Some of our rock band alumni went from playing in bands during high school and college music to clubbing in Sactown to the music industry's pro ranks. These former members of Sparrow, Slippery When Wet, East Wind Band and LaCasse have been kickin' on top nearly 30 years!
Kenny Lee Lewis: guitar, bass, vocals (alumnus Sparrow)
(http://www.kennyleelewis.com and http://www.stevemillerband.com)
At the age of 17, Kenny was already a monster guitarist and bassist when he joined the Sacramento jazz-rock horn band Sparrow in 1971. Two years later, he went to LA to begin his professional career in the studios and touring.
In late 1981, Kenny and drummer Gary Mallaber sent a demo tape of eight songs they had co-written to Steve Miller, who had called looking for material for an upcoming album. They were hoping Miller might like a song or two, and were shocked when Miller took all eight tunes. Three of those songs ended up making it onto the chart-busting 1982 album "Abracadabra," and one ("Cool Magic") made it to Billboard's Hot 100 charts.
Steve asked Kenny to join the Steve Miller Band after the mixing sessions, saying "Well, since you already played bass and guitar on the tracks, I guess you ought to do the tour, right?" Kenny Lee Lewis has been Steve's guitarist ever since! (Editor's note: We just can't figure out what ever drove Kenny to make such a lousy career decision. :)
Kenny Lee Lewis, Billy Peterson and Steve Miller on tour*
Former Sparrow members Kenny Lee Lewis and Lawrence Gee
at KLL's office in Hollywood, September 2003 funk reunion.
Kenny also is a member of the Los Angeles all-star band Hang Dynasty with synth-and-sax legend Edgar Winter; Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (guitar: Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers); Steve Ferrone (drums: AWB, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Duran Duran, SNL House Band); Mike Finnegan (keyboards: Crosby, Stills & Nash); Lee Sklar (studio bass legend: everyone in the world).
Stephen "Doc" Kupka (bari sax: Tower of Power, Strokeland Superband) leads the horn section of top LA session musicians including master trumpeters Steve Madaio (Stevie Wonder, Janis Joplin, Rolling Stones, Madonna) and Chuck Findley (everyone); and Scotty Page (sax: Pink Floyd, Supertramp, James Brown).
Senni "Skip" Martin: trumpet, vocals (alumnus East Wind Band)
Skip has been the Grammy winning vocalist and trumpeter with The Dazz Band ("Let It Whip" and other hits) and Kool & The Gang since leaving East Wind Band in 1978, and was mentored by Stevie Wonder. Today, Skip is based in Las Vegas and still tours with both bands as well as with the United We Funk All-Stars. You can get his self-released CDs "From The Heart" (2003) and "Miles High" (2006) at his website.
Skip Martin performing with The Dazz Band, New Year's Eve 2001 *
[Photo courtesy of skipmartinmusic.com]
East Wind Band v4.0, 1976 at Sacramento Cal Expo Battle of the Bands.
Front: Mark Jaspar (bass), Brian King (tenor), Lawrence Gee (trumpet),
[Photo from the archives of Roy "Kinji" Arimoto]
Henry Robinett: guitar, vocals (alumnus Sparrow)
Henry has led the Henry Robinett Group, recipients of a 4-Star review from Downbeat Magazine, and recorded a number of CDs with them. He is the recipient of multiple Best Jazz Band SAMMIES Awards and the Hall of Fame SAMMIES Award since the early 1990s. Henry runs Nefertiti Records and Blue Degrees Digital recording studio in Sacramento.
Henry also is a member of the Capitol Jazz Project and is a music department faculty member at Cosumnes River College. As head of the jazz department at the American Institute of Music in Vienna, Austria, Henry taught guitar, jazz band, theory and music business.
Sparrow v3.0, 1972: Front Row: Paula Jones (lead vocals), Les Chinn (saxes),
[Photo from the archives of Lorren Au]
Wayne Smith: bass, guitar (alumnus Sparrow, Slippery When Wet, EWB)
During Wayne's stints on bass with Sparrow and Slippery When Wet (73-76), he locked in his reputation as the funkiest bass player in Sacramento - untouchable by any of the other funk club bands. To top it off, when Wayne auditioned for Tower of Power in 1977, he was recognized by leader Emilio Castillo for his mastery of Rocco Prestia's finger-funk bass style.
Former Sparrow members in Los Angeles, September 2003 funk reunion:
Wayne Smith (bass), Lawrence Gee (trumpet) and Lorren Au (drums).
Slippery When Wet v2.0, 1974. Front: Domingo Hipona (guitar),
Lawrence Gee (trumpet). Middle: Wayne Smith (bass), Michelle Ank
(lead vocals), Gabe Ledesma (drums). Rear: Bob Holsapple (trumpet),
Clark Smith (tenor sax).
[Photo from the archives of Funky.Flea]
Since relocating to Los Angeles in 1979, Wayne has recorded and toured with Dirk Hamilton (Electra Records), Steve Hooks (Warner Bros.), John Andrew Parks (Capitol Records) and Sony Charles (Coasters original lead singer). Wayne records, writes and performs with Random Traveller, and is featured on their CD “Odyssey” (2006).
Kevin Chokan: guitarist (alumnus LaCasse)
When Kevin left Sacramento for LA some 25 years ago, George Duke heard him in the studios and hooked him up to record with Al Jarreau and Stanly Clarke. Since then, Kevin has become one of LA's top session guitarists, recording and touring with other Tier 1 stars including Patti Austin, Stephanie Mills, Philip Bailey, and of course Jeffrey Osbourne. Kevin has been Musical Director for Diana Ross since 1997.
Kevin appears on the CDs "G-Fire" and "G-Fire II" featuring a team of the top session guitarists in Los Angeles. See details at http://cdbaby.com/cd/nocm and http://www.theshredzone.com/content/article.asp?pageid=307.
The G-Fire Crew 2003: Morris O'Connor (Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight),
Kevin Chokan (Jeffrey Osborne, Diana Ross), and Vernon Neilly
(Teena Marie, Johnny "Guitar" Watson). *
Mark Jaspar (bass). Rear: Orland King (drums), Kevin Chokan (guitar)
[Photo from the archives of Roy "Kinji" Arimoto]
Marty Hom: Pro Tour Manager (former manager, East Wind Band)
Marty is one of the rock industry’s top Los Angeles-based tour managers. His long-time Tier 1 tour clients include industry giants Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand and Fleetwood Mac. Over the years his touring roster has included Boston, Lionel Ritchie, Ricky Martin, Janet Jackson and others.
Marty Hom is pictured with actress Lauren Frost, who performed as "Mini-Barbra" in dramatic sequences as part of Streisand's Timeless farewell tour.
* Photos used by permission of the respective artists, unless otherwise noted.
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