B i o g r a p h y
Tony Markellis was born and raised in Helena, MT, where his involvement with the bass began in the third grade as a member of the Ray Bjork Elementary School Orchestra. Continuing with high school and community orchestras, in the 1960s came the inevitable folk groups and rock & roll bands.
Starting at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1969, Markellis studied anthropology and art (and afterhours, folk and blues at the Ark and the Blind Pig with such living legends as Paul Siebel, Rosalie Sorrels and Johnny Shines). He quickly became the bassist of choice of many visiting artists.
GO EAST, YOUNG MAN
A tip from friend Bonnie Raitt pointed Tony east to Martha’s Vineyard, where he spent the winter of 1972-1973 working with singer/songwriter Joel Zoss (“Too Long at the Fair,” “Gave My Love a Candle”). Hearing about an opening in the ever-evolving David Bromberg Band in the Spring of 1973, Markellis went to NYC to investigate and instantly found a musical home. He remembers his time in the band as the most musically diverse and challenging situation a young musician could wish for—a folk/bluegrass/jazz/blues/tag-team match with bandmates including Jay Ungar, Peter Ecklund, John Payne, Billy Novick, Neil Rossi, Evan Stover and, of course, the audacious Bromberg himself. Occasional guests would include Dr. John, Vassar Clements, Emmylou Harris, Maria Muldaur, John Hartford, Norman Blake, Sam Bush, Commander Cody, Buddy Cage, Steve Goodman, Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Jeff Walker and members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
A LITTLE NAME DROPPING
In over four decades as a professional musician and producer, Markellis has toured and/or recorded with Trey Anastasio, The Mamas & Papas, Paul Butterfield, David Bromberg, Kilimanjaro, David Amram, Johnny Shines, Ellen McIlwaine, The Burns Sisters, Rosalie Sorrels, Mary McCaslin, Jim Ringer, Paul Siebel, Eric Von Schmidt, Michael Jerling, Bob Warren, Rosanne Raneri, Phil Cody, Railbird, Jo Henley, No Outlet, Floodwood, Krewe Orleans, Ghosts of the Forest, and countless others.
As a founding member of the award-winning Vermont-based jazz fusion quartet Kilimanjaro and The Unknown Blues Band featuring Big Joe Burrell, Tony has performed at concert halls, clubs and festivals all over North America, Europe and Russia.
In constant demand for his studio experience, he has produced albums by singer/songwriters such as Michael Jerling, Bob Warren, Chris Shaw & Bridget Ball, Rosanne Raneri, Camille West, Peggy Lynn and Tom Mitchell, as well as blues artists Mark Tolstrup and Martin Grosswendt. As he puts it, “I have a soft spot in my heart (or maybe my head) for singer/songwriters, especially good ones.”
TREY ANASTASIO BAND
In 1998, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio (a longtime friend and fan) invited Tony to be the foundation of a new band he was forming as a creative outlet during Phish’s downtime. Says Markellis of the outcome, “I can’t remember when I’ve ever had so much fun playing music.”
Theater tours with Trey in the Spring of 1999 and the Winter of 2001 led to amphitheater tours in the Summer of 2001 and Spring of 2002 (Jammy Award- “Best Tour of 2002”), the closing spot at the first annual Bonnaroo Festival (called by Rolling Stone “One of the Fifty Moments that Changed Rock & Roll”) and an arena tour in the Fall of 2002. This partnership also led to the co-writing of numerous songs, three of which were covered by Phish on their 2000 CD release Farmhouse. Phish’s recording of “First Tube” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental. With the Trey Anastasio Band, Markellis has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Late Show with David Letterman, Last Call with Carson Daly, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Austin City Limits, as well as the syndicated radio show World Café.
Trey and the band released a critically acclaimed self-titled CD in the Spring of 2002, which won them their second 2002 Jammy Award (“Best Studio Album”). Spring 2003 brought another national tour in support of the release of Plasma, a double CD drawn from 2002’s live shows. One memorable night during the Spring 2003 tour, Trey and the band (by that time a dectet) were joined by guitar legend Carlos Santana at San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre, a show which was released on DVD. In June of 2004, TAB returned to Tennessee to close the third annual Bonnaroo Festival.
In May 2004 Trey announced that Phish would be calling it quits following their Summer tour. TAB finished up 2004 with the closing set at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, preserved for posterity as an Austin City Limits broadcast. In 2006, Horseshoe Curve was released – a CD of live recordings and studio outtakes made over the years the dectet was touring. Summer 2008 saw the long-awaited return of “Classic TAB”, a quartet featuring Trey with Markellis, Russ Lawton and Ray Paczkowski. In 2010, TAB made its first appearance as a septet, with a well-received winter tour of the eastern U.S.
MEANWHILE, BACK HOME
In 2000, Tony and slide guitar master Kevin Maul began playing with the great Ithaca, NY vocal trio The Burns Sisters. The next year, Tony and Kevin joined forces with drummer and vocalist Dale Haskell to form an eclectic acoustic power trio called No Outlet, whose electrifying live performances and CD’s took New York’s Capital District by storm. Albany’s Metroland Magazine named them “Best Live Act of 2006.”
From 2006 until 2009, Markellis played with Sarah Pedinotti and her group, Railbird, leading to two CD’s—City Bird and Railbird. In the summer of 2009, Tony and Kevin Maul joined forces with Chris Carey & Chris Kyle of Railbird to form a roots music band called the Mississippi Hot Dogs. At the same time, he also began recording and performing with a powerhouse Delta blues trio, Street Corner Holler, featuring the combined talents of Mark Tolstrup and Dale Haskell.
A coast-to-coast Winter tour in 2011 solidified the septet format of TAB as an optimal touring unit.In April 2011, Trey Anastasio invited Markellis to get involved in a musical called Hands on a Hardbody, for which he had written the music. This offered a great opportunity for Tony to work with some of Broadway’s most talented actors and singers, including Keith Carradine, Brian d’Arcy James, Keala Settle, Allison Case, William Youmans, Dale Soules and David Larsen. In the fall of 2011, TAB toured the mid-Atlantic states and headlined Florida’s Bear Creek Festival.
TAB toured in the Fall of 2012 (just in time to get stranded in NYC by Super Storm Sandy) and the Spring of 2013. In September, TAB got a call to sub for Neil Young at the first Lock'in Festival in Virginia.
From Fall of 2015 until Fall of 2018, Tony toured the Northeast with the electrifying progressive bluegrass band Floodwood, which includes drummer Vinnie Amico of moe. Appearances included the 2016 Summer Camp Festival in Illinois and the 2016 Peach Festival in Pennsylvania. During that time, the band recorded the award-winning album 'Til I Die.
Since 1975 Markellis has made his home in Saratoga Springs, NY, home of the world-famous Caffè Lena. When he is not playing music, he writes short stories and designs CD and book covers, including a series of western historical novels by his old friend and fellow Montanan, the late Peter Bowen.
In early 2020, Vermont's Shires Press published Markellis's first book of short stories, titled Life...Real & Imagined. Keep your eyes open—the next collection is headed for the presses as we speak.
Tony seasonally hones his lawnmowing, tree trimming, and snow removal skills. He looks forward to a time when music can once again be performed safely in public.
ACOUSTIC & UPRIGHT
AFRO BEAT • BLUEGRASS • BLUES
BOSSA • CAJUN • CALYPSO
COUNTRY • FOLK • OLD SCHOOL FUNK
JAM • JAZZ • NORTEÑO • REGGAE
ROCK • R & B • SALSA • SAMBA
SKA • SWING • TRAD • ZYDECO