A Disney Artist’s Rock-n-Roll Past

He could hear him up there, pacing back and forth.

Clomp, clomp, clomp.

Clomp clomp, clomp.

The sound of the footsteps on the hardwood floor reverberated through the art studio below.

Clomp, clomp clomp.

Clomp clomp clomp.

This went on for hours, which unfortunately was much longer than David Willardson had told Ritchie Blackmore it would take to complete the painting of the guitarist’s first post-Deep Purple album cover, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.

Willardson, who has painted over 150 album covers in his 40+ year career, chuckled during our phone conversation when he recalled working on the Rainbow cover. “In 1975 I had a beautiful English Tudor home in the Hollywood hills. It was three stories and had hardwood floors. I had put a studio on the lower floor, and the living room was directly upstairs. I didn’t like the musicians to watch me or bother me while I was painting, but Blackmore just showed up one day, and I wasn’t done yet,” he recalled. Continue reading


Dennis Elliott Of Foreigner: A Surprising Second Career

Where are they now?

What ever happened to so and so?

Aren’t those the types of questions we all ask at some point when talking about those bands we loved when we were younger? I know I’ve uttered those questions numerous times as I’ve wondered about many of the musicians who played at the Erie County Fieldhouse.

Often, finding the answers to those questions is my goal with this blog. Sometimes the artist prefers to speak with me directly (e.g., Walter Egan, Marty Lee, Rick Witkowski), while others prefer responding via email to my questions. The latter was what Dennis Elliott preferred for this blog.

Foreigner backstage - crock

(l-R) Ian McDonald, Dennis Elliott, Ed Gagliardi members of Foreigner backstage at Erie County Fieldhouse, Erie, PA 1977 (photo by Jeff Crock)

Elliott was the original drummer for Foreigner, and he stayed with the band until the early 1990s. What really intrigued me about him, though — and the reason I chose him for this blog — is what he did after those years with the band. Continue reading

Crack The Sky’s Rick Witkowski Is A Busy — And Happy — Guy

Rick Witkowski is at home eating lunch on a weekday … and he just finished playing a gig.

No, this isn’t a story about some late-night drug-and-alcohol-fueled gig from the 1970s that dragged on into the wee hours of the morning until the Crack The Sky guitarist finally found his way home by noon to sit down for a sandwich with his wife.

Rick with Kelsey Friday and Ginny Wednesday of Kelsey Friday & The Rest of the Week

Rick with Kelsey Friday and Ginny Wednesday of Kelsey Friday & The Rest of the Week

This was last year, 2014.

The man revered by a generation that grew up in the 1970s on the East Coast – particularly in Baltimore – as the guitar aficionado of one of the most critically acclaimed bands that never caught that big break had been performing that morning for a group of elementary school kids. No, he wasn’t playing mellow versions of Crack classics like “Surf City” or “She’s a Dancer.” At this gig he wasn’t even Rick Witkowski, the guy who still lives in Weirton, WV where CTS got its start and where he runs Studio L recording studio. Continue reading

Marty Lee: From Erie Bars To MTV

If you grew up in Erie, PA in the 1970s, and you used to go see live rock and roll at the local hotspots, it’s likely you heard Marty Lee’s guitar. In fact, if you saw Donnie Iris and the Cruisers play this year, you probably heard that exact guitar – the same one he used to play in smoky bars like Molly B’s and the Gaslight Lounge when he was in bands like The Pulse or Red White & Blueberry.

150763_10150944696835380_2130362027_n“I bought it [a Les Paul Standard] new in 1975 at the famous Manny’s Music in New York,” he told me during our phone conversation in mid-April. Of course, with my curiosity getting the best of me, I quickly   asked the follow-up question of why he was even in NYC in 1975.

Stupid question. Continue reading

Walter Egan: Staying Young At Heart Through Music

Interviewed Tuesday March 10, 7:00 pm

In 1974, you could find many aspiring singer/songwriters and luminaries of the burgeoning country rock scene hanging out at The Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood. On this particular night, Dan Fogelberg, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey were all there when 25-year-old Walter Egan walked through the door.

Egan was there to meet with Henley and Frey whom he had befriended when the two Eagles had been part of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band about four years earlier. “When I heard that Bernie Leadon was leaving the Eagles, I wrote a letter to Glenn saying, ‘Hey, I’m coming out; hold the spot open for me. Linda says she wants me to play for her, but I would rather play in the Eagles,’” Egan told me during our nearly hour-and-a-half-long phone conversation. “I went in all fresh and shiny and ready to take my place among the pantheon of country rockers. But, I was a few months too late — Don Felder had recently joined the band.” Disappointed, Egan recalls Frey consoling him by saying, “Perseverance is the key. Stick with it. I know you’re going to make it here.”

Continue reading

VH, Hagar, Sabbath, & Boston At The Same Show?

Two Erie County Fieldhouse concerts that many fans remember vividly are Black Sabbath/Van Halen (8/31/78) and Boston/Sammy Hagar (11/13/78). But imagine being at a show where all four of these acts were playing. That show actually happened in between these two Fieldhouse shows on September 23, 1978 at the Summerfest concert in Anaheim, CA. Boston 1978 CA tix Continue reading

14 Questions For Guitar Legend Robin Trower

Robin TrowerIt was the last advertisement for a concert that I could find when I was researching “9 Years Of Rock, The Story Of The Concerts at the Erie County Fieldhouse.” So many people told me that Robin Trower had played the Fieldhouse, but I couldn’t find any actual record of the show. Then, by chance one day, while I was quickly scrolling through microfilm of the Erie Times News from 1976, my eye caught a glimpse of something that looked like a guitar. I was scanning through the early part of the week to get to the weekend pages where the majority of the concert ads were placed, so I wasn’t paying much attention. But I hit the reverse button on the old machine in the library and slowed down the speed of the images  flashing across my screen until I saw it — the ad that would end my research and signal the start of the writing phase of this project.
I was reminded of that small ad last week when I realized it was the 38-year anniversary of that Robin Trower concert at the Fieldhouse. If you were there, you were among the lucky few (estimates put the crowd at fewer than 1,000) who experienced the early days of a man who is still revered as one of the great rock guitarists. In fact, he had unleashed his masterpiece “Bridge Of Sighs” just two years earlier. Continue reading