PAST BANDS & projects

BARTHOLOMEW + III (c. 1965-1968)

 

B+III grew out of a number of local Montreal bands formed by Corky and his best friend, George Gardos (bass and vocals). In B+III they were joined by Barry Albert and Gary Ship. The band started out playing High School dances and Sweet Sixteen parties, but soon caught the attention of a high profile local promoter. Suddenly, the boys found themselves opening for acts like The Who, Cream, Herman’s Hermits, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. They got their first recording deal with Bell Records and through a series of co-incidents found themselves recording “When I Fall in Love” at Atlantic studios in NYC.* That particular song was a favourite of Ahmet Ertegun and he wanted to audition Felix Pappalardi with it – and B+III were chosen as the band for Felix to produce.

* Thanks to Nick and Victor Ferrantella, you can listen to the track here.

ENERGY (c. 1969)

 

Energy consisted of George Gardos (bass and vocals), Gary Ship (lead vocals, organ and electronic piano), and Corky (drums and vocals). By this time, the guys were writing a lot of their own material and Energy was starting to get recognized in the NYC music scene also. They recorded an album with Felix Pappalardi producing, but in the turmoil of Corky leaving the band to join Mountain, those tracks were lost.* The search for them goes on to this day. The only recording of Energy is from a live show in Nantucket at the end of the summer of 1969. The gig was recorded on a reel-to-reel tape.** While the quality of these recordings is not great, they have considerable historical value as they include versions of “Mississippi Queen” and “For Yasgur’s Farm” before those became Mountain songs***. “For Yasgur’s Farm” was originally called “Who Am I But You and the Sun”, but to honor the farmer who allowed his land to be used for the Woodstock Festival, Felix changed the name of the song. .

* A reel-to-reel tape was discovered by Corky's son Colin in 2019 and it was resurrected to just barely acceptable quality by George Gardos. You can listen to the album here.  

** They were recorded by a friend of a band, Jimmy Nelson. Although the original tracks were lost in a propane explosion that tragically killed Jimmy, his niece, Gussy Manville had luckily preserved a few of the songs on an 8 track.

*** The originals can be found on the album “Mountain – First Steps” or “Making of Mountain” (Voiceprint, UK). George Gardos made the CD possible by digitalizing the tracks.

MOUNTAIN (1969 -)

On September 12th, 1969, Corky was asked by Felix Pappalardi and Leslie West to replace N. D. Smart on drums and join them and Steve Knight in Mountain. Within a week, they had a gig at the Boston Tea Party. From then on commenced frantic touring and recording. Mountain released its three definitive albums within less than two years; Climbing! (1970), Nantucket Sleighride (1971) and Flowers of Evil (1971), and enjoyed considerable national and international success. Leslie’s unique tone and feel; Felix’s beautiful musicality; Steve’s rich keyboard texture and Corky’s powerful double-bass-driven drumming filled arenas on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

By the beginning of 1972, Felix was getting tired of touring and Corky and Leslie joined Jack Bruce (from Cream) to form West, Bruce & Laing.

Mountain has gone through a number of personnel changes, but for the most, with both Leslie and Corky in the band. During the past 40+ years they went separate ways countless of times, only to be again reunited for another album or a tour. To date, the last Mountain tour took place in 2011. The end of that tour had to be cancelled due to Leslie losing his leg to diabetes induced complications.

Leslie and Corky haven’t played together since, but both continue to celebrate the Mountain legacy.

WEST, BRUCE & LAING (1972-74)

Leslie West, Jack Bruce and Corky got together in London in January 1972 and the first night at the Island Studios was a thrill. West, Bruce & Laing came to be there and then. Unfortunately, the band was instantly taken over by the managers and the musicians were too stoned to understand what was going on. The new “super group” sold out places like Radio City’s Music Hall, NYC in hours even before they’d recorded a single song. Some groundbreaking original ideas were created, and Corky remembers with great fondness many of the recording sessions and jamming on stage, but, overall, W, B & L turned out to be a lost opportunity. The band was pushed too far, too soon by the managers looking to make lots of money. Within a year W, B & L released two albums, Why Dontcha (1972) and Whatever Turns You On (1973), and a year after, the somewhat awkwardly named live album, Alive ‘n’ Kicking (considering that by this time the band had seized to exist) saw the light of the day.

SOLO PROJECT (1976-77)

In mid 70s Corky was living on the Island of Nantucket. He was composing new songs and working with local writers, like Frank Conroy, to improve his skills as a lyricist. At the time, the Johnson Brothers (later known as Jonzun Crew), an African-American R&B band complete with a horn section, was regularly performing at a club that Corky and Frank frequented. Corky got together with them and started recording demos for what was to become Making It On The Street. The demos got him a dream-deal with Electra Asylum. By mutual understanding, in the actual recordings, the Johnson Brothers were replaced by session musicians. The angelic backing vocals were provided by Clydie King, Venetta Fields and Sherlie Matthews, and even Eric Clapton features on one of the tracks. The album was a very personal project and the cover, illustrated by Jacob Knight, portrays many an important person, event and being in Corky’s life. 

SECRET SESSIONS (1977-78)

After going through a number of line-ups for his second solo project, Corky got together with Ian Hunter, who brought in Mick Ronson, to record new material. Felix Pappalardi joined in on bass and Todd Rundgren was brought in to help produce the vocals. The basic tracks were laid down at The Power Station studios, NYC and further recordings continued around Woodstock, in Bearsville and at Levon Helm’s Barn. This was a time of big changes in Elektra/Asylum Records and, as it turned out, the music created by Corky, Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson and Felix Pappalardi fell through the cracks. The tracks recorded in 1978 were only releases 21 years later in 1999 by Voiceprint, UK and re-released on vinyl in 2018 (Rouge records, USA).

THE MIX (1980-81)

With the changing music scene, Corky felt it was time to re-invent himself once more. Now living back in NYC he ran into an old producer friend Jack Douglas, with a protégé Stu Daye for whom he was looking to find a band. Chris Meredith, a keyboard player, had come with Corky from Nantucket to the city and Stu knew a very talented bass player, David Graham. Together they became The Mix. The band gathered a bit of a followership especially around the NYC area and released one album, American Glue (Word of Mouth Records). Unfortunately, the album never made it to CD format, but second-hand vinyl can still be occasionally found.

CORK (1998-2003)

This band consisted of Eric Schenkman (Spin Doctors), Noel Redding (Jimmy Hendrix Experience) and Corky. In the 90s, Corky was working as the vice president of A&R for Polygram, Canada and was trying to put together a new band incorporating former members of Bootsauce, Pearl Jam and Spin Doctors. During these negotiations, he first came to know Eric. Sometime later, Corky was hanging in NYC with Noel, whom he’d first met in the late 60s when his band Bartholomew + III had opened for Hendrix, and who was in town for a Jimmy Hendrix tribute session. As it turned out Eric had been called in to play guitar on the sessions and that’s when the three of them got together for the first time.

After Corky parted ways with Polygram, he gave a call to Eric who suggested they’d include Noel and put a band together. They became Cork and did a dozen or so shows in the New England area playing Hendrix, Mountain and Spin Doctors songs before heading to a studio in Toronto to record new material. Lightyear Entertainment signed the album and it was produced by Gary Lyons. “Speed of Thought” (1999) received very favorable reviews and Cork played well-attended shows.

2001 saw Spin Doctors reuniting with original members, including Eric, and a few days later, 9/11 sent the North Americas into chaos, which also affected the record industry. Corky’s friend, Howie Altholtz, however, managed to find an investor to fund Cork’s second album on the condition that it was to be recorded in Ireland. The boys had nothing against that. The album “Out There” came out in 2003 (Voiceprint, UK), but by this time Spin Doctors were again happening and very shortly after, Noel sadly passed away. 

Corky and Eric still jam together, and every now and then they talk about putting Cork back together.

CORKY LAING AND THE MEMORY THIEVES (2010-2012)

Josh Horton wanted Cork to be put back together with him on the vocals and brought Corky and Eric Schenkman (Spin Doctors) to Greenport, NY. They were joined by Malcolm “Jack’s son” Bruce, but for logistical reasons that line up was short-lived. Eric, again, went back to the road with Spin Doctors and Malcolm returned to his native England. Eric, Malcolm, Josh and Corky played one gig together in 2010 at a Jimmy Hendrix tribute concert in NYC, but not as Cork, but as Corky Laing & band.

Josh wanted to continue working with Corky and they brought in Bonnie Parker (bass) and Denny Colt (guitar) from the band TANG. Matthew Read also joined on guitar. The band put some demos together with Larry Campbell producing. The actual record was never officially released, but promotional copies of the “House of Thieves” and its predecessor “Swedish Release – November 2011” are in circulation. A recording of their show at the Iridium, NYC was released by Voiceprint in 2013 as “Iridium Live 005 -  8.1.2012”.

Corky Laing and The Memory Thieves played gigs on Long Island, in NYC, in Florida, and also in Sweden (photo) and were always very well received. Then, as the hurricane Sandy brought a lot of construction work for Josh, and Corky (and Bonnie & Denny) became more and more preoccupied with the new project, Playing God: The Rock Opera, The Memory Thieves stopped being active. 

PLAYING GOD: THE ROCK OPERA (2012-)

In January 2012, Corky got together with two Finnish philosophers, Matti Häyry and Tuija Takala who had an idea for a rock opera dealing with the ethics of genetics. The subject matter was totally new to Corky but he liked the idea of working on a proper concept album. For the next 16 months, in all the seasons, he frequently visited Finland where the album was written and recorded. Engineering was done by Lasse Väyrynen and most of the musicians and singers performing on the album are Finnish too. Corky plays the drums and sings most of the male leads on the album. More than any of his previous recordings, this album introduces Corky as a lead singer in his own right. Powerful rockers and beautiful ballads are equally superbly delivered.

Bonnie Parker (bass & vocals) and Denny Colt (guitar and vocals) from the band TANG flew in to one of the recording sessions, and Eric Schenkman’s (Spin Doctors) guitar work features on two of the tracks. The internationally critically acclaimed album, “Playing God” was released by Voiceprint in July 2013.

  

Since then the rock opera has been performed in Basel (Switzerland), Helsinki (Finland), New Haven / Yale (USA) and in NYC (USA). The opera performances have been praised by academics and rock fans alike. The Perfct Child family performing the opera has grown to include artists from Finland, USA, Sweden and the UK. The story continued with filming of the opera and live shows in Finland in April 2016. A DVD of those shows will be released by Gonzo Multimedia, UK in late 2020.

BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE one-man show (2012-)

RSR Photography 2018

In early 2000 Corky published – and sold out – a collection of humorous anecdotal stories from his life under the title Stick It!* The experience inspired him to run his own radio show Under the Rock in Canada**. Soon after he recorded Stick It! as an audio book with himself as the narrator complete with music excerpts to further liven up the stories***.   

In early 2010 Corky started to entertain the idea of putting his skills as a storyteller and a performer together: To do live what he had done with the Stick It! audio book. The Best Seat in the House show was born****. It was first staged in Montreal, Canada in 2012 and has since then been performed several times in New England, USA, in the UK and in Finland. Enacted by a born raconteur and entertainer, the show is loved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the show, Corky takes his audience on a journey through the decades of rock. He tells stories, bangs away on the drums and occasionally picks up a guitar to play a ballad. The show is full-on entertainment for all the senses.

* SAF Publishing, 2001; 2nd Edition by Gonzo Multimedia, 2014.

** Chum Radio

*** Stick It! Audio Book. Voiceprint, 2007.

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© 2020 by Polite Bystander Productions & Corky Laing.