Note: This is an old bio. It will be updated, and edited substantially soon
My musical journey started at Fulton Jr High in Van Nuys California, when I actually wanted to play trumpet (I was always into horn bands). To my benefit, my friend Ben Corr talked me into trying out for the drum chair in the beginning winds band.
Two years later I was playing timpani in the orchestra, conducting the band as a teacher’s assistant, and playing drum set in the award winning stage band performing numerous concerts, festivals, and at the Hollywood Bowl as winner of our division of a battle of the bands. At the same time I cut my rock & roll teeth in bands after school playing Cream, Who, Stones, Beatles, etc. Great early formative years.
Like a dummy I wanted to play football when I started at Van Nuys High, but after messing up my knee in an early season game, I determined drumming was easier on the body. As soon I could limp, I was back on the football field, but playing snare in the marching band.
While still in high school I had fake ID, and was playing 5 sets 5 to 6 nights a week in a couple of the highest profile R & B/dance bands in the LA/OC club circuit (Big Daddy’s, Red Onion…), and casinos in Vegas, Reno & Tahoe, and making more $ than the music teacher.
Before graduating high school, I started doing recording sessions, and playing in original bands. In the days before drum machines & sequencers took over, I was able to make good money doing demo recording sessions in some of the best studios in Los Angeles.
I continued my musical education taking courses and playing in the bands at California State University Northridge & Valley Jr Colleges. I also studied privately with Ralph Humphrey, Joe Porcaro, Freddy Gruber, Murry Spivak and Les DeMerle.
I did brief terms as a percussionist for the Pasadena Philharmonic Orchestra, and gigs with The Grass Roots (ABC/Dunhill). My original band Krazy Kat had a great following, and many people in the industry thought we were a shoe in for a major record deal. Just as deals with Chrysalis and ABC Dunhill were being solidified, the band signed a counterproductive production deal, and the band’s primary writer/lead vocalist went the way of drugs & erratic behavior. It all went sideways.
After a few more years of clubs, and recording sessions, a keyboard player I had worked with Danny Watson (Bob Seger, Rick Wakeman, Masters in Composition from University of Michigan) approached me with a grandiose jazz/rock/classical/fusion project that had substantial financial backing and very challenging material (cross between Yes, Chick Corea, and Gentle Giant). After an extensive search, and importation of great musicians from all over the country, Immigrant rehearsed and showcased out of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium. Many musicians including those from Frank Zappa’s & Tony William’s bands became fans and followed our progress. Unfortunately it was bad timing. The musicianship & complex material was over the primary population’s heads, and even though record labels appreciated what we were doing, and considered bringing Zappa in to produce the band’s record, new wave and small punk bands were the flavor of the week.
When it appeared the financial backing was going to dry up for Immigrant, the band members (minus the leader Watson) decided to stay together to write & perform progressive, but much more commercially acceptable material (like a progressive rock Steely Dan). The band was renamed Headline, and then changed to Banned Abroad. After accumulating a solid following playing steadily around Los Angeles, the band started recording material at my 24 track Moonwind Studios in Orange County and had a song included on LA radio station KWST’s L.A.s Hottest release, and began to get some airplay. We soon became one of the first bands to record more than an album of material with 32 tract digital technology through a production/artist development deal with Warner Brothers (Don Landy/Ted Templeman). Word was the distribution deal was to be completed as the new budgets were to be released at the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile Banned Abroad was hired to be teen idol Leif Garrett’s backup & warm-up band for a major South East Asian tour. This was productive as the band was able to be exposed to sold out audiences in large venues, while under Leif’s budget. The WEA Asian representatives, and the press, went crazy over us with headlines reading “Bank Impresses More Than Leif”. After a successful tour, the turn of the year found Warner Bros putting a moratorium on spending resources on new acts because of economic reasons. We were bummed because we wanted to be on Warners, but financially it could have been great, since we would now own the masters without having to pay back Warners (because of the first rights clause we had with them). We could now release the product on any of the several other labels that were interested in the band. Again, as luck would have it, the lead vocalist had substance abuse issues, and became a recluse. Another one bites the dust.
A small sample of the next few years …1st call drummer at Warner/Chappell publishing, Chez Vous (pop/rock JVC Japan), Kelly Lynn Gitter (Country/Rock tour west coast & European distribution), Spencer Davis (local gigs), Taste of Honey (Dance/R&B, Japan festivals), Steve Vai (fusion), Foreign Exchange (West Coast clubs, CBS Canada distribution).
As a member of Zerimar (high energy Latin R&B i.e. Phil Collins meets Miami Sound Machine) we played many huge festivals, and had several songs on high rotation on Latin Rock radio. This was a hot band, and had Janet Jackson’s choreographer. It was a bummer as I was in a band getting so much airplay, but personal notoriety was limited as my associates wouldn’t normally be the demographic listening to those stations. Zerimar did get some airplay on an L.A. Rock station KLOS with a power ballad that had English verses, but that was isolated. What was worse was when we were upgrading from GEM distribution to Warner Latin, financial skeletons came out of the closet, and the project became unviable, even though we were a top drawing act, and getting tons of airplay. Onward…
Over the past decade I’ve been a member (or substitute) playing in several blues, cover and tribute bands. Some worth noting include Chris Bell (Blues), Stoney Curtis (Blues), Black Cat Bone (Blues), Heartbreaker (Pat Benetar tribute), Grand Illusion (Styx tribute), Midnight Rider (Allman Brothers tribute), and Smokin’ (Boston tribute).
Ron Henderson musical bio