The Randy Stephens Band
The Randy Stephens Band, aka RSB, is creating quite the ‘buzz’ around Sarasota and Florida’s west coast music scene. RSB has been touring vigorously throughout Florida, the South, and as far away as Northern California during the past few years. The band formed in 2007 with the initial release of “Forging the Blues” recorded in Nashville at Sony/Tree studios and produced by John Palmieri. “I remember at that time Sony asking if I wanted to publish my music with them, I said no because I wanted all the rights and legal say about the music too”, Randy recalls. “In retrospect I may have made a mistake with that decision but I felt that was the right thing to do at the time and so I made that call”. Since then, RSB has been through many challenges, personnel changes, as well as personal issues.
Randy States, “being in a band presents itself with many obstacles. You have human beings in a band and they come with a myriad of problems, from commitment issues, to personality’s conflicts, different opinions etc. It’s rather like being in a family and all families can be dysfunctional at times. One of the hardest things I find to overcome is changes in personnel because it almost feels like you have to start over again. While you personally might know the music, you have to go through relearning the material with this new person patiently while they get caught up. With close to 110 cover songs in our repertoire, not to mention any original music, and as the band can tell you we don’t play cover songs like the record. We have added arrangements, and vamp sections from which even advanced players would surely suffer a learning curve.”
RSB has been working over a year on a new CD to be released in late 2013 titled “No Strings Attached.” When asked why it has taken so long Randy said, “This project has been difficult to say the least. We started recording drums at Carl’s house in the spring of 2011. I would bring scratch guitar and vocal and Carl would have to learn the songs arrangement and feel on the fly, and I give Carl a lot credit for his hard work. Not forgetting his wife Mary who endured hours of drum tracking all recorded on her dining room table. We did 3 hours average per song sometimes longer depending on if we had to re-mic the drum set and that happened frequently as our regular scheduled performances required Carl’s drum set be tore down and then set up again.” ‘
“No Strings Attached” for the most part is a blues album containing 10 tracks, 6 originals and 4 covers with special guest appearances by local blues favorite Lauren Mitchell on a duo with Randy and David C Johnson from the Aaron Neville quartet. “We needed keys on of the covers “I’m doing Fine”, Randy explains, “I remember I was talking with David Johnson during a break and he said he would like me to do some guitar work for him and that he wouldn’t mind trading for his skills. I took full advantage of this opportunity. If you have heard David play you would know what I am talking about!
When I say this man is unbelievable, he is unbelievable! David plays Bass, Keys, and even guitar extremely well; I would put him in the virtuoso class of performers. David sends me two files- one with a Wurlitzer and the other with Organ and they are perfect in every way. Then I lose my Bass player and am in need of bass tracks for another song. I decided to push my luck and I send David a copy of an original song I wrote 20 years ago titled “Aint no Lease”, David comes through again with this funky bass track that totally compliments this song. All I can say is thank you David you’re amazing. Next, I decided to try covering a song with a female duo part. I picked the song “Rocking Good Way,” a number 1 R&B song recorded by Brook Benton and Dinah Washington in 1960. The person I thought of immediately was Lauren Mitchell. I had heard her sing online and got a hold of her through Facebook. When I asked her she said yes she would love to sing this song. Lauren is a pro! She came in, took several passes, and that was it. Her smoky blues voice is perfect for this song!
“We are rising up out the ashes!” Randy exclaims. This band has got synergy and an awesome rhythm section! On drums we have Carl Grieco who has been with me since I came to Sarasota. Not only is Carl seriously committed to this band but he is an excellent drummer. He is solid, versatile and ‘in the pocket’. What I respect most about Carl is he is not afraid to speak his mind about the music, the direction of the band, and to what’s needed. I would say without a doubt Carl has become my right hand man. On my left, usually, (Randy Laughs) is the incredible Mr. Randy McCormick. This man is a Florida native from St Pete who has played Bass guitar for a living his whole life. Randy is one of the best Bass players I have had the privilege of working with. He is a “feel” player like me, and we really read each other very well, and that happened immediately upon auditioning him. I am very pleased to have him on board and anyone who has ever heard Randy play will tell you he is a Monster player and a super nice guy too.”
“We are excited about making music and proud to be a part of the Sarasota art community. As Carl reminds me all the time about the music, “It’s not what we do, but who we are.” I love that because it is truthfully the way I felt about music my whole life. We hope people will buy our CD but more importantly, that they will come see the band play live for them. We love to perform and to give back this gift called music. My favorite quote is from Tampa Florida’s southern rock band, the Outlaws: “Were just the player, you are the show.”
article contributed to the Sarasota Post by Randy Stephens