(No matter the story medium, sound bytes, descriptive passages, and environmental support can help tell a story. Marty Liquori – a renown olympian, world-class athlete, and musician – describes how his sport and art combined in harmony throughout his life.)
Only four high school runners have ever run under the 4-minute barrier for the mile, and Marty Liquori is one of them. WUFT’s Kéran Billaud interviews the Olympic legend about his running career and his lifelong passion for playing the guitar.
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Leonardo’s 706 has live jazz on Thursdays. If you go, you will be told without delay about the guitar player named Marty Liquori. He started playing the guitar at the age of twelve, but his story isn’t just about music. Fate decided to mix things up.
“I stopped playing the guitar because the coach in high school went to my parents and said, “Your son needs to stop the guitar on Friday and Saturday nights and get a good night’s sleep for these track meets, because he could get a scholarship.” When my parents heard I could get a scholarship, then, ‘Put the guitar down.’”
He wouldn’t touch the guitar for 35 years. He defeated Jim Ryun in the mile and became number one in the world for the mile and the 5,000 meters. Then, again, fate threw a curve ball.
“In 72 I got injured and I couldn’t run and that’s how I got into broadcast. When I couldn’t run, ABC asked me to join their broadcasting.”
Mr. Liquori commentated for 8 Olympics.
“I always broadcast track meets. It was great. It’s something I know about from the inside. I got to stay in the sport even though I wasn’t running. I got to see the world, so it was good.”
In 1992, he was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. At the same time, he was Spokesman for Leukemia Society’s Team in Training. Soon, he was back to the guitar and it wasn’t easy.
“I would ask these 18-year-old kids I played with, “Aren’t you nervous?” And they were like, “No.” Because they had been brought up since they were like 10 years old playing in the public. But for me, I was very nervous.”
He says jazz requires a lot of mental focus, just like running.
“It seems like in the mile, that it doesn’t take a lot of mental thought, but it does. You’re monitoring what’s my foot strike? Am I over-striding? How am I holding my arms? What’s the pace? Where’s each of the guys in the race that I fear? People who jog disassociate. They let their mind wander. But people who are racing associate.”
Running and jazz meshed perfectly.
“I consider myself a good rhythm guitar player, and I think I have that rhythm from almost 20 years of running on the track and knowing that that’s a 60 second quarter. That’s a 60.5 quarter. I could tell, it was always 1-2-1-2, and now with music it’s 1-2-1-2. I was a metronome.”
Now, he plays most of the time at Leonardo’s 706 and Ballyhoo Grill in Gainesville. What’s the next big thing he’s planning? Well, he told me during our interview that his next goal is to get an all-Olympian group of jazz musicians together to perform. Imagine that. This is Kéran Billaud reporting for WUFT 89-Point-One.
Total time: 3:00