It is with great pleasure that I introduce the webmaster and band historian for Fuse, Dennis Beebe to “It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine” readers. It was my intention to do an interview with available members of the band when I discovered Dennis’ incredible interviews, which I could never hope to match. Realizing the importance of these interviews I asked and Dennis was kind enough to allow their publication here for which I am most grateful. Here’s to you Fuseman!
Formed as a sort of Rockford, IL ‘supergroup’ Fuse released only one eponymous album on Epic Records. But what an album! Fuse’s webmaster, Dennis Beebe, better known as Fuseman, interviewed three members of the band: lead vocalist Joe Sundberg, lead guitarist Craig Myers and drummer Chip Greenman. Fuseman was kind enough to share them with “It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine” readers. So, without further adieu here are the interviews.
Fuse Drummer Chip Greenman Interview
What age did you take up drums, who were your main influences and what other instruments do you play?
Chip: After doing well on a Rockford City Schools musical aptitude test during 2nd grade, my parents were told they should get me started in playing some kind of musical instrument. The only thing they knew about music was that they liked the …Lawrence Welk Orchestra and especially Myron Floren (the accordionist). So, I started out on accordion. It wasn’t until 3rd grade, during a music appreciation night at the Marsh School in Rockford that I noticed the percussion equipment over in the corner of the room and went over and started tapping on a snare drum. The folks asked “You want to play drums?” and I was off…!
My main influences were Ringo, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Clive Bunker, Mitch Mitchell, Buddy Rich and Don Ellis. Over the years, I’ve taught myself guitar, piano, and bass guitar. I have a digital recording studio here at the house.
How did you guys first hook up? I remember The Grim Reapers from when I was attending Guilford High and if memory serves me correctly the drummer at that time was a senior at Guilford named John Zahneiser-that spelling is probably wrong.
Chip: The original GR drummer was Jim Zubiani. The Grim Reapers were pretty much Rockford’s top band at the time. There was another group out of Belvidere called The Esquires that were really polished and very Beatles like. Rick and Joe were in the Grim Reapers and Craig, Tom and I were in a band called Toast and Jam. I believe it was Rick who came up with the idea of merging the two bands into a “super group”.
How did you come up with the name Fuse and who’s idea was that, and when the name was changed from the Grim Reapers to Fuse was that mostly because of personnel changes, a change in the band’s musical focus, both or neither?
Chip: We played as The Grim Reapers until we signed with EPIC Records. When we did the album, EPIC thought the name Grim Reapers was too dark. This launched a massive “rename the band campaign” throughout the group’s Mothers. It seems like everyone’s Mother had compiled a list of names they had made up. I have to say that the two funniest names were from my Mom and Rick’s Mom. My Mom was on a “Nuts” theme and came up with first “Man’s Nuts” and to top that one off… “Chip’s Nuts”. Mrs. Nielsen came up with “The Fleetwood Turks”. Luckily it was EPIC that came up with the name FUSE.
Who would you say were the band’s main influences and did you guys have a certain style/direction you wanted to go in?
Chip: Rick was leading the band and he had a vision of what he wanted as far as our musical style. He was really into the British scene like King Crimson, The MOVE, Jeff Beck, The Yardbirds and YES. Joe was into R&B and Soul Music stuff, Craig was our Jeff Beck protégé, not really sure what Tom was into and of course I was rock and big band jazz.
Who was mostly responsible for steering the band’s musical selections and direction-or was it a collective effort?
Chip: Rick was the primary writer and song selection guy. The songs from the FUSE album were a collective arrangement with everyone contributing their ideas. For example, my interest in odd time signatures was the result of the composition 4/4 – 3/4 which was a beat I played for Rick one day when I suggested we do something in 7. Rick would always ask me to play the beat I was interested in playing. That was also essentially how Sad Day and To Your Health were born. They are both in 6/8 which was one of my favorite grooves to play back then.
How was it that Craig was placed as the lead guitarist? Was it because Rick felt Craig was better, or did he want to be in the rhythm/keyboards role?
Chip: I think Rick thought Craig could easily handle the lead and rhythm guitar role, so he really got into the keyboard stuff. When the band first formed, Rick and Tom went to London and did a little shopping. When they returned, we were the first band in the States to have a Mellotron. If I’m not mistaken, SoundCity amps also. Right around that same time after seeing Led Zeppelin during their first U.S. tour, I had to have a unique custom drum kit, so Rick and I drove into Chicago where Ludwig Drums were headquartered and actually got to meet William F. Ludwig Jr. while we were there. That’s when I ordered the 28″ bass drum and all over sized toms. Rick would occasionally come out from behind the keyboards and play guitar on some tunes such as our rendition of “Saber Dance”.
Are there any moments or any particular memories from those very early days that you often think of?
Chip: I recently visited the house in Rockford where I was raised. When I got into music, my Dad had a 20′ x 20′ room added to the back of the house. It seemed rather large at the time, but when I recently went through the house again, it was hard to imagine that we had double stacks of SoundCity amps, two Ampeg bass amps, a B3 Hammond organ, a Mellotron, a large custom drum set and a Sunn Studio PA in this room with usually 7 to 10 people. Rumor had it that three houses down and across the street they said they heard Tom’s bass coming through their TV set. There are many interesting and funny moments I recall.
I certainly remember how well you guys seemed to “click “together musically and talent wise too. That “tightness” I spoke of to you about that always impressed me so much-especially considering your ages. Would you say that is accurate-that “tightness” was because of a shared musical direction, focus and individual talents each contributing equally?
Chip: I think that we were really serious about what we were doing and always rehearsed and performed at 100%. It was way too early for us in our careers to be messed up on booze and drugs.
It’s seldom that you find that level of raw talent you each seemed to possess at the ages you guys were, and even rarer all in the same band. Would you say that you each recognized those talents in each other even at the beginning and that might have been what drew you guys together?
Chip: I can’t speak for the other guys, but what drove me was to be the best drummer with the best band.
Was there any conflicts of interest musically really back then among you?
Chip: Not really, I was probably the most quirky one as far as musical ideas and opinions because I was so into the Jazz thing.
Who would you say were the band’s main musical influence(s)?
Chip: Mainly the British music scene like The Move, Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, King Crimson, Led Zep, and then mine of course was the Jazz scene with Buddy Rich, Don Ellis, and Dave Brubeck.
I observed that as especially as time went on you guy’s seemed to be finding more and more your own identity and musical direction. Would you say that was true and if so what direction was that heading?
Chip: As time went by, we did get more comfortable with each other’s playing style especially Craig and I. We could actually anticipate what we were going to play at times when Craig was soloing. As far as the direction, it was really where Rick was taking us. With the exceptional musical firepower at Rick’s disposal, he could literally throw anything at the band and we’d all add our own musical interpretations.
I know you definitely were playing a major role in shaping the music by your playing; time signatures, etc. Were you happy with where you guys seem to be heading, and where would you have tried to take things?
Chip: I was very happy in the musical direction because Rick wasn’t holding us back. We all had equal say in what we were playing.
Now about Rick; what were his musical influences and inspirations? If remember correctly Rick came from a family with definite musical roots; his mom was a concert pianist at one time, and his dad an orchestra leader or something? I used to hang out a lot at Nielsen’s Music Store on 7th Street in Rockford and seem to remember the heavy keyboard (pianos and organs) theme in the store. As well the cool guitar selection they usually had; old Tele’s, etc. and occasionally something from Rick’s stash would find its way in there –man, if I could only go back for a few days with some money.
Chip: Yes, Rick’s Mom and Dad were both musicians and Nielsen’s Music was the cool music place in Rockford. I’m not sure about any of the guy’s musical training and I can assure you that were not Juilliard grads that hung around and decided to form a band. I was still in High School during FUSE. I actually started on accordion in second grade and switched to drums in third grade. I took one year of formal drum lessons from Ray Mann (who was president of Rockford’s local chapter of the Musician’s Union).
I remember the Mother’s Day concerts very well-I hung out with Craig just before you guys were to go on at one-those were good times. Those were also the days of festivals such as the one at Kickapoo Creek and all. Do you have any gigs that stand out in your memory for one reason or another?
Chip: There were two festivals that stand out for me. One was up in Steven’s Point, Wisconsin where we waited all night to get on stage and at 5:30 in the morning we were just into our second number when it seemed like a wall of people moved from the center of the crowd and then we heard gun shots. Some guy ran on to the stage and grabbed Joe’s microphone and screamed “the revolution has begun!” State Police quickly escorted us off the stage and out of the festival site. The other one was in Iowa where we were to be the first band to play. The stage was not covered, it was over 95 degrees in the beating Sun and I was wearing black leather pants and a dark shirt (I know… What was thinking?). Anyway, about halfway through our first number I started to get sick, stopped playing, got up and staggered to the back of the stage and hurled major chunks! They took me to a medical truck and I cooled down for about 20 minutes then we finished the set. The crowd wasn’t terribly pleased with that performance.
I remember those dual 100 watt Sound City stacks very well that as you also told me you were perhaps the first in the U.S. to be using. They were made by Dallas Arbiter in England if I remember correctly and were the original forerunners of the HiWatt series which became so popular and sought after during the 70’s and 80’s,and which Rick relied on I believe later on in Cheap Trick. I was told once that Sound City’s were given to Hendrix at one time during their development to see if he could fry them which he readily did. But I’ve always thought they should have talked to you guys too because I remember Rick and Craig playing then balls-out. And I remember once at an outdoor gig Fuse did-Pecatonica I think it was-2 cab’s being blown. I remember seeing one in a trash can I think right after! How did you avoid total permanent hearing loss?! As well I remember your drumming not being very soft either!
Chip: Amazingly enough, my hearing is fine. I never wore earplugs and most of the time we had no monitors, so I was always out front of the wall of amps center stage. I remember having to beat the piss out of that over-sized Ludwig kit just to hear myself. Most of the time I just felt what I was playing but never really heard what I was playing. It was very, very loud…trust me!
We talked about the second Fuse album that was to happen but didn’t and I have always so wished had-I know it would have surpassed the first one and been great. Did you guys have all the material already chose for it? I remember hearing “Climb On a New Tomorrow” at the Armory-it sounded so sweet and haunting. I’ve always wondered whether some of that memory might have been enhance by the beautiful girl’ lap my head was resting in that I came with -oh man, the memories you guys helped create! I so wish that piece had made it’s way onto vinyl. Can you tell me anything about the other material that would have been on it?
Chip: I know we had enough material for the second LP, not only tunes that didn’t make it on the first LP, but the new stuff like you mentioned. I think if we were to have made the second record, we would have insisted on having more control over production, mixing and editing. We learned that the hard way from the first LP.
What can you tell me about why that second LP never happened?
Chip: There were several things that happened that lead to FUSE never recording the second LP. First of all, after we finished the first record, the Producer said we should get a new manager. So we fire the manager and then counter sues the band. CBS and the booking agency IFA get wind of that and CBS drops the band and so does IFA. So there we were… No manager, no record company, no booking agent, just attorney bills rolling in on a regular basis. FUSE was essentially “Dead in the water”. Rather than go into massive debt at the age of 17, I left the band. The rest, as they say… is history.
I believe with all my heart and conviction that had Fuse not broke up you guys would have went on to special things and really gained national-even international-attention. How do you think you would have developed as a band?
Chip: That is a question I ask myself every single day….
You and Craig and Joe went on and formed Silver Fox later- I read somewhere about a former owner/manager of a place you guys gigged at a few times and he said it was one of his best memories of that time and that you guys were a real class act. How long was Silver Fox together?
Chip: Not very long actually. We played a few shows, but as we were not doing any original stuff, the band was not going to go anywhere.
If I recall correctly you went into the Army, right?
Chip: Yes, in October of 1972. Came very close to going to Viet Nam, but was lucky to be redirected to Germany. Had a great time over there and played with a very young group of guys in a band called Frantic Dwarf. We played a 35th anniversary reunion show in Northern Germany a couple of years ago.
What are you doing now? I know you are still playing down in the Houston area? Any plans or anything special on the burner?
Chip: Since moving to Houston, I’ve played in one very interesting project called FADE PHILOSOPHY. We played a few shows and disbanded after the lead guitar/lead singer took a job over in Austin. I’m currently thinking of moving to a different part of the country just for fun. The daytime gig is still Enterprise Content Management Solutions Architect.
Fuse was and remains a significant part in my life. They say a person’ life shouldn’t be measured by the time they spent on this earth, but rather on the amount of good things they imparted to others during their lifetime. If so then all of you have already lived very full lifetimes. Thank-you Chip-and all the guys; Joe, Craig, Rick and Tom for all the great memories and music.
Fuse Lead Guitarist Craig Myers Interview
As a guitarist myself I have been looking forward to this opportunity. Back in 1969-70 I was fortunate to meet Craig a couple of times, as well as see him perform with Fuse many times. As with the other members of the band, I remember being very impressed with his playing-in awe of it actually-especially considering his young age. Although at the time I was just a beginner on guitar I still recognized real talent and skill when I saw it. Besides flawless technique; amazing finger vibrato, fast and clean hammer-ons and pull-offs, string bending to precise and spot on pitch, etc., he made it appear almost effortless-that is what made it all the more impressive and the mark of a real pro. No mindless shredding or theatrical like flash here-just great and talented playing.
Although today good guitarists are abound, back in the late sixties there weren’t really that many-especially young ones. It often seemed all the really good guitarists were coming out of England, guys like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, etc. Sure, we had Jimi Hendrix and some very, very good blues and country guitarists, but in the hard rock arena there didn’t seem to be that many. And seemingly from out of nowhere here comes a young SEVENTEEN year old Craig Myers in Fuse just blowing most other rock guitarists away. To this day I just cannot imagine that hard driving Fuse sound without anyone but Craig at the controls for lead guitar. One very talented blues style guitarist told me recently that he admits to this day still “borrowing” some of Craig’s riffs. I can hardly find fault with or blame him for that-that kind of skill and playing is inspiring to any guitarist, and as they say…”imitation is the highest form of compliment”.
Before I met Craig I would just stand, listen and try in vain to follow his fingers as they were just a blur up and down the fretboard. It was inspiring, but at the same time intimidating to watch him thinking to myself,” how in the world can I ever expect to even approach that level of skill”? And now so many years later as I revisit those days I still find myself with those same mixed emotions. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I met Craig-would he have a huge ego and be hard to talk or relate to? When I did meet him in a very informal and casual meeting I admit to being very shy. But Craig was very down to earth with absolutely no sign of egotism whatsoever. He was very friendly and seemed just like any “regular” type guy with a love for music and guitars. In fact, that is how my first meeting with him came about. I was looking to buy a used Les Paul. I was given his number at Nielsen’s Music Store as they said he had a black Les Paul Custom he might sell. I’m not sure if Craig even remembers it. Anyway, I called, was invited and went over to see it and meet Craig. He and his mother both were very friendly and nice-despite the fact I woke Craig up!
Recently I asked Craig a lot about his early years as a musician; did he come from a family of musicians as with Rick? Who were his earliest musical influences? Did he have any formal instruction? From there we went into his earlier pre-Fuse bands, etc.
Craig: I was fourth out of five brothers and sisters. My parents bought a piano before I was born and all of us were given piano lessons. As far back as I can remember my oldest sister Susan would play current Broadway musical hits and we would all harmonize with her lead vocal..” “I always had a fascination with guitar because of TV’s singing cowboys…Roy Rogers was my favorite. Of course then Elvis was the icing on the cake”. “My brother Mike went on to play bass in a band in France, and my younger sister Melissa played piano and sang in several country rock bands in her late twenties with her then husband Ben King on bass-mostly in the Tennessee area.
Do you remember your first guitar?
Craig: After two years of piano starting age seven and eight; my parents gave me a plastic Roy Rogers toy guitar with nylon strings. I quickly learned to tune it to a chord and that day I could play three chord sons, by laying just one finger across the fretboard. When I was about ten or eleven they bought a classical guitar with nylon and gut strings for my Christmas present. Eventually I learned to tune it correctly and learned to play The Ventures, Duane Eddy, The Beach Boys and early Beatles on that guitar. My hands became very strong trying to play rock on a classical guitar. I also played clarinet in the Lincoln Junior High band, but my passion became the guitar. I spent five to six hours a day when I was twelve and thirteen teaching myself.
Obviously there was a great amount of dedication and practice involved, but is there anyone whom you do credit as your teacher(s)?
Craig: I was totally self-taught, I understood music enough to teach myself. For instance I taught myself how to bar chord by watching George Harrison on Ed Sullivan. My blues technique comes primarily from learning The John Mayall’s Bluesbreaker album with Eric Clapton-especially bending to pitch and finger vibrato. I learned how to play along with Clapton, note for note, on that album. I was introduced to power rock by The Who. I learned from Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix how important the right hand is to the eventual sound; the angle of the pick, etc…
I could hear a fair amount of Jeff Beck in your playing-British Blues and such, but were there any other specific influences and inspirations?
Craig: Other than those specified above, my wife swears that in a parallel universe I would be David Gilmore, even though I wasn’t listening to Pink Floyd at the time. I listen now to David Gilmore and I hear the similarities. Maybe we had the same influences. If you look at his hand on the neck the appearance and the movement are strikingly similar.
Was Toast N Jam your first band?
Craig: No, my first band was The Nomads when I was thirteen years old, and believe it or not I was the lead singer. Three weeks after learning how to tune and play the guitar the right way, I was better than the current guitarist and my brother Mike and I formed The Bol Weevils. Mike went from bass in The Nomads to drums in The Bol Weevils.This is where I met Tom Peterson and we would go on to be best friends until the break-up of Fuse. Then came Toast N Jam.
How did Toast N Jam come about?
Craig: Tom Peterson and I formed Toast N Jam, wanting to go in a blues direction. This is where Tom went from rhythm guitar to bass.
What, or whose music were you doing then?
Craig: As I stated we were a blues band, with lead guitar, bass, Curtis Wright on keyboard, Ron Holm on acoustic guitar, harmonica and lead vocals…and our new drummer, Chip Greenman. In addition to blues, Tom and I had finally become good enough to attempt some Jimi Hendrix songs, and heaven knows we had the perfect drummer for that.
The three of you must have “clicked” together musically and got along well together since you later merged into The Grim Reapers.
Craig: Once we had Chip we were able to practice all the time, whether we had a band or not. So previous to forming Toast N Jam, Chip, Tom and I rehearsed often in Tom’s parent’s basement. It was at this time that we went from getting better to just exploding. Chip could pick a tempo, and I could name a key and we could jam for a half hour. We had really learned how to predict each other, we were in total sync.
How did that merge with Rick come about?
Craig: Rick asked Tom, Chip and I if we wanted to start a band with Joe Sundberg from The Grim Reapers, try to write music, and go from cover band to original act.
How much of an influence was Rick on you as a musician and as a guitarist?
Craig: His influence came in the vast array of lp’s and new music he exposed me to. Tom also played a pivotal role in that department. Rick was the catalyst for whatever Fuse was doing. He was a true leader…and the eldest—ha ha!
Back then you seemed to me to be mostly a Les Paul player, and you certainly played a very large role in making me into one. In fact, even yet today several of my family and friends consider me a Les Paul-aholic, and to a degree blame you. Just kidding. But seriously, it seems that way with guitarists-a guy tends to be influenced by whatever their own influence(s) play, would you agree-at least initially? For instance weren’t Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton Les Paul players back then before switching to Strat’s?
That early British based blues-played usually with a Gibson or a Strat and thru a Brit made amp-created a sound that it seemed everybody wanted to emulate, and formed the foundation for many big names to come. Even yet today it continues with guys like Gary Moore, Joe Bonamassa and others, too many to even try to count. Was that the sound you guys were after when you started with The Grim Reapers?
Craig: Yes, all of our biggest influences were British. We were after that heavy rock Brit sound-not to be confused with metal…that came later. As a matter of fact when we signed with CBS, a Mr. Cohen representing CBS (Epic), said we were the most British sounding American band he had heard, and that I was America’s answer to Jeff Beck. That night I remember having difficulty squeezing my head into the car for the ride home.
What kind of equipment and setup were you and Tom using prior to the merge with The Grim Reapers?
Craig: Tom was using a later 60’s white Fender Jazz Bass, and he was playing through a Standell amp. I believe it had 2 15″ speakers. I was using a white 60’s Gibson SG with 2 P90 pickups, and a Fender Bassman amp with 2- 12’s cranked to 10 always.
You mentioned you were influenced by British hard rock bands of the time. Is that why you acquired the Sound City amps?
Craig: Yes, it was what all the big English bands used and we wanted that sound as well as the look.
How and when did that come about?
Craig: In 1969 when we signed with CBS (Epic), we were given front money to apply to our stage show. Everyone got new amps and the Fuse truck made its appearance.
Was Fuse the first U.S. based band to be using The Sound City amps?
Craig: Yes, as far as I know and I believe we were the only US band using a Mellotron live, the first ones were huge. (Bigger than a B-3 Hammond).
As Fuse was “shaping” it’s sound did you change in any way your own style of playing?
Craig: No, not really, I had started to establish my blues inspired lead style in a previous band with Tom, and Chip, called Toast and Jam, and even before Toast and Jam, Chip, Tom and I, would play out Jimi Hendrix, or The Who, or Cream songs and jam our asses off at the end.
Chip mentioned how you guys always rehearsed at 100 per cent and it certainly reflected that at a Fuse performance. How would a Fuse rehearsal typically go, or was there a “typical” Fuse rehearsal?
Craig: I don’t know that there was a typical Fuse rehearsal. If Rick or myself didn’t have a new song, we would learn a cover tune that we felt fit our style.
A couple of questions from a couple members of our group: Mark would like to know did you run your two stacks at different settings and toggle from one to the other? Also did you use any pedals back then?
Craig: The controls of the 2 stacks were set identically, and I toggled from one to the other. There were only a couple of pedals out at the time, a few distortion pedals and a wah-wah. I occasionally used a wah-wah pedal, towards the end. My sound was predicated by turning the amps up to 10 and the sweet sound of an overdriven Las Paul, and on the album for every lead except Mystery Ship, they applied a split second echo, and that’s about it.
How has your hearing held up, as those stacks of Sound City speaker enclosures must have taken their toll?
Craig: It’s not too bad, but I have trouble hearing when there’s a constant noise such as a car engine.
I remember one jam Fuse would often do called “Sabre Dance” when Rick would come out from behind the keyboards and play what looked to be a ’56 Les Paul gold top with the P90 pickups. The sound of those two Les Pauls through those Sound City stacks really rocked. What guitar would you usually use and how did that tune come to be?
Craig: Live, except for the occasional busted string, I played a 1958 cherry sunburst Gibson Les Paul. As far as Sabre Dance goes, we were covering a version of that song done by a little known British group called Love Sculpture, with great guitar work by Dave Edmonds.
When Fuse would write and work out a song was there any certain “formula” you would use?
Craig: Usually the basic chord progressions were worked out ahead of time by Rick or myself, we would play the song to the band on our instrument and they would jump in. We always seemed to come up with the beginnings and endings live at the practices.
Joe Bonamassa said in a interview once that a good guitar solo should tell a story. Your solos always seemed to me to be like that. A catchy intro leading into some soulful “story-telling”, then a dynamic outro or ending. I could really feel the emotion in it. Did you compose all your own solos and were there particular sources of inspiration?
Craig: I didn’t necessarily compose my solos, they just evolved. I probably never played a solo exactly the same way twice. It was a very spontaneous thing.
Did you personally have any favorite Fuse songs and why?
Craig: I guess if I had to pick a favorite it would be my favorite to play live. The instrumental, ‘To Your Health’ had a middle section, not really a bridge, but more like a middle movement with acoustic guitar and Mellotron only, that built up to a thunderous crescendo lead. It wasn’t a difficult lead, but very melodic. That moment, again live, could make the hair on my neck stand up.
Who would choose the songs for a set, or was there equal input from each?
Craig: Fuse was fortunate enough from the get go, to be playing original music. An album came quickly, which enabled us to only have to play one 75-90 minute set. I don’t remember who chose, but we had certain habits. For instance we usually started the night with Across the Skies and we usually on-cored with Sabre Dance. When we were being featured, there were usually one or two opening acts. When we opened for big groups, like The Who, or The Small Faces, it was usually only a one hour thing.
I asked Chip if he had any special memories or gigs that stood out in his memory for one reason or another, is there any that stand out for you?
Craig: The Fuse farewell show, for Rockford at Sherwood Lodge, the old record of attendance had been 1,100 people, we put 1,700 into a building that holds about 800. Playing at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago was always big. It involved being billed with many of the top groups at that time. As a matter of fact, we were signed by CBS there, probably the biggest moment of my Fuse career.
I remember one song that was to be on the second Fuse LP called “Climb On a New Tomorrow”. You played an acoustic for that song didn’t you? I’ve often wished I had a recording of that song. As I recall Joe and you did some really beautiful parts. Was that tune indicative of Fuse’ growth and direction musically?
Craig: The bulk of the song I was on acoustic, and then during a quiet part I would switch to electric for a typically explosive Fuse ending that played out for at least a couple of minutes. That song was a ballad and we really only had one on the album, “In a Window”, but yes I would say that song was indicative of the path we were on.
How did you feel when Fuse broke up-did it disillusion you in any way?
Craig; I was disillusioned to some degree, but when I speak of the brake up of Fuse, I’m thinking of the original five members. I was only 18 at the time so there’s always that youthful optimism, but when Tom, Rick, and myself brought in Stewky, and Thom Mooney from the Nazz, I could tell we had immediately lost that spontaneous edge.
After the Fuse breakup you, Chip and Joe formed Silver Fox, right?
Craig: Joe came to me and said he was ready to try it again, strictly on a local level, week-end club dates. One of my best friend’s little brother, had become a pretty good guitar player, that was Rick Pemberton. I invited him in to play bass, he was only 17, Pat O’Brien was on drums and then later Chip.
What came after Silver Fox?
Craig: About a 7-8 year hiatus I put together a band very briefly, with myself on guitar, Steve LaPuta on guitar, Al Terrana on bass, Gary Guzzardo on drums and Mike Banks on vocals. This group was meant to tour the midwest full time. By that I mean, the plan was to play 5-6 nights a week at a club, and then after 1-2 weeks, go to the next club. There were major personality clashes and after the first out of town gig we broke up. That was the Czars. A few months after that I had a very nice experience, Joe Sundburg was back in town and he wanted to put together a band based on new wave music. It was the beginning of New Wave music and MTV and the two seemed to be exploding on the scene. The band included myself on guitar, Steve LaPuta on guitar, Joe Sundburg on vocals, Steve Hauser on bass and Rick Adcock on drums. There seemed to be a perfect fit of members to the music. I think everyone had a good time with that band which was called New Toy.
I know everyone in our group wants to know what you’ve else you have been doing-or involved with-over the years.
Craig: In the mid 80’s I married my wife Lori, and I had a small studio in the basement of our apartment. I recorded with Steve LaPuta just for ourselves, instrumentals they were mostly written on the spot. There were no rules or audience, so we let it get pretty wild. I also recorded some demos with Jana Allen of Hall and Oates fame. (She was the writer of, Your Kiss Is on My List.) She had a previous recording of 3 songs, rough drafts with Tom Petersson. I played guitars, bass and keyboards, with Steve LaPuta adding drum machine, Tom played bass on one song. About this time I went into automotive sales and by the late 80’s was hired by a previous boss to be the sales manager at the Lincoln Mercury dealership in Las Vegas, NV. My wife and I loved the town and the weather. I remained in the car business there for 18 years. During that time I briefly dabbled with a club band week-ends only type thing, called Vegas House Rockers. I also took a year off to play guitar for the Sam Walker band, this was full time casino show band. I also got involved in some diverse projects while there and was privileged to play with some incredible musicians which helped me to become much more rounded musically. For health reasons and family pressure we moved back to Illinois in 2005, I played with the well established Bare Bones, taking over when lead guitarist, Rick Pemberton left for a new project. That was my last endeavor musically. If my health allows I would like to think that I could do one farewell concert perhaps with a small band and full orchestra. We all can dream can’t we?
Not intending to try and pump anyone’s ego, but I honestly felt had you stayed together Fuse would have developed into the best band in the U.S., and would have been the equal of any other act anywhere for that matter-and I am far from being alone in that belief .In fact, many of us feel in our hearts that Fuse would have become the U.S. answer to-and equal of-Led Zep, yet one hundred percent original. How do you feel Fuse would have grown musically had you stayed together?
Craig: I don’t know exactly how we would of grown musically, because we were so spontaneous, but I feel it certainly it would have been cutting edge for the time, and can’t deny thinking we could of been huge. P.S.; To those of you who took the time to read this sincerely thank you, and to those of you who like the album, or who have seen me play guitar at any time live, I always tried to avoid playing finger exercise leads for myself, but instead tried to get your attention and grab you and take you with me into a short story of emotion.
That you did Craig…that you did.
From the heart…thank you.
Fuse Vocalist Joe Sundberg Interview
What can you tell me Joe about your earlier years growing up; did you develop an interest in music at a early age and did you receive any formal training?
Joe: I developed a very early interest in music and arts. My three sisters would play music in the house from the fifties. I really got interested in the early sixties with The Zombies ‘She’s Not There’, the Stones ‘Satisfaction’, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, and all the great English groups. Then the American scene started with The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Turtles, Peter and Gordon and The Association. I was lucky enough to play shows with all of those groups later except The Beatles and Stones. But as far as training I was completely self-taught.
Did you come from a family with any kind of musical tradition?
Joe: No, the family was not really musical.
Did you always want to be a vocalist, and can you remember being inspired by anyone in particular. Where maybe it made you want to be or sing like that?
Joe: I wanted to be a drummer, but ended up singing by a fluke. My first band- The Six Pack- had a drummer but needed a singer so I was in. I have been influenced by so many singers; Jagger, Lennon, Otis Redding, Jim Morrison, and Rod the mod Stewart. Robert Plant blew me away the first time I saw Led Zeppelin. By the way, The Grim Reapers were on the same show the night his plane went down in the lake in Madison, Wisconsin.
So there wasn’t any one experience then that caused it ‘to get in your blood’ so to speak?
Joe: They all got in my blood. I played in my first band at thirteen and never looked back. To this day I can remember the smell of the amps. I loved it all.
How did it come about meeting Rick Nielsen and forming The Grim Reapers, and were the Reapers already a band at that time or just forming?
Joe: The Grim Reapers were a very popular band in the Rockford area-they had a singer who looked like Mick Jagger. Rick saw me play with The Boweevils which was Craig, Tom Peterson, Craig’s brother Mike and another dude. Tom was a rhythm player and we kicked the bass player out and then Tom took over bass. We were very good playing all kinds of music with harmonies-a great Beatle band. Then Rick offered me the singers slot and I jumped at it .
When did you first begin writing your own lyrics?
Joe: When we formed Fuse we made up our minds that we would do all originals. But we really didn’t have a clue how to do it-it was a spontaneous thing. The guys would come up with a riff, I would disappear for awhile and come back and we would do it.
How did it come about that Rick decided to ask Craig, Chip and Tom to join the band? Were you involved with that decision?
Joe: Yes. Rick and I wanted to do original music and I had played in The Boweevils with Tom and Craig. I had caught these guys playing out a few times as Toast N Jam and loved the way the three of them played. It was a natural that we should play together. The rest is history as they say.
I have heard a recording of a early Grim Reapers practice session, that is after Craig, Chip and Tom came into the band. Craig was using a Fender amp I believe and said recently that those recordings are not representative of the sound Fuse later became known for. Was there a lot of experimenting to find that sound?
Joe: Well, Rick was the leader of the band and was very hip to all the new amps and sound gear. He had traveled to England and saw what the groups were using and came back with contacts to buy all the gear. Both Rick and Craig had Gibson guitars. Rick started collecting vintage guitars when we traveled all over as The Grim Reapers. When he hit a new town he would check the paper and hit the music stores. He paid a few hundred dollars for some of his first Les Pauls .We were always trying to improve our sound and experimented with many things along the way. We had a Mellotron, which was a loop system keyboard before synths were even out. Rick saw The Moody Blues in England and brought one back. It was a very heavy large keyboard that would go out of
key often -you hear it on “Climb On a New Tomorrow”.
Do you recall what the first song was you guys wrote collectively as The Grim Reapers?
Joe: I think it was “Across the Skies” but I’m not sure of that.
The late Sixties was a time of change and much turmoil with the Hippy movement, protests over the Viet Nam War, drug experimentation and all. Were your lyrics greatly influenced by all that was going on as other bands such as The Jefferson Airplane and many others were?
Joe: I have always been more of a political person, even as a youngster? I dedicated a lot of the songs to and rambled in concerts about the war, poor decisions in Washington, the random killing of innocent students in Ohio and many other things. All the other guys really didn’t have much to say so they let me say it. I am sure they had opinions but in the fog of the 60’s and 70’s they kept quiet. I really think the music came from a different place of expression, passion and art.
A band’s “front man” is a very important ingredient and can often be what makes or breaks the band’s chances of success. You certainly seemed to possess all the right attributes; strong vocals, talent, style and charisma. Remembering back, did that persona-so to speak-just come naturally to you, or did it come about as a result of being influenced by others you admired?
Joe: Very much so. I was so young and really had trouble at times finding the real me. So many great frontmen were out at the time. I was greatly influenced by Otis Redding, the Motown sound with the great Stax sidemen. Then The Door’s Morrison, Robert Plant and Roger Daultry. Alvin Lee blew me away as a performer with Ten Years After, and Rod The Mod with The Faces. I loved Terry Reid. I had many incredible singers to learn from. I had so many references to Tom Jones. He was not a early influence but my husky vibrato took me to that. Great singer but kind of cheesy in style – but it worked for him!
Were there any Fuse songs that were perhaps your favorite(s) to perform?
Joe: I enjoyed all of them but ‘Climb’ was one of my favorites.
Were you ever inspired when writing your lyrics by something from your own past, or by something that happened, for instance as with Deep Purple’s “Smoke On the Water”, or Crosby,Stills,Nash and Young’s “Ohio”?
Joe: I think everything that I experienced during that time was an influence including the wine and the smoke. I have always been pretty spontaneous in everything I do even in my business today, so a lot of things just flowed and were included. Can’t say I was extremely prolific but it worked.
Did any of the Fuse song’s lyrics hold any special significance for you?
Joe: Not really..more whimsical than deep.
Do you feel your lyrics were evolving with the rest of the band as you guys were finding your own?
Joe: As I look back today I wish I had spent more time on them. I think we were evolving as song writers..we just didn’t have enough time as Fuse to grow. Rick took his writing to another level with Cheap Trick. His lyrics were never very deep and really never evolved-my opinion only! I wish we would stayed together to see this through. I believe we could have had great success.
Were there ever any moments when you said to the others… “hey, I would like to try doing something different”, or special maybe for you personally?
Joe: Well, it was a band and that meant we had five egos and ideas to please. So while I would have loved to try different things, we had to be a unit. I think our manager Ken Adamany was a very poor influence to the other guys. He started a lot of trouble and knew that I didn’t approve of his business ways. Epic told us to dump him and he really was the undoing of the group. Many years later I think Rick also realized that he was bad for business and dumped him only to be sued and nearly bankrupted.
Remembering back, watching you and Craig and you while performing “Climb”, it often reminds me of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page doing “Stairway to Heaven”. There was the beautiful acoustic guitar work and the hauntingly beautiful vocals both building up to this great crescendo. If memory serves me correctly yet it was before “Stairway” was even released. I have often felt that song was maybe a portent or indication of things to come from Fuse.
Joe: That song came from the need to use the Mellotron on stage. We wanted to be more than just a loud power band. I am not sure when “Stairway” was written but it could well have been an influence. We saw Zeppelin play in Chicago on their very first tour. Imagine walking into the Kinetic Playground in Chicago and seeing Ian Anderson playing the flute like a snake charmer with Jethro Tull and then Zeppelin who we didn’t even know coming out and doing their entire first album. Incredible! I will never forget that night, ever.
Fuse opened and did a number of shows with some big names of the day-even still now. What particular shows or memories are special for you?
Joe: We played with all the great acts; The Yardbirds with Page, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Mothers of Invention. We were on the same bill with Otis Redding the night his plane went down in Madison(WI).Many of the great R&B stars; Wilson Pickett, James Brown and many others. It was an incredible ride for a seventeen year old kid from Rockford, IL.
Chip recalled the incident at Kickapoo Creek I believe it was, and the guy snatching the mic from you. As well as becoming ill from the heat at the Iowa show outdoors. Are there any that stand out in your memory for one reason or another?
Joe: That was that the festivals were a logistical nightmare. We would either be up all night and then go on with no sleep, or it was bikers shooting or one hundred degree heat. I remember falling asleep in the grass in Iowa after ingesting some type of downer and not waking for hours face down in the dirt. Fun times, huh?
Craig has said that Fuse was always on the cutting edge and it seemed to me that you guys always did your own thing and never played it safe with regards to your music. How do you feel Fuse might have evolved musically?
Joe: Craig is absolutely right on with the cutting edge. We worked at it. We worked very hard and had great passion for what we were doing. I said it earlier but I think we would have seen great success as we evolved as performers and song writers. ‘Mommy’s all right’ would have never crossed my lips.
I can only imagine the Fuse breakup as being maybe somewhat demoralizing-at least for those of us that followed Fuse and loved you guys it was very disheartening. Can you share with us any of your own feelings about it at the time?
Joe: It was a great disappointment in my life. I loved the music and the direction. The business manager started trouble between Tom, Rick and myself that ended up breaking us apart. Chip went to Germany and I moved to LA and tried to get started again. I met a lot of the LA scene at the timeand just got turned off to everything. The guys in Spirit were my friend s and we had a great time together. They had just formed Jo Jo Gunne and had a singer or that might have evolved for me. Iended up moving back and going to Art school. I have always had a love for the business side of
things and that really started my passion for business.
After that you and Craig formed Silver Fox and then later Chip rejoined you guys. But as I understand it you didn’t-or couldn’t, perform the old Fuse material. After that creative period as Fuse did that feel too restrictive or dull?
Joe: We did that as a weekend outlet. We played in clubs in the Chicago area but by our own choice never did Fuse material. We did cover shit (that we all liked and had fun. It was a very good bar band nothing more.
Chip and Craig related a couple memories from those Silver Fox days-do you have any?
Joe: I don’t remember much from those days except that I had a responsible corp gig on Mondays and a family and kids. Everyone else was still single and very loose. Chip was always a responsible guy. I can’t remember what he was doing at that time.
Lastly I know that all the followers of this page would like to know what you are doing now. I know your son Cody has embarked on his own musical path, right?
Joe: It’s been a long time since the Fuse days. I have been in what I would have called in those days a ‘suit’ business role. I have been in the Sales and Marketing area of business for thirty plus years. I am a senior executive with a company and have an ownership position. My kids are Cody thirty five and Shannon is thirty. Today the 24th of March I have been married to the same lovely lady for thirty eight years. We all live in the city of Chicago and live close to each other. My kids areall in business here but my son plays drums in a jazz fusion band. My daughter is married and her husband is Kanye West’ Creative right hand. He is doing clothing, staging, video and all Kanye’s Creative work. So we are all still connected in some way to the music.
On behalf of the followers of the page and Fuse devotees I want to than you Joe for all the time you have so graciously given, as well for the music and all the memories. Speaking for myself it has been an honor and real privilege. God bless you and all your family and we all wish you all the continued happiness and success you deserve.
Dennis Beebe, curated by Kevin Rathert