The Boogie Man's Back

Alan Gerber

By Bill Delingat

Alan Gerber was born in the windy city of Chicago; both his mother and father were music lovers, his mother played the piano and his father enjoyed singing. Alan's older sister became quite talented as a pianist and there was always a baby grand piano in the house for Alan to experiment on.

Alan credits his two uncles for inspiring him to get into the music field as they both also played the piano and loved the jazz and blues, although they never played professionally. Alan enjoyed jamming with his uncles as a kid and also credits the Chicago scene for getting him hooked on playing.

Alan was only 15 years old when he released his first recording with “Earic Records”, a subsidiary of the Chess label. After finishing high school Alan went on to Roosevelt University to get his Bachelor of Music, but never completed the courses, as he was asked by Paul Rothchild, a producer for Elektra Records to try out for a super group called 'Rhinoceros”. After two albums, Alan left the band in 1969 and started his solo career and has recorded four CD's to date, starting in 1994 with “Chicken Walk”,1997 “Fools That Try” 1999 “ The Boogie Man” and then after moving to Quebec, Canada he recorded “Blue Tube” in 2005.
Alan also released a live CD in 2001 and recently Alan has produced and recorded his fifth session CD titled “Queen of Hearts”.

Alan was also asked this year to join his former band mates in Rhinoceros for a reunion tour.
Alan Gerber has developed his own brand of music – once described as blues, meets gospel, meets boogie-woogie. Alan Gerber now resides in the foothills of the Quebec Laurentians with his wife and two children and continues to produc, record and tour his music for his faithful following.

Cashbox had a chance to speak to Alan about his legendary past and what we can expect from him in the future.

BD: You were originally from Chicago but you now live in the Quebec town of Val David in the Laurentians,  north of Montreal.  How was it growing up in Chicago and the music scene of the 50’s and 60’s at those times and was your family supportive of your curiosity with music instead of getting into the job market in the windy city?

Alan: The music scene in Chicago covered a wide variety of genres, from folk, blues, rock, jazz, to the classic R&B of Chess Records. I had the opportunity to know & play with fine Chicago-based artists such as Corky Siegel from the Siegel-Schwall Blues Band, who I met at Roosevelt University where we were studying at The Chicago Musical College .
BD: In your bio you were attending Roosevelt University and you were on your way for a Bachelor of Music degree, but left to join the group Rhinoceros. Are there any regrets for not completing the semester and going on the road instead?

Alan: I have no regrets, I didn't need a piece of paper stating my qualifications & I certainly learned a lot from my Rhinoceros experience.

BD: How did you end up at Elektra Records (Paul Rothchild) and the forming of the super groupRhinoceros as you were not nationally well know yet at this time?

Alan: It was actually by chance that my girl friend , Katy, who was going to New York University, spoke about me to a friend who wrote for "Variety Magazine" who told Paul how talented I was (as if he had actually seen me himself) and set up a meeting between Paul and I during my first visit to New York. Paul really liked my music & wanted to produce me as a solo artist or with a new super group he was planning to put together. As you know, I chose to do the group which eventually became Rhinoceros. 

BD: The Rhinoceros debut LP of 1968, at the time there was a lot of pressure and expectation on this project. Were you happy with the results and the songs chosen for it or would you have liked to have seen more of a different direction, although the LP did see international success.

Alan:  Although I was happy with the results of the first album, there were some songs of quite a different and original direction that were excluded by the record company. I believe that some of these songs could have made Rhinoceros a bigger international success.

BD: The follow up recording seemed to have a rockier feel than the first. You left the group Rhinoceros in 1969, what some would think would be a bad move timing wise. What made you decide to leave and what were your thoughts at the time?

Alan: On the second LP , "Satin Chickens", I found the musical direction & the record company control going to places I didn't want to be. I felt alienated to the degree where I had to leave. It was way beyond bad timing or a bad move . 
BD: There was only a few years gap before you were out on your own with your solo projects and the deal with Shelter Records. How did that all fall together?

Alan: After Rhinoceros I eventually started playing solo shows in cafes & clubs on the west coast. I hooked up with a wonderful manager, Teddy Troobwe knocked on many doors , played numerous showcases &  eventually landed a recording deal with Shelter Records.

BD: Your 1971 solo release had some of the Rhinoceros camp, Michael Fonfara  and Danny Weis on board; that must have been a good feeling working with them again. How did they get involved?

Alan:  On the Shelter album, Denny Cordell , my producer, found wonderful players such as Duck Dunn & Al Jackson Juinor from Booker T & the MG’S (Steve Cropper did some of the engineering), Wayne Jackson & The Memphis Horns & Gloria Jones who sang background with Ray Charles. I could have had Dave Mason from Traffic, on guitar & Leon Russell on B3,who are first class players and would have been great publicity for the album , but I chose the people I really wanted .To this day they are both still at the top of my list.

BD:  Chicken Walk 1994 , Fools that Try in 1997, toe tappin’ Boogie Man  in 1999 and then in 2002 you released “Alan Gerber Live”. During all this active back to back releases and touring you ended up moving to Quebec, Canada. How did that happen ?

Alan: I was living in Vermont when I received a call from an old friend, Frazier Mohawk (who I knew from my LA Rhinoceros days) who asked me to play fiddle on a project he was producing in Montreal. I drove up from Vermont, did the session and the head of the production company, Andre Perry, really liked my music. I loved Montreal & the whole province of Quebec, and started performing & eventually recorded with Andre Perry. (Andre Perry Studios) One thing led to another & I am now a dual citizen living in the province of Quebec for many years. For the past twenty years, I have been living with my wife, Robin, in the Laurentian Mountains, north of Montreal. We have a daughter, Hannah, & a son, Eli.

BD: Blue Tube, released  in 2005, was a quote from a Radio Canada Blues show “ Espace Musique” hosted and produced by Dan Behrman. Had you met with Dan and what was the thought behind Blue Tube , and how was it influenced by your new environment in Canada ?

Alan: I have known Dan Behrman for many years. We met when he booked me to play The Montreal Jazz Festival for the first time & we have been good friends ever since. My CD , "Blue Tube",was certainly influenced by my Quebec environment and all the great musicians I have around me.

BD: Your latest release ,Queen Of Hearts,  has it all from the 30’s style, walkin’ piano feel reminiscent of Kid Creole and the Coconuts and the gospel influenced ‘Feed Myself”.  Your New Orleans groove is at it’s best.How do you feel about the place in music you are at now?

Alan: I am truly happy with "Queen Of Hearts". I love the sound ,the production, all the wonderful people on the recording ( especially my son & daughter who each join me for a song) and the huge range of genres that the CD explores. I wrote many of the songs with my wife, my close friends & my sister. I feel very good about where I am now in my musical journey.

BD: Recently you were back on the road with the Rhinoceros reunion tour, can we expect more of that and what do you remember best of those days with the group?

Alan: We had two rehearsals & played a 90 minute show at the Kitchener Blues Festival. It was quite incredible after not playing together for forty plus years. People loved the show; they want us back at that festival (and possibly others) and we'll see what evolves. I remember starting a new life (as a teenager) in LA, experiencing record business super hype, broadening my musical scope and sharing all this with John, Danny, Michael , Billy and Jerry from Rhinoceros. There are also many things I don't quite remember!!

BD: Now with the new CD and the road ahead, can we expect to see you on tour in support of the "Queen Of Hearts" and what would you like to see next for Alan Gerber?

Alan: At this point I hope to promote my new CD by touring and making the best business decisions available to me. After all the time and energy of recording "Queen Of Hearts" and touring all summer, I am also looking forward to some vacation time with my family.

BD: You are a great multi-talented musician and you have made your mark in musical history. What advice can you give young musicians like you once were for planning their pathway to personal and financial success in the musical arena of today and the online world of downloads?

Alan: The most important advice I can give is to follow their true creative spirit, keep the number of people in your performing group in line with the amount of money you are generating, try to be aware of all the swift changes in the music business arena and get help when you need it.

BD: Finally, what types of music do you listen to and who would you say influenced your musical direction?

Alan: When I listen, I listen to all genres of music: from blues, rhythm & blues, rock, jazz, classical to world. I have to say though, in all honesty, I do not have much time to listen.My musical direction has been influenced by people like Otis Redding , Sam & Dave, Otis Spann , Bob Dylan , Paul Simon, Mavis Staples & The Beatles. As you can see, my influences cover a very wide range & I guess I like music that has a soulful, funky feel with poetic, interesting lyrics.  


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