Interview - Mission Radio - July 2014
When did you realize music was your calling in life?
I had my first band when I was 8 years old. All of the members of my band were the younger brothers of my Oldest Brother's Band,..."The Rockers". Our band was named "The Rebels". We started playing at concerts during the 30 - 45 minute break of "The Rockers Band". I was having a great time, and I loved listening to Ray Charles so much back then. He was the absolute Master of Music, which made me very into playing Music. I had bands in Louisiana from the age of 8 to 27. When I graduated from High School, I went to a University in Lake Charles, Louisiana for 5 years to study Pre-Med, and become a Doctor. During that time. I was also a Surgical Lab Tech in a hospital. I loved working with people I knew needed my help. So, I would go to the Hospital every morning, draw blood from everyone, then go to the University for about 7 hours, then back to the Hospital to do the Lab Blood Tests. Then about 3 hours later, I would go to a night club and play a concert. I had to get home and study the Med Books after the concert. I was getting about 3 hours sleep a night. The two Dr.s who owned the Hospital had some problems. One was staging auto accidents, and collecting Insurance, so they put him in Prison for 20 years. The other Dr. was a severe alcoholic, but a fabulous surgeon, however, he discovered that his wife was sleeping with so many men, he drove from Louisiana to Mississippi (age 55) to visit his parents, and had dinner with them, then checked into a hotel about 2 blocks from their home, got into bed, and blew his brains out. This was the very moment that I decided that Music was much better than Medical Work, so I quite the University and the Hospital, and started playing Music almost every night.
What was the music scene like when you were starting out (Pre Toto)
Since I grew in a Louisiana town of 3000 people, there was no Hospital in that town, but it was only about 12 miles from the Texas Border on "Interstate 10". The cool thing about being a Musician there, was the fact that the drinking age in Texas was 21 years old, and in Louisiana, it was 18 years old. Therefore, they built about 15 large Night Clubs on the Texas Border, because thousands of 18 to 20 year old people from Texas seemed like fleas coming across the Border to have a drink. Most of these clubs held about 1,000 to 1,500 people. However, there were 4 Clubs that held 5,000 people. I played these clubs form the time I was 15 years old, until I was about 25. I played with about 8 bands in Louisiana, and One Band from Houston. Not long after that, I moved to LA to sing with a band that had been the Musicians in "Three Dog Night" (My favorite band at that time). a friend from Louisiana that I had played in 2 bands with (Jon Smith, Sax player for "Edgar Winter's White Trash Band"), was in LA, and they asked him to join their band. They asked if he knew any vocalists they could hire, and he called me, and asked if I would like to sing with the Musicians from my Favorite band ever. It was called: S.S.Fools, and we did one Album on CBS Records. I loved that band, and we only did one Tour. At about 30% of our rehearsals, 2 other people who considered the Musicians from "Three Dog Night" their favorites, showed up at our rehearsals. Those 2 guys were Jeff Porcaro & David Paich. That's how I met them, and how they met me. We became friends then. I was with S.S.Fools for a little over a year, but we wee not making enough money for me and my wife and child to survive. I left the band, and played with some local LA Bands about 3 or 4 times a week. Then, I was making enough money to pay my house note, and support the family. About 6 months after that, I got a call from Jeff and David, and they asked me if i would like to sing in the band they were putting together. Since I knew how fabulous Musicians they were, I told them I would love to play with them. the first day all 6 of the Members of Toto were jamming in Studio 55, Jeff, David, David Hungate, and Steve Porcaro were in the studio jamming, and me and Steve Lukather were out in the Hall telling each other that we were so excited if they called both of us into the room to be in the band. They did, and we both went in together. I brought my Boom-Box, and I made the only recording of the 6 Members playing in the same room for the very first time. I still have that 90 minute cassette, and it's one of my favorite "Jam Cassettes" I've ever owned. Some of the songs (which were not songs yet) were part of the different Jams the band played. One was a part of "Hold The Line". Another was part of "Girl Goodbye". Steve Lukather was only 19 years old then, and he played one of the best Guitar Solos I've ever heard on that song. It's still my favorite Guitar Solo to this very day. I can't explain how fun it was to be in Toto in the beginning of that band. I have about 1,500 90 minute cassettes of Jams, Rehearsals, Sound Checks, and so many other things. I'm transferring them to CDs now, and I can't wait to let the Toto Fans hear these tapes.
So at this point you have formed the band Toto. I imagine this was quite a ride!
I can't even explain how wonderful it was to be playing with such fantastic musicians, and singing some of the best songs I had ever heard. it's was fabulous.
What was the largest audience you ever performed for?
With "Toto", about 75,000 people. My Solo Band played the 1200-th Anniversary of Frankfurt, and there were 750,000 people there.
On New year's Eve from 2009-2010, I played at The Brandenburg Gates in Berlin, Germany, and there 1 Million people at that concert. What a fun night that was.
In 1983 you won the most Grammy awards ever won by a sinhat's gle band in history. You were up against some serious talent! Most notably John Cougar, Billy Joel and Paul McCartney. What was this experience like?
Actually, since we were Nominated for 8 Grammy Awards on "Rosanna", I thought since we had so many Nominations (8), the votes for the winners might be spread out, and Toto would just win one Grammy. When they let us win 6 Awards, we set a new precedence for the number of Grammy Awards won by any group in one year. It was so freaky that we won so many, because we were sitting next to Donald Fagan, and Stevie Wonder, who were also Nominated for some of the Awards we won. Donald Fagan's "Night Fly CD" was one of my absolute favorite CDs at that time. I was so amazed that was won over these people. However, that was one of the greatest nights of my life, and it really elevated "Toto" to a much higher level of Fame. We sold so many of the "Toto IV" CDs after the Grammy Awards. it was a fabulous night for s all.
Having achieved massive success with Toto, you also have had remarkable success as a solo artist. Which of your solo works did you enjoy the most?
I played with "The Bobby Kimball Band" from Sweden in 2011, and they were one of the very best bands I had ever played with. We will still be doing lot's of concerts together soon. I actually have 9 bands around the world, and they are all very fun to Tour with. All of us have loads of fun, and when I don't see them for a while, it's great to be back in touch with them.
You have performed with the best in business hands down. Who were some of your favorite artists you have shared the stage with?
When Toto first began, since they were all studio Musicians, and many Producers came to the studio to hear our first Album. I met many of them, and they began asking me to sing Background Vocals on the albums they were Producing. this is when I met Bill Champlin, and then, we started working on so many Albums together. however, this was before Pro-Tools, so each Chorus, and the Outtro Choruses had to be 3 part Harmony, and Triple-Tracked. Since no Pro-Tools were available, each Chorus had to be sung and Triple-Tracked. Bill and I were thinking we should have a 3rd singer to help us out, so Michael McDonald started doing the Backing Vocals with us. We were a Trio for quite a while, and that was so fun.
As of late you have been working with Herman Rarebell. Herman was the drummer for the Scorpions from 77-95 and wrote many of the Scorpions songs and now has a new album out called Acoustic Fever. How did you come to be a part of this fantastic work?
Herman has been a good friend for a long time, and he's very talented. He asked me to sing a new version of "Rock You Like A Hurricane". That was so fun, because the track was awesome. Herman loved the vocal I did on that track. Than, he asked me to do a Tour in October with John Parr, Don Dokken, and Herman, all over Europe. i think this will be a fun Tour, called Acoustic Fever Tour.
As I understand there be an Acoustic Fever tour! And will you be on this tour?
I will be on that Tour, and I can't wait to do it with those great Musicians. I'll do a Tour in The Far East just before the Acoustic Fever Tour in Europe. I'm having so much fun doing so many Concerts and Tours these days. I love playing Music, and making people Happy, and it also makes me very Happy.
Interview by: Scott Edwards