Rock and roll. Vietnam. Prosthetic hands and feet.
Unlikely as it seems, there is a connection — right here in Bangor — between topics one, two and three. Roger Marshall of East Corinth is the link.
British by birth and a Mainer for 20 years, Marshall is a prosthetist — a provider of artificial body parts to people with disabilities.
A medic in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972, Marshall lives with memories of bloody emergency rooms and jeeps full of injured orphans. He has continued making humanitarian missions to poor, coastal Quang Ngai in the years since the war, and he plans to build a much-needed prosthesis-rehab center there.
Start-up costs for the center will be about $250,000, Marshall said. It was his son, Gordon, a drummer with England’s Moody Blues, who had the idea of kick starting the fund raising by auctioning off an autographed guitar.
In his State Street office this week, the elder Marshall showed off a black and white Fender Stratocaster, the Mercedes-Benz of electric guitars, bearing the signatures of the band’s four core members in silver ink. Bids on the rock-history artifact will be accepted from around the world over the Internet.
Marshall, who looks a bit like a rock ‘n’ roll star himself with his black boots, silver ring, gray ponytail and beard, said he has no idea how much the guitar will fetch.
“I’ve heard people say anything from $5,000 to $25,000,” he mused in his exotic Birmingham accent. “I doubt we’ll get $25,000. But you never know.”
The buyer, whoever he is, will help address a “desperate need” in a part of Vietnam populated by farmers who can’t take time off to travel to the nearest prosthetic center, a day’s journey away, Marshall said. There is a large population of amputees from the war, and remaining land mines still cause injuries and fatalities on a regular basis, he said.
The new facility also will help people who have lost limbs to leprosy. It will be staffed by Vietnamese experts Marshall has trained over the years.
Marshall has traveled to Vietnam three times in the past 18 months, once with a filmmaker planning a documentary about the Quang Ngai hospital, and once with representatives of the Friendship Foundation, an Ohio-based, Quaker-affiliated organization that will help him raise money.
“We hope the clinic will bring some educators and physicians to the area, and help build a bridge of friendship between America and Vietnam,” said Gia Hoa Ryan, director of the foundation. “Regardless of what happens, Roger is going to see that it happens. People are very impressed with his dedication.”
Marshall expresses simple motivations for his efforts. “I put in three and a half years in Vietnam … I’d like to complete the circle,” he said. “I feel as though I’d like to leave something behind. They say you should leave the world a better place.”
Reached in London, where he was reviewing the itinerary for the band’s summer tour, Gordon Marshall said he was happy to help out his dad’s cause.
“I think it’s extremely worthwhile,” he said. “I’m very proud of him.”
Equally proud, Roger Marshall remembers his son playing classical music on the piano “by the time he was a little boy, before his feet could reach the pedals.” Harmony was in his genes: The boy’s maternal grandparents were both music teachers, and his uncle was the organist at Nottingham Cathedral.
Besides the piano, organ and drums, Gordon Marshall plays the clarinet and learned to play the flute in a week at the request of the Moody Blues, his father said. The band was impressed with his versatility at an audition nine years ago, and he has been with them since, working beside original drummer Graeme Edge.
The other names on the guitar, signed during a recent string of shows at Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City, N.J., are Justin Hayward, lead singer and guitarist, flutist Ray Thomas, and bassist John Lodge. Edge and Thomas are the only two remaining of the five original members who first came together in the 1960s in Birmingham.
Their hits included “Nights in White Satin” in 1967 and, five years later, “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band.” The band’s lineup shifted, but its success continued into a third decade with “Your Wildest Dreams” in 1986 and “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” in 1988. Their sound, sometimes described as “classical pomp rock,” has sold more than 50 million records. They will play at Great Woods in Mansfield, Mass., June 14.
Information about the guitar auction will be made available at www.choicemall.com/moody blues, or potential bidders may call Marshall at 285-7746 or 285-7231. Donations may be sent to the Friendship Foundation, 1444 E. Erie Ave., Lorain, Ohio 44052.