John McFarland - Guitar & Vocals
A self-described "perfectionist," John McFarland's vantage point is front and center - on stage with a guitar and off stage where he oversees the band's studio work and stage show. Born on December 17th in Chicago, McFarland's passion for music was ignited by his sister through the music of the Beatles.
He started playing bass guitar at age 9, and switched to a six-string guitar at age 12. In and out of bands throughout grade school and high school, it was during a performance with the band "Port Authority" that McFarland was spotted by M&R Rush. Asked to join the band in 1973, McFarland rounded off the lineup that remained together for a decade.
McFarland holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Illinois, where he studied Communications and Theatre. His knowledge of the music industry and stage production has proven invaluable to M&R Rush over the years, behind the scenes and in the spotlight. McFarland brings fans a perfect combination of stage presence and smooth, solid guitar playing as his signature style.
John plays Gibson, B.C. Rich, Hanson and Taylor guitars and uses Marshall amps.
M&R Questions & Answers
What Do You Enjoy About Playing in M&R Rush:
Having 5 brothers. We've been together since high school and developed a brother like bond.
What Do You Want The Audience To Remember About M&R Rush:
That we're having fun up there and we hope they are too. We don't take ourselves too seriously. Remember it's called "playing" music.
A Hard Day's Night
What People Say About You:
Hell if I know, ask them.
Favorite Artists Past and Present:
Beatles, Chicago with Peter Cetera, Queen, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Journey with Steve Perry and Def Leppard.
CD in the Player Right Now:
If You Knew This Question Was Going To Be Asked What Would You Have In The Player:
What You Want People To Say About You:
Anything they want.
What You Most Often End Up Eating:
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up:
Place of Birth:
Interests, Hobbies, Outside Of M&R Rush:
Helping my daughter with her musical career.
What Car Do You Wish You Owned:
Infinity - WWKD
Rum & Diet Coke
First Rock Album:
Meet The Beatles
Your Former Bands:
Most Disturbing Thing You've Seen During Your Years Of Playing:
During a show in the early 70's, a fan wanted a guitar pick that was on the stage. She was leaning over a flash pot trying to get the pick when the flash pot went off. Luckily she was OK but it scared the crap of out of me.
How Long Have You Been Playing Your Instrument:
Since the age of 9
Favorite M&R Rush Song:
Sometimes She Cries
Last Concert You Saw:
Queen, 1975, Auditorium Theater, first row. They had just released Bohemian Rhapsody and opened with it.
Movies You Recommend:
A Hard Day's Night, We Were Soldiers, Seabiscuit
Regular or Decaff Coffee:
How Do You Take Your Coffee:
Two Cream and no Sugar
What Your Band Mates Say About You:
Hell if I know, ask them.
Favorite Sports Team:
Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bears
What You Watch On TV:
Paladia and VH1 Classic Rock Channel
Why You Play The Instrument You Play:
I get to play lots of solos!
What You Would Play If You Had To Choose a Different Instrument:
Saxophone, very soulful instrument, lots of solos!!
Not having a gold or platinum record hanging on my wall.
"Never say never my little immigrant friend!" from "An American Tail" my daughter's favorite movie when she was little.
Most Embarrassing On-Stage Moment:
It was the late 1970's. I was doing a guitar solo at a club; the rest of the guys had left the stage, just me. Playing my solo I went into the audience, you know Joe Cool. As I finished my solo I ran and jumped back onto the stage. Well thanks to my platform shoes (ala Kiss) I tripped, fell and broke my cord off in the guitar. With the place completely silent I went up to the microphone and said "I bet you never saw a guitar solo end like that before!!" They laughed, we played!!
Most Embarrassing Off-Stage Band Related Moment:
1980. I was being interviewed live on the radio, the Loop, WLUP, by Mitch Michaels. It was live at ChicagoFest at Navy Pier at the Loop booth in front of about 1000 people. In the middle of answering one of Mitch's questions, I totally loose my train of thought and stop talking, dead silence. He looks at me and I freeze. Go to commercial.............
Scottish & Irish, Father - German & Bohemian (Rhapsody), Mother
What Do You Miss From Your Youth:
Playing music full time.
Favorite Day Of The Week:
Everyday that I do something that involves music.
Artist You Admire, But Do Not Listen To:
Sammy Hagar's solo albums
Coke or Pepsi:
Paper or Plastic:
Artists People Would Be Surprised You Like:
A lot of today's Country music Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Big & Rich......
Magazines You Enjoy:
Ever Traveled Out Of The Country, Where:
Yes - Mazatlan, Mexico
Mustard or Ketchup:
Brothers and Sisters:
Sisters - Two
If You Went To A Casino, What Would You Play:
Slots and Blackjack
Your Dream House:
On the lake in Knoxville, TN
Skill That Most Aren't Aware Of:
I have a few flying lessons under my belt..
Favorite Vacation Destination:
Marco Island, Florida
Left or Right Handed:
How Do You Like Your Eggs:
Anything with Strawberries
Steak Or Fish:
How Do You Like Your Steak:
Morning Or Night:
Dreams - In Color Or Black and White:
Having another guitar stolen.
Life on other Planets:
Cooper - Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier – Reilly my buddy, miss you.
Dusty – Miniature Schnauzer
Spending time with my wife and kids in Marco Island, Florida
Ideal Amount of Sleep:
Do You Still Own Any Albums:
Most Memorable Near Brush With Fame:
1977. We played a club called B'Ginnings in Schaumburg, Illinois. (Owned by the drummer from the group Chicago.) We go into the dressing room. First class; mirrors with lights around them, shower, beer taper, etc. The club manger tells us about an unknown new band from California who played the night before. On one of the mirrors they had left their initials in magic marker. VH. Yes it was!
Bio Addition: Interview - John McFarland
This is the fifth in a series if interviews with members of M&R Rush talking in depth about their music.
Lets start with your guitars. You currently play a Red BC Rich (Stratocaster style) and a Gibson Les Paul Standard guitars on tour. In the past, you played Gibson Les Paul and SG guitars (Please elaborate on this)
My first electric guitar (I was 9 years old) was a tobacco sunburst Gibson semi hollow body ¾ size guitar. I don't know the model but I recently found a picture of me playing it in my first band. (That picture might appear on our website soon.) I've been researching it on the Gibson website with no luck yet. Based on the date of the picture the guitar has to be a late 1950's or early 1960's. The smaller size made it perfect for me to learn without getting frustrated. I traded that guitar in the early 70's for a 1967 dark cherry red Gibson SG Standard. It played great and was one of my main stage guitars until it was stolen on the road in the late 70's. During the mid 70's I purchased two Les Pauls. A 1972 tobacco sunburst Standard and a 1975 white Custom. I still have both. Being a Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen fan I'd also been interested in getting a guitar with a wammie bar/tremolo system. I finally bought a new Fender Stratocaster in 1985. I quickly found that I preferred the sound of the humbucking pick up over the Strat single coil. A few months later I sold the Fender and bought a B.C. Rich Strat prototype with humbuckers and a Kahler locking tremolo. It was back when B.C. Rich guitars were individually hand made in the U.S. Because of its great action I knick named it "The Butter Machine". For the 2014 tour I’ve added the Hanson Chicagoan. The combination of mini-humbucker pick ups and the hollow “wings” body will add a new dimension to the M&R Rush live sound.
From the sound you get, I can tell you used a wah-wah pedal. Do you use any other special effects? (Please elaborate on this)
I've never used many effects on stage. I've pretty much always used a Cry Baby Wah pedal. I still have one of my originals from the early 70's but currently use one that was purchased in 1990 on stage. That's the only out board effects I currently use. In the 70's I used an MXR Phase 90 and a Maestro Echoplex tape delay. (I wish I still had that beast.) In the 80's I replaced the Phase 90 with a Boss CE-2 Chorus pedal and later added an Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer.
I noticed you use a Marshall Amp. I understand you made some changes in amplification since the reunion tours started.
Over the years I've used either Marshall or Peavey amps. For the first three summer reunion tours I've used a Marshall Valuestate 2000 AVT150 single stack set up. It was a dual channel head with built in effects. A few years back I switched to a single channel half stack. There is nothing like the sound of a vintage tube Marshall amplifier.
Do you ever play an acoustic guitar for other musical projects or just for fun? What kind of acoustic guitar(s) do you play?
I've owned acoustic guitars since high school. My most recent purchase was a new Taylor six string. Taylor’s pick up system and acoustic electronics produce a rich live sound that cuts through the rest of the band.
I know that Terry Kath from Chicago was an early influence. Who else influenced you as a guitarist?
I learned how to add the Wah pedal to my playing from listening to Terry Kath and early Chicago records and more recently Steve Vai. Other guitar players who influenced me over the years were Jimi Hendrix, Brian May, Eddie Van Halen, Neal Schoen and Joe Perry.
In your opinion who are the top guitarist playing today?
There are a lot of great guitar players out there today. To pick the best would be tough. Some who have caught my attention lately:
Blues - Joe Bonamassa and Jimmy Thackery
Country - Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
Rock (There's so many...here's a few.) - Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Nuno Bettencourt, Frank Marino
John, you harmonize very well, especially when you are singing with Roger. (Please elaborate on this)
Although I enjoy singing lead vocals, I decided early on to focus more on my guitar playing and background vocals. I can still remember being in my first band and learning how to harmonize. The first song I sang harmony on was "Up On The Roof". When M&R Rush started opening for Styx I was blown away by their harmony structures and the high notes being hit be J.C. - Through his influence I always do the top or highest part in our harmony stacks. It's like putting the icing on the cake. Roger usually sings the part right below mine when we do a three or four part structure so we blend well if it's just the two of us singing a lead line together.
Are there any other musicians (non guitarist) that you admire?
You have to admire any one person or any group of collaborators who can come up with a song that touches so many people that millions want to have their own copy. From Lennon & McCartney to Carl Moszur, if you can express your thoughts and feelings in words and music people will listen.
Do you enjoy the Theater?
Yes. My daughter Kristen's musical background not only includes rock and pop but theater, musical theatre and opera as well. She sang with the Lyric Opera of Chicago at an early age with the children's chorus. She had the lead role in the community theater production of "Anne Frank and Me" and the lead role her senior year at Lincoln Way H.S. in the musical "Brigadoon". As a family we've been to the theater and opera a number of times. Most recently we saw one of Kristen's High School teachers in the production of "Les Miserables" at the Cadillac Theater in Chicago. As long as I'm bragging about my daughter......Kristen also sang the National Anthem at US Cellular Field for the Chicago White Sox a couple of times during their World Series run.
Before I let you go, please tell me what CD's you have recently listened to at home or in the car (be honest)?
Bon Jovi, Def Leppard , Enuff Z'Nuff, Keith Urban.
Thanks Mike for Your Interest!!!