RIYL: Cream, Cactus Jim Soldi, the Monroes, Eve Selis Band, Rodney Crowell, Listen
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- "RIP Marshmallow Highway guitarist John Ruckle" · March 16, 2019
Influences: Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker's Air Force, Vanilla Fudge
Based in Kearny Mesa, Marshmallow Highway formed in the late 1960s, with its definitive lineup of guitarist John Ruckle (Clemson Weed Band), drummer Rod Howard, and Marc Intravaia, who played bass at the time. “Bass was my first instrument, but it was borrowed...when I had to give it back, I switched to guitar.”
“I was thirteen and in 7th grade. I wanted to be Jack Bruce, and John was a much better guitarist than me and still is, so I played bass for about a year.” The band played at several venues around town, as well as events like the Battle of the Bands at Ozzie's Music on El Cajon Boulevard at 68th Street.
“We played ‘Spoonful’ by Cream and ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ by Vanilla Fudge,” recalls Intravaia, who cites their main visual inspiration as Jimi Hendrix. “The fancy shirts [we wore] were inspired by Jimi, though he looked hip and we looked dorky. I think the audience giggled when we came in.”
When the band split around 1970, Intravaia and Carey Fox formed Blue Jeans of Heredity, which then became Head County. Intravaia’s résumé really filled out when KGB-FM radio seemed to become the local heart and soul of all things rock ’n’ roll: sky shows, the Homegrown Hour, Gabriel Wisdom, Jim McInnes, the KGB Chicken, the dancing janitor commercials...
“Back in the ’70s,” says Intravaia, “I was in a band called Listen, and we were on some of the Homegrown albums. In ’75 and ’76, or so, we did KGB’s musical logos and played music for their commercials...I was the guitarist you heard when they played ‘KGB San Diego’ at the top of every show. KGB used to put on free concerts at what is now called Starlight Bowl, but then it was Balboa Bowl. Listen did a few of those [shows].”
Intravaia’s guitar also anchored local one-hit-wonders the Monroes, albeit after their brief taste of fame with the 1982 new-wave hit “What Do All the People Know?” before he went on to play with Kenny Loggins, Kim Carnes, America, Suzy Bogguss, B.J. Thomas, and a long stint with the Eve Sellis band which continues to this day.
Guitarist John Ruckle also played with founding Monroes keyboardist Eric Denton in the Clemson Weed Band. As of 2011, Ruckle was playing in the Heat Show Band.
Marc Intravaia and John Ruckle reunited Marshmallow Highway one last time for a November 2018 performance. Ruckle passed away in March 2019.