“Hello, music lovers…”
Since the critically acclaimed 1976 debut album featuring his own brand of high quality seventies guitar rock and roll, Pat Travers has gone on to deliver melodic eighties rock, a blues period throughout most of the nineties, noted performances with various power trio’s during the first few years of the new Millennium, and a full blooded return to the trademark Pat Travers Band sound as he entered his fifth performing and recording decade.
But we’re those five decades ahead of ourselves…
“From the streets of Toronto…”
Patrick Henry Travers was thirteen when he saw Jimi Hendrix play live in Ottawa in 1968, and by fourteen the Toronto native was playing guitar with a competence that belied his age.
By fifteen he was playing in his first group, Red Hot, before Merge then featured the teenage Travers.
Pat then grabbed the opportunity to play with rock and roll/ rockabilly artist Ronnie Hawkins, a move that allowed him to gain valuable touring experience.
However in the seventies the other side of the Atlantic was the place to be for any budding rock musician, and in May 1975 Pat left his homeland for London, with not much more than his guitar and a change of clothes…
“To the streets of London…”
A successful demo led to a recording contract with Polydor Records and that eponymous 1976 debut release, with the album featuring right-hand man Peter ‘Mars’ Cowling on bass (an ever present for nearly three decades) and Roy Dyke on drums.
That same year Pat and band toured the U.K. in support of the album, and an appearance at the Reading Festival certainly did no harm as regards musical exposure.
The ‘Pat Travers’ album proved this was no one-dimensional rock musician, featuring tracks such as the heavy rock of fan favourite ‘Makes No Difference’, his interpretation of J.J. Cale’s ‘Magnolia’, and the song now most associated with Pat - the old rocking blues standard ‘Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)’.
‘Makin' Magic’ and ‘Putting it Straight’ followed in quick succession in 1977, with Nico McBrain replacing Ron Dyke (drummer Clive Edwards and guitarist Mick Dyche also had stints in the 1977 touring band). Not only is Pat’s sophomore release a classic Travers album, it’s a classic rock album, period. Highlights include the Hendrix-esque title track, ‘Rock and Roll Suzie’, a smokin’ cover of Willie McTell’s ‘Statesboro’ Blues’, and the powerful ‘Stevie’.
‘Putting it Straight’ added further Travers textures with more keyboard work and even some saxophone, and the ‘bookend’ tracks deserve special mention - ‘Life in London’ opened proceedings with a vibrant energy, while ‘Dedication’, a beautifully crafted seven minute studio piece complete with groovin’ Hammond organ intro (and this writer’s favourite all-time piece of music) closed out the album.
The move to London some two years prior had been a good move for Pat Travers, but when punk reared its safety pinned head in the U.K. the Maple Leaf musician knew it was time to relocate, and headed for the heat of the Florida streets.
“Now, here to kick your ass…”
The Pat Travers Band.
In 1978 the group was truly defined as such when the talents of drummer Tommy Aldridge and guitarist Pat Thrall were enlisted, and this particular line-up led to Pat’s most commercially successful period.
Their first album together, ‘Heat in the Street’, was very much a hard rock release with the twin guitars featured well up front, yet there was melody throughout the album and some lighter moments. Heavy highlights are the title track, and the blistering instrumental ‘Hammerhead’.
In 1979 the band co-headlined a tour in the U.K. and parts of Europe with Journey before the live album ‘Go For What You Know’ was released, which became one of Pat’s best known and biggest selling albums (and still shifts units to this day). As did the following release…
‘Crash and Burn’ is the most diverse Travers album to date, and with Pat Thrall taking many lead roles Pat got to “dig the rhythm” more often, as well as giving him more freedom to express himself on keyboards, vocally, and even sentimentally, as highlighted on numbers such as ‘Love Will Make You Strong’.
Crash classics include the live favourite ‘Snortin’ Whiskey’ and the title track, driven by its pulsating bass line and featuring Pat on the keys.
1980 ended in fine style for the Pat Travers Band when they performed to 35,000 at that years Reading Festival, a set that finally became available twelve years later when it formed part of the CD release ‘Pat Travers - BBC Live in Concert’.
From Hot Shot…
The departure of Thrall & Aldridge at the end of 1980 saw the return of a Travers three piece, with sticksman Sandy Gennaro joining Pat and Mars Cowling in 1981.
That year’s release, ‘Radio Active’ (which included Mike Schrieve on percussion) was another solid album and featured two of the most under-rated Travers songs ever committed to vinyl - ‘(I Just Wanna) Live It My Way’ and ‘Play it Like You See It’, both featuring plenty of space for Pat to flex his blues tinged and melodic muscles.
Following the album the trio embarked on a successful tour co-headlining with Rainbow.
There was also a personal musical highlight for Pat in February of 1981, when he performed with Todd Rundgren as part of Todd’s ‘Healing’ band for the ‘Saturday Nite Live’ show.
Deciding to tap in to the ‘melodic rock’ movement so prevalent and successful in the States at the time, Pat added keyboard player Don Harriss to the mix and created the ‘Black Pearl’ band in 1982, releasing an album of the same name. It became a firm fan favourite, and is one of Pat’s finest studio releases.
Containing more than its fair share of excellent hard and melodic rock numbers, highlights include the radio friendly ‘I La La La Love You’ and a ridiculously infectious reggae-rock cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Misty Morning’.
The album deserved to be a massive hit, and why it wasn’t had a lot to do with Polydor’s lack of promotion.
Sadly, ongoing contractual issues between label and artist would lead to divorce two years later.
1984’s ‘Hot Shot’ was a tale of two sides (in old vinyl terms) with Pat rockin’ out on some of his best songs to date on ‘side one’, and performing a collection of commercially written or appealing rock numbers on ‘side two’.
Various musicians were used for the album, and Mars Cowling would leave Pat’s side after contributing to a couple of tracks, but the Hot Shot live band featured Jerry Riggs on guitars & vocals, Pat Marchino on drums and Barry Dunaway on bass (the later released ‘Pat Travers Live in Concert 1984’ showcases the Hot Shot band in full flight).
Hot Shot gems include the raunchy ‘Killer’ and the equally rocking ‘Just try talkin’ to those Dudes’ (aimed at record label executives), but truth be told this is a cracking little album from start to finish. But the (contractual) writing was on the wall…
To Hard Knocks…
Management problems, label issues, and associated music legalities saw Pat step away from the recording industry for six years, whilst continuing to tour solidly (Jerry Riggs continued to tour with Pat for the rest of the eighties and into the early nineties, while Mars Cowling later returned to the fold for a short second stay).
Pat Travers the live performer was alive and well. Pat Travers the recording artist however, was becalmed, and it was the dawn of the next decade before he resurfaced with new material…
In 1990 Pat re-entered the recording studio with Cowling, Riggs and drummer Scott Zymowski, releasing the perfectly titled ‘School of Hard Knocks’.
The release was good news for the fans that were just pleased to hear new material, and it certainly contained some tasty Travers tracks. The understated ‘Only Man’ is an under-rated Travers tune, and other Hard Knocks highlights include the bluesy title track and the ballsy ‘Daddy Long Legs’.
After a low key (but highly successful) club tour in support of the album in the U.K., the band treaded the boards in North America, and later in 1990 released ‘Boom Boom, Live at the Diamond Club’ recorded in Pat’s home town of Toronto.
However shortly after the ‘Hard Knocks’ tour Pat decided to get back to the roots of his music - Pat Travers became a Blues Magnet…
From Pat Travers bands to Pat Travers blues…
Pat signed up with Mike Varney and his ‘Blues Bureau’ International label, and 1992 saw the release of ‘Blues Tracks’, a collection of covers from the greats of the blues, but with that trademark Travers stamp. ‘Just a Touch’, ‘Blues Magnet’, ‘Halfway to Somewhere’, and ‘Lookin’ Up’ all followed within a six year period, featuring numbers penned predominately by Pat in the rhythm ‘n’ blues mould.
During those early Blues Bureau years Pat also performed on a number of ‘Tribute’ albums, celebrating the music of such artists as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Albert King and Cream.
Although the sound and style of the early Pat Travers Bands were a thing of the past as regards the studio albums released in the nineties, in the live environment Pat mixed his sets with the old, new, borrowed and the blues.
In 1998 ‘Blues Tracks #2’ was released, which followed the style and success of the original ‘Blues Tracks’ album by featuring blues based covers. However it also contained more contemporary tunes by artists that had influenced Pat, such as ‘Purple Haze’ by Jimi Hendrix.
The Blues Bureau years saw Pat record and perform with a large number of drummers and bass players, usually in a power trio format, and by the latter half of the nineties Pat was performing with sticksman Sean ‘The Cannon’ Shannon and four-stringers Kevin Rian and Dave LaRue.
As the nineties made way for the naughties, Pat shifted away from the blues of the last decade to perform both hard ‘n’ heavy covers and classic Travers tracks in other power trio’s, before firmly re-establishing the Pat Travers Band name and that famous four piece sound…
Makin’ Magic in the Millennium…
The first Pat Travers release of the new Millennium was another covers album, ‘Don’t Feed The Alligators’, featuring a collection of songs more varied in style than those found on the ‘Blues Tracks’ albums.
It did contain some of the usual suspects, however, such as Hendrix (‘Crosstown Traffic’), while other notables receiving the Travers touch included Steely Dan (‘Black Friday’).
In 2001 Pat was in the company of many of his musical contemporaries when he was part of the ‘Voices of Classic Rock’ tour, a show featuring singers and musicians from many ‘name’ bands of the ‘70's and ‘80's, including old friend Glenn Hughes and vocalist Joe Lynn Turner.
By way of contrast, that same year Pat performed solo at Nils Lofgren's Guitar Bar in Henderson, Nevada. The performance included some anecdotes from Pat, as well as a little Q&A time with the audience.
The Pat Travers Band trio that toured North America and Europe over those early Millennium years featured Eric Frates and Rick Navarro on drums and bass respectively, and this line-up recorded the live album ‘Etched in Stone’, recorded at the 2002 New Years Eve show in Tempe, Arizona.
Two different ‘P.T. Power Trio’ bands then each released an album of hard and heavy classic rock covers from the catalogues of such rock luminaries as Cream, Free, Deep Purple and Queen. The first album, released in 2003, featured drummer Aynsley Dunbar and bassist Gunter Nezhoda, while three years later the ‘P.T. Power Trio 2’ was driven in the rhythm by bassist Steve Evans and sticksman Jeff Martin.
Pat also worked with drummer Carmine Appice, releasing the album ‘It Takes a lot of Balls’ in 2004. ‘Live at the House of the Blues’ followed, before a second studio album, ‘Bazooka’, was issued in 2005.
As 2005 hit the Summer time, Pat released his new album ‘PT=MC2’, featuring Frates and Navarro. Capturing the sound and attitude of traditional Pat Travers Band rock, it’s the natural successor to ‘School of Hard Knocks’, albeit fifteen years later.
It’s a feisty little album from start to finish, from the opening chords of ‘Elijah’ to the fun and funky brace of ‘Life’s a Funny Old Dog’ and ‘My Peach Pie’.
It’s a welcome addition to the Travers catalogue, but the best, certainly since the days of Black Pearls and Hot Shots, was yet to come….
By 2006 the Pat Travers Band were back to a four piece with the addition of guitarist Kirk McKim, and another live album (‘Stick to What You Know, Live in Europe’) was released in 2007. Frank McDaniel had stepped in for Rick Navarro on bass, and although Eric Frates was still in the engine room, Sean Shannon would soon be back behind the kit for his second residency in the Pat Travers Band.
The definitive lineup of the all new four-piece Pat Travers Band was complete when Rodney O’Quinn took over four-string duties.
And proof that the Pat Travers Band was in (eight) safe hands, courtesy of Messrs. Travers, McKim, Shannon and O’Quinn, came as the second decade of the Millennium dawned…
Fidelis and the future…
‘Fidelis’, backed by Alexus Records, was released as a download in March 2010 followed by CD issue a few months later. It is, quite simply, one of the best Pat Travers releases of any era.
The opener, the hot and rockin' 'Ask Me Baby' and the following number, the slower but no less raunchy 'Edge of Darkness' set the tone early, with the album’s rock edge tempered by lighter tracks such as the excellent ‘Stay’ and 'When I'm With You'.
The album also proves what many have known since they first saw this four-piece perform together…
Kirk McKim is the perfect sparring partner for Travers and a great guitarist in his own right, Rodney O’Quinn’s four-string work compliments the band in a way not seen or heard since the departure of Mars Cowling, and Sean Shannon’s ridiculously powerful but controlled drumming drives this unit with a relentless energy.
Combine those individual talents with the chemistry being produced both in the studio and on the stage, and you have a line-up that is being favourably compared to the famous Travers-Thrall-Cowling-Aldridge band. And deservedly so.
This Pat Travers Band is also one seriously tight rockin’ unit, and live they always deliver. There is an energy that is tangible, an enjoyment that is infectious, and, quite frankly, you owe it to yourself to catch this band whenever and wherever you can.
From the streets of Toronto, to the streets of London, and still kicking your ass…The Pat Travers Band.
Ross Muir has been Hooked on Music recorded and performed by Pat Travers since the debut album hit the record stores, and not only are both musician and writer huge Todd Rundgren fans, they also share the same birth date. Strange but true. Ross Muir writes at: www.fabricationsHQ.com
And this one’s dedicated to… Ed Tierney, William J. Burke and the late David C. Rasche for their earlier web-work in charting Pat’s career. I’m just the guy that’s been handed the baton.