Uncle Rainbow-1977-1981 More info at Facebook.com/unclerainbow1 Brent Bourgeois, Keys, Vocals, composer Richard Oates, Vocals, composer Danny Neal, Guitar David Perper or George Lawrence, Drums Larry Tagg, Bass, vocals, composer John Lee Sanders, Sax, Keys, Vocals, composer Bongo Bob Smith, Percussion Steve Gay (original Sax player) Richard Banister, original bass player Steve Mitchell, Drums Management, Norm Miller House Sound, Road Manager, Scott Harrison Monitors, Lighting, Rick Deputy Producers, Dallas Smith, Michael Hossack, Jimmy Horowitz, Ian Samwel, Narada Michael Walden, Studio assistant Engineer, Ken Peden
I joined this talented group of musicians in 1977, after finishing my degree at North Texas State and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. They were the most popular club band going in Dallas Texas, packed the clubs 6 nights a week, had a great front man singer named Richard Oates, talented songwriter, Brent Bourgeois, who became a hit Gospel producer in Nashville at Word Records. I was one of the main writers, occasional lead vocals, saxophone and keys. In those days, my role as a musician was more in the background as a writer, arranger, and soloist and occasional lead vocals, and with a vocalist like Richard Oates, with his good looks and amazing vocal chops, it seemed the way to go.
Uncle Rainbow was about 80% original material, and the other half cover material. The covers were flawless reproductions of, Beatles, complete side 2 of Abbey Road, with full orchestration, and harmonies, with perfect intonation. Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Little Feat, Sly and the Family Stone, Herbie Hancock, and Earth Wind and Fire. The originals were influenced by the music of those artists, plus hundreds of other blues, funk, jazz and pop artists of the time.
We did a gig in Vail Colorado, and were torn in 2 directions. We met Jed Johnson, Andy Warhol's Partner in his company, who wanted to take us to New York, and become pop stars on the East Coast Artsy Scene. On the other coast was Michael Hossack of the Doobie Brothers, who had just left the group, had bought a huge studio in LA, and wanted to produce the band, set up a management and record deal.
We took a vote, and decided on relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area, for 6 months we reheased, and rehearsed, until the band was tight as could be. Within a few months time we had sold out Crowds throughout northern California. We spent 4 years building a following, and seeking that elusive record deal, Auditions with Geffen, Warners, etc.
An off the mixing board cassette tape live from a disco in San Diego somehow got into the hands of America producer Ian Samwell, which led to auditions with Jimmy Horowitz, an executive and producer with Riva Records. Riva had been started by Rod Stewart, and Billy Gaff, Rod's manager at the time, and signed John Mellancamp, Long John Baldry and Uncle Rainbow. We recieved an $80,000 budget, which is still huge to this day. the LP was finished and sat on the shelf for almost a year, while a distribution deal was made. The record biz was in a recession, and it was the end of the big budget deals, and development for new acts, and the huge hollywood parties. Uncle Rainbow fell through the cracks, between rock, funk, disco, new wave, jazz and rhythm and blues. Still under contract to Riva, we couldn't release the record, or sign with anyone else, so it was a ship without a rudder.
the grind of working 6 nights a week, being turned down by numerous record companies, and trying to fnd a sound that would be commercial enough to satisfy the record companies, but hip enough to satisfy our long term fans and ourselves turned out to be too hard to maintain. we broke up in 1981, and played our last gig on Sept. 6, 1981
The band members were being torn in different directions musically and spiritually. We had signed a production contract with up-and-coming producer Narada Michael Walden, who had played with Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra, and some of the top fusion acts of the time. Narada wanted to steer the band into a more Middle of the road pop format, which was nothing of the high energy funk sound of Uncle Rainbow's live performance. An Audition was arranged with Geffen Records in San Francisco which floored the Head of A&R John Koladner. John had one of the best ears in the business and had launched the careers of Foreigner, Abba, Genesis, Sammy Hagar, Aerosmith and Whitesnake. I think he really believed in the band, and was ready to sign us on the spot, but needed the approval of his associate A&R executive, Carole Childs, a onetime girlfriend of Bob Dylan. She hated the band, and walked out of the audition after 3 songs, got in her limo and flew back to Beverly Hills.
After the Geffen Fiasco, Narada lost interest and began focusing his attention on female pop divas, and became one of the most sucessful producers in history. I worked with Narada off and on for about 6 months at his home and the studio arranging and writing, and learned so much from him about production. Even though my music has a completely different style of production, I enjoy the sound and stellar perfection of his recordings and hope to work with him again some day.
After the Breakup of Uncle Rainbow, there was a void in the Bay area music scene for years. Brent Bourgeois and Larry Tagg formed "Bourgeois Tagg", moved to Sacramento, signed a management contract with Bill Graham, and a record deal with Island Records, and had great sucess. They recorded Yoyo, produced by Todd Rundgren, and this was the hit single from the record, one of the great songs from the 80s
In June 2008, Uncle Rainbow and Bourgeois Tagg did a reunion concert to raise money for a 2nd liver transplant for lead singer, Richard Oates. as of this writing, the operation was a sucess, and he is growing stronger every day.
John Lee and Richard, June 2008
Looking back, I would say that playing with these great players made me a better musician, as well as gaining wisdom in the business. In some ways it's easier now, and some not. With the internet, and less control of the Record companies to create music, It's very hard for 6 musicians with different musical minds to agree on a direction, and I am much happier as a solo artist, even though it's hard at times to wear all the hats.