The Seger File

An unofficial web site about the music of Bob Seger Last updated May 2002 Written and Edited by Scott Sparling sparling@segerfile.com


Bands

EARLY BANDS

The Decibels

Bob Seger, Pete Stanger, R.B. Hunter

Seger was a sophomore in high school when he and two others formed the Decibels. "The band consisted of a guitar player named Pete Stanger, a black drummer named R.B. Hunter and me. We were the first band in Ann Arbor that wasn't a surf instrumental group, a blues or bar band." Roy Trakin, Creem, 1987?

"I still don't know what R.B.'s first name was; he never told anybody and no one was gonna make him do it -- he was a baad dude. Our first big break, apart from the high school talent shows, was the junior prom. After graduation, Pete went to college and R.B. just disappeared -- I never heard from him again." Timothy White, November 1977, Crawdaddy. "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Rocker"

"It started out as a vocal group -- we wanted to be Dion and the Belmonts. We got six guys together one day and had a singing audition at my friend Neil Stahle's house. I sang Runaround Sue and everybody said, "Okay, Seger, you're the lead singer.' Then three of 'em quit -- I guess it was because everybody wanted to be the lead singer. So it ended up just being me singing. Peter Stanger on guitar and a black guy named R.B. Hunter on drums...I was out front, but then I took the bass. Only I couldn't play and sing at the same time, so I just held it, pretending that I knew what I was doing. Our first big break, apart from the high school talent shows, was the junior prom." Timothy White, November 1977, Crawdaddy. "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Rocker"

"I'll never forget the first applause we ever got playing the junior prom: it literally changed my life." Timothy White, 1986, American Storm Tour Program. "Raised on Rock."

Zangrilli: "At the prom, Seger sang one of his first compositions,'Jackie The Thief' which he had co-written with Peter Stanger for Stangers' girlfriend. The Decibels later made a crude recording of the song, backed with another Seger composition, 'The Lonely One.' A half-dozen acetate 45s were pressed. This rarest of Seger recordings was aired just once on Ann Arbor radio station WPAG." Joanne Zangrilli, Goldmine, November 1990


The Town Criers

Bob Seger
John Flis, bass
Pep Perrine, drums
Larry Mason, lead guitar

February 1963: John Flis, Bob Seger, Pep Perrine


The Omens

Doug Brown's backup group. Seger remained until 'East Side Story' became a hit.

Doug Brown on stage...at the Hideout?


Democracy Rocks

Originally, Seger's bands were 'democratic.' "I was making as much money as the drummer and the background singer, we were all in it together. I've always felt that way, on principle. The only thing I've made more money on is writing songs. I just think everybody goes through the same amount of road torture." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."

Seger even split gig money and record sales earnings evenly among band members when the Silver Bullet Band was first formed, against Punch's advice.

Seger: "I think it's a good way of doing things. I've seen so many individual artists who work three or four years with a band, and then when they make it they immediately want to make all the money themselves. They change managers and do this, that and the other, and I think really mess themselves up. If a guy in your band believed in you when you were nothing, he's certainly going to believe in you when you're something, and that's the way I feel about my band. They were there in '73, for instance, when I think we all made $6,900 and we spent about $5,900 on guitars and stuff. Yeah, we didn't make anything at all. Our ladies were all supporting us." Steve Morse, September 11, 1980, Boston Globe. "Bob Seger Runs Against the Wind."


Until '75, the band decided what and how to play democratically too. "And I would put up with incredible stunts the band would pull on me." Even when Seger had seven of his own hits he could play, the band might insist on playing "two Beatles and one Yardbirds and one Animals and two of yours." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore.

Seger put up with it because he was afraid the band would break up. [Afraid people would leave him -- like his father had left?] "I was so desperate for it -- just to keep playing. I was anything but at the zenith of confidence." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."

By the time Silver Bullet was formed, Seger had changed his policy. "I tell everybody in my band -- and this is going to sound really shitty -- I tell 'em, 'Don't bring me your songs, man, because I got too many of my own. I can dig you trying to do your own songs. I'll even help you do it, but don't expect them to be on our albums, because that's what I busted my ass for fifteen years to get. To write all the songs on the album.' That may sound shitty, but that's the way it is. I mean, Springsteen's not gonna record his roadie's songs just to make his roadie happy." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."


LATER BANDS

Bob Seger and the Last Heard

Originally, The Last Heard was Pep Perrine from the Town Crier and Dan Honaker. When Seger signed with Capitol, this band was renamed the Bob Seger System -- at least in part the unintentional homonym, The Last Turd, which is what the band name tended to sound like when enunciated by fast-talking deejays.


The Bob Seger System

Seger has described the System as: "four people making decisions. The drummer and bass player and keyboard player were very influenced by FM rock" -- at a time when Seger's emphasis was just to write three-minute singles. Late-1981 radio interview.


For reasons that aren't very apparent to me, I have almost nothing to say about the Bob Seger System, other than it remains, in my opinion, one of the best band names ever. I thought it nicely avoided the rather trite format of most front men with bands -- Paul Revere and the Raiders, Tommy James and the Shondells, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The Bob Seger System incorporated Bob's name into the band's name, instead of appending it with the standard "and the." Was the format of the Bob Seger System copied from the Jimi Hendrix Experience? Could be.

I suppose the other main comment on the System was the bizarre addition of Tom Neme as co-lead singer and songwriter -- but that topic is covered extensively in the Noah section (Albums). What remains a mystery to me is precisely why the System broke up. I know Seger quit briefly during the Noah period, but the System reformed powerfully for Mongrel. What happened after Mongrel that led Bob to want to perform solo instead? Was it just a way to fill out his Capitol contract, as sometimes said? Was he saving money and avoiding debt by having no band members? Or was it normal casting about, looking for the path?

At any rate, the solo act, which I thought was terrific, wasn't the ticket, which led to the formation of a temporary band, STK.


STK

STK was Seger, Dave Teegarden and Skip Van Winkle (whose real name was Knape, hence the K in STK.) Teegarden and Van Winkle had had a hit with "God, Love and Rock and Roll."

On some shows during this period, (like the tavern in an industrial section of Cleveland, where about twenty folks and I sat on a terrace by the Cuyahoga, talking back and forth to the performers between songs) Teegarden and Van Winkle would do a set of their material, then Seger would come out solo and do his Brand New Morning Material. All three came out for the third set and did the material that formed the basis of Smoki Nopes. A bargain for the bar owner: three acts in one.

With this came an obvious lack direction. Seger: "If I had my way, it'd be all rock and roll and my tunes too. And if Dave had his way, it'd be all soul, and if Michael had his way, it'd be all blues. And if Skip had his, it would just be a two-man group. So we've agreed to a cut-off date, at the first of the year, unless things change drastically." Dave Marsh, May 1972, Creem. "Doncha Ever Listen to the Radio...How to Remain Obscure through Better Rock 'n' Roll: Bob Seger, Best in the Midwest."

"I used to hate performing. I got to the point where I wanted to have a really big album, so I could just get off the road and just sit and write and create like the Beatles did when they went off the road. But since I've been with Skip and Dave, I've come to dig performing more than I ever have in my life. Maybe that's why I haven't been writing much, because I've been concentrating on the shows." Dave Marsh, May 1972, Creem. "Doncha Ever Listen to the Radio...How to Remain Obscure through Better Rock 'n' Roll: Bob Seger, Best in the Midwest."


"They [Teegarden & Van Winkle] had had a recent hit with "God, Love and Rock n Roll. They invited me to join their band. We toured the country for about a year and worked up all these songs.

"We never could come together as a writing team...they weren't writing much and I wasn't writing much, so at the end of it we decided to just go in and record our live show. And we did it literally in 2 and 1/2 days." Late-1981 radio interview.

STK recorded 10 songs, of which 7 were used on the album. The album was immediately picked up by Warner Bros.

"Warner Brothers was such a large company with so many labels that we just seemed to get lost in the shuffle..." Late-1981 radio interview.


On working with Teegarden & Van Winkle:

"I figured I had to team up with some other people. I decided I just didn't have what it took on my own. I was really discouraged. What I didn't take into account at the time was that I had been spending maybe 80% of my time trying to be a lead guitarist.

"My singing and writing -- the things I prized most -- were suffering. I was trying to force feed the guitar playing. I had been playing lead guitar about a year when I made the Mongrel album and I was trying to catch up to Clapton and Page and guys who had been playing for 10 years. There was no way." Robert Hilburn, May 22, 1977, Los Angeles Times. "Bob Seger, Rock's Prodigal Son."


Teegarden, of course, became the drummer in the Silver Bullet band, after the original Silver Bullet drummer, Charlie Martin, was struck by a car.

Van Winkle moved to LA in 1978, and played with various artists, including Eric Burdon, Bonnie Raitt and J.J. Cale. In 1992, Skip Van Winkl had a new way of spelling his name and had joined a new band: The Robbie Krieger Band, featuring the former Doors' guitarist.

Teegarden and VanWinkle are currently working on a new album called Radioactive, which will include a remake of "God, Love and Rock 'n' Roll."


Smoki Nopes was originally released on Palladium, but apparantly there were also other non-Seger Palladium releases. I once saw an album called Seventeen Seventy-Six advertised in Goldmine -- reportedly, it is a compilation of Detroit Music issued on Palladium in 1971.


Julia/My Band/Borneo Band

According to the Back In '72 promotional flyer (a semi-reliable source), Seger toured extensively in early 1972 with a Michigan group called Julia, led by Bill Mueller. "More recently," the flyer continues, "Bob has been touring and recording with a quintet of musicians he picked up in Tulsa in the fall of 1972. " The Tulsa musicians were variously known as the Borneo Band or My Band.

The quintet, if I read the liner notes right, consisted of:

Dick Sims
Jamie Oldaker
Marcey Levy
Shaun Murphy
Sergio Pastora

Two Michigan musicians, Tom Cartmell (later to be known as Alto Reed) and Drew Abbott were sometimes added to this mix.

The names "Julia," "Borneo Band," and "My Band" seem to be almost internal names; they were certainly not highlighted at shows -- not the way Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band later came to be highlighted. At the shows I saw during this era, band members were introduced by name, but the band itself was never named -- or if it was, it's escaped my memory.

What I do remember is hearing Seger joke about Sims wardrobe, which included African dashikis. At a concert near Madison, Wisconsin, Seger introduced Sims by saying: "He's wearing his bathrobe because he's going to bed right after the show."

Julia was led by Bill Mueller and managed by a woman named Ann Marston, who introduced the band to Punch. She died shortly thereafter and Punch became Julia's manager.

When Seger heard Mueller sing, he asked him to sing background vocals on "Lookin' Back." For the tour supporting "Brand New Morning" Punch sent Julia along as an opening act. Seger then performed solo, and then Julia backed him for the final act. Later, Julia backed Bob on part of the "Smokin' OP's" album tour.

When Bob took Bill down to Muscle Shoals without the rest of Julia, there was some resentment apparently, and Julia broke up.

 

Henry Griffith, a Michigan muscian, writes that rhythm guitarist Luke Smith was also with Julia. "Luke was responsible for bringing Drew into band and also participated in multiple recordings," Griffith writes.


In early 1974, several members of Julia / the Borneo Band went back to Tulsa. The next time I saw their names, they were recording and touring with Eric Clapton -- in effect moving from a regional act to an international superstar. But there were a few stops in between, as the e-mail below clarifies:

"The Tulsa musicians did not go directly from Seger to Clapton. Jamie and Dick came back to Tulsa and were gigging with Carl Radle; they talked Marcy into leaving Detroit and coming to Oklahoma. They then worked with Leon Russell on the Stop All That Jazz album -- you can see Jamie Oldaker on the album cover. They were in rehearsal for that album's tour when Clapton called. Marcy didn't go till later." -- Dick Enburgmorpher, Tulsa.

It says a lot about the quality of the musicians Seger was playing with. Dick Sims (organ), Jamie Oldaker (drums), and Marcy Levy (backup vocals) all left in 1974 and ended up recording with Clapton on "461 Ocean Boulevard." They stayed with Clapton until 1980, recording six albums with him.

An unknown aspect of this (unknown to me, that is) is why the Borneo Band left. Mutual agreement? Things just weren't clicking? Tired of the Midwest? Whichever was the case, the dissolution of the Borneo Band forced Bob to form a new band -- one that would provide the last element needed on the rise to the top.

Seger on the Borneo Band in 1978: "Everybody wanted to do something different. They really wanted to do a laid-back Tulsa thing, exactly what they're doing with Clapton, which cooks and simmers. What I wanted to do was edge." Dave Marsh, June 15, 1978, Rolling Stone. "Bob Seger: Not A Stranger Anymore."

Last question: Why were they called the Borneo Band?

Return to the News and Update Page


Muscle Shoals band

"My work with the Muscle Shoals crew over the years has been of high quality, but not explosive, while my own band's sound has been consistently explosive but not always pleasing to the ear. I'm still searching for that mesh." Timothy White, April 1983, Musician. "The Roads Not Taken."

"Recording with Muscle Shoals was fun, because they had their sound down so well that you would just start playing and when you listened to playback it sounded so much like a record...whereas we really had to struggle to make something like 'Night Moves' or 'Rock and Roll Never Forgets' sound, shall we say, slick enough for radio, because we didn't know where to put the mics, when we were producing, Punch and I..." Radio Interview: In the Studio with Redbeard for Against the Wind.

 


The Silver Bullet Band

After working with Muscle Shoals, Seger "reaffirmed my belief in myself. I started seeing what I needed to do. I proved to myself that my writing and singing were in the right direction. I didn't want any more collaborations. I wanted a band that would follow my orders.

"In all the early bands, it had always been a democratic thing. They carried my name, but I'd have to give away this to get that. This time I wanted to choose all the songs and call all the shots on stage. I also wanted to reserve the right to record with studio musicians if the band's versions didn't turn out right." Robert Hilburn, May 22, 1977, Los Angeles Times. "Bob Seger, Rock's Prodigal Son."


The Silver Bullet Band was formed in 1974, a least partly borne of desperation. The Borneo Band had left to play with Clapton. It was time to start over.

"It was more depressing, frustrating than you can imagine. I'd spend countless hours driving and over-thinking situations. Finally I saw that various bands were playing alongside me, but they weren't behind me, pushing me to create. They wanted to make all the decisions, too. That's when I formed the Silver Bullet Band, the first one that was really behind me all the way, saying 'You do the writing, you do the interviews, you do it; we'll play.' They're all from the Detroit area, all grew up listening to my singles and all believed in me." Timothy White, November 1977, Crawdaddy. "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Rocker"

Today, the Silver Bullet Band now consists of Chris Campbell, Craig Frost and Alto Reed.Other musicians join Seger for tours.

The original members were:

  • Drew Abbot, well known in Michigan as the leader of the Third Power. Abbott was replaced after The Distance by Dawayne Bailey. Abbott later formed his own band, Burning Circle, followed by Blue Highway.
  • Charlie Allen Martin on drums. Martin was walking on a service road after running our of gas, when he was hit from behind by a lady with no lights or insurance; he was left unable to walk. Nevertheless, he later formed his own band, the Late Show, which played in the Detroit area. When Seger played Pine Knob (an outdoor venue near Detroit), Martin came out on stage in a wheelchair and played keyboards on "Get Out of Denver." Martin was replaced by Dave Teegarden, who was in turn replaced in 1983 by Don Brewer, formerly of Grand Funk Railroad.
  • Rick Mannassa on keyboards, later replaced by Robyn Robbins, keyboardist for Frost.
  • Chris Campbell on bass (a last minute replacement for Don Honaker from the System, who broke his arm just as the band was being formed.)
  • Alto Reed, who Seger had met years earlier at a Lansing recording studio. As Tommy Cartmell, Reed played with Seger as early as the Back In '72 and is pictured on the back of the album in the studio with Seger.


Drummer Dave Teegarden played with Seger as part of STK in the early '70s, and then returned for several years as part of the Silver Bullet Band. He now has a recording studio in Natura, Oklahoma, just south of Tulsa, called Natura Digital Recording Studios.


Seger: "Probably the most influential member of the band was Drew Abbott. He came out of the Third Power, which was another local band that had a contract with Electra....Their band broke up, Drew was playing the clubs, and Drew and I got together, and that finally settled the main argument, which was the guitar player. Drew became the guitar player. From there on out it was just a matter of finding the other guys." Late-1981 radio interview.


As mentioned in the Early Tours and Shows page, Alto Reed always added his own brand of showmanship, in addition to great sax work. Often he would sneak offstage, only to reappear in some unexpected place for a solo.

Reed: "I've done some crazy things in my career. I've done sax solos from a hot-air balloon, dangling over the edge of the basket. I started climbing PA stacks way, way back. The higher you could pile them, the better it was. I even came up with a Peter Pan harness from Hollywood that riggers strapped me into with piano wires that the audience couldn't see. I would scale the towering stack of PA speakers and then dive off and go flying over their heads. People would go nuts with me doing that, and I had a ball doing it. The performance element has always been what I really love, giving the people what they want...and more!" www.altoreed.com


Seger called the Silver Bullet Band "a rock and roll band with soul staging, like a lot of stops and jagged starts and smart, fancy endings to tunes...before there was all this material we had to do, we'd do cover tunes like Albert King's "Breaking Up Somebody's Home" with stops, signals and so forth." Chris Cioe, Musician. "Bob Seger: Hymns from the heartland."

Drew Abbott: "This is a band of survivors. We've all been in groups where guys died, quit, became junkies or found God. But this bunch stuck it out." Author? August 1978. Magazine?


"I had been trying for years to get the right band. When I finally got Silver Bullet, I knew this was the right one. I've got a band that is committed to doing my songs: before it was like a dogfight to get people in my band to play my songs.

"They aren't sidemen and they don't get paid as sidemen. We split all the money six ways. I don't mean the writing royalty from songs, but all of the concert and record revenue I split six ways...when I formed Silver Bullet I did this over my manager's objections. He felt I had put in all the time. I thought it should be done because everyone spends the same amount of time away from their families and what not. Everyone goes through the same mental deal that the road puts you through." Jim Girard, May 26, 1977, Cleveland Scene. "Bob Seger: Beautiful Loser on a Winning Streak."

"I don't want to ever have another band. When we stop, that's going to be it. I've had a lot of bands in my time, but when this one's done, I'll be done. This is my last band." Steve Morse, September 11, 1980, Boston Globe. "Bob Seger Runs Against the Wind."


Seger replaced Abbott and Teegarden after Against the Wind. The change in personnel became a public controversy after Seger was quoted in Rolling Stone and other publications. Abbott and Teegarden felt that Bob's comments to the media were unjustified.

Seger on Abbott and Teagarden: "They weren't playing the songs the way I heard them. I always had to compromise and I was tired of it...." Dennis Hunt, January 16, 1983, L.A. Times. "Seger: Hard Work and Low Profile"

"I was tired of compromising. I decided, 'They're rich now. It's time for me to do something for me.'" Gary Graff, June 30, 1983, Detroit Free Press. "Discord: Musicians fired by Seger are fighting mad."

Abbott responded: "If he was dissatisfied with my playing he never let me know. For all the years I worked with the man, I never saw him compromise once..." Gary Graff, June 30, 1983, Detroit Free Press. "Discord: Musicians fired by Seger are fighting mad."

Seger later softened his comments: "I was looking for a different king of feel: David is a country-type drummer; Drew is a blues-jazz guitarist. I wanted more of a rock 'n' roll feel. I didn't think there was anything mean-spirited in what I said. I never meant any kind of harm. I hold no animosity toward those guys; I wish them all the luck in the world." Gary Graff, June 30, 1983, Detroit Free Press. "Discord: Musicians fired by Seger are fighting mad."

Of Abbott, Seger said: "The guy's obviously a terrific guitarist -- his playing speaks for itself." Gary Graff, June 30, 1983, Detroit Free Press. "Discord: Musicians fired by Seger are fighting mad."


Back-up Systems

Shaun Murphy

Since the mid-70s, Seger has recorded with back-up singers Laura Creamer and Shaun Murphy. Murphy is a Detroit native who played with Wilson Mower Pursuit, a popular Detroit band. In 1996 she became the lead singer for Little Feat. She began her career in the '60s on the Motown label, was in the cast of "Hair" and later sang on Meat Loaf's obscure record "Stoney and Meat Loaf." She's sung back-up for Michael Bolton, Eric Clapton, Bruce Hornsby and the Moody Blues.

As for working with Seger for 25 years, she says, "Not a lot has changed. We're just louder in the mix than we used to be." Marc D. Allan, 1996, Indianapolis Star and News. "Shaun Murphy takes on a new life."


Karen Newman

One of the back-up singers on Seger's 1996 tour, Karen Newman, is also the singer for the Detroit Red Wings. Prior to the Red Wings, she sang for the Detroit Pistons. She met Alto Reed through the Red Wings, and he invited her to audition for the 1996 tour.

According to Newman, Seger followed the Red Wings closely. "During the playoffs, we'd have 10 minutes before we'd go back for our encores. We'd be backstage watching the playoffs. They'd have to drag Bob back out there." Laura Berman, 1997, The Detroit News. "Karen Newman proudly hails -- even through perilous nights at the Joe"


Laura Creamer

Laura Creamer has appeared on the last seven Seger albums (counting the Greatest Hits album) and she continues to record with Bob. She also has a solo career and a CD called West of Detroit. Check out her web site at www.lauracreamer.com.


 

Related Bands

The Detroit All-Stars

The Detroit All-Stars includes Chris Campbell, Tim Sparling (no relation to me), Dallas Hodge, Catfish Hodge and Drew Abbott. One of their songs is included on the Detroit-area Christmas fund-raiser CD, "Christmas in Detroit, Too," released in 1996.

In December 2001, Greg Calder wrote to add the following information:

Hey there,

Just thought you may be interested in knowing that the first version of the "All Stars" icluded: Dallas Hodge, Chris Campbell, Craig Frost, Drew Abbot, Norma Jean Bell, and Greg Calder (drums). Circa 1983.

The second version included: Dallas Hodge, Catfish Hodge, Chris Campmbell, Drew Abbot, Tim Sparling, Greg Calder. Circa 1984

I have worked with the Catfish Hodge band starting as early as 1973, and did some dates with Bob Hodge in the 80's also. (May be lining up some gigs with Catfish in this area (Detroit) soon! Also I have performed with Dallas Hodge in five different bands. Am still active doing a lot of "Jump Blues"' and the like.

 Best to you,

 Greg Calder

 


Alto Reed

Reed released his solo CD, Cool Breeze, on Detroit's Harmonie Park label this year.

Reed: "I started playing with Bob in 1972. It was a great time, it was a wild time. We did something like 250 dates one year. It was when Live Bullet came out that things really lit up for us. We went out with Kiss and that tour really launched us into what became an incredible career." Daniel Mears, March 16, 1998, The Detroit News. "Seger's sax man talks about the easy swing from rock to jazz."       

The length between tours was one of the reasons he undertook Cool Breeze...so that he could get in front of audiences more frequently.

Reed said he saw the sax as a magic instrument from very early on.  

Reed on the similarities between rock and jazz: "It really wasn't as much of a stretch ...When I play solos for Bob and the Silver Bullet Band, I try to write from the perspective of melody and complementing the vocals, lyrics, chord changes and basically try to come up with something that is as vital a part of the song as the words." Daniel Mears, March 16, 1998, The Detroit News. "Seger's sax man talks about the easy swing from rock to jazz."


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