Geno McManus – Guitarist, singer - Performer
BMHOF Class of 2014
From Buffalo to Japan, Geno McManus’s talent on the guitar is no secret. Enjoying success both in the U.S. and abroad, McManus’s career has been one of diversity. He was even named to the Royal Aramanther Society in 2012, with induction by the king and queen of Sweden.
But McManus’s roots always bring him back to the Buffalo music scene where he became active in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A Lackawanna native, he started his career as a solo artist after sitting in with other local artists like Joe Head and John McCann. Soon after McManus startedChapter X and Gooseflesh, as well as starting the original version of the Celtic rock band Jackdaw with former Goo Goo Dolls drummer GeorgeTutuska. He left that project after about a year and a half to join the band Animal Planet.McManus also played for years on the sidewalks outside of Mohawk Place with the Smoking Jackets and the Mohawk Street Saints.
Versatility is key. And a passport. As The Buffalo News’ Andrew Galarneau wrote in 2008, “(McManus is) the guy who'll be playing acoustic in the corner of a Lackawanna tavern one night, and be tearing up the stage of Tokyo's Cavern Club before the week is out.”
Michael Lee Jackson, the leader of Animal Planet, said McManus has been a joy to work with.
“When Animal Planet was touring Asia in the early 2000s, we went through some lineup changes, and I needed additional instrumentation and someone who could sing very high harmonies and sing them very well,” Jackson said. “Geno came in on fairly short notice, quickly found his place on the guitar and nailed the harmonies nightly, even though it was a push for him. … . He's not at all afraid of jumping in to a new situation, and because he's a pro, he always puts in the work.”
Jackson is still working with McManus today.
“In recording my most recent record … Geno has been enormously helpful as a motivator, co-writer and in putting together incredible stacks of harmonies. He is extremely talented,” Jackson said.
Over the course of his career, McManus has played with over 10 different bands and traveled internationally. He spent a year recording and producing music as a second engineer at Robby Takacs’ Chameleon West studio. He helped record and produce a record for Michael Civisca. In 2008, McManus contributed backing vocals and worked on former Deep Purple singer IanGillan's solo release "One Eye To Morocco" with noted producer/engineer Nick Blagona. Now he has a small studio at his house and has renewed his focus contributing to the WNY music scene as musician, mentor, producer and cheerleader.
McManus was also involved in the creation and planning the first Music Is Art Fest, as well as contributing to 11 consecutive Party For The Parks events.
Though McManus prefers to play British invasion style music like the Kinks, the Beatles and the Who, he likes to mix this sound with roots style music. His flexibility as a musician and his preference for British invasion music has helped make him a popular guitarist in Japan, whereBeatlemania has never really gone away.
McManus’s career in Japan started as an outgrowth of his tour with DOD/USO tour with Animal Planet. In 2000 the band was playing military installations around the Pacific Rim, and McManus befriended a Japanese/Englishtranslator, who in 2004 came to visit in Buffalo while McManus was working on the Civisca“Blue Skies” CD. It resulted in a Civisca tour in Japan.
“I went along as his tour manager, and he got booked for six shows at the Bb Jazz Club in Tokyo/Akasaka,” McManus said. “We also did a live recording of the six shows, and I produced and edited the best of it and mixed fit or a Japanese Indie label. … While there, I did a couple of my own shows, and that began my relationship with the country as an artist.”
Since then, he’s done over 30 tours in Japan. He’s developed some close friends and collaborators as well.
He became friends with a Japanese Beatles tribute band named the Silver Beats, performing with them in Japan. In 2007 The Killers saw the Silver Beats perform, and this led to an invitation to open 10 shows in America on their “Sam’s Town” tour. He became the Silver Beats’ manager, and musical director. The band even pulled him on stage with them at a sold-out Madison Square Garden to join them in a version of “Don’t Let Me Down” calling him their “fifth member!” McManus continued to manage/direct the band on several US tours until their breakup in 2009.
McManus has brought the Silver Beats’ TadaakiNaganuma – the Japanese Paul McCartney – to Buffalo, putting bands together for his shows. He has also performed in Japan with Keisuke Nakagawa of Mr. Children, one of the most successful bands ever in Japan.
Playing in Japan is a very different experience than playing in the United States. McManus is received by a much more subdued audience in Japan than in Buffalo or anywhere else in the states. McManus described his Japanese fans as being a “listening audience.” They talk very little during performances, are extremely respectful and he general plays for smaller, more intimate audiences. McManus compared his Japanese shows to a recital atmosphere, but added that they will loosen up with a little encouragement.
What stands out most to McManus about his Japanese fan base is the way they treat him. He said his fans abroad are extremely loyal and treat him more like a close friend or family. His relationship with the Japanese goes beyond performer and audience, too. McManus has been working with a Japanese guitar company, Fujigen/FGN, on a mutual endorsement agreement to promote the sale of their guitars in the U.S.
McManus’ wide-ranging activities are what led to him being named to the Royal Aramanther Society. It recognizes people from all walks who contribute to the “art of life.” He’s recognized as a independent artist who travels around the world in ways to "make people happy."
While McManus finds being away from home and performing abroad to be exciting, he does miss Buffalo when he is away. When he isn’t in Japan, you are likely to find McManus playing in favorite venues such as the Sportsmen’s Tavern, the Pearl Street Grill or at J.P. Fitzgerald’s over St. Patrick’s Day weekend.
As for his success, McManus said, “I just do what I do. I love playing, I love music and I love performing for people, and I want to help contribute wherever, and however I can.”
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