Don Merckle cycled through several projects before setting out on his own | Photo by Ruta Smith

Don Merckle has been winning fans as a guitarist and frontman in the Charleston music scene for more than a decade. Looking back, it was the sounds coming out of New York City in the late 1960s that initially placed him on this career path.

“A friend of mine introduced me to the Velvet Underground when I was young, and it really affected me,” Merckle told the City Paper. “I can’t completely explain it. Something about Lou Reed’s casually abrasive writing style and ‘I don’t give a fuck’ delivery really spoke to me. So I picked up a guitar and learned to play every song. And that’s how I started performing and writing music.”

As Merckle came into his own as a musician, he assumed the role of bandleader for such notable regional garage-rock acts as Loch Ness Johnny, American Gun, Bare Knuckle Champions and the Blacksmiths.

Although well-received, each of these projects eventually ran out of gas, and Merckle began pursuing solo opportunities to fill in the gaps, including making an LP based on his grandfather’s experience as a Korean War veteran. That move set him up nicely for what was to follow.

“I created The Ballad of Lincoln Wray in 2017 with some serious jazz musicians out of Columbia like Mark Rapp, Jonathan Lovett and Sidney Mitchell. This was an important step because it allowed me to explore different sounds and styles, which helped inform what would become my newest solo record, Rumor of a Ghost.”

Rumor of a Ghost is now available on all the major streaming platforms.

“I began this album just before the lockdown, so when the world stopped, I realized I had a near-limitless amount of time to do what I wanted. I used that time to turn every song inside out, break them all down and then rebuild them from the ground up. It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had in the studio.”

His approach to connecting with audiences far and wide is special, too. And he has a particularly outstanding batch of material right now with which to wow them.

“I’m working on a grassroots marketing campaign to promote the album,” he said. “I’ve already released several music videos associated with the record, and I have a few more in production. My goal is to produce a music video, or short film, for every song, all in different styles. I’m a bit of a filmmaking nerd, so this combines two of my passions. I also think the multimedia approach is important.”