In Memoriam: Bassist Tony Markellis
Bassist Tony Markellis, a co-founding member of the Trey Anastasio Band, has died. Markellis’ death was revealed by his nephew Cory Markellis via a post on Facebook. Tom Mitchell, whose 1976 album was produced by Tony Markellis, posted on Facebook that he received word of the latter’s death earlier today. A cause was not yet given.
A 45-year resident of Saratoga Springs, New York, Markellis was born and raised in Helena, Montana. He started playing bass in third grade and continued through high school. In 1969, Markellis enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
At the suggestion of friend Bonnie Raitt, Markellis moved to the East Coast in 1972 where he quickly found work performing with Joel Zoss. The following year, Markellis started performing with the David Bromberg Band, playing alongside such guests as Dr. John, Vassar Clements, Emmylou Harris, Maria Muldaur, John Hartford, Sam Bush, Steve Goodman, Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Jeff Walker and others.
According to Markellis’ website, his additional credits include performing with “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.”
Markellis was also the co-founding bassist for the Burlington, Vermont-based bands Kilimanjaro and The Unknown Blues Band featuring Big Joe Burrell. On the night he moved to Burlington, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio saw Markellis perform. Anastasio told the story of seeing Markellis that night during a TAB set at the 2017 Grand Point North Festival, telling the audience in Burlington:
“I went into this bar, I had just gotten off the plane, I was 18-years-old. Hunt’s, this used to be a great club and I went in and I saw this band that to this day I would say is my favorite band of all time. I was completely floored by the musicianship and the coolness and that was the moment that I wanted to move to Burlington was when I saw these guys. And of course, that band was Big Joe And The Unknown Blues Band.”
“I fell in love with this man back here, Tony Markellis. And I remember thinking, I gotta be in a band with him someday so my dream came true.”
Markellis was an original member of Anastasio’s solo band, which formed in 1999. Markellis was also part of Anastasio’s one-off band the 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes that performed once in Burlington in April 1998 and also featured fellow original TAB member, drummer Russ Lawton. Tony’s songwriting co-credits include “First Tube,” “Gotta Jibboo,” “Sand,” “Sweet Dreams Melinda” “Mozambique,” “Ether Sunday” and “Burlap Sack & Pumps,” among several others.
Markellis remained a member of TAB through various lineup changes. Markellis was part of Anastasio’s Ghosts Of The Forest project in 2019. The bassist was also onstage accompanying Anastasio for each night of “The Beacon Jams” residency at The Beacon Theatre in New York last October and November.
In addition to TAB, Markellis’ later career included performing with The Burns Sisters, No Outlet, Sarah Pedinotti and Railbird, Street Corner Holler and Floodwood with moe. drummer Vinnie Amico, among others. Markellis was also a sought-after producer, working with the likes of Michael Jerling, Bob Warren, Chris Shaw & Bridget Ball, Rosanne Raneri, Camille West, Peggy Lynn and Tom Mitchell, Mark Tolstrup and Martin Grosswendt.
In 2020, Markellis’s first book of short stories, Life…Real & Imagined, was published by Vermont’s Shires Press.