Producer, Arranger, Keyboardist & Composer
When I was 12, I auditioned for a piano gig in Dawson City, Yukon Territory (Canada), playing 6 nights a week and lasting for most of the summer vacation. It was my very first paying job (50 bucks a week), but, for that time (early 60’s), it was a ton o’ dough. Never having had money before that made this seem like the lottery. Anyway, the gig was playing for a summer theatre play and an 1890’s variety show on a big paddle boat, alternating each night. It was an experience that changed my life forever. I had made friends with some of the local natives (Canadian Indians), one in particular, Jimmy Drugan, who was pretty crazy but alot of fun. He taught me all about coffee, cigarettes, alcohol and guns.
So being on my own at 12, earning my own income, eating in restaurants and paying my own cheque, the coffee, the cigarettes, the alcohol – it was all very “grown-up”. There was no going back (to being a kid) after all that. From there on, outside of my friends, school sucked. I would be in trouble at school most of the time (skipping out, etc). I stopped playing classical music completely around the age of 13. My Mom had a real difficult time with me for a couple of those early teenage years, but eventually a friend and fellow piano player (the late and great Tom Baird) talked me into buying an organ and getting into a band. I took his advice and was soon playing in a solid working band (Soul Unlimited) and working most weekends, doing R&B dance halls and school grads, aftergrads, etc.
Since I was only playing organ and clavinet, my piano wasn’t improving, so at 19 or 20, I went back to Mr. Parker to get serious about music. He really got me going this time, because now I was an adult and had a much better focus on the importance of what I was learning, besides the fact that I was now practicing 6-8 hours a day. I did very well with my classical studies and began to study jazz with Lloyd Abrams – another teaching giant. I lasted another 3 years in Vancouver, playing in alot of clubs and bands, doing all kinds of music, but mostly R&B, rockn’roll and jazz. My chops were way up because of my return to Mr. Parker and classical piano.
Eventually, a good friend (Carl Graves) with whom I had played for many years in Vancouver bands (with my great friend bassist Brian Newcombe and drummer Peter Padden), that had moved to LA to sing with Skylark (David Foster’s band), called me to come to LA to write with him. He had a record deal and so I went down and wrote a bunch of songs with him and started getting into arranging and playing in studios (as opposed to live). Because of my classical theory/harmony training and the jazz theory, it all came pretty easy and seemed like alot of fun.
In 1978, I auditioned for a movie called “The Rose” and got the part of the keyboard player in the band. It was another awesome experience. Getting to work with Bette (Midler), doing a world tour with her, and doing the movie itself. The Rose band was very cool – Danny Weiss (outrageous)on guitar, Mark Leonard on bass, Whitey Glan on drums, Steve Hunter on guitar, Jerry Jummonville on sax, Norton Buffalo on harp, sorry, I can’t remember the other horn players but they were great too. The live band on the tour was also great. We had Doane Perry (now with Jethro Tull) on drums, Alan Mansfield on B3, etc.
In 1980, we formed the Maxus band with Jay Gruska, Mark Leonard, Doane Perry and finally, after several different guitar players, Mike Landau. I loved playing with the band but, because my personal career was doing so well as a session player, I didn’t want to end up having a hit and playing it on the road for the next ten years, so, I left. Jay, too, had many other things “on the fire.” Still, it was a blast playing with guys that played that well every day on our own songs. Studio guys are that way too, but you’re usually playing someone elses songs. Depending on the session, that can be good or bad.
From there on, I don’t have much to tell you because it’s mostly listed in my discography. I would like to tell you that I have a beautiful daughter, Aubrey who, by the way, has become an amazing singer. The person who is, and always has been, my soulmate of soulmates is my wife Betty. I am also very close to her kids, Emily and Daniel, and treat them as my own. I spend about 10 months a year in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and the other 2 months in the US for work related projects. It’s quite difficult living in Vancouver when you have a lot of music in your heart, but everything else here is so great, I have to just deal with it. The internet has made it much easier to do projects for people, be it playing, arranging, writing, producing. There’s a lot less travel needed. Gotta love that.