STANLEY SHELDON | MUSIC TIMELINE

Kicking of with Stan's current project, The Vinyl Machine, we then chronologically follow Stan's illustrious career, including Peter Frampton, Tommy Bolin, Lou Gramm, Delbert McClinton, Grand Funk Railroad...

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CURRENT PROJECT | THE VINYL MACHINE

Stanley Sheldon | Duane Sciacqua | Jim Stapley | Joe Vitale | Joe Vitale Jnr | Tommy Stephenson

Collectively THE VINYL MACHINE has played more than 30,000 shows in the United States and abroad, with the biggest acts of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and this millennium. Their show consists of hit after hit with #1 selling artists that they either played on, or played with, the original artists. Being no strangers to the stage and venues big and small, they bring their musical expertise, experience and exciting stage performances, combined with humorous anecdotes and road stories of their travels and lives in the fast lane, to audiences of all ages. Their show is guaranteed to entertain, bring smiles, and unforgettable sing along memories.

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Stanley Sheldon Music History | In a Nutshell

‘The Lost Souls’ (and boy, we WERE :)) – First band in Ottawa, KS (hometown) co-assembled with my cousin Tom Stephenson on piano. We went our separate ways after graduating high School and spending a semester at College in Independence KS.

I left Kansas to move to Colorado in order to play bass in a new band (‘Amadeus’) fronted by a fellow Kansan (Gerard McMahon). In 1970, (and facilitated by a generous investor) our new band relocated to LA to pursue gigs and record. Back in Kansas, my cousin Tom continued playing in his current local band, the ‘Red Dogs’. At this time my cousin and I both had heard rumors about a young guitar wizard from Iowa named Tommy Bolin. While I was in LA that year Bolin happened to be performing his farewell performance with his band Zephyr, opening for Leslie West, ‘Mountain’ at the Santa Monica Civic Center. Amadeus’ singer Gerard already knew Tommy from earlier Denver meetings and introduced me. My first jam with Tommy happened the following day at our band house in Pacific Pallisades. Tommy had invited Eugene Smith-Frost (aka ‘Frosty’) drummer from the Lee Michaels Band to play drums. The three of us jammed and (Tommy and I and Bobby Berge (also departing Zephyr along with Tommy) decided that we might form a band together back in Boulder.

During the recording of Zephyrs’ second album ‘Going Back to Colorado’ while recording at the Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland studio in NY city, Tommy had been meeting and jamming with some NY players from the John McLaughlin circle’ of musicians. Jan Hammer (keyboards), Jeremy Steig (flute) Don Alias (drums). Kenny Passarelli (also from Denver) had been Tommy’s bass player of choice on some of these sessions, and a few months later Bobby Berge (I was still out in LA with Amadeus) Tommy and Kenny had arranged club gigs back in Boulder featuring Jeremy Stieg. Jeremy had recently recorded an instrumental fusion album titled ‘Energy’. The set list included some of the songs from Jeremys’ new record.

Also at this time Joe Walsh had just left his band, The James Gang back in Ohio, and he had just relocated to Colorado, bringing along Joe Vitale (an Ohio drummer recently having played with Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes) to play drums in his new band. They still needed a bass player to complete their rhythm section. Back in Boulder Tommy befriended Joe Walsh and recommended that he try Kenny Passarelli on bass. Kenny accepted the offer and they began recording tracks up at Jim Guercio's new mountain studio, Caribou Ranch. Walsh’s new band Barnstorm was born, however, this left a bass position to be filled for Tommy’s new fusion band Energy… I had just arrived back in Boulder from LA with this new opportunity. My cousin Tom (Stephenson) had also just arrived in Boulder, to audition with Tommy… so, me, Tom, Tommy B, and Bobby began rehearsing our new band Energy that same summer, 1971. I was still only 20 years old.

Mike Finnigan was a literally giant of a performer. Blue-eyed soul singer and master of the Hammond organ.  We in Kansas found out about him before most others. He and his mid to late sixties band, ‘The Serfs’, lived and worked out of Wichita. Our band the ‘Lost Souls’ used to have to sneak and peek in windows to see and hear this great band. To us boys from Kansas Mike was already a legend, then in 1968 while the Serfs were recording in NY at Jimi Hendrix’s new studio Electric Lady, The Serfs caught Hendrix’s and his producer Eddie Kramer’s ears. Mike and his sax man ‘Smitty’ both were asked to put parts (organ and sax) on ‘Rainy Day, Dream Away.’ After that Mike’s career really took off. He moved to San Fransico and started meeting everyone. Combining many styles of jazz and fusion with his already incredible blues playing and singing, he became a highly sought-after session player. He replaced Janis Joplin after her untimely death in Big Brother and the Holding Company. A brief time them and co-assembling and first with a Wichita jazz guitarist Jerry Hahn and later with another guitarist, Jerry Wood, in what would become two of Mikes most memorable bands of the late sixties and early seventies: The ‘Jerry Hahn Brotherhood,’ and ‘Finnigan and Wood, Crazed Hipsters.’ Once having arrived in California Mike was quickly recruited to be in Dave Mason’s (of Traffic fame) new band. It was at this time around 1972/73 that Tommy Bolin and I started courting Mike to be the singer/B3 front man for the new band we wanted to put together. We (Tommy and I) had been making forays out to LA looking for a singer. We tried a few different guys, but we really just wanted Finnigan, us and everybody else. But Mike warmed to the idea and we arranged a meeting at Chuck Morris’s and Barry Fey’s new club in Denver, Ebbetts Field. We spent 2 days jamming and recording and it sounded pretty damn good. Mike however couldn’t, or wouldn’t, leave his gig with Dave Mason for the lesser amount of money that Barry Fey was offering. So, what might have been… never was. At any rate, we did become good friends with Mike, and a couple of years later while in NY, I invited back him back to Electric Lady one night to help Frampton out on our ‘Im in You’ record. We were all pretty high, and Mike delivered a great vocal performance and arrangement of our cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered.’

These were the Frampton years. There was not a bigger act on the planet after “Frampton Comes Alive” hit number one. It was the beginning of ‘Stadium’ rock: In the beginning it was the Stones and Zeppelin, a little later, Elton, Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. There were others but Frampton was King’ the summer of '76. The touring schedule was brutal but we were young. Two shows a day sometimes. We needed our own airplane after the summer non-stop touring began. Lear jets sometimes, more often our charter Viscount’ did the job. North America and Canadian dates filled our calendar. The following two years were just as busy. When we toured Europe in '77 we chartered the same customized jet that Led Zepplin had first requisitioned – a custom 737 known as “The Starship.” Elton John had recently chartered it for his touring as well, so did the Stones. It was ours that year. In 1978 we signed on for a dual headline international tour with Frampton and Olivia Newton John. First we flew to Japan, after that down to Australia and New Zealand. But the success was building up to a grand finale/fiasco.

While we were working on the “I’m in You” record that same year, Robert Stigwood, the Bee Gee’s manager, and Dee Anthony, Peter’s manager had struck a partnership and had committed their respective stars to a movie deal. Based on a script written around two fabled Beatles records, “Sgt Pepper” and “Abbey Road”, The “Sgt Peppers Movie” would turn out to be a huge disaster – such a flop that the Bee Gees and Frampton both became pariahs in the business. The Bee Gees would recover by writing and producing hits for other big artists, but Frampton struggled for decades afterwards. We band members had counselled Peter against it, but we were up against something considered too big to fail. Peter was swept off his feet as the lead role, Billy Shears, and management had convinced him that Paul McCartney was on board for the project – turned out he was not. The band had already become disillusioned with the bad business decisions, and we were all looking for other work. Lucky for me during this ‘down’ period I was asked to play bass on Warren Zevon’s tour supporting his new record “Excitable Boy.”

I was becoming more and more disillusioned with everything. I would end up recording only one more record with Peter, “Where I Should Be.” In 1978 I decided this was where I should not be. Luckily for me I had just received a call from one of the great drummers I had met playing with Peter. It was the fall of 1978, and Rick Marotta was on the phone asking me if I wanted to come out to LA and play bass for Warren Zevon's “Excitable Boy” tour. I arrived at LAX and checked into the Chateau Marmont hotel. Rick was there to greet me and introduce me to Waddy Wachtel. Waddy was Warren’s musical director, and he had just finished co-producing the new Zevon record, he, along with Warren and Jackson Brown. This would be my introduction to the LA Mafia. Both Rick and Waddy were also at this time recording and/or touring with Linda Ronstadt, and Linda had recently taken a brief hiatus from work. Peter Asher was the most respected manager in LA at this time, and besides Linda, he was also managing James Taylor. These two artists, managed exclusively by Asher, were hiring the finest session players in LA. James Taylor was employing Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkle, Danny Kortchmar. Linda, J.D., and Jackson Brown were also hiring most of the same players: Rick Marotta and Waddy, David Lindley, Bob Glaub, Dan Dugmore, Don Grolnick, and Billy Payne, among others. Peter Asher was orchestrating this elite stable of musicians. I was in good company and 1978 would turn out to be a very fortuitous year for me.

While I was touring the US with Warren Zevon to promote the “Excitable Boy” record around 1978/79, Waddy Wachtel had started floating the idea to us about creating our own new band, with Waddy being the front person. Peter Asher liked this idea. Dan Dugmore had some good songs as well, so we (Rick Marotta, Dan, and I) were convinced that with Peter managing us it would be no problem to get a record deal. We all agreed and our band “Ronin” was born. Rick, Waddy,and Dan Dugmore were all playing with Linda Ronstadt, so when the Waren Zevon tour ended, those guys still had commitments with Linda that they had to fulfill. With Peter Asher now managing James (Taylor), Linda, and Ronin, it made it easy for us to schedule our Ronin dates around Linda’s and Jame's  respective schedules. But Ronin only did one tour of the US, opening up for the Rossington Collins Band. The two guitarists from the Lynyrd Skynyrd band were important member/survivors from Skynyrd’s disastrous plane crash. I had met Skynyrd band back in 76 while touring with Peter Frampton, and we had been chartering the same plane as the one Skynyrd crashed in. It’s a crazy story: we had just finished our tour that year with Peter, and handed the airplane over to the Skynyrd tour. The Frampton road crew was on board that night, getting a lift home to Texas, when the plane went down. A few days later we were told the story first hand by our crew, somehow they had all survived the crash, albeit with serious injuries. But after Ronnie Van Zandt died that night Skynyrd would never be the same. The others (Rossington and Collins) soldiered on with their patented southern rock style, and our band Ronin fit their hard rocking style pretty well. Good times were still possible. We bused most of that tour, and we covered a lot of ground in just a month or two, 15 or 20 major US cities. While we were rehearsing Ronin material in LA before the tour, we had been bumping into a lot of other respected musicians around town. Lowell George and Richie Hayward seemed to be everywhere; and the band Little Feat was pumping out some of the greatest songs ever, real musician’s musicians, if ever there were any. Linda Ronstadt loved Little Feat a lot too, and she had recently covered one of Lowell’s songs, “All That you Dream,” From “The Last Record Album” (1975). Linda had previously sung background vocals on the Little Feat original, accompanying Lowell. “The Last Record Album” has some other tremendous songs, “Romance Dance,” “Long Distance Love,” and “Down Below the Borderline,” three of my personal favorites. We lost Lowell (and Richie) way too early.  

RONAN REUNION TO FOLLOW...

After Peter Asher’s extravaganza “California Live,” featuring  Linda Ronstadt, James Tayor, J.D. Souther, and Ronin in 1982, it became apparent to me that although the other Ronin boys were bound-up with Peter Asher, and their respective commitments to James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, I was not. So I headed back home to NY and settled into family life with my wife Judy and our 3 year old toddler Alex. Up where we lived, one hour north of NY City, in Westchester County, there were plenty of my neighbors that were also successful musicians. Frampton lived there, and the recent and rapid success of the first two Foreigner albums generated income and attracted some of their band members to our neighborhood too. Lou Gramm, Rick Wills (bass), and Dennis Elliott (drums) from Foreigner had all moved up near me. While I had been away on the road off and on for a year or two, with both Warren Zevon and Ronin, my wife Judy had meanwhile become good friends with the wife of Lou Gramm and their young son… when I got back home Lou and I started hanging out, and we also quickly became friends. Lou had a home studio and he and I began working on tunes for a solo album he was planning to do when Foreigner had some down time. I ended up playing on two songs on his “Ready or Not” solo Record. The first song released, “Midnight Blue” became a pretty big hit for Lou and we returned to LA to make a video promoting the song. When that project ended and Lou had resumed his role as lead singer in Foreigner, I started looking around for other work. Did not take long… I had a friend that was considering producing the singer Melanie (Safka) and he introduced me to her. Melanie had become well-known in the late sixties, mainly after playing the “Isle of Wight’ festival in England, the British version of Woodstock. Among other songs, she had recorded and performed a memorable cover of the Stones hit “Ruby Tuesday.” Later on she recorded some hits of her own: in 1971/72: “Brand New Key”, “What Have They done to My Song” and “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” After meeting and playing with her a little at her New Jersey home, across the Hudson River from me, I was immediately invited to do some touring in her new band. That same year we went up to Buffalo NY and made an LP (“Am I Real or What”) that resulted in some decent tracks. Melanie’s most memorable musical contribution was probably when the famous (“Oh Happy Day”) Edwin Hawkins gospel choir joined her for a very soulful one-off live performance of “Lay Down.”

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