RIP: Bassist Tony Markellis
Photo by Patrick Jordan
Bassist Tony Markellis has died.
News broke of the bassist’s passing on April 30, with his nephew Cory Markellis writing, “Uncle Tony. My hero. You will forever be remembered as one of the greatest. I can’t even begin to find the words to describe your legacy. Such a brilliant, passionate, talented, hardworking, intelligent person. You’ve been one of my greatest influences, and have made such a positive impact on our lives. Such a kind, inspiring soul. Life won’t be the same without you.”
A close musical friend of Trey Anastasio, Markellis joined the Phish guitarist’s earliest solo band – 8 Foot Florescent Tubes – in 1998 alongside Russ Lawton and later became a mainstay and driving force of the Trey Anastasio Band.
“Tony Markellis passed away yesterday,” Anastasio wrote, after hearing the news. “He was a truly remarkable human being. He was kind and had a sweetness to his personality, and he was the baddest bass player I’ve ever heard. I loved Tony, and I always will. I’m having a hard time processing this. Tony was the heartbeat to so much of my life, and to the lives of so many others… I was very lucky to have had a very long phone conversation with Tony only a few days ago. We talked for almost two hours. We caught up on family, friends, and funny pandemic thoughts. It wasn’t often that we talked on the phone like that. I had no idea it would be our last conversation. Now it feels like it happened for a reason.”
Before joining forces with T.A.B., Markellis was raised in Montana, attended the University of Michigan and played bass in Vermont-based projects Kilimanjaro and the Unknown Blues Band – Anastasio has cited the latter as an early inspiration and even enlisted them to perform at his wedding.
Other musical friends/collaborators/recording partners in Markellis’ winding journey included Bonnie Raitt, The Mamas & The Papas, Dr. John, Paul Butterfield, David Bromberg and many more.
He also counted Jerry Garcia and late Grateful Dead Inc. president Ram Rod as personal friends; legend has it that Markellis even jammed with Garcia one fateful night at the Keystone in Berkeley, Calif.
However, over time, Anastasio’s band remained the bassist’s premier gig, and with the exception of a brief period between late-2004 and 2008, Markellis appeared in every iteration of Trey Anastasio’s solo projects.
Markellis spent much of his life living in Saratoga, NY and was sure to sit-in with Phish at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on 6/20/10.
He is credited with co-authoring many T.A.B.-turned-Phish tunes – such as “First Tube,” “Sand” and “Gotta Jibboo” – and helped develop the Phish guitarist’s foray onto broadway, Hands On A Hardbody.
“I couldn’t ask to be playing and traveling with a better group of people,” Markellis said of T.A.B. in 2018.
Also in 2018, Anastasio, Markellis and Lawton reformed as the T.A.B. trio, hitting the road to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their initial performances together and marking their first time in a three-part formation since 1999.
Markellis was also a key player in Anastasio’s 2019 experimental Ghosts of the Forest band/album.
Outside of music, Markellis released Life… Real & Imagined, a collection of short stories, in November 2019.