Much to the chagrin of her piano teacher, as a child Marjie was too busy improvising to listen to the beseeching of her disgruntled teacher, instead, she would blindfold herself and spend hours make melodies and chords up on the piano. The only voice she listened to was that of her own inner calling. At the callow age of 12, Marjie convinced her mother to buy her a guitar for $20 from a pawn shop in her hometown of Davenport, Iowa. Shortly after learning her first chords, she found herself performing, sitting on bales of hay at her uncles’ farm in Waterloo, Iowa. Singing and playing to a captive audience of large grazing and gazing cows, she was convinced she would sing "till the cows came home." They never took their eyes off her!

As early as junior high school she had secured her audiovisual license and became passionate about recording equipment. Eventually she saved enough money and bought the beginnings of her own remedial but effective recording studio. Totally intrigued by recording, she would record her guitar and voice, playing and singing for hours. Weekends were often spent accompanying her bass-playing brother to his rock band rehearsals. She would sit quietly, delighting in the live music and dreaming of playing with musicians herself. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks and Beach Boys became her listening passion. After High School graduation she went to the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. She decorated her dorm room, covering the walls with psychedelic musician posters complete with blacklights hanging above. Jimi Hendricks’ now famous poster clad in kimono and headband, held the most prominent spot on her wall. The dorm halls were filled with Marjie’s pre-recorded music from her reel to reel tape deck, and her room soon became a music museum for all her fellow dorm mates as they gravitated for entertainment, guitar lessons and sing-alongs. After two years of indecision as to what she would major in, she found herself increasingly longing for more freedom and creative stimulation. There was no question she was destined to eventually end up in California. Being the intrepid, free-spirited woman that she was, the 1970s were ripe for traveling and exploring. For 6 years Marjie played music and performed with two other women in a band called "Honey Creek". Traveling in a blue Volkswagen van with the name "Honey Creek" on the side, the band became recognizable all over Northern California, not only for their unusual and striking harmony blend, but for the simple reason that they were an "all-women" band. Men would frequently comment on Marjie’s playing, insisting that "she plays guitar like a guy."

Photo: Sherry Rayn Barnett

Marjie Orton is a singer, songwriter, musician and performer working in California since 1972



Each woman contributed original compositions to the band and arranged vocals and instruments to accompany the material. Their core sound was acoustic guitars, dulcimer, percussion and three part harmonies. Even today "Honey Creek" is still known in communities from Mendocino County to Santa Cruz for the many benefits they contributed to up and down the coast. Their motto was "exposure, exposure, exposure," and that kept them busy, sometimes doing three gigs a day. Frequently they even played just for food and gas money. It was an exciting, free-spirited time. The club scene was teeming with new bands and women were finally beginning to be recognized for the quality of their musicianship. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that they finally disbanded and went their own separate ways pursuing individual musical careers. It has even been suggested that a screenplay be written chronicling their high adventures.

Following Honey Creek, Marjie continued to play in a variety of bands, improvising with fellow musicians on stage and at parties whenever live music was welcome. She has shared the stage with many great artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Robin Williams, Taj Mahal, Terry Garthwaite, Graham Nash, and many more. She plays electric and acoustic guitars, electric and acoustic mandolins, and synthesizer.

Her latest CD, which she just released this year, demonstrates her strong songwriting abilities and showcases her musicianship. She performs all the vocals, which are enhanced by three part harmonies along with weaving background vocal arrangements. All the material on the CD was written, arranged and produced by Marjie. Titled "Coast is Clear", the CD is also the name of her publishing company. Marjie is currently performing her new original material with her band "Island Fever." Her fellow musicians also performed on her CD, adding bass, drums, lead guitar and flute.

Although Marjie’s Midwestern roots are planted firmly in the Iowa cornfields, her lively rhythmical sense and passion for inventive and colorful guitar chords has woven its way into her music throughout her career. Marjie’s new album is the sum of her musical history. The album might easily be considered a magnum opus to her musical talent and represents an uplifting, inspirational new sound of its own. The CD, which is all original material, is a unique blend of jazz fusion, swing, rock, and a hint of Latiin. As Marjie would say, paraphrasing her song "You’ve Got To Choose", "It doesn’t take walking over people to get where you want to go, you just have to lift them up with your music."


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