on March 25, 1948, in Cleveland, Ohio, Michael Stanley Gee's early
musical inclinations, as a Rocky River High School student, were typical
of most teen boys in a 'garage band': "It was just something
that was fun to do," Michael Stanley recalled, in a 1981 'TEEN
Magazine interview, "It was a good way to pick up some quick
money and meet some girls."
1965, the proverbial 'first' band was one called the 'Scepters'. Things
became more serious, musically, when Michael joined the 'Tree Stumps',
and a single was released, "Listen To Love". By 1969, Michael
was a student at Hiram College, working on his Bachelor of Arts degree,
and the Tree Stumps had become 'Silk', a locally-popular folk group
that had advanced into the recording studio and produced an LP, "Smooth
As Raw Silk"...
At a point when the band was on the
verge of breaking up, they were asked to play a local Cleveland hotspotand
they took the gig with the idea that they could, at the very least,
'go out on top'...
New York record producer, Bill Szymczyk, was in the audience that
night, and was impressed; a record contract followed...
had continued working his 'day job' at Disc Records, having by then
become the Regional Manager, in charge of stores in 12 states, AND
married--with two infant, twin daughters, Sarah and Anna. For two
years, he juggled his time between the studio, work and family at
a somewhat leisurely pace, judiciously using several weeks of vacation
time a year to record both his debut, "Michael Stanley",
and second LP, "Friends & Legends"...
supplementing his creative zen, he had also begun collaborating with
two area musicians, Daniel Pecchio and Jonah Koslen, with the newly
formed trio playing Stanley's solo songs as well as new material.
In 1973, Michael and his boss had a dispute that resulted in disaster:
he was fired. With a new family, new car--and no job--Michael was
momentarily 'stranded'. By now a close friend, Joe Walsh (another
Cleveland area musician, who had joined Michael in the studio on both
LP's) suggested Michael either 'give it (music) his all' or get out--no
'half-efforts' were going to suffice. It was a turning point for Michael,
and one where he finally saw music as his lifeblood, deciding to consider
it a full-time pursuit. Michael's decision to 'hang tough' with the
music, along with prodding from Pecchio and Koslen, became the catalyst
that brought in drummer Tommy Dobeck, and the Michael Stanley Band
came into being...
the mid 70's to the mid 80's, the Michael Stanley Band enjoyed a strong
and fiercely loyal following, touring with some of the superstar bands
of that period (including Bruce Springsteen, The Eagles, Foreigner
and The Doobie Brothers); there were several Top-20 and Top-30 hits,
among them "He Can't Love You" in 1980 and "My Town"
in 1983, but it seemed the 'one great hit' never came--the kind of
chartbuster that saw acts like Bob Seger, Bryan Adams, John Cougar
(now Mellencamp), make their names and hometowns, literally, household
|In late 1982,
MSB released what would be their final album for EMI: "You Can't
Fight Fashion". The single, "My Town", had made it
to 29 on Billboard Magazine's charts, sales were good, and the band
was on tour, when EMI stunned the band by offering them an 'extension',
rather than a contract renewal with a long-term financial comittment.
When Michael confidently 'called their bluff', their label pulled
the plug, halting promotion and tour-backing immediately.
it was a financial blow that staggered the band, they gamely continued
performing venues in the Northern Ohio and midwest circuit, producing
two independent releases, 1983's "Inside Moves", and "Fourth
And Ten" in 1984 (recorded live at Blossom Music Center--a two
nighter that saw the venue's all-time attendance records shattered),
before formally disbanding in late 1986, shortly after performing
nine 'farewell' concerts at Cleveland's Front Row... "...We broke
up not because we didn't like each other, but because we couldn't
survive. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was like a group
divorce," Michael Stanley would later recall, to Cleveland Magazine
in a July, 1994 interview.
we did the last show with the band in December, 1987 (the Front Row
Club "farewell" shows), I didn't touch a guitar for six
months," Michael Stanley said in a 1992 interview, "...I
wanted to walk away from it for awhile. I thought, 'Yeah, I'll stop
for a little bit, come back and it'll be like turning on the faucet.'
It was the total opposite. It was like writer's block for a long,
long time." In late 1991, the 'block' fell away. Not surprisingly,
Michael's 'post-MSB' years found him still working in the Cleveland-area
entertainment spotlight: he served as co-host of WJW-Channel 8's "Cleveland
Tonight" and "P.M. Magazine", 'til they were cancelled,
and later as a weekly featured reporter for TV8's "First Look".
It was only natural he'd find music calling him again, and he overlapped
his television career with a new one in radio broadcasting--as afternoon
disc jockey and on-air personality at Cleveland's WNCX 98.5...
December, 1991, during a Las Vegas vacation, Michael suffered a heart
attack. The near-tragedy resulted in Michael's re-evaluation of his
life and career, and, with renewed determination and perspective,
he began building a life of balance, exploring new interests while
rediscovering old ones. He 'settled in', buying Chagrin Falls acreage,
and lent his support to a number of good causes and charitable projects.
Former Ohio native and MSB-fan, Razor & Tie Records' Cliff Chenfield,
had contacted him, and the 'compilation' release they had discussed,
"Right Back At Ya", was released in February, 1992, leading
to a following decision to 're-issue' the entire Michael Stanley catalog.
Michael remarked, in a 1994 Cleveland Magazine interview, "After
a six-year draught, we had eight albums out one year and four the
next. I finally got to have a copy of everything we'd done."
1993, Michael reunited with Jonah Koslen, Bob Pelander and Jennifer
Lee (an area singer whose vocals had contributed to many MSB studio
projects and concert appearances) to form The Ghost Poets. With the
MSB reissues selling so well, Cliff Chenfield decided to release the
group's eponymously-titled "The Ghost Poets" through Razor
& Tie Records in 1994. Sales that followed were good, but local
airplay was difficult--a Cleveland 'blackout' had resulted, as many
radio stations viewed Michael Stanley--WNCX's highly-visible personality--as
a competitor. The Ghost Poets continued to perform for a little over
a year after the release, when a decision was made to disband the
effort, and move on...
maintaining a strong relationship with his first wife, Libby, and
their two twin daughters, a good working relationship with former
"P.M. Magazine" co-worker, Mary McCrone,had by then blossomed
into something more: they were wed on July 9, 1994. Following the
quiet disbanding of The Ghost Poets, Michael went into the studio
with another set of former MSB bandmates--including Bob Pelander,
drummer Tommy Dobeck, bassist Michael Gismondi and guitarist Danny
Powers--and recorded his first 'solo' endeavor since 1973's "Friends
& Legends". "Coming Up For Air", a quiet, intensely
emotional and introspective album that centered around the title track--Stanley's
chilling reliving of his recent heart attack--was released through
Intersound Music (now Platinum Entertainment) on February 27, 1996.
declaring a 1994 Blossom 'MSB reunion' concert as the 'final' one,
Michael Stanley continued to perform with several long-time friends
and former band members in and around the Cleveland area, billed as
'Michael Stanley & Friends'. Recently, his solo work has led him
to a more 'acoustic' approach. In April, 1997, a two-nighter at Akron's
Tangiers was duly recorded, and released by Razor & Tie Records
as "Live In Tangiers: The Acoustic Shows" on June 3, 1998.
The release was received warmly by his fans and new converts alike,
and the following 2 years were ones spent engaged in work on a much-anticipated
studio release. On June 6, 2000, of "Eighteen Down": elegantly
titled (as an eighteenth album, spanning a musical career of over
three decades) and brimming with new songs that both rock with heartland
spirit and embrace an oftimes-reflective maturity. Again, many familiar
names joined Michael Stanley in this newest effort. Michael continues
to man the airwaves as afternoon 'drive-time' personality at Cleveland's
popular WNCX, while performing both solo and 'Friends' engagements
pace shows no signs of letting up...