Rolling Stone interview collection Unknown Legends options long-form conversations between senior author Andy Greene and veteran musicians who’ve toured and recorded alongside icons for years, if not a long time. All are famend within the enterprise, however some are much less well-known to most of the people. Right here, these artists inform their full tales, giving an up-close have a look at life on music’s An inventory. This version options multi-instrumentalist Warren Ham.
When Ringo Starr wanted a utility participant in his All Starr Band who was able to doing every little thing from hitting the excessive notes in “With a Little Assist From My Buddies” to nailing the sax elements on Males at Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?,” he turned to Warren Ham. When Olivia Newton-John wanted a brand new band member who might duet together with her on Grease classics whereas recreating John Travolta’s classic dance strikes, she turned to Warren Ham. And when Toto wanted a multi-instrumentalist and singer in a position to deal with complicated flute, harmonica, percussion, and sax elements, to not point out a few of their tougher harmonies, in addition they turned to Warren Ham.
Ham has additionally loved stints with Donna Summer, Cher, Kansas, Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, and Invoice Medley of the Righteous Brothers. Merely put, there’s virtually no function in a touring rock or pop act that he can’t deal with with ease. And proper now, he’s ready for the pandemic clear so he can get again on the highway with Ringo and the latest iteration of Toto.
We phoned him up at his home in L.A. to listen to how he turned rock’s final utility man.
How has your pandemic 12 months gone?
It’s been good. I’ve been Covid-free, thank God. My spouse and I obtained our Covid pictures again in February. I’m at present doing a film factor as a musician and background additional that’s popping out. I can’t actually speak about it as a result of they don’t need us speaking about it. You understand how they’re. They need every little thing to be hush-hush till it truly comes out, nevertheless it’s an enormous film. It’s large stars and every little thing, and I’m within the band. I’ve been round lots of people lately, however they’ve been testing me so much.
I be ok with being round folks as a result of I’m vaccinated. I did lose a cousin in the course of the holidays. I understand how critical it’s. I feel all people was just a little confused about it at first, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly a harmful illness and you must take precautions. I don’t consider in being too overly cautious, however I encourage everybody to get the vaccine.
It’s been some time because you performed reside.
The one factor we did is a livestream with Toto again in October. That’s popping out in late June. That was a variety of enjoyable. After all, all of us took precautions. That was earlier than I took the vaccine. I wore a masks. All of us social-distanced and we took the correct precautions. The livestream turned out so effectively that they’re making a DVD of it.
Do you miss the crowds?
Oh, yeah. For me, that’s the guts and soul of the music enterprise. I thrive by being in entrance of an viewers. I do know that Ringo does too. I’ve been working with Ringo for the previous seven years. I simply spoke to him lately and he nonetheless needs to be cautious, so it looks like this time subsequent 12 months earlier than we work once more.
Toto was imagined to exit this summer time to Europe, and now that’s been pushed again a 12 months too. Every little thing has simply been placed on the again burner so far as reside is anxious. To be sincere with you, it’s little irritating. I’ve taken up a number of issues like this film factor and some classes right here and there. However for me, I’m actually a reside man. I desire that.
I need to return right here and speak about your life. What’s the primary music you bear in mind listening to that left an enormous impression on you?
I used to be raised in Fort Price, Texas. My household was into gospel music. My mother performed piano and sang, and my dad was a bass singer. He virtually ended up with the Blackwood Brothers, which was a well-known gospel quartet. He was on his method to Nashville to hitch them as a bass singer when J.D. Sumner, the bass singer for Elvis, determined he needed to return again. And so my dad misplaced the gig.
Anyway, that’s the type of music we had been into, the Blackwood Brothers gospel quartet music. That’s what I used to be raised with. I recorded our first report after I was solely 5. I obtained to sing lead on it. I used to be simply raised up in that environment of music. I obtained into nation music after I performed gospel music. I performed mandolin and my brother performed guitar. We performed round at issues like the varsity selection present and issues of that nature.
After which, in fact, I obtained into rock & roll, like everybody else, when the Beatles got here out. My brother was older than me. He performed guitar and he obtained into rock & roll earlier than I did. I started to observe him round to his gigs. Then the fellows in junior-high wooden store discovered that I might sing. They wanted a singer as a result of everybody performed guitar and drums. I ended up singing with nearly each storage band within the Dallas–Fort Price space at one time or one other.
You play a variety of totally different devices. Did all of them come naturally to you?
I used to be a singer initially, however then I began taking part in harmonica at 15. Then the band I used to be in obtained turned on to Jethro Tull and I went, “Ah, I gotta try this. I gotta take up the flute.” That was at 17. And at 20 I made a decision to choose up the sax as a result of saxophone is within the woodwind household. It’s related fingering, however totally different mouthpiece and so forth and so forth.
Within the early years, did you see any large concert events round Texas that actually stayed with you?
Yeah. Our band opened for Spirit one time. My brother was in a bunch known as the Yellow Pages, which went out with Eric Burdon and the Animals. He type of led the best way for me. He got here out to California and labored with Sonny and Cher.
Within the early Seventies, I auditioned for a bunch known as Bloodrock. That they had a bit hit report known as “D.O.A.” They had been within the Dallas–Fort Price space they usually had a cope with Capitol. And so I graduated highschool in 1971, and after that, it was both be part of Bloodrock or be part of the Military and go to Vietnam. I believed, “Hmmm.” [Laughs.]
It was a no brainer. I ended up working with Bloodrock and I had a writing-publishing cope with them. We did about three information and obtained dropped by the label.
How do you assume you grew as a musician throughout your time in Bloodrock?
That’s after I started to co-write with the organist, Steve Hill. We wrote fairly a number of songs. I grew that method. And I grew musically since they made me the frontman. I used to be not solely singing, however taking part in saxophone, flute, and harmonica. That’s how I used to be thrust out into the entrance, in entrance of individuals. I had executed this on a neighborhood stage, however now this was extra of a nationwide stage.
We started to tour across the nation. We flew and we drove, we did planes, trains, and vehicles, and all that form of stuff. That is the early Seventies.
While you joined Bloodrock, they had been morphing into extra of a prog group.
Appropriate. I used to be a part of the explanation that the sound modified. We started to experiment with extra sorts of music like Mild Large. The unique Bloodrock was extra of a forerunner of heavy metallic. We took it in a unique course. Some folks actually preferred it, whereas others needed the previous Bloodrock again. It was simply a type of type of issues.
I used to be simply listening to “Thank You Daniel Ellsberg” off the Passage report. I haven’t heard many rock songs in regards to the Pentagon Papers.
That was as a result of our drummer. We had this blues vibe happening with that and the drummer [Rick Cobb] had these lyrics about Daniel Ellsberg. He was method into the political factor at the moment. I didn’t know a lot about it. I’ve by no means been that political. I attempt to keep apolitical because it will get so bizarre. However we did write that tune as a form of protest tune about what was happening in Vietnam. Every little thing that had occurred within the Sixties had carried over into the early Seventies, with Nixon attempting to get out of Vietnam and the entire Watergate fiasco and all that stuff. That’s the place that tune got here from.
What occurred to the band?
We did a number of information, however we obtained dropped by the label and I moved again to Texas to go to school. That’s when my brother and I shaped the Ham Brothers. We started to play so much across the nation, and we had an enormous following within the North Texas space.
How did you wind up touring with David Gates of Bread?
Like I stated, I had moved again to Texas and my brother and I had a band happening. We had mates that had labored out right here on the West Coast, Dean Parks being certainly one of them. He’s a guitar participant that performed so much with Steely Dan. And there was David Hungate, who performed bass with Toto. We had a connection. My brother knew Jeff Porcaro and knew these guys, and he had performed on the Sonny and Cher TV present.
One evening, my brother and I had been taking part in a membership known as the Hop in Fort Price. And Dean got here in with David Gates. They had been checking my brother out for the guitar chair and me for the backing vocal and saxophone and flute and so forth. They ended up hiring us for his tour.
That’s how we ended up with David Gates and Bread. And we rehearsed up north of Seattle in Bellingham. It was [Wrecking Crew and Bread keyboardist] Larry Knechtel’s ranch, which is gorgeous. That complete tour was a very enjoyable expertise.
Bread was this large band within the Seventies with a variety of big hits, however you by no means hear about them as of late. Why do you assume that’s?
I don’t know. However David was the first author. The final I heard of David, he wound up in Nashville doing sting preparations and issues of that nature. I actually misplaced monitor of him. However his songs are so poignant. “If an image paints a thousand phrases, then why can’t I paint you” [from the 1971 Bread song “If”]. These type of lyrics had been popping out of that man. And he had an actual nice voice. It was nonetheless within the soft-rock vein that I had come to know with Bloodrock. It’s nonetheless that very same type of vibe. However David was at all times the power behind that band, just about.
Throughout your time with David, they had been in a dispute over the identify rights to the band.
I didn’t know an excessive amount of about that. Like I stated earlier than, I attempt to keep out of any and all politics, in all conditions. I knew about that, however I figured that wasn’t any of my enterprise and I allow them to cope with it.
Inform me about how the Cher interval began.
We simply did the one tour with David. That was largely as a result of once we performed the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Cher was there with certainly one of her girlfriends. She had already separated from Sonny. She got here backstage and she or he knew my brother from the time he had performed the Sonny and Cher TV present with David Hungate, Jeff Porcaro, and Dean Parks. There was a connection there already.
Anyway, she got here backstage and expressed curiosity in us being in her band to play in Vegas. She had this large revue that she was doing in Vegas. She had dancers, singers, and a full orchestra, however she wanted an precise rhythm part. My brother and I each ended up in that state of affairs, and I used to be one of many background singers. She additionally featured me on a few lead vocals and issues. She was very beneficiant. I did that for about three years, from 1979 to 1981.
What was it wish to be in Vegas for that lengthy, doing the identical present each evening?
[Laughs] Effectively, Vegas is a celebration city. There’s a variety of room to get in hassle. We labored so much. It was two-week stretches at a time and typically we did two reveals an evening. It was just a little little bit of a grind, however I used to be younger and wholesome. And I loved Vegas for probably the most half, although Vegas can get in your nerves after some time.
What songs are you singing lead together with her?
“These Sneakers” by the Eagles was one. I sang lead on the primary verse, and she or he got here out within the second verse. It was a duet. I used to be actually thrilled to do this, and we did it on Johnny Carson. There’s truly a clip of it you’ll be able to see on YouTube.
Being on nationwide TV and taking part in to these large crowds in Vegas will need to have been an actual thrill.
It was an actual thrill. I obtained to fulfill numerous well-known folks. Jack Nicholson was within the dressing room one evening. Muhammad Ali got here. It was all these folks. Cher is an enormous star. It was good instances. It was loopy instances to some extent. However for probably the most half, it was an important expertise to be concerned with that.
How did Black Rose get going?
That was a venture Cher needed to do with [guitarist] Les Dudek and [keyboardist] Mike Finnigan and [drummer] Gary Ferguson and [bassist] Trey Thompson. She needed to do a rock & roll report. James Newton Howard produced it. We had been all getting fairly loopy throughout these instances. [Laughs] It was a enjoyable gig whereas it lasted. It was a short-lived factor. We did one report.
It’s fascinating that it was simply known as Black Rose. It wasn’t known as Cher and Black Rose, or something.
She particularly needed us to be a band. She needed us to be like Toto or one thing or any of the rock bands. It was simply the identify of the band together with her because the entrance individual.
It was typically in comparison with Blondie for the reason that sound was so New Wave.
Yeah. It was in that early-Eighties time interval. All of us obtained haircuts. I obtained a man to chop my hair off. He made me actual punk-ish.
You go on tour and also you’re simply taking part in these new songs and no previous Cher hits.
We had been simply doing the brand new report. We had been opening for Corridor and Oates. I do not forget that.
Did folks within the crowd need to hear “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” and stuff? Had been they shocked by what you had been doing?
I feel by that point, we had been taking part in to a unique viewers. Once we had been paired with Corridor and Oates, it was that type of an viewers. I don’t assume they had been used to seeing Cher in that function, however she was attempting to interrupt out.
She was additionally attempting to do some film issues. That’s why Jack Nicholson was within the dressing room that evening in Vegas. I feel they had been speaking about doing Witches of Eastwick, however I didn’t know that on the time. I used to be asleep on the sofa. I wakened and there’s Jack and Cher. I obtained as much as depart, however she launched me and he shook my hand. That was a second.
How did your Kansas chapter begin?
After three years in Vegas, I wanted a break. I wanted to get out of Vegas. I used to be simply beginning to really feel just like the man in Leaving Las Vegas. [Laughs] I wanted to depart Las Vegas whereas I used to be nonetheless strolling round. And I obtained a name from certainly one of my mates that was within the enterprise. They had been auditioning singers. And so I went and auditioned and I knew Kerry [Livgren] from years again. I feel Kansas truly opened for Bloodrock as soon as.
I knew Kerry from a distance. And I auditioned. I didn’t get the lead vocal spot, however they needed me within the band anyway to sing excessive background elements and play devices. That’s actually the place that wound up. I wound up engaged on the report [Vinyl Confessions] and the tour that 12 months.
Inform me about making the report.
I play harmonica. They had been principally utilizing the brand new singer, John Elefante, and a few of his new songs. My spouse and I went right down to Atlanta, which is the place they had been residing, to rehearse for the tour. I simply bear in mind taking part in the harmonica on the report. I don’t bear in mind if I sang backup. However once they began rehearsing for the tour, I went right down to Atlanta and spent a few weeks studying the elements that Kerry was displaying me. I performed keyboards, flute, saxophone, and vocals on that tour.
Kansas music was very difficult, and that’s one of many causes I actually needed to do it. I needed to proceed to develop musically. It was an actual thrill to play with these guys, and it was a pleasant change of tempo for me.
How did the crowds reply to a brand new singer? This was an enormous change.
They beloved Kansas no matter Steve Walsh not nonetheless being there. Steve is a good singer and nice entertainer, however folks nonetheless needed to return and listen to the songs and see Kansas and listen to “Mud within the Wind” and “Carry On Wayward Son.” We did an enormous reside present in Omaha they usually made a DVD of it. It was an actual profitable tour. I feel John did an important job of filling in for Steve Walsh.
By this level, you’d actually established your self as a utility participant. You can come right into a band and mainly do no matter they wanted.
Appropriate. I used to be turning into that. I had been a singer earlier. However as I discovered to play extra devices, I centered on that as a result of I spotted that was type of the place my bread and butter was. It was the place I might make a residing in music. I centered extra on that. I’m doing that to at the present time, by the best way.
It makes you very employable. You are able to do the job of about three or 4 totally different folks. It saves them some huge cash.
Yeah, hopefully. That’s the concept behind it. However I nonetheless spend a variety of time attempting to hone every instrument that I play and do it in addition to I can do it. I used to be truly working towards my tenor saxophone this morning earlier than you known as.
How did Kansas morph into AD for you?
Effectively, Kerry Livgren and [Kansas bassist] Dave Hope turned Christian. And I used to be a Christian from my earliest days, regardless that I went via some wild years, like all people does. You need to sow your wild oats. I went via that interval, however I had at all times been a Christian from my earliest days. I used to be singing gospel music and was raised within the church. I by no means actually left it in my coronary heart and thoughts.
Dave and Kerry had been comparatively new converts they usually had been actually impressed to do some gospel rock music. Principally, it obtained to the purpose the place Kerry simply needed to put in writing songs like that and it wasn’t jibing with the members of the remainder of Kansas. They weren’t on the identical web page as that, so to talk. It’s no one’s fault. It’s simply the best way it’s. I’m not making a judgement on that a technique or one other. It’s simply that individuals go in numerous instructions after some time they usually need to strive various things.
This was a type of instances when Kerry and Dave needed to see if it might work, so we went in that course with AD. The music was similar to Kansas. As an alternative of the violin, we had the flute and the saxophone. After all, you continue to had Kerry’s writing model. He was the first songwriter. And I contributed just a little and Michael Gleason was the opposite singer. He had some nice songs, too.
We tried it for a few years and I used to be actually happy with the music that we produced throughout that point. I feel it holds up. I feel the message we had been attempting to convey nonetheless holds up. I’m actually happy with that point interval, nevertheless it was a tough market to achieve success in.
You had been popping out of an enormous Kansas tour. This will need to have been a really totally different type of tour by way of the venues you performed and whatnot.
Completely. It wasn’t the identical stage. There was some confusion on elements of the listening viewers. They didn’t know what to make of it. And folks from the Christian realm didn’t know what to make of it both. Right here we’re coming with this actually sturdy music that isn’t precisely like Keith Inexperienced or somebody like that. It’s extra in-your-face type of stuff. It was type of a tightrope to stroll. And it was actually exhausting to make it fly economically.
I really feel like many artists are afraid to sing about their religion as a result of it places them in a field of “Christian artist” and it turns into tough to interrupt away from that.
Yeah. I feel report corporations like to do this. They wish to have you ever in a sure format. For them, it’s simpler to promote a sure format. However I don’t essentially agree with that. They need to pinpoint you in a sure space: “OK, right here is the place you belong.” It’s not essentially that method. I feel that Bono has been in a position to categorical his non secular convictions in a really inventive method and nonetheless achieve success with it. I feel that’s an important factor. For no matter cause, we weren’t in a position to make AD as profitable as I’d have wish to have seen.
Going again a number of years, how did you wind up touring with Donna Summer time in 1983?
Boy, that was actually a godsend, I gotta let you know. I used to be out of labor. It was in-between gigs. I don’t know what occurred, however somebody stated that she was auditioning folks. And Snuffy Walden, a guitar participant good friend I do know that had labored together with her earlier than, recommended me. There was just a little little bit of a touch of who I used to be, after which I went down and auditioned and obtained it. I ended up working with Donna, on and off, for years. At the moment, she had additionally gone Christian in her beliefs.
What was your function on that first tour?
I performed the saxophone, keyboard, and I sang. I don’t bear in mind doing any harmonica or flute initially.
I used to be watching some movies of the tour. It was very theatrical, with costume modifications and dancers. I didn’t see a lot of the band. Had been you hidden?
After I first began with Donna, she had us behind a scrim. It was this large factor that hid the band. You can solely see our shadows. We did that for the primary couple of years that I labored together with her. After which she lastly had the band out together with her and every little thing. When she did “She Works Exhausting for the Cash,” she started to indicate the band extra. She was transferring into that rock & roll course as effectively.
This was an fascinating time as a result of she had new MTV-era hits, however there have been additionally the disco songs that made her well-known. A few of them had been fairly risqué.
There have been some she didn’t need to do. When she first transformed, she was like, “I can’t try this anymore.” Typically you gotta compartmentalize and notice that it’s a enterprise, with out sacrificing an excessive amount of. She finally got here again to doing most of these songs once more. However for a very long time, she didn’t need to do “Like to Love You Child.” We didn’t try this tune for years. We had been doing “State of Independence” and the stuff that Quincy [Jones] had produced and the stuff that Michael Omartian had produced, like “She Works Exhausting for the Cash.” She was extra involved in doing the newer stuff.
How was she as a boss?
She was nice. She was a star, although, identical to Cher was a star. And she or he was a diva. What are you able to say? She was a powerhouse vocalist. However she was at all times very candy. It was simply one other expertise. I’ve to say that every one my musical experiences have been fairly totally different, nevertheless it gave me a variety of selection in my method to music. It’s helped with my total musical progress.
How did you first wind up in Toto in 1986?
That was one other state of affairs very very similar to the Kansas state of affairs. I had heard that they had been searching for one other singer. I obtained the chance and went right down to audition. It was identical to the Kansas factor the place I believed I nailed it and thought I had it, however then Joseph Williams got here alongside and he obtained the job. However then it was the identical state of affairs as Kansas. They known as me and stated, “We nonetheless need you to be within the band and do your factor.”
There I used to be, once more, within the band. It wasn’t the spot that I needed, nevertheless it was nonetheless state of affairs to be in. I used to be singing excessive background vocals. It was nice. I used to be taking part in a variety of sax and harmonica and flute. I even had a duet with Joe. It was nice. I obtained to fulfill a variety of nice musicians, like [percussionist] Luis Conte. And naturally all of the Toto guys, Jeff [Porcaro], Mike [Porcaro], Steve [Porcaro], and David Paich and Steve Lukather.
These are some extremely expert musicians. Enjoying alongside them will need to have actually pressured you to up your recreation.
Completely. You gotta deliver your A recreation. That’s one other factor. Being round the most effective musicians on the planet actually forces you to enhance. It evokes you to enhance, nevertheless it forces you to deliver your A recreation on a regular basis. I’m actually grateful for the chance.
I feel numerous folks in your place would have been unable to deal with this ego-wise. They’d be like, “I’m both the singer or I’m not doing this.” How did you rise above that comprehensible intuition?
I’d be mendacity if I stated I wasn’t conflicted about it. However my love of music overcame my ego. On this enterprise, if you wish to succeed, you must be prepared to be a pleasant man, be prepared to be versatile. “Hey, possibly it’s not all about me. It’s about being a part of a workforce, and contributing what you know the way to do to the remainder of the examination.” Then you definitely learn the way vital it’s. You don’t know at first, however you discover out afterward how vital it’s for that element to be within the combine.
angle goes a great distance. There are a variety of very proficient musicians on the market who misplaced out on very comfortable gigs as a result of they couldn’t maintain their egos in test.
Yeah. That’s an issue within the leisure trade normally. The folks that wind up being the profitable ones are those which are in a position to regulate, and form of reinvent themselves as they go alongside.
Inform me about Jeff Porcaro. He’s clearly one of many best drummers ever. What was it like working with him and attending to know him?
Jeff was a really candy man. And what an immense expertise. It’s exhausting to explain his presence. While you stroll in a room with Jeff Porcaro, David Paich, and Steve Lukather and people guys, they’re a power to be reckoned with. Let’s put it that method. And Jeff was a power to be reckoned with. However he was very humble and really candy and really accepting. I felt accepted from Toto from the very starting. I got here and went from that band within the Eighties, however I’m again now in spite of everything these years. We nonetheless have the identical type of pleasant relationship.
Inform me about touring with Amy Grant.
That was after I did Toto for a few years. I had additionally gone to Tokyo with Steve Lukather’s solo factor. After I obtained again, I obtained the gig with Amy Grant. It was the Lead Me On tour, which was an enormous tour. It was the most important tour she’d ever executed. I despatched them an audition tape they usually flew me out to Nashville and we talked and mentioned and she or he employed me.
She was somebody with one foot in secular music and one foot in Christian music. That’s uncommon.
Sure. That had an enormous following at that time. We had been taking part in big stadiums. That was a huge tour. We toured for effectively over a 12 months and a half.
How did you wind up in Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons? That’s a really totally different type of factor.
Yeah. In the direction of the tip of the Eighties, I obtained just a little burned out on being on the highway. I had a household and youngsters. My son was born in 1982 and my daughter was born in 1987. I had spent a variety of time away from them. I needed to see if I might keep at house and make it occur at house. That is within the early Nineties.
I ended up struggling to make a residing like I had earlier than. I ended up performing some odd jobs. I labored at Disney for some time as a courier. I loved being at house, however I missed the music. And so in the course of the mid-Nineties, I began trying round for one more gig. I knew a bunch of men within the 4 Seasons band and I obtained a name to audition. They preferred me and I obtained the job.
What was your function?
I sang keyboards, sax, and vocals. I did the co-lead with Frankie on “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night time).” That was for about three years.
Are you taking part in casinos and stuff like that?
It was a variety of casinos in Atlantic Metropolis and Las Vegas. It was principally within the States, a variety of East Coast gigs.
He has extra hits than simply about anybody.
Each tune that we did in that set was a success. And we wore the fits. I used to be one of many 4 Seasons. It was nice. I beloved working with Frankie and being one of many 4 Seasons for a season. [Laughs] It was one other season in my profession, and I beloved it. Frankie beloved harmonies and each participant within the band sang. It was a really vocal type of a factor. We even had a portion within the present the place we went to the entrance of the stage and did doo-wop with none devices. That was at all times a variety of enjoyable.
I simply actually loved these years. It type of took my again to my years taking part in quartet music. It’s a unique model of music, New Jersey doo-wop versus gospel, nevertheless it’s three- or four-part harmonies. It had that impact on me. I actually loved doing that.
You additionally toured with Invoice Medley.
I did. That was extra on-off gigs right here and there. I don’t actually know the way I obtained the decision on that. However I did find yourself performing some gigs with him. I really like his voice and I really like taking part in with him. I had simply began taking part in extra tenor sax.
When was this?
I feel this was in the course of the time I used to be with Olivia Newton-John. What occurred is that Frankie needed to take a break on the finish of the Nineties. He took like a 12 months off. For me, that was exhausting instances. I couldn’t actually afford to take day off. I had gotten a name from Olivia’s supervisor after I was nonetheless with Frankie. He stated, “Man, I’d actually wish to have you ever on this gig. You’d be good for this half. We want somebody to sing the duet together with her on the Grease stuff, on the tune ‘You’re the One That I Need.’ You’d be good for that with all that you just deliver with the harmonica and sax.”
I stated, “I’d actually love to do it, however I’m with Frankie now.” They ended up getting one other man that was only a harmonica participant named Norton Buffalo. And I continued working with Frankie till he obtained to the place the place he needed to cease for a hiatus. I believed, “Effectively, you already know what? I’m simply going to take an opportunity and name Olivia’s supervisor again and see what the state of affairs is.”
I known as again and stated, “Is that spot nonetheless open?” He stated, “Effectively, it is going to be on the finish of the summer time, in case you’re .” This was the summer time of 2001. And so I went and auditioned and obtained that gig. I ended up working with Olivia for 15 years. She would take intervals of day off additionally. And it was throughout a type of intervals of time that I ended up working with Invoice Medley.
You mainly needed to turn out to be John Travolta onstage.
Yeah. I stated, “I’m not likely a dancer.” She stated, “Simply observe me. You’ll be nice.” I actually loved it. We performed the Sydney Opera Home and that was an actual thrill. I obtained to do this duet together with her. There’s a clip on YouTube. It was 2006 or one thing. It’s all beginning to blur collectively.
This actually reveals that you just’re simply down for something. You generally is a 4 Season, a Righteous Brother, or you’ll be able to placed on a leather-based jacket and play Danny Zuko.
Yeah. I had executed some that type of stuff with Cher. Her Vegas present was fairly campy. We did a factor the place I slicked my hair again. I used to be aware of that campy facet of the leisure enterprise. It wasn’t as critical as Toto and Kansas, nevertheless it was enjoyable. And so I had the expertise of Cher and Frankie Valli to get me prepared for that situation. It wasn’t that tough to leap into these footwear.
And Frankie was part of Grease.
All of it type of ties collectively.
Then you definitely’re again with Donna Summer time for her final tour in 2008.
Yeah. Olivia had some well being issues she was coping with. Olivia was alway very courageous and close-mouthed about her well being. She didn’t need to complain. One time we had been dancing and I type of twirled her round and she or he winced just a little bit and stated her again was hurting. I didn’t know on the time that she was coping with most cancers. She’s had a number of bouts with the identical sort of most cancers, however now she’s doing very well. She’s actually a most cancers survivor.
Anyway, that’s the explanation she obtained day off, and Invoice Medley wan’t working that a lot. And so I obtained the decision from Donna that they needed me to return again. It was her report Crayons. That was a variety of dancers and really colourful outfits, white fits with crimson shirts and every kind of stuff. That was a enjoyable gig too.
And I’m so glad I went again and labored with Donna earlier than she handed away in 2012. I had no concept she was sick or going to be sick. She didn’t let on. You simply by no means know what’s going to occur, and we aren’t promised tomorrow. I’m simply so grateful to have had these alternatives to work with these unbelievable companions.
As revered and beloved as Donna was, she was nonetheless under-appreciated. She didn’t get into the Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame till after she died.
Yeah. She was one of many biggest vocalists ever, for my part. She’s up there with anybody you’ll be able to identify, previous or current.
How did your Ringo Starr interval start?
I used to be working on and off with Olivia. We had been doing a Vegas gig on the Flamingo. I overlook precisely the way it happened, however I known as Steve Lukather about six months previous to getting the phrase. I simply needed to say, “Hey, man. Let’s exit for sushi or one thing. I haven’t seen you in so lengthy and I’d love to hang around. I’ll purchase.”
He wasn’t in a position to get again to me on that. After which six months later, I get a name out of the blue and it’s Luke. He goes, “Hey, man. I’ve obtained one thing that you just may be involved in.” And I’m sitting there barbecuing in my yard. He tells me what the gig is. I used to be like, “Oh, my God. The Beatles! It’s a dream come true. Everybody needs to play with one of many Beatles.”
I don’t even need to audition. It’s simply on his phrase: “Come on down and do the gig.” And naturally, I did need to audition. That goes with the territory.
The job opened up as a result of Mark Rivera was too busy with Billy Joel.
Yeah. Mark Rivera had executed it. And he had labored with Ringo for years. He nonetheless served because the musical director. Every time we’re going to do a tour, he is available in and he’s that different ear that’s listening to our harmonies and ensuring we’re all on pitch and taking part in the precise devices and stuff. He’s an important man. He leaves large footwear to fill.
It’s form of the end result of every little thing you’ve executed your whole life. That set touches on so many various genres of music, and also you’ve executed all of them at numerous factors.
It’s Santana to Toto to Mr. Mister to Males at Work and Common White Band. You’re known as on to do no matter. I felt like my complete profession had ready me for that.
How did it really feel at first to be taking part in Beatles songs alongside a Beatle?
I nonetheless need to pinch myself. Since 2014, I nonetheless need to pinch myself that I’m truly taking part in “With a Little Assist From My Buddies” with Ringo Starr and singing among the concord elements. I imply, who will get to do this in life? I nonetheless don’t consider it’s me. It’s simply unbelievable. It’s an unbelievable expertise. I really feel tremendous blessed and humbled that I get the chance to do that, and I simply need to do the most effective I can do. It’s a possibility that I wouldn’t dare need to squander.
The All Starr Band used to completely change each day out. However Steve Lukather and Gregg Rolie have now been part of it for 9 years and working.
Yeah. And I’d hope that we’d be capable of proceed with this so long as Ringo needs to do it. It’s been the joys of a lifetime. It’s simply unlucky that Covid got here alongside and wrecked every little thing for everyone. All of the acts needed to shut it down. It’s modified every little thing. After all, the music enterprise is altering anyway, however this modified it profoundly. I hope and pray we will get again to the place we had been, or some semblance of it.
I’m very hopeful that we’ll. And I’m very grateful to nonetheless be strolling round and nonetheless be wholesome. I hope to be doing this for the foreseeable future.
How did you wind up again in Toto in 2017?
Effectively, I used to be doing the Ringo factor and Steve Lukather was on that. One evening, we obtained off the jet and we had been again in L.A. on the tarmac and he stated, “Pay attention, I need you to consider coming again and doing the Toto factor. We might actually use you on this spot.” I stated, “Man, I’m actually down with that. Let’s do it.”
That’s how that occurred. And I’d already performed with Luke for therefore a few years in Toto and Ringo that he is aware of what I can do. All he needed to do was speak to the opposite guys and say, “I need to deliver Warren in,” they usually know me too. We’re brothers.
You got here again across the time that “Africa” was present process an enormous revival. Did you discover that the crowds and the power had been rising as that factor stored constructing?
Yeah. That tune has had a life. It’s just like the cat with 9 lives. It simply retains coming again. After which Weezer lined it. That gave new life to that tune. We did a model of a Weezer tune [“Hash Pipe”] in response to Weezer doing Toto.
Toto has been a type of teams that’s been in a position to work. We do a variety of reveals in Europe and a variety of younger folks come out, actually younger folks. They see Toto for the primary time they usually’re amazed. They’re like, “Who’re these guys which were round for many years and might actually deliver it?” You may see it of their response. It’s palpable. It’s actually a thrill to play your music and see a younger viewers, a complete new crop of youngsters, seeing them having fun with the music and entering into it.
Describe your function in Toto.
It’s much like what it was earlier than. I’m doing a bit extra instrumentation. With this new configuration we now have of Toto known as the Dogz of Oz, I’m taking part in all my saxes: tenor, alto, soprano. I’m taking part in flute, harmonica, and percussion. I’m not taking part in any keyboards as a result of we have already got two keyboard gamers [Dominique “Xavier” Taplin and Steve Maggiora]. Joe [Williams] requested me to play keyboards and I stated, “Look, you have already got two nice keyboard gamers. I feel they will cowl all of the elements.” They usually can. I used to be proper about that.
I’m lending just a little of percussion. I’m simply the man that may fill in a variety of spots. Theres’s a variety of vocal with this new configuration, as there at all times has been. It takes a committee to sing the entire Toto songs.
I’ve spoken to Luke in regards to the 2019 tour. He stated it was a reasonably tough time for the band. Had been you conscious that that incarnation of the group was ending then?
I used to be. There was some rigidity and it was type of apparent. I actually tried to remain above it and I attempted to behave … I actually thought that was an important configuration and I actually needed to see it keep collectively, simply from my very own private standpoint, only for the sake of the music, not for the personalities, however there was some rigidity. I’ll simply put it that method.
As I stated earlier than, I at all times attempt to keep out of band politics. As a lot as I might, I did keep out of them. I needed to be peacemaker, if I might. I can’t converse to that too precisely. I simply don’t know an excessive amount of as a result of I attempted to remain out of the fray.
How rapidly after the final present of the 2019 tour did you begin listening to in regards to the new incarnation of Toto?
Luke had come to me in the course of the tour and stated, “Look, issues are in all probability going to alter. We would like you to stay round.” That’s mainly all I knew. I stated to myself, “I’m on a need-to-know foundation.” I perceive it. I’ve lived via this many instances earlier than. I do know why bands undergo modifications, for no matter cause. And I strive to not take sides and simply do my job and be as skilled as I may be, and be a pleasant man, as a result of there’s worth in that. That’s actually how I attempted to method it.
I don’t need to make myself look like an angel, or something like that. I’ve obtained my points too, I’m certain. However I really feel like I’ve seen loads of bands undergo modifications and I perceive what’s happening when it’s happening. I attempt to simply say, “Hey, if they need me to stay round, I’m right here. If not, I’m knowledgeable and I’ll transfer on to one thing else, or I’ll retire.”
I’m at retirement age now, however folks nonetheless need to work with me and I’m grateful for that and I’ll take what I can get.
The brand new Toto sounded nice in that one webcast you probably did.
Thanks. I believed it got here off actually good. I used to be actually pleasantly shocked. I knew that we had all of the potential guys there to make it actually work. We’ve obtained the brand new blood, some youthful cats that may actually deliver it. It’s a very good mixture of older cats and youthful cats.
It was good seeing David Paich there. You had his stamp of approval.
Completely. We obtained his blessing, which is absolutely what it was. David got here in and introduced a few of his concepts, and we hope he’ll proceed to do this in future. I feel he and Steve Porcaro are executed with touring. And I get that. I’m getting older too. I perceive the way it will get to that time. However it was nice to have David are available in and oversee and assist out with the manufacturing.
Again to Ringo, I have a look at him and can’t consider that he’s 80. He appears 20 years youthful.
It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? While you’re across the man, it’s unbelievable the power that he has. And a variety of it is because of his train and weight loss plan. However primarily, it’s about his angle. He’s obtained a youthful angle. He walks the stroll and talks the speak with regards to peace and love. He’s actually real about it. You gotta love that about him.
He’ll do a two-hour present the place he’s going forwards and backwards from singing to drumming, and he’s doing leaping jacks on the finish.
[Laughs] I come off the stage and I’m dripping with sweat. I look over at Ringo and he’s cool as a cucumber. I’m going, “Man, how do you do it?” [Laughs.]
The viewers is aware of each tune you guys play throughout that present. It creates a very joyful environment.
Yeah. It’s a lot enjoyable. I’m having a lot enjoyable it needs to be unlawful. It’s virtually legal to have this a lot enjoyable. I’ve to say, that is the most effective time of my life. I’m so grateful that at this stage of my profession, it’s the best level I’ve been.
You deserve it. It’s such as you obtained rock & roll tenure or one thing.
Yeah. I’m so grateful to be right here at this level. I hope I can proceed it going ahead.
I can see Ringo at age 90 nonetheless doing it, and you continue to subsequent to him.
I’d love that greater than something.