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GREGG ROLIE O

DDS ARE PRETTY STRONG that you have heard

Gregg Rolie on some of your favorite songs, but you probably aren’t familiar with his background and his huge accomplishments. The first big band that Rolie was involved with – and made his voice and organ work internationally recognizable – was the original Santana band. The opening organ notes and his voice on “Black Magic Woman” is, to this day, instantly recognizable. It took the band to Woodstock and, ultimately, provided Rolie’s first induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The next huge band Rolie helped form was none other than Journey. He was keyboardist and vocalist/co-vocalist on the band’s first six albums. He left the band (“retired”) in 1980. However, Rolie recently re-joined the boys of Journey for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, making it his second induction to its sacred halls. During the past six years, Rolie has been keyboardist/co-vocalist in Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band. I recently called him to chat about his induction, his work, and what it’s like working with Ringo. At the time of our conversation, it had been a few days since Rolie was at the induction ceremonies with the other Journey bandmates. I asked the obvious question of what his thoughts were about it. “Well, you know what? That’s what I always said. I’m so stunned by it. It got to the point where I was going, ‘Are they sure they got the right guy?’ I’m in there with people that I hold 32

EVERYTHING KNOXVILLE June 2017

B Y R A N DY PAT T E R S O N B O O M E R O C I T Y. C O M

in such high esteem. It’s a very select group of musicians to be in really good company. I was blown away by it. I still am when I look at the list. It’s all of my heroes! So to be added to that list is just stunning! And now that I’m home, it’s like, ‘Yeah, it’s cool. I did do the work!’ I mean, there’s no doubt about it!” Looking over his career – being a cofounder of Santana, playing Woodstock, co-founding Journey, in his sixth year playing with Ringo, and reuniting with Santana to recreate that past magic – it all begged the question of where he goes from here. “I know!” he said. “It’s one foot in front of the other one! Who knows? I’ve retired several times, and it just doesn’t seem to hold. I get calls to do things. ‘It’s a great idea! Let’s do that!’ I mean, it just keeps going on and on. I’ve been so fortunate. Going back and taking a look at the history of my work with all the guys I met, when I met them and everybody had the same ideas. We just grew. It was all about the music and all going forward and building it. We have played to so many generations of people. And it continues. Santana will never stop – I don’t think it will ever stop because of the style of music it is. Blues. It won’t go away. It is what it is. People still love it. Young people get hold of it. ‘Wow! This is great!’ It just keeps going on and on.” Shifting our focus to working with Ringo Starr, I asked Rolie for his thoughts about working with such an icon. “The best that I can say is you’ve seen movies on Ringo,” he said. “You’ve seen interviews on Ringo. That’s Ringo. There’s

no façade here. He runs a band really well. I’m minimizing it, but basically it’s like (going into a Ringo accent), ‘Don’t be late or I’ll leave you on the tarmac.’ It’s cut and dry just like his wit. It’s very simple. Everybody has such respect for him in the band and respect for each other. That’s why it works. It comes from him! It took me a year and a half to not sit there and spin my head around when I was on stage with him going, ‘I can’t believe I’m sittin’ here!’ Rivera told me, ‘That’s going to last about a year.’ ‘Oh, c’mon!’ I’ll be damned if he wasn’t right. I finally feel comfortable – really comfortable.” My final question for this rock and roll royalty was: When you finally step off the great tour bus called life up at that great gig in the sky, how do you want to be remembered, and what do you hope your legacy will be? His answer was humble and heartwarming. “I’ve thought about that before, and it’s very simple,” he said. “My epitaph would be: Great guy. Cool job. It’s that simple. It’s all I want to be known for. ‘He was a great guy, and what a cool job he had!’” You can listen to the extended audio version of this interview at www.boomerocity.com. Randy’s first interview was at the tender age of 13 with none other than Col. Tom Parker. Thirty-six years later he founded the webzine, Boomerocity.com, and has conducted close to 200 interviews with some of the most interesting people in music. Photo by Scott Robert Ritchie

Everything Knoxville June 2017  
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