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SOME MUSIC FOR YOU (Click on the CD covers below to go to the Listening Post)


The only way I know to do this and keep it interesting is to jump around from topic to topic, hitting on the major events - and at the same time keep up with my bass history. The Happy the Man story is told all over the web, and there is my version of the Happy the Man website here - which is more detailed and comprehensive. I will give you the "Cliff Notes" version, but please forgive the bouncing around.


In the fall of 1971 my fate was sealed in the draft lottery, as my number was 34. I sold most of my gear and I went into the Army right after Christmas. I spent time in basic training and AIT and in June of 1972 I was assigned to a Military Police Battalion in Kaiserslautern, Germany. In retrospect, my time in the military was very rewarding and it actually set me up for a number of surprises in my life. I am fourth generation military and I am very proud of both my military service and the Army Commendation medal I earned.



As the story goes, fate was hard at work in the form of meeting Stan Whitaker just a few days after I arrived in Germany. His band - along with his brother Ken on vocals - was playing on my army base and I befriended him, along with the other members of "Shady Grove". We were both enamored with the eclectic Euro bands of the era - like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP, King Crimson, and Van Der Graf Generator. They asked me to play bass on "The Knife" by Genesis - at the Shady Grove sound check - and that apparently sealed the deal.

Stan announced to me after their show that night that they were headed to Madison College in Harrisonburg, Virginia to start a new band in the fall, and asked me to be the bass player. Even though it could be my dream band, I had to tell him I had a year and a half left in Germany on my Army commitment and politely declined. He assured me it would take that long to get settled, lock in the band members, and get the original tunes written - and they would wait for me. Stan told me his brother Ken, would not be continuing on as the front man. I told Stan I had a great drummer for sure - and possibly a front man I could speak to about the project - and he told me to go for it.

A couple of months later, in September, I got a nine page letter along with a cassette of some song ideas they were kicking around. The tunes knocked me out and even though they were pretty rough pencil sketches - the foundation was there. I knew instinctively that Mike Beck and I would fit perfectly and that we were the missing links. I also hoped Cliff would decide to join too.


I was anxious to get in a room together and play, to confirm my growing instincts that the chemistry would be there. I soon got a leave from the Army and with a prisoner shipment - I was headed to the stockade at Fort Riley, Kansas. After dropping off my prisoners, I routed my return ticket back to Frankfurt through Indiana - grabbed Mike - and we piled in his van and headed to Virginia for a week. I was lucky enough to borrow or rent a sunburst Fender Jazz from somewhere and I played through my Shure PA speaker columns with a borrowed Fender Bassman head. Here is a photo of me that week, rehearsing in a dorm room at Madison College.

The trip to Virginia was highly successful, and all of our plans sort of kicked into high gear. I realized that it was time to purchase a bass when I got back to Germany. I found out that Fender had a killer deal with the PX's and you could get the instruments as a G.I. just above cost. I decided to take the plunge and ordered a new, 1972 standard swamp ash, natural finish Jazz bass, with a maple neck and black rectangle position markers on the fingerboard. I figured my time had come and I had to figure out how to play one of these long scale monsters. The bass seemed to weigh a ton and there were a series of dead spots in the neck from the 4th to 7th frets on both the G string and D string. I worked around the limitations but wondered how this bass ever passed quality control. I also couldn't help but wonder if Fender U.S. was sending their "seconds" to the GI's overseas. I worked my ass off for hours and hours on this bass, as I was beginning to learn the "Happy the Man" tunes they were sending to me in Germany. At first the songs sounded like all the bands we admired and listened to - but as time went by the tunes got more and more unique. Even when I got back to the states - it took a while before we started to find our "sound".


I also got an Army gig working at the Kaiserslautern Entertainment Center, and met singer-songwriter Steve Durham. We hit it off and I played bass at a concert in support of his music as pictured below. The percussionist in the rear of the photo was with an all G.I. R&B outfit called "100% Pure Poison" and I loved playing with him. Note the custom leather pick guard I had made for the bass.


A few weeks later, I was asked to help out the local R&B band previously mentioned - called "100% Pure Poison". They were a very talented ten-piece band playing their own brand of funk and R&B music. I was at the Entertainment Center one day and I was approached by a couple of the members who told me that Arthur Conley of "Sweet Soul Music" fame was headed to Germany. His band had quit in England and 100% Pure Poison were asked by Arthur's manager to be his backing band on the German dates. Long story short their bass player was on leave - and they asked me if I could stand in for the friday and saturday dates on the upcoming weekend. I was up for the challenge and I knew how much work this would be. As additional incentive - there were some bucks involved - and since I was so rusty - I knew that any playing experience would be valuable.

This was on a tuesday and Arthur's manager had sent Arthur's records over from the UK which we got on thursday. The first date was friday, so we had a little over a day to learn a one hour show. The problem was, he sent no charts, and this was a full band and horn section. Additionally, we were given a list of the tunes we were asked to learn. Of course, for me it was not a big problem - I was used to pulling bass parts off of records by ear - and had no need for charts. But to get all the nuances of the horn arrangements and to chart the parts out was a big project - and very time consuming. We worked through the night and managed to get the tunes sounding pretty good. There were no rehearsals with Arthur, we were expected to have the tunes ready to play onstage. There was also no set list as Arthur liked to call the tunes out on the spot according to his mood. Arthur is on top with the band's photo at the bottom, who were eventually signed to EMI.

On friday night, most of the set went remarkably well under the circumstances, and the band sounded good and the audience was responding. All of a sudden, Arthur launched into a tune which started with a solo vocal - a tune that none of us were familiar with. It was a very strange moment - we stood onstage looking at each other. We stumbled through it somehow, with the guitar player yelling out some chords which he thought might be the ones. It was really pretty bad - I was very embarrassed - but it was a great learning experience. I made up my mind right then and there that I would never walk on a stage again unprepared. Happily, I haven't - the lesson was - I should have learned his entire catalog, which was only a few records at that point and been prepared for anything.

As a side benefit, many of my previously stand-offish black brothers in the barracks, gained a new found respect for me, and started to warm up to me. But after the first performance, being literally - the only white face in the club - I got to feel a very strange twinge of what discrimination must really be like. None of the bartenders or waitresses in the club would acknowledge me or serve me.


After I got back to the U.S. I decided that it was a shame to cover up all of that nice wood on my Jazz Bass with leather - I was starting to fall in love with the look of natural wood - and below is the bass after I installed a custom clear pick guard.

I knew I would need an amplification system, so I started saving my meager Army checks and eventually went to England to pick up a new Hiwatt Bass Amplifier stack. Stan was using Hiwatt at the time along with big time artists like the Who and John Wetton - and many other mostly English artists. I got a buddy to drive me over from Germany via the ferry to London and to bring the stack back to the barracks in his van. Here I am celebrating the purchase with a nice German chilly lager.


When I returned to the States, I modified the Fender Jazz bass and installed a Rickenbacker treble pickup in the bridge position - which helped get that "crunch" I was looking for. The dead spots still drove me crazy and unfortunately, a tune we were working on from the "Death's Crown" rock opera broke the camel's back. The song was all about sustaining whole notes and my luck had run out. With the dead spots on the neck of the Fender - it just didn't cut it and there were no "work-around's". Dan Owen loaned me his burgundy Fireglo Rickenbacker and I soon realized it fit me a little better than the Fender Jazz, as the scale was 33.25" as opposed to the full 34" scale of the Jazz Bass. Also, there were no dead spots in the neck preventing me from playing "Open Book". I had no idea at the time that the Rickenbacker neck was slightly shorter, but I knew I could get around on it a little easier. Here is a photo of me playing Dan's Rickenbacker.

And here I am with my own mapleglo Rickenbacker, which I bought shortly after.

I had a custom mahogany pick guard made for the Rick, as I liked the contrast of the natural maple against the dark mahogany as opposed to the cheap look of the white plastic. Except for "Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo" I used it exclusively on the first "Happy the Man" record. We were the kings of writing parts which were just outside of our technical grasp and it took everything I had to keep up with the intense virtuosity of the band. The slightly shorter scale definitely helped. The Rickenbacker was a dual edged sword - as the scale length was slightly shorter - but it also sported a thin flat neck - much wider at the nut - that really took some serious getting used to.


The life changing event was receiving the custom medium scale PRS bass Paul made for me by hand in his tiny shop in Annapolis. It was a perfect fit for me right off the bat - no instrument could hold a candle to the revelation in ergonomics and playing comfort that PRS bass provided for me. It was certainly like coming home and I couldn't believe it took me so long to find an instrument that fit me so well in every way.

My search, for the time being was over. For the complete story about the bass and to read the Vintage Guitar Magazine article about it, click here.


Meanwhile, back in Happy the Man land, we were rehearsing 5-6 nights a week at 79 Rockbridge Circle - and later on Port Republic Road - and cranking out tune after tune. We lived together and took almost a communal and spiritual approach to our endeavors. We hand picked an amazing crew of dedicated foot soldiers, who developed a multi-media slide show to go with our concert lighting. We had our own sound, stage and lighting crew - and in the early days we split the proceeds from our performances equally between band and crew. There wasn't much money to go around, so we decided to just make it all equal. It worked for us at the time.

We managed to play concerts at Madison's Wilson auditorium and we played in Cabell Hall at University of Virginia, Charlottesville. We were really honing our craft, getting our identity out there, and we started to sound more and more like "Happy the Man" - instead of an amalgamation of all the bands we were listening to.

We managed to get into the Mennonite Broadcasting Studio, with engineer Abe Rittenhouse, and record two songs. We got to do some overdubs as we were recording on four track, which was a treat for us - something we definitely were not used to. We also filmed a couple of songs at a local TV station - videos of which have never surfaced. I am not sure if the videos were ever aired - I think we just had access to the equipment in the off hours - and did it for the fun of it. I have spent a considerable amount of time on the phone speaking to Abe and the staff at the television station - trying to track down those videos, with no luck. The memorable incident at the time - is that Kit's Hammond B3 had broken down and we were in a panic to get parts to fix it.


Things seemed to be chugging along quite nicely but then we experienced a pretty major setback. We lost our original vocalist/flautist Cliff Fortney, who decided to attend Madison on a full-time basis and to concentrate on getting his formal music degree.


After Cliff left, we worked up a long piece of Frank's - really a rock opera - called "Death's Crown". With the loss of Cliff we crafted it into an instrumental multi-media event. We performed it a handful of times at the Blackfriar Dinner Theatre, complete with actors, dancers and we even hung a guy from a gallows. The band performed from the orchestra pit. Here is a photo from Blackfriar's.


After the Blackfriar's run - we replaced Cliff with my good friend Dan Owen, who was my favorite vocalist over the years. Dan ended up being the singer for the vocal incarnation of "Death's Crown". We re-worked the material from Blackfriar's and added in vocals - making it much easier to tell the story through lyrics. Here is the band with Dan performing the rock opera at Wilson Auditorium at Madison College:


Dan stuck around for a short time - but eventually left the band and moved on to becoming a road crew member with the Genesis organization - taking care of Daryl Sturmer and his guitars. He also was fortunate enough to open for Genesis for a number of shows with his songwriting partner at the time, Dale Newman. It was heartbreaking to lose two fine vocalists in a row - and after Dan left - we realized we could never find anyone even remotely as good as Dan was. We had a band meeting and decided then and there to simply go instrumental. We restructured our material into instrumental form, laid down a new demo and left the Shenandoah Valley for the Washington D.C. area. Fate and the universe seemed to be telling us something. We simply resigned ourselves to the fact that we were apparently not supposed be a vocal outfit.


We ended up settling in Arlington, Virgina. We were delighted and amazed to discover eclectic rock radio in the form of WGTB at Georgetown University. We met Skip Pizzi from WGTB and he latched on to our demo and started running songs here and there - and the station eventually hired us to headline their "Pandamedia" Festival. WGTB's efforts were instrumental in helping us to get a foothold in the area and to give our "live" show a much needed attendance boost. We probably didn't even realize at the time how incredible it was to get the kind of airplay we were getting - in such a sizable market. It was an awesome radio station at an awesome time.


Soon after Peter Gabriel had left Genesis, we found out - through my friend Dale Newman who worked for the Genesis organization - that Peter was interested in auditioning Happy the Man for the spot as his back-up band. It seemed a bit surreal at the time, but Peter flew from London to the Washington D.C. area to spend a few days with us. The first day we got acquainted and swam and played volleyball and simply hung out. The next day, we spent an incredibly long and grueling day with Peter in our rehearsal studio. He was in the process of putting together the tunes for his first solo album - tunes which we discovered were in various states of completion. He would be showing us a song - playing the piano to accompany his awesome voice - and pause suddenly with a blank look on his face. We were never sure if he forgot the lyric or maybe he was writing it on the spot. It didn't really matter, he was truly amazing and inspiring.

The time with Peter seemed to go well enough - but in the end, there were a few issues with the Gabriel concept - the deal breaker being that we would have to put all of our music on hold. In retrospect we may look like fools for not jumping head first onto the Gabriel band wagon - but you have to realize - Genesis was nothing more than a cult band at the time - and no one had any inkling that Peter would emerge as the huge star he has become. Frankly, - right or wrong - we had more faith in our music than we had in his - and that is what it truly came down to at the time.


Meanwhile, Arista had been showing a bit of interest in us through Rick Chertoff and Stu Fine - interest that was rekindled with the Gabriel audition. Next thing we knew, we were showcasing in New York City for Clive Davis and his innermost staff - and being signed to Arista. The showcase was quite bizarre as there was no applause at all after the songs. You could hear a pin drop. It was refreshing to see they were listening so intently - but also a little disarming. At the end of the show Clive jumped to his feet clapping - giving us a standing ovation and of course - they all jumped to their feet clapping - and then they filed out of the room. It left us a bit cold - we started packing up the gear and it seemed like a lot of time went by. Our manager finally came in and told us someone down the hall wanted to meet us. It was Clive and his staff - and I will never forget what he said. The exact words escape me but it was something to effect of: "I don't really know this style of music, but Rick does - (pointing at Chertoff) and he says you are about the best at playing it he has ever heard. We would like to sign the band." Interesting - at least to me - that Clive admittedly didn't get what we were doing from day one.

Arista had put us up in the Empire Hotel, and we went to dinner after the showcase. By the time we got back to the hotel, our beloved crew had filled a bathtub with ice and had what seemed like - one each of every type of beer ever made - chilly and waiting for us. It was an incredible night to be able to realize a goal I had set for myself at the ripe age of 14. Just the band and crew in a hotel room, hanging with each other, partying - and marveling at how our hard work had finally paid off. It was a very exciting time - one of those "peak" moments in a person's life.

Later on - one of the best Arista stories came from our manager. According to him - at the weekly singles meeting - they played our new single "Knee Bitten Nymphs in Limbo" for the staff at the wrong speed. These were the days of turntables and vinyl. I suppose the saddest or funniest part - depending on your point of view - is that no one stopped it - they listened to the entire song. Our tunes are instrumental and can be more than a little bizarre - and apparently none of the record executives present realized it was being played at the wrong speed.


We had signed to manager Robert Steinum early on - who had lost most of the sight in his eyes. Robert was a tireless foot soldier who spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to keep the fires burning for us. Robert was very dedicated - and he did what he could - and spent many long hours scheming, strategizing and hand-holding. He managed us during the Gabriel period and it was his pool and volleyball court that we used for the leisurely day with Gabriel. Eventually, he sold his interest in us to a gentleman named Lew Ressigue and his company in Arlington, Virginia. Lew owned an advertising and marketing firm and unfortunately - they knew less than nothing about the music business. They were brought on apparently for funding purposes. In the meantime, the band had been having a great run of sold out shows at the Cellar Door, in Georgetown. The Cellar Door was a great room, probably our all-time favorite due to its intimate nature. It only held 120 patrons, but there was a balcony, so from the stage it felt as though the entire audience was right on top of you. From the stage - you could literally reach out and touch the audience members - they were that close.

As soon as Arista decided to sign us, Cellar Door expressed interest in managing us. They worked a deal with Lew Ressigue and Robert - who apparently had never been paid in full for his share of the Ressigue deal. Jack Boyle and Sam L'Hommedieu signed us to Cellar Door Management and they hired former FTC attorney Bobby Baker to be the day to day point man for the company. They also signed "Firefall" and "Crack the Sky" to the Cellar Door Management roster. It was always a difficult situation, as no one involved in our careers knew exactly what to do. There was no blueprint for breaking an eclectic, eccentric act like Happy the Man. Our music was far from mainstream and with our mostly instrumental posturing - I really believe that they did everything they could think of. At the time, Cellar door had like 12 venues over 10,000 seats between Washington D.C. and Miami. It was mostly through their efforts that we secured any opening act slots at all. We had a good amount of airplay at college radio and we were the darlings of the press - but for some inexplicable reason - we were never able to find any real traction either at mainstream radio or at retail.

One of the best things that ever came out of the relationship with Cellar Door was meeting and befriending Kathy Moore - who has become such a dear friend and our booking agent over the years. Kathy is incredibly dedicated - and has carried our flag up the hill as much as anyone ever has over the years.


Arista asked us to make a list of our favorite producers so we could get going on the first record. As the story goes, our three favorite producers were Ken Scott, Ken Scott and Ken Scott. We didn't give them a list, we gave them a name. We particularly loved what he had done with Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Birds of Fire". Ken had engineered a number of Beatles albums, including much of the White Album, and had worked with such luminaries as Elton John, David Bowie, Supertramp, Jeff Beck, Billy Cobham, and Stanley Clark. How could we not love the idea of Ken Scott? Our first album project with Ken was simply titled "Happy the Man" and the second was "Crafty Hands".

A great story is that Arista sent him some music right away at our request. In those days, Arista would send pouches on a plane and via courier from the New York to the L. A. office. They were supposed to be sending another project for his consideration - but there was some sort of mix-up - or at least that is what we were told. When he went by the Arista L. A. office to pick it up - he was presented with our material instead. He really liked the band and called our managers right away - explaining that he needed to see the band "live" - and that if it was what he thought it was - he would change the hold at A&M Studios from Cat Stevens to Happy the Man - and sign a production deal with us. He flew in a few days later and we did a daytime showcase for him at the Cellar Door. That sealed the deal and the next thing we knew - we were at A&M Studios doing our first album project. At least we thought we were. The union came in an hour or two into the first day and shut us down. We had no idea that we needed to join a "union". It sent our managers back in D.C. scrambling in a panic - but by the next day we were back in the studio. It is important to remember - other than "live" two-track recording and a few songs on a four track - we were as green as green gets about the multi-track recording process. We had a lot to learn.

For those of you who may have read and enjoyed Ken's book "Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust" it's important to note that much of the material in the Happy the Man chapter is simply inaccurate. I spoke to Ken about it after the book came out - and he admitted to me that they had not interviewed any of us before the book went to press. He was relying solely on his memory. He told me that before the paperback version - he or his writing partner would interview me - so we could set the record straight on a variety of skewed details. Not surprisingly, I am still waiting on his call. Something tells me that I shouldn't hold my breath or wait by the phone.


Channel 7 in Washington D.C. was filming a series of shows promoting bands and solo artists who were on the way up. Cellar Door got them to follow the band around to a gig or two and they added us to the television series. The show "Catch A Rising Star" ended up winning an Iris Award for the "Best Local Performing Arts Show" in D.C. for that year. I will never forget the incredible party they threw at a D.C. nightclub - after winning the award. It ranks right up there as one of the greatest nights of my life. Everyone was ecstatic and having so much fun - you could feel the electricity all around you. It made us all feel special - and gave us a small but satisfying taste of that elusive success we had all been working so hard to achieve.


I think if you took a poll of the band members, they would probably tell you that the best show we ever played was at the Warner Theatre in Washington D.C. - on a co-bill with Renaissance. It was so rare for us to actually be on a bill with a relatively compatible act. This photo shows a decent glimpse of our stage setup You can see the extent of Mike Beck's percussion rig - Michael had over 200 instruments on stage and our keyboard rig - including a full size Hammond B3 organ - added to the bulk and complexity. It is no wonder it was never easy opening for other acts - even with the sizable and highly proficient stage crew we had at the time.


As the time came to record "Crafty Hands" grew closer - there was a lot of unrest in the band. The way I saw it - Michael was getting more and more into his "precision percussion" and he didn't have much interest in bashing at the drum kit. He felt a lot of pressure as the focal point of the visual part of the "live" show - and felt that he had a higher calling. He wanted to be given the tools and the material he needed - to push his percussion activities up to the next level - and at the same time create a truly unique and interesting visual show. As a point of fact, it was much easier for Michael to choreograph and shine on mellower music - where he did not have to spend much time on the drum kit.

Unfortunately, lots of new rockers by Stan were emerging and quite a bit of the new material called for aggressive drumming. The rehearsal clashes became more and more intense. The band was really nervous - it was approaching Christmastime and we were completely unprepared for the studio - which was just around the corner in January. If we were anything - we were always prepared, but not now. It all made for a volatile and disturbing situation. When Michael decided to head for Indiana to break for the holidays the band breathed a collective sigh of relief.

It was kind of strange and completely organic, but Michael's friend Ron Riddle had stopped by the house a time or two while Michael was on his visit to Indiana. He ended up jamming with us and the chemistry kind of clicked and blew everyone away. Not pre-mediated or planned - and certainly extremely awkward for all of us - but long story short, at the end of the day - Ron ended up replacing Michael and recorded the Crafty Hands record with us.

To me, there is an interesting edge to Crafty Hands - it sounds really fresh. The reason it feels and sounds like the first time we played some of those tunes - is because it was the first time - on at least a few of them. We were a band that played tunes over a period of time - honing and perfecting them and we and had the luxury of testing them on the audience to get some feedback and reaction. With this record there was none of that. Everything was pretty much done by the seat of our pants. We were flying without a net. One of the reasons I really enjoy playing with Ron so much - is that he rarely plays anything the exact same way as the time before it. He is always on the edge - reaching and experimenting for that one nuance - which will make the song even better. As a bass player - that looseness really keeps you fresh and always on your toes. Ron is an expert when it comes to knowing how to push yourself past your own limits.

The best Ron story is that he wanted to take his family of nine cats with him to L.A. to record, since he would be there for a couple of months. Opting not to fly, he loaded all nine cats in his van, along with his girlfriend Judy and drove all the way to the West Coast. He was completely burnt out when he arrived as he had underestimated the amount of hours it would take to drive cross-country. He was fried and completely sleep deprived upon arrival. During the stay in L.A. one of their cats died, so they froze it and kept it in a cooler - and drove it all the way back to New York so they could return it to home and give it a proper burial. Ron is so dedicated to animals and nature that he has owned two wolves. For a great documentary he made about the second wolf "Chance" go here.

Unfortunately for all involved, Ron left the band after the recording - at least at that time - was never to play "live" with us. He was replaced by Frenchman - and drummer extraordinaire - Coco Roussel from Heldon and Clear Light Symphony. Coco performed on "3rd...Better Late" and was also the drummer for our "Live" - release which was recorded at the Cellar Door. He also went on to work with Kit Watkins on his solo projects.


The other great Arista story is all about the Crafty Hands album cover. They took a shining to a song called "Service With A Smile" and their cover idea was something to the effect of a delivery person knocking on an apartment door, delivering a bucket of chicken. Somehow this represented "Service With a Smile" to them. The band was upset - and felt that a fairly serious record was not being taken seriously. I think we had developed a sense of humor about ourselves, but if you could have seen this, you would understand. It was simply inappropriate. In the meantime, I believe Frank thought of Crafty Hands as the title - from an earlier Frank song called "Crafty Hands with Glass Spun Beads". Kit found a great painting/print by artist Mario Grimaldi - which would eventually become the cover. Frank personally paid a visit to the Arista offices in New York to deliver the artwork - and to make sure they didn't mess it up this time - but in the end they used a blue cover with what I thought was awful orange and green lettering. I think the moral of the story is - never trust the record label with your cover art and supervise every detail down to your last breath, including the choice of fonts and the colors used.


After "Crafty Hands" was released, we discovered that we were in serious contention for the opportunity to record the music score and soundtrack for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". Eventually the producers of the movie, came to the decision that our music would compete with the movie - and be more "foreground" than "background" - so they settled on John Williams. This was the beginning of the end for us at Arista and a short time later at a three martini lunch, they dropped us and all of the "progressive" acts on the label - including Phil Collins and "Brand X". Disco and the Talking Heads were strongly prevailing at retail and radio - and they felt that our style of music was over. This was 1979 - and we made several unsuccessful attempts to score new management and a new label. Our keyboardist, Kit Watkins, received a nice offer to join "Camel" in the U.K. - the band decided to call it quits - at least for a while....


Twenty years later - the band was asked to reunite. One of the reasons for this reunion was to play a headlining concert at NEARfest in June of 2000. The "Happy the Man" reunion featured four of the five members who appeared on the "Crafty Hands" record, including drummer Ron Riddle. Ron is known for his work as a gifted 'music for film' composer, and cut his teeth touring with Blue Oyster Cult and Stu Hamm, among others. Original keyboardist Kit Watkins wanted to participate in some new music, but was unwilling to play "live". At the time Frank was living in Hawaii and Stan was living in Los Angeles. They both ended up re-locating back to the east coast settling in Baltimore.

So, we ended up replacing Kit with David Rosenthal, who was previously a member of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, and had toured with Cindi Lauper, Robert Palmer, Whitesnake and has been in Billy Joel's band for well over a decade. David was also Steve Vai's roommate at Berkeley and while Steve was charting out all of the Zappa tunes, David was busy charting out all of the Happy the Man songs. We began rehearsing and played a number of shows - but Ron's film music was really starting to penetrate - and Ron eventually had to drop out and concentrate on his 'music for film' career exclusively. After an audition process, Ron was replaced by Joe Bergamini.

We played a date at ProgDay in North Carolina and we were approached by Chad and Rob from NEARFest - who told us InsideOut Music in Germany wanted to sign us to a two-project deal. InsideOut Music at the time was the label that had released solo records from the guys in Genesis, Yes and Kansas and had a great reputation in the progressive rock world. It took quite a while to structure and negotiate the deal, and record and mix the songs - and in October of 2004 "The Muse Awakens" was released.

We ended up playing scattered dates over about a six year period - mostly on the Eastern Seaboard - from New Jersey south to Chapel Hill. This was always our "stomping ground" and we had a bit of a following there. We also did a "live"radio broadcast for Sirius/XM radio which is yet to be released - but does get re-played from time to time.

It was an incredible struggle to get anything done, members were scattered from Baltimore to New Jersey to Westchester to Ithaca. No matter where we rehearsed, we had to block out at least a week at a time to make it worthwhile - and some of us were driving 5-6 hours each way to get to rehearsal. We never had much of a budget and everyone was doing what they normally did to pay the bills. Taking time off for rehearsal always placed a financial strain on the members, with bills piling up and no income during rehearsal time. It was a very difficult situation to say the least, a difficult situation that soon turned impossible.


On the bass side, as Happy the Man decided to re-unite in 1999, I knew I didn't want to take the PRS out of my house. It was my only bass and I had played it exclusively from 1977-1999. It is too valuable to take that risk. Stan and Frank had seen a couple of basses built by Keith Roscoe, and at their urging, I contacted Keith. We clicked right away and he ended up building custom twin basses in medium scale - including 13 Pin Roland/RMC midi systems - which I used exclusively during the "Happy the Man" reunion days.

The basses sound great, play like a dream and - along with my Roland V-Bass- I had unprecedented versatility - adding upright and fretless sounds to the mix - as well as modeling over a dozen different bass amps. For "live" amplification, I first had a big rack of Carvin gear and Carvin cabinets, as we had an endorsement deal with them. However, I eventually grew tired of carting it all around and not always having it at my house so I opted for a simpler setup - an Eden DC 210XLT Metro Bass Combo like the one below.



It has taken many years to fully appreciate all of the dynamics - which were created by so many good people - over the years. Unfortunately, there always seemed to be a lot of finger-pointing with no measurable success - so we tended to look down our noses at our managers and most of the other industry professionals surrounding us. The lack of appreciation was very immature. Everyone involved with Happy the Man always did their best in support of the common good - but against overwhelming odds and for all the usual reasons - it simply never happened.

In defense of Arista, they really had no idea what to do with us. We did dates which they supported - with Foreigner, Hot Tuna, Gato Barbieri, Stomu Yamashta's Go Band, Renaissance, Larry Coryell and Rick Derringer. Thanks to Cellar Door - we had secured opening spots on major tours with both Carlos Santana and Steely Dan - neither of which ultimately materialized. Maybe it was all about bad timing and bad luck.

Perhaps the music was ahead of it's time - perhaps it still is. Whatever the reason - any kind of real popularity is still elusive at best. The band called it quits for the most part on March 19, 2006, but "Happy the Man" lives on in many ways - perhaps most importantly - with recently released, re-mastered versions of the Arista gems - and the band being featured prominently in one book and at least one more book which is forthcoming..

Special thanks to the musicians who have made it through the “Happy the Man” System, and survived the long drives, the impossible chops, the incredible hours, the bad jokes, the strong coffee, the petty disagreements, and the outrageous demands; yet we all somehow marvel with fondness at the inexplicable joy and satisfaction of being one of us.

To go to my Happy the Man site and to learn much more click here.

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