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UNITED STATES, Illinois

Date Formed Aug/1969

Categories: Melodic Rock

HEAD EAST

Current Members

Past Members

Live Session Members

Biography

HEAD EAST was to emerge from the Champaign/Urbana music scene of the university of Illinois. Originally entitled THE TIMEATIONS the group switched to HEAD EAST in August of 1969 at the suggestion of crew member Baxter Forrest Twilight. The group, originally comprised lead vocalist John Schlitt, guitarist Dan Piper, siblings keyboard player Roger and bassist Larry Boyd and drummer Steve Huston. However, both Schlitt and Huston opted out in order to prioritise their education. HEAD EAST's line-up would prove fluid, with interim vocalists numbering Annie Williams, Joel Motel, Betsy Kreuger, Dale Innes and Jean Mullin with Tony Juodis and Dan Odum covering on drums.

Piper departed in 1972, and after both Greg Williams and Brad Flota held brief tenures on guitar, the band inducted Mike Somerville to fill the vacancy. Roger Boyd exited too, being superseded by Dickie Harney, but then making a return to the fold. Both Schlitt and Huston returned during 1973. In the summer of 1974 Dan Birney had replaced Larry Boyd on bass guitar.

Their 1974 album 'Flat As A Pancake', a reference to the plains of Illinois, was recorded at Golden Voice studios in Pekin and self-financed through the custom imprint Pyramid Records. A&M Records were quick to take note of strong regional sales, 'Flat As A Pancake' sold 5,000 copies in midwest area record stores and at concerts, and signing the band up, re-issued the record. Oddly, not only did the A&M version change the album cover artwork to something far less worthy but the song running order was flipped. Nevertheless, the album, which reached no. 126 on the charts, produced a major American radio hit in the opening track 'Never Been Any Reason'. Another single, 'Love Me Tonight', would also score on Billboard aiding 'Flat As A pancake's sales rise to the Gold status mark of half a million units.

Follow up offerings included 'Get Yourself Up' in 1976 reaching no. 161 on the charts, followed by the Richard Podolor produced 'Getting Lucky' in 1977, peaking at no. 136, and an eponymous outing in 1978 hitting no.78. With this fourth album, with production credits going to Jeffrey Lesser, HEAD EAST was also moderately successful with the cut 'Since You Been Gone', a track that scored no. 46 on Billboard, written ex-ARGENT man RUSS BALLARD and later a British hit for RAINBOW. A live opus put HEAD EAST even higher up the album charts at no.65 and would include two covers in THE BEATLES 'It's For You' and RICK SPRINGFIELD's 'Take A Hand'.

The 1979 'Different Kind Of Crazy' outing, which landed at no.96 on the charts, was produced by Jeff Glixman. Although the group garnered respectable US radio play with the track 'Got To Be Real' in Germany the song 'If You Knew Me Better' became a firm favourite. The band underwent a crisis of major proportions prior to recording of 1980's 'US No. 1' when vocalist John Schlitt, guitarist Mike Somerville and bassist Dan Birney broke away. The classic HEAD EAST line-up performed their final concert at Kearney State University in Kearney, Nebraska on 20th April 1980.

Mike Somerville wound up working with ex-PAVLOV'S DOG guitarist Steve Scorfina (who had also once been a member of REO SPEEDWAGON) and drummer Mike Safron in the SOMERVILLE-SCORFINA BAND. Replacements would be singer Dan Odum, guitarist Tony Gross Jr. and bassist Mark Boatman. Other musicians to appear on the 'US No. 1' album, which saw a dip in chart statistics at no.137, include guitarists Chris Harwood and Dede Townsend with drummers Floyd Browne and Jesse Henderson. By coincidence, HEAD EAST yet again doubled up on the RUSS BALLARD and RAINBOW connection by covering 'I Surrender'. Despite HEAD EAST's version making little headway RAINBOW scored a monster hit with the track.

Following his departure from HEAD EAST, John Schlitt, grappling with an acknowledged substance abuse problem, fronted his own acts JOHNNY and SCHLITT before conquering his addictions and finding his niche fronting Christian AOR act PETRA from 1985 onwards and has also since created a solo career for himself.

Having split from A&M Records, 1982's Larry Cox produced 'Onward and Upwards' saw HEAD EAST on Allegiance Records and witnessed the departure of Boatman in favour of bassist Robbie Robinson. The group now comprised of Odum, Gross Jr., Robinson, keyboard player Roger Boyd and Steve Huston on drums. At one point, struggling to maintain a solid roster of band members, the HEAD EAST ranks included guitarist Matt Stewart of STARCASTLE, guitarist Ricky Lynn Gregg and singer J. Jaye Steele.

It would be a few years before the group would emerge again. HEAD EAST made a surprising return with 1989's 'Choice Of Weapons' album on Dark Heart Records and a brand new roll call boasting of vocalist / bassist Kurt Hansen, Tony Gross Jr., Roger Boyd and new drummer Donnie Dobbins. As the band headed into the early 90's, Dobbins and Gross left the band and remaining members Roger Boyd and Kurt Hansen recruited several new players including Vance Best, Randy Rickman and Jim Murphy. Drummer Steve Riker was enrolled in 1991.

HEAD EAST was re-shaped during 1992 when Rich Creadore, a man with a penchant for performing bass guitar with drum sticks, enrolled and Dan Kelly substituted Riker on drums in 1994. Kelly left for a period, during which Mike Mesey played drums, but then returned, as did guitarist Mike Somerville during 1994. Kurt Hansen vacated his position in 1995 and was replaced by Tom Bryant. This version of HEAD EAST remained intact between 1995 and 2000 when Kelly opted out to join SISTER HAZEL. In his stead came another ex-HEAD EAST man Mike Mesey. In the Autumn of 2001 new vocalist / guitarist Richie Callison, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, was acquired. Callison had previously worked on solo material from BLACK SABBATH bassist Geezer Butler in his GEEZER BUTLER BAND during the late 80s. However, Tom Bryant's membership lapsed later that same year. Mike Somerville exited in May 2003.

With a rise in popularity in the Classic Rock genre labels put out a swathe of HEAD EAST archive product post millenium including 'Concert Classics Vol. 7' through Renaissance Records in 1999, 'Live On Stage' on Universal in 2000 and '20th Century Masters' again via Universal in September 2001. HEAD EAST is still a popular draw on the US touring circuit.

Former HEAD EAST Kurt David Hansen passed away on 16th December 2003.

The 2008 version of HEAD EAST comprised Roger Boyd, vocalist / bassist Darren Walker, a veteran of BAD GYPSY, guitarists Glen Bridge, and Greg Manahan, of FLIGHT and NOW AND THEN, plus drummer Eddy Jones. Walker, Bridger, Manahan and Jones had all featured with Kansas City act TOYMAKER'S DREAM. Walker, Bridger and Manahan had all also held membership of LONDON DRIVE.

Former singer Richie Callision issued a solo single, 'Wrong Place, Wrong Time', in March 2009. 

Garry Sharpe-Young 

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