Marshmallow Steamshovel interview with Tony Janflone

October 29, 2012

Marshmallow Steamshovel interview with Tony Janflone

Marshmallow Steamshovel formed in Washington, Pittsburgh back in the 60’s. They released only one single on Head Records in 1968. We talked with Tony, the guitarist of the band and he shared some memories about the band. 


Thank you very much for taking your time and effort, Tony! I would like to ask you first about your childhood and teen years. Where did you grow up and what were some of your influences back then?
I grew up In Washington Pa. I always liked Black Gospel music and R&B and Jazz.
What was the scene in your town?
There was no scene.
Were you in any bands before forming Marshmallow Steamshovel? Any releases or shows with that bands, perhaps?
Yes I started playing hand drums in high school. We tried singing but were better as instrumentalists. Before joining Steamshovel I played with many “name” groups Bobby Vinton, The Lennon Sisters, Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Marvelettes, Mary Wells, The 5th Dimension and many other groups. I also did several jazz gigs with organist Gene Ludwig, Drummer Roger Humphries and many other jazz icons that toured through Pittsburgh. Also was in a “studio band”. We recorded every record made in Pittsburgh from 1963 through 1965.
When and how did you guys came together to form Marshmallow Steamshovel? How did you choose that name? It’s really funny, because actually another band did exist with the same name in the 60’s, but they never recorded anything.
I didn’t think the local jazz scene was advancing so Tommy Bell and met Harry Turner and decided to put the band together. The name; we were being goofy. We never played a song that one would call “rehearsed”. We made up all of our songs right on the spot.
Do you remember some of the early sessions you had together?

Many. I wear out my fingers typing.
You released only one 45 in 1968 called Mr. Mold / Steamshovel. On what label was this released and how did you got in contact with that label?
The label was called “Head Records”. They contacted us.

Do you perhaps know how many copies were made?
There were 200 made.
What gear did you guys use?
Harry had a small music store and sold Custom Amps which we used. I used my Gibson L5 with a Fuzz Tone.
Would you mind telling me what are some of the strongest memories from producing and releasing your 45?
It was unrehearsed and Tommy sang and I put the chords I heard for the tunes. Steamshovel was a jam.
Did you play any shows? If so, please share with who did you play with and where was your touring territory?
We did many gigs in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia area.
Does any unreleased material exist?
Does this have any connection with your band? 
Yes. That’s Harry’s writing. I was no longer with them. As you see they started to play covers. That wasn’t what I wanted to do.
I would love if you could share some interesting/crazy stories, that happened to you while being in this band…
We were sometimes booked for formal college dances and parties. Talk about misfits!!
What happened next for you and others?
We remained friends. Harry went into production and had gold albums with Foreigner. He passed a few years ago. Tommy and I have stayed in touch after he moved to Florida. He was a sail maker. He lives a mile from me and we jam–just guitar and drums.
What are you doing these days?

I still play but after raising 3 children I am very picky about whom I play with. I have a lot of original material that has been recorded but it’s been difficult for the cats to interpret. In 2000 I went to Philly and recorded with Odean Pope, Tyrone Brown and Micky Roker. I have the tapes but haven’t had the bread to do anything with at tis time. I’m teaching some. I repair and build custom made guitars using CAD and CAM programs.
Thank you very much! Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine readers?

I’m glad you’re there and I appreciate your continued interest!!
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/ 2012
  1. Dan Martin

    Fond memories of Harry Turner...got me on the road to bass playing in '67 with gear from his Oakland store. My high school garage bandmates and I would hang with Hary and he'd educate us on the music business and trends (like this new wild guy by the name of Hendrix)

  2. Anonymous

    I met Harry at his downtown store in 1969 after I graduated from High School. He hied me to work there, the old Oakland Store and the new store he opened on Oakland Ave. He gave me lessons and brought me into his inner circle of friends like Tommy Bell and Tony Janflone and introduced me to the R&B and Jazz scene in Pittsburgh. As the "Steamshovel" Band grew in popularity and Harry, Fred Delu, Ronnie Foster, "Jinx" Jenkins and Jack Kason those of us "disciples" would marvel at what we though would be the standard of the music scene in Pittsburgh. I was able to move on in '73 finding a band through the "Aquarian Associates" group that would remain together for a 12 year run of clubs across America, Canada and the Caribbean. I had opportunities to record in Nashville, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I met celebrities and other musicians some who "made it" others who like us didn't get their break yet. All because I asked Harry if he would teach me how to play the Bass! I was saddened to hear of Harrys passing.

  3. Cliff Latshaw

    I saw the steamshovel in 1968 at shale high scool in the gym. Jack Kacin was playing guitar for them at the time. I was 15. I was inspired to play bass because of the burgeoning music scene at the time, but I wasn't satisfied with the bass amps that were available. There was either too much distortion or they were too boomy. I was used to playing through a 1950s "basstone" amp, but it wasn't loud enough. I ended up gradiating from Berkley College of Music in 1979, and when I came back to Pittsburgh I put a band together with Jack Kacin called "the laser blades". I still didn't like the bass amps available, and I had recording contracts through pgh. Booking agent Sid Marke. Nothing worked out with the small time local booking agents, so we missed out on the recording contracts. Later in the 90s I got some help from one of the original Dynamics from the north side. He helped me figure out what was wrong with my bass amp, and now I own Newbasstone, inc. Nite walker Bass Guitar Tube Preamp are what the company manufactures. Newbasstone.com is the website. Drop me line sometime. Harry and Jack both passed. It's bad how bad the pgh. local music scene has deteriorated.

  4. Anonymous

    What became of Ralph "jinx" Jenkins? I knew him in high school.

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