and the keyboard sounds exactly as played. Because I was on the record that we’re playing the song from.

 

So the fact is, she didn’t have to hire you. It could’ve been Joe Schmo up there playing keys. Specifically, it’s YOU. That certainly means something.

It does mean something, but it’s also the path of least resistance, and it happened like this: In 2010, Martha had moved north, closer to me. She was now in Oregon rather than North California. She called me and said ‘Hey, do you want to play a few odd gigs? We’re opening for the Go-Gos at the Hollywood Bowl.’

I played that, and about eight months later we played at the L.A. County Fair, opening for the Bangles. Then we did a short tour, and I was back, playing the keyboard and sax parts. It just made the band sound more authentic. Because these are very specific sounds on these records. Synthesizer sounds. It’s not like those are piano songs and they could hire anybody.

I guess my point is that there was no structure; I kind of oozed into the band in the same way that I did originally, actually. My brother pulled me in sideways. But I know a good thing when I see it, and so once I was back in I went ‘This is really good.’ It’s a very comfortable fit.

 

Talk to me about being on this ‘80s package tour.

Martha calls this period of music The Won’t-Go Awayties. Because people just love the ‘80s. Everybody was doing drugs and having sex, everything was cheerful and bouncy and everybody was well-dressed and sharp … people mythologize that period a lot.

We’ve got new records coming out, but the ‘80s is where the money is now. The ‘80s package is really the only way you can make money these days as an act, unless you’re top tier like Taylor, or Bruce, or Foo.

This is the only source of income. It’s certainly not record royalties or any sort of support; the infrastructure is running on fumes. But that’s a whole ‘nother subject.

Some ‘80s acts, there’s the one creative member left, playing to tracks. We play everything. We’ve got no tracks; everything’s played ‘by hand.’ We plug into amps! It’s just a rock band with a female singer.

I’m not falsely humble, but it’s pretty easy to be onstage when Martha comes out because … as long as I hit my pre-sets, and I don’t squeak on the high notes on the sax solos, it’s gonna be a good gig.

Find tickets for “Abducted by the ’80s” at Ruth Eckerd Hall here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us: spark@stpetecatalyst.com

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.