Bernie Pershey interview (White Lightning, Trilogy…)
Bernard Pershey is worldwide known drummer and record producer. He was on many records from 70’s till this day and performs sessions and live shows from jazz/fusion to heavy metal. We talked about his early years, that includes White Lightning, Trilogy…
It’s nice to have you on Psychedelic Baby Magazine. Let’s start with your childhood and teen years. Where did you grew up and what are some of the early influences on you, to decide to start playing drums?
I started out in a small farming town in the state of Illinois called Minooka. At age thirteen, I moved to Joliet, Illinois, an industrial city southwest of Chicago, and then to Minneapolis, Minnesota at age eighteen, then onward to New York, then Los Angeles, where I reside with my wife Vera and my daughter, Teresa.
I was given my first drum as a boy’ by Father Ted Berst, the local parish priest at St. Mary’s, Minooka; who gave the drum to my father for fixing the church furnace.
The Crystal Tower, which became Trilogy. Back Row Jim Branshaw, Kevin McCann, Bernie Pershey, Skip Griparis, Front Row, Bob Wilson. On the actual Trilogy record, Thom Richards replaces Jim Branshaw on bass
One of the first bands you played with was called Blues Generation. Did you record anything and where all did you play?
That was a high school band run by my cousin Jim Pershey. He was the first one who demanded that all parts be studied and played correctly. We played a lot of Animals, Stones, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Hendrix, Cream and some blues and soul. We played at local schools, parties and clubs.
What was the scene in your town?
There was a ton of local bands. Joliet was close enough to Chicago that anyone doing anything ended up playing up there and doing Midwest college dates.
Later you were involved with Trilogy and White Lightning. Tell us the story about this two bands?
I played for a short time in a band called The State Prism, with Mick Stanhope and Skip Griparis. Mick was a boyhood friend of both me and my cousin Jim Pershey. We had lots of teenage fun and we were very lucky that we didn’t end up in jail! Mick was a singer and drummer and I worked with him in that band and later, White Lightning.
Mick left the band and moved to Chicago, the band broke up and Skip and some other good songwriting musicians started Trilogy, who recorded an album and worked the Midwest college circuit. I was their drummer for a time and recorded an LP in Chicago.
That band had a lot of singing! I was really into jamming and the rehearsals drove me crazy with all the parts and vocal work. Much later, I realized that I had been part of something quite good. Meanwhile, Mick Stanhope had moved to Minneapolis and was singing and drumming with White Lightning, a band started by Zippy Caplan of The Litter. When Mick decided to become a frontman, he gave me an audition on drums. I owe my early start in professional music to Mick. White Lightning was a much heavier band, and toured the upper Midwest and released the L.P. Lightning.
Minneapolis is one of the most creative music towns on the planet and I found my years there filled with all kinds of music. The sixties- early seventies had struck jazz and funk just as hard as rock and the town was just busting with players who wanted to stre-e-c-c-h it out!
White Lightning. Zip Caplan, Woody Woodrich, Bernie Pershey, Mick Stanhope, Ronn Roberts
From the 70’s on you were involved with so many project. What are some you would like to mention and in your opinion stand out?
Tons. I was a studio musician at Sound 80 studios in Minneapolis for a time. I started working with Greg Inhofer and Robyn Lee which led to a band called Goldstreet, which toured as Olivia Newton-John’s backing band. They later became This One-ness, a fusion band that recorded an LP called Surprise and did support for The Jazz Crusaders and Larry Coryell’s 11th House. I moved to New York for a while and played with Pat Vidas, a trumpeter who had worked with Buddy Rich and Don Ellis. Then back to Minneapolis to be in a Progressive rock band called Brainiac, with Greg Inhofer and Dale Strength. Then on to Los Angeles, where I have worked with Dwight Twilley, Andy Frazer, Jennifer Batten, Edgar Winter, Walter Trout, Eric Burdon and the Animals, Beth Hart, Eric Sardinas and others.
What currently occupies your life?
I am recording a CD with Eddie St James from Germany, recording with Mike Albert, from Megadeth, Frank Zappa, and El Chicano, playing jazz with Bob Summers, jazz guitarist extrordiniare, and playing with The Mustang Brothers, with Dean Restum from Eric Burdon, Bobby Gianetti from Edgar Winter, and Kevin McKelvie from Dwight Twilley. I live in the Los Angeles area with my wife Vera and my daughter, Teresa.
Thanks for taking your time. Would you like to send a message to It’s Psychedelic Baby readers?
Todays music will be led by folks as adventurous for today as the folks in the 60’s and 70’s were then. The music and business changes, but endless possibilities for creativity still exist. Break the boundaries and be your own self. Create.
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2012
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