I started my musical career when I was a young teen bitten by the rock and roll bug in Sicamous, British Columbia, Canada back in the late 1950's. It was there that I learned to play guitar, piano and drums, and where I jammed with Terry & Art Bach. I soon played in my first working band, The Esquires (Wayne Servio on guitar, Reid Smith on piano, and myself on drums). Another group was called The Rebels. By my late teens I had moved to Vancouver where I ended up playing drums in a group called Questions.
The Northwest Company was my next stop, and I played drums and sang with them from 1967 to 1974. That is when I started to write songs. We made a number of singles, and played throughout Western Canada, often as supporting act to touring heavyweights like The Beach Boys, Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Who, The Byrds, Boz Scaggs, Country Joe McDonald and others, and we appeared regularly on various local and national TV shows. Neptoon Records is planning on releasing a CD with all our singles plus a hot live set recorded at the Pender Auditorium in Vancouver in 1973.
I spent the year after The NW Co. broke up making the shift from playing drums to playing guitar in Home Cooking, the house band at the then new Gastown club The Town Pump. We made a few recordings (that remain unreleased), but I got a chance to record for the newly formed Mushroom Records, home to Heart, Chilliwack, Jerry Doucette, Jason Hoover, Ian Matthews and others. I thought the single I made there turned out great (Chasing A Dream), but it didn't catch on quite like Mushroom had hoped. I also sat in on drums with The Law Brothers Band, a country-rock group led by Rodger and Leslie Law. When Home Cooking was let go from the Town Pump, we took up residence at The OK Coral in Sapperton, an old neighborhood in New Westminster. Eventually, like all bands, we reached the end.
I then joined a group called The High Times and I got us the gig as the house band at The OK Coral. The other HT members were Doug Haven on lead guitar and vocals, Jim Fraser on bass and Terry on the drums. This was the first group that I played piano in, as well as guitar. We mostly played the hits of the day, with a few of my original songs thrown into the mix, and kept the place packed until 2 AM six nights a week. But by 1976 it was time to move on.
So I formed a new band, named it Shakedown, and hit the road. I had invited bassist Jim Fraser from The High Times, and had Rick Clark on drums and Neil James Harnett on lead guitar and vocals. Later the group included Ray O'Toole, bassist Marshall Hunt, Ali Monroe on keyboards, and finally George Chapelas on bass and Glenn Hendrickson on drums.
I also landed a deal with Casino/A&M Records, and there I was teamed up with veteran producer Andy DiMartino. He is best known for his work with The Cascades (Rhythm Of The Rain), Glenn Yarborough, and Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. A number of tracks were recorded, but just one single was released. Good To Have You was a moderate hit in Canada in the summer of 1977, but Shakedown would brake up by late fall.
Producer Andy DiMartino liked my stuff, and took me to Los Angeles where we landed with MCA Records' specialty label Infinity Records. We were given a healthy budget and made a pretty slick record at Devonshire Studios in North Hollywood with some of the finest talent in that city. "Holiday In Hollywood" was released world wide, and was on it's way to becoming a big hit when MCA restructured their organization and cut funding to Infinity Records. I was left .....well, high and dry. Still, the record did well enough to get me a JUNO nomination (the Canadian Grammy) as best new male vocalist, and other awards.
I started the 1980s with a new manager, a new backer, a new band and a new record label. My second album ("Richard Stepp") was released in Canada on Vera Cruz Records. I recorded at Sundown Studios in Edmonton and at Smooth Rock in Calgary, Alberta, with Wes Dakus, Howard Steele and Jim Gaines producing. A couple of singles were released (Imagination/Can You Feel My Love and Sooner Or Later/Summer Love) and both had moderate success on Canadian radio. My group, The Richard Stepp Band, played the club circuit around BC in 1981 and 1982.
For most of the 1980s I played a single gig, mostly on piano. When I needed a group I assembled a number of musician friends under the banner "Richard & The Hired Guns". Sometimes I even added a vocal group known as the "I Dream I Died And Went To Heaven Inspirational Singer" that featured four female and one male singer (vocal arranger West). I was without a record deal for the first time in a long time, so I decided to record myself in my garage studio aptly named "Dogwood Studio", after the street I lived on at that time. I played everything myself, except the bass, auto-harp and sax, which were provided by friends.
In the late 1980s I took on a new manager: Bill Crompton. Bill was best known for writing songs for the Beatles, Cliff Richards and other English acts from the early 1960s. I recorded some songs with Billy Cowsill (The Cowsills/Blue Northern/Bill Mitchell's Train Wreck) and Lindsay Mitchell (Seeds Of Time/Prism/Bill Mitchell's Train Wreck). These tracks have never been released.
As the 1990s came around I was still playing the lounges and bars around the lower mainland of BC, but I was getting burned out. In the late summer of 1992 I started playing the cruise ships, starting with the Alaska run. From there I went to the Mexican Riviera, the Caribbean, the Pacific and to Europe. I ended up staying in Stockholm, Sweden for quite a while, and in Germany. Other stops included The Netherlands, The Mediterranean, and New York City.
When I returned to Vancouver I resumed playing the bars and lounges as a single. I had written a lot of new songs, so I went in the studio and I recorded some of my Christmas songs. The result was a CD maxi-single called "Hooray For Santa Claus" and was released in 1997. Some of the people who played on the CD were guitarist Harris Van Berkle and keyboardist Basil Watson, who also helped with the arrangements.
For a while I played in a group where I was not the leader: Chris Munday-lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Rick Enns-lead vocals and bass; Richard Stepp-lead vocals, piano and keyboards; Bobby Reagan-lead vocals & guitar. The group was unique in that we featured a different singer for a set each. There was a lot of talent, personalities, and history in that group. Tom Cunningham booked us as The Chris Munday Band.
The Christmas CD "Hooray For Santa Claus" was re-issued last fall, but only to selected radio stations in different world markets. It did incredibly well, considering the small number of stations that we sent it to. All three Christmas songs received major airplay in Ireland (#1), Denmark, England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, New Zealand, Australia and parts of the U.S.of A (Florida and New England). To test the waters, so to speak, we also sent out a single featuring Rhythm Of The Sun/Ain't Got Nobody. Both tracks are still being played (March 2002). My agent and promoter Tom Cunningham did a fabulous job getting my music to just the right people at just the right radio stations. Thank you, Tom!
I started recording some of my other songs at Lou Hoover's Hoovercraft Sound back in early 2000. Like the Hired Guns sessions back in 1983-84, this one has turned out to be another lengthy marathon! This will be my first country album. I have done country before, going as far back as to the Northwest Company, but I have never had a albums worth of country songs recorded at one set of session. Some of the songs have been released, but the rest is in the process of getting mixed. We (RS Records and I) are thinking of calling the CD "It Only Takes One" after one of the songs, though that could change. It's been a long process and I am glad it is soon coming to completion.
But I already have a whole new batch of songs that I should record as well......