When I first started singing to an audience I mostly played acoustic solo. As I have always done, I would mix in covers with songs I wrote. I would purposely make sure that the songs I covered were similar to what I was writing or at least what I thought was similar. My early stuff sounded very “James Taylor”. So that’s what I covered. Everybody said,
“Wow! He sounds just like James Taylor!”
When I was in my first bands I sang a lot of country music. Everybody said,
“Wow! He sounds just like John Denver!”
When the bands started leaning more towards the lounge top 40 stuff, everybody said,
“Wow! He sounds just like Barry Manilow!”
When the bands started to rock a little more everybody said,
“Wow! He sounds just like Bob Seger!”
Then, later in life, it became,
“Wow! He sounds just like Steve Perry!”
I believe you can now see the pattern forming…
I knew that I could emulate singers pretty good. That made it fun to cover the song. None of this was a problem, of course. Why would it be? It just made the band more appealing.
Big BUT Here!!! …The Steve Perry thing was a problem. Yes, I could emulate Steve Perry well but also, my REAL voice sounded like Steve Perry…. but not really… Confused? Let me ‘splain!
Both of us had the same major influence… Sam Cooke.
When I started really getting into singing I listen to guys like, my hometown hero, Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Company and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. These were my top three influences. I then began to wonder who THEIR influences were. So I researched.
Every one of them came down to R&B singers of the past. The common denominator was Sam Cooke.
Sam Cooke had a string of hits in the 50’s and 60’s, before his death, that are amazing! His nickname was “Mr Soul!” His songs have been covered numerous times by major artists, therefore, many people don’t even know they were Sam Cooke songs originally. “You Send Me,” “Twistin’ The Night Away,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” “Cupid,” “Another Saturday Night”… and so many more.
He became the best voice of all time to me. I loved everything he did, what he did with his voice, the movement he had in his melodies …and oh those melodies! He was the greatest voice in the music I loved and always will be.
I became obsessed with Sam Cooke’s style and therefore my style became very similar. Please don’t think for one minute that I am comparing myself to Sam The Great. That would be a joke…I am just saying similar.
Steve Perry on the other hand is a “clone” of Sam Cooke. It’s unbelievable when you compare the two! Melodies in Journey songs, lyrics in Journey songs and feel…Sam Cooke.
So my dilemma… I sounded a lot like Sam Cooke, so did Steve Perry. Steve Perry became a national success, I didn’t yet. He was first. So the assumption was, I sounded like Steve Perry!
My manager received a call from Rod Price’s manager. Rod Price was the incredible slide guitar player in the rock band FogHat. He was putting together a new band and they asked if I would audition.
I killed it! I went to New York City and killed it! The band was blown away, the manager was blown away, all in the room were blown away!
I didn’t get the gig because the record company producer said I sounded too much like Steve Perry.
The response of one record company executive to some earlier Cheater Demos was,
”You sound too much like Journey. We already have a Journey.” OY!
When I came to him some time later with new demos, he said,
”OK. Now you sound better than Journey, but we still already have a Journey” OY!
Thus, one of the obstacles in my way to a national recording contract.
(Side Note: Rod Price’s band was called Night Watch. When they later started performing, they never hired a singer. The keyboard player became the singer. Night Watch opened for Cheater in Buffalo, NY. Isn’t it ironic. Don’t ya think?)