Thu, Jun 26, 2008
by Steve Katz
The underground press panned Blood, Sweat & Tears for performing at
Caesars Palace in 1973, accusing the group of selling out.
Co-founder Steve Katz left shortly after that gig and hasn't been
back to Las Vegas. Katz rejoined BS&T last year after a 35-year
separation and will perform his second engagement in the
Entertainment Capital this weekend as part of the band's 40th anniversary tour.
Since its founding in 1967, the group has undergone several
incarnations. Ironically, Katz now is the only original member of the
group left, and he's been back for only about 10 months.
The founder of one of the seminal bands of the '60s and '70s recently
talked with the Sun by phone from his home in Kent, Conn.
Q: How did the reunion come about?
I got a call at the end of last summer, around the first of
September, from Bobby (Colomby), who was the original drummer. Bobby
still owns the name. He and the manager, Larry Dorr, called and said,
"Hey, the guys are doing a gig near you and we were wondering if you
wanted to sing 'Sometimes in Winter'?" I said that would be great,
that would be a lot of fun. That call was totally out of the blue. So
I did that. The guys had worked up the arrangement and it was ready
when I got up onstage. I had such a great time because I hadn't done
this for 35 years. I hadn't even seen the band for 35 years.
Did you have to rehearse the first time you performed with the band?
No. I met them five minutes before I got up onstage. The guys were so
nice to me and so respectful. The first time I sang they introduced
me and the audience applauded, I mean like really nice applause, and
I looked behind me to see who they were applauding. It was just so
weird. I feel like Rip van Winkle.
What do you do onstage?
I used to be the guitar player but I'm not doing that anymore. I'm
playing harmonica and singing one song ("Sometimes in Winter"),
probably two songs pretty soon. I come out and tell some stories
about how the band got together, sort of humorous stories. I'm just
loving it. The guitar player in the band, Dave Gellis, is so great I
wouldn't even touch it. Of course the harmonica player the lead
singer, Rob Paparozzi is a great harmonica player also but we have
fun. We trade duets. We're just having a lot of fun.
Is this a publicity stunt?
Not at all. The intent was that one gig. They didn't know whether I
wanted to do it, I didn't know whether they wanted me to do it.
Afterward I told them I would really love to do this. My wife and I
have had a company for the past 20 years she does ceramic artwork
and the company pretty well takes care of itself so I can work a few
days a week for our company and do the Blood, Sweat & Tears thing.
It's just working out great.
Why did you quit?
One of the reasons I'm doing this now, and I wouldn't do it if the
lead singer (David Clayton-Thomas) that was there was still there. I
don't think we would get along. I wouldn't have done it anytime until
recently. One reason I left was because I was pretty tired of the
road and I felt the band was going in more of a jazz direction than I
liked. But the main reason was that I was getting friendly with Lou
Reed and Lou asked me to be his producer. So I did a couple of albums
with Lou and wanted to spend more time in the studio than on the road.
How do you go from jazz and rock to Celtic?
You quit taking drugs. Just kidding. I didn't take drugs. The reason
I got into Celtic music was because when I was at Mercury I signed
this act, Horslips, from Ireland. They were like the mentors of U-2.
I met the band, we got along great, and I wound up producing three of
their albums. They turned me on to a lot of traditional Celtic,
traditional Irish music. I fell in love with it. I wound up meeting
Wendy Newton, who owned Green Linnet, and we decided to work together.
Had you been performing before rejoining Blood, Sweat & Tears?
For the last 15 years or so I've just been playing acoustic guitar at
home, playing the odd gig around here. One of my old bandmates, Danny
Kalb of the Blues Project, (and I) would do a gig every few months,
but it wasn't really serious. So I've been really out of it until
they called me to do this.
What were your plans up to then?
I thought I was just going to suffer for the rest of my life. Now,
I'm doing all the gigs, every weekend in the summer. We're going to
Europe in September and then to Israel and Korea. As far as I'm
concerned and I think the guys feel the same the more gigs the
better. Every concert we do the guys can stretch. It's not just an
oldies band. It's pretty much different every night.
BS&T was formed during the counterculture days. Why did you have
trouble with the underground press?
They didn't like us because we did an Eastern European tour sponsored
by the State Department. They criticized us for that. It came out
later, and we knew it at the time, that the lead singer
(Clayton-Thomas) of the group was from Canada and the State
Department said they would not renew his visa unless we did a tour for them.
Why was your engagement at Caesars Palace 35 years ago so controversial?
Basically the underground press criticized us for playing Vegas
because they thought we were selling out or something. It wasn't
politically correct to play there. But we played Vegas because we
felt it would be a fun thing to do and it was a fun thing to do. We
had a great time.
Did you ever play here again after that?
It was the only time I played there. I left the band in '73. The
band, in one form or another, probably has played there many times
since I left. But I was just in Vegas that one time. I can't wait to
go back. Everyone tells me it has changed a lot.