The Real Reason Gregg Rolie Left Journey
While Keyboardist Gregg Rolie gained fame the first time via Carlos Santana 's titular musical group, the musician found even more recognition in the mid-1970s via Journey , a new hard rock group that paved the way to 19 Top 40 singles in the U.S. The keyboardist also took on lead vocalist duties, for the albums Journey and Look into the Future , as well as backing vocal duties on I nfinity, Evolution , and Departure.
Besides keyboards, Rolie had been lead vocalist on iconic Santana hits like "Black Magic Woman" and "Oye Como Va," reports Rolling Stone . As Santana launched its Welcome album in 1973, Rolie and lead guitarist Neal Schon had already broken off to begin what is now known as Journey. But the band that Rolie first signed up for was far from the arena rock megastars that took the world by storm in the mid-1980s with hits such as "Don't Stop Believin": "It was a jam band, based on a lot of soloing and a different kind of music, progressive rock," Rolie later said, per Best Classic Bands . "If it were a new band today, we'd be playing with the Dave Matthews Band and Phish. Then after three albums we got hold of Steve Perry through our manager, and we started writing songs for singing, instead of songs where we're going to jam and take this as high as we can."
Per Neil Daniels' biography The Untold Story of Journey , Rolie left Journey following the 1980 Departure tour to start a family and undertake various solo projects. It was the second time in his career he had departed from a successful act — he'd also left Santana on a commercial and artistic high. Keyboardist Stevie "Keys" Roseman was brought in to record the single studio track "The Party's Over (Hopelessly in Love)" on the band's live album Captured , with Rolie suggesting that pianist Jonathan Cain of The Babys take over duties as his permanent replacement, according to We Are Classic Rockers.
"I left because I didn't like my life anymore. I've said this a million times and I know there's people that say, 'That's not the reason.' But I left because I was unhappy with what I was doing in my own life," Rolie told Rolling Stone . "I loved the management. I loved the music. I loved what we built. I just wasn't happy, so I had to blow the horn on it and just stop it ... everyone thinks it was because [Steve] Perry came in and started singing all the leads."
Gregg Rolie Talks About Why He Really Left Journey
As a teenager, keyboardist Gregg Rolie was a co-founding member of the band Santana, playing at Woodstock and on such classic albums as Abraxas . After Santana III , he left the band to strike out on his own, eventually starting a new band: Journey.
Rolie rocked with Journey through the band's scrappy early years through early breakout albums including Departure and Evolution . After 1981 live album, Captured , Rolie would leave Journey. The band's next studio effort, Escape , would be Journey's biggest album, featuring the timeless hit, "Don't Stop Believin'."
Over the years, rumors circulated that Rolie left the band due to conflicts with singer Steve Perry, who joined the group on fourth album, Infinity . The keyboardist says now that couldn't be further from the truth.
"I left because I didn’t like my life anymore. I’ve said this a million times and I know there’s people that say, 'That’s not the reason.' But I left because I was unhappy with what I was doing in my own life," Rolie told Rolling Stone . "I loved the management. I loved the music. I loved what we built. I just wasn’t happy, so I had to blow the horn on it and just stop it.
"Everyone thinks it was because Perry came in and started singing all the leads. My God! Again, I was spread so thin with all these keyboards parts and singing leads, he was a welcome sight to me," the keyboardist continued. "And he could sing like a bird! It wasn’t too hard to figure out. I was never against it. I still wanted to sing, but that kind of fell by the wayside [ laughs ]. That’s another story. That’s kind of it, man. I loved the fact we were going to write something different."
When Rolie was pushed on the matter, with the interviewer pointing out that the singer had fewer vocal moments on Departure , he stuck to his story. Perry was never the problem.
"It’s totally wrong! The whole thing is wrong! It doesn’t matter how many times I say this. Maybe you’ll get it right. That’ll be really phenomenal. No matter how many times I tell people very simply: 'Here is the deal. I was unhappy. I drank too much. Blah, blah, blah. I didn’t feel like it was for me anymore. And most of all, I wanted to start a family.' And by the way, my family was my best work. It truly is. My son and daughter, my wife, it’s extraordinary. I did the right thing, but it just doesn’t play well with the guys on Facebook."
Rolie said that he doesn't begrudge Journey for their massive success that came after he left the band. For him, none of that would have been possible without his initial involvement in the band. So the feelings are all positive.
"I felt very proud that I helped to build something that went to that extreme. I’ve always felt that way. Yeah, without me doing this, that might never have happened," he explained."But it’s not about me. It’s about all of it. It’s a misconception in this business of, “Who does what?” We all did something. I gotta tell you, without manager Herbie Herbert, that s--- would not have happened."
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Gregg Rolie Addresses Journey Comeback In Cryptic Post
By Andrew Magnotta @AndrewMagnotta
January 5, 2023
Journey founder and guitarist Neal Schon made headlines late-Wednesday when word got around of his declaration that fans will "be seeing" original Journey keyboardist Gregg Rolie on the band's 50th anniversary tour this year.
Rolie himself has stayed mum on the subject publicly, except for one comment left in reply to Q104.3 New York's recent Instagram post regarding the rumor.
Said the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer: "👀"
While Rolie's comment is mysterious, it certainly doesn't amount to a denial.
Journey's 'Freedom' tour hits the road again on February 4 with Toto as special guest, so an official announcement regarding Rolie's involvement should come within a few weeks.
Rumors of Rolie's return to Journey come at a strange time in the band, as Schon and longtime keyboardist Jonathan Cain (to whom Rolie passed the reigns in 1980) are embroiled in a lawsuit over the band's finances .
Despite the turmoil, the prevailing assumption is that Cain and Rolie will coexist during each show or perhaps trade places to perform material from their respective eras.
While Rolie was the lead singer/keyboardist on Journey's early albums, he is best known as the lead singer/keyboardist for Santana and as a longtime member of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band .
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Journey reunited with long-term frontman Steve Perry at their recent induction to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, but their original lead vocalist, Gregg Rolie, has also revealed that he and lead guitarist Neal Schon have been discussing working together again.
The two Journey co-founders previously worked together on Santana’s 2016 album, Santana IV , while Schon is due to appear on Rolie’s forthcoming solo album. During an interview with Radio.com ahead of the induction ceremony, Rolie hinted at the possibility of them working together in the context of Journey.
The topic initially came up when Rolie was asked why he didn’t jam with Journey when they played a show with Santana last year. “Well, I’m not quite sure, other than there’s a couple of guys; I’m not in the band,” he said in response. “Neal wanted me to do that, and I wanted to do it, and I think it would be tremendous for fans, but there was a couple guys that voted no.”
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He elaborated further, saying, “And so that’s the way it went. I think it’s a shame. People would’ve loved to have seen everybody on the stage gelling together. That’s what I got into doing this for, and having it be otherwise is kind of silly. I don’t know the reasoning. I don’t care about it. If that’s what it is, that’s what it is. Neal and I will do more stuff, and that’s really where it’s at. Remember, between [former Santana manager] Herbie Herbert and Neal Schon, that’s who started this band. It’s always been Neal’s band.”
Rolie concluded the interview by saying, “I love playing with him [Schon], I always have. I’ve known him since he was 15. I got him into Santana, for God sakes. So he and I have crossed paths so many times, and we’re older and kinder, so we’ll see what happens.”
April 29, 2017 at 6:46 am
Totally awesome for Gregg Rolie to hook up with Journey, Neal AND the other members. I know that each member has a vote, everybody should be mature enough to let this happen. Seems like the only threat would be to Jonathan Cain??? The only other would be If Steve Smith has a beef w/Gregg???
July 6, 2019 at 3:20 am
Mr. Rollie I loved what you did in Journey I do love your singing. However you are no Steve Perry. I loved what Steve brought to Journey and were he took Journey. I Love were Arinal is taking Journey. All of you are are so Bless with a gift that only God could have given. During that time you all needed one another. You all still do. No one is greater than another.. Look where you all have been! Steve Perry as well; his path was for time and for always. He well always remain in time. He is timeless. He was meant to do what he did for a season. Now his return will be timeless as I said . He only needs to come out on stage not even sing. He was born for this. God had other plans for him. Mr. Rolie he still has wonderful plans for you listen for it. If you think where you’ve been is all that. You have see nothing yet. Even at this of your life God has his hand on you your music and everything you do in it. I will be listening for Journey, Steve Perry and many others from our time period. I just love music form those that put their heart into music. I want to repeat this so you’ll hear me; because you need to. There are not many Steve Perry’s is this world. Why God choses send them into the world only He knows. Steve Perry is one of a kind. He was sent to Journey for a season. Has you God put it upon his heart to stop. I want you to know I have been praying for Journey for a very long time. Also many other Artist I make it my business to keep you all in prayer. I know that being in TV business over a decade I see a lot. Sometimes more than I care to. Being a Producer it’s no easy when I see who had a gift and who thinks they do and doesn’t. I see it all the time. Some times while I’m recording. I have do what I got to do.Well on I pray you receive this. I email this with a lot of respect. Josephine
July 27, 2019 at 5:16 pm
First you say ‘However, you are no Steve Perry’, then you go on to say that ‘No one is greater than another’.
You might want to change one of those comments.
April 29, 2017 at 9:21 am
No doubt Cain. He always looks like he is irritated about something. Maybe he should leave the band and go do his Christian Misic.
April 29, 2017 at 9:24 am
No doubt Cain. He always looks irritated about something.
April 29, 2017 at 1:05 pm
Bring the guy back that was replaced by Steve Perry on vocals . Great move
April 29, 2017 at 4:00 pm
Honestly I love Journey, but the first three albums are Progressive Rock Classics. I still listen to them at least once a week.
April 29, 2017 at 6:55 pm
That would be Great!Greg and Neal… the icing on the cake would be to get Steve to join you guys.. and to see the MAGIC again… Give us some Blue’s and Soul Again.. Congratulations again to All you guys… thanks for the MAGIC music!
April 29, 2017 at 7:23 pm
Original four piece journey reuniting playing material off of the first three albums would be a dream gig. I would travel thousands of miles to see this.
February 10, 2018 at 11:46 pm
That show happened last night (2/9/18) in SF. Neal Schon, Greg Rolie, Dean Castronovo, and Marco Medoza played for 3+ hours, covering tons of material from the first three Journey albums and the first three Journey with Steve Perry albums when Rolie was still in the band. Amazing show. Check out some of the vids on YouTube.
April 30, 2017 at 1:09 am
I’d love to see that reincarnation of Journey…Schon, Rollie, Dunbar and Valory…wondering who said no…me thinks it was probably Cain…
April 30, 2017 at 4:16 am
I would love to see all the originals back together for a reunion tour.Its time guys!
April 30, 2017 at 7:20 am
How come Steve Perry didn’t perform tonight?
April 30, 2017 at 9:25 am
Jonathan Cain likes to portray himself as being a good Christian. He even recently released a Christian rock cd. But the guy is all about the almighty dollar these days. He no doubt does not want to share band profits with a sixth member, and his ego is too fragile to be willing to share the stage with another keyboardist of high reputation. Pretty un-Christian-like traits if you ask me. Cain needs to either dedicate himself to continuing to move Journey foreword, or step aside. No more halfheartedly being in Journey. Work on new Journey music or step aside for someone who wants to work.
April 30, 2017 at 12:59 pm
both keyboardist bring entirely different skills and sounds, plus being that Perry can’t sing like he used to any assistance from Rolie in the vocal department could only help. How awesome would it be to have both Cain and Rolie in the band, Cain also can double up on guitar where needed. The sum of all these attributes could only make Journey even better and truely a super group!
August 25, 2017 at 6:29 am
Here comes the bullshit about the fact that Steve Perry can not sing the way he use to sing! This is not true! He is older now,but his voice still beautiful and perfect like always! He is a great singer and he does not need any help from anybody to sing! Stop making stupid comments like that! Love to see how you can sing any of his songs! Try to do what he does with his voice! If you do well you can perhaps pass this kinda judment!
July 6, 2019 at 1:05 pm
Roman Steve Perry is one of a kind, I repeat one of a kind. This man has something most Artist donor have. He still has his voice class, one thing he doesn’t care what people think. Amen to that he real like you & me. He knows he human. He will always be timeless because of his voice & because of the way he relates to his fans people in central. God not only gave him a voice; He gave him a very special gift to know when to stop . Move on where I want you to go. We’ll revisit music shy. God is not done with Steve Perry Roman not by far. All he has to do is walk on stage not sing the crowd will go wild. This is another gift God has given this man. If he chooses to tour I for one will go see him. If he chooses not to; that’s alright by me. Don’t say he can’t sing with out assistance. Everyone has been judging this man enough already. Let him live has God intents him to. He don’t have that right. May peace be with you. Josephine
Mr P's R&R Riot
April 30, 2017 at 6:59 pm
And the crap continues to fly . They’re not getting any younger . Better get while the gettin’s good .
May 1, 2017 at 2:29 am
That’s probably why Steve Perry is out of all this. Congrats to Steve Perry and Journey for the RRH of F induction!
May 1, 2017 at 3:01 am
The irony is that Rolie recommend Cain to replace him since Journey was going in a more pop direction and Cain had co-written a bunch of hits for the Babys. Now Cain has turned into a big baby…
June 9, 2017 at 12:14 am
Arnel pineda has given 10 years to journey and I for one dont want to see him replaced by Steve or Greg they are the ones that left and Arnel has given his all! As long as he is included Im all for it yes Neal you’ve made it clear its your band but dont forget the ones that have stood beside you thru the years your fans and their fans have been loyal!
July 27, 2017 at 4:50 pm
I BELIEVE CAIN IS THE ONE WHO GOT RID OF STEVE BY GOING THERE AND TELLING STEVE TO COME BACK NOW OR ELSE. DO IT NOW OR WE WILL REPLACE YOU. HOW DARE HE THE LITTLE HYPOCRITE. AND NEAL WENT ALONG WITH IT..THIS IS A GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT TO ME FROM NEAL WHO PERRY WAS GREAT FRIENDS WITH. STEVE HAD A MEDICAL PROBLEM. I KNOW OF THE BITCH’IN PAIN HIP SURGERY IS. BITCH’EN I TELL YOU. AT THAT TIME I HAD MINE I WONDERED HOW OUR TROOPS COULD BE SO TERRIBLE WOUNDED IN THE FIELD AND SURVIVE THE PAIN BEFORE GETTING MEDICAL HELP. I BELIEVE THE PAIN ALONE COULD KILL A MAN.. THERE’S ONLY SO MUCH A MAN CAN TAKE. I’M TALKIN ANYONE WOULD AND THERE WOUNDS ARE HUGE! I LOVE STEVE SO MUCH FOR DOING WHAT WAS RIGHT FOR HIM. HE GAVE UP SO MUCH BUT THE EYES TRULY ARE THE MIRROR TO THE SOUL AND I COULD SEE LONELINESS, HURT, SORROW MANY TIMES IN HIS EYES FROM HIS PICTURES AND HIS MUSIC. BUT WHEN HE LAUGHS ….THE SUN IS IN THAT LAUGH AND I JUST WANT TO HUG HIM. HIS BEST LOOK, WHEN HE’S AT GIANTS GAME IN HIS CAP AND HIS LUMBER JACK SHIRTS. HE LOOKS LIKE A KID. I LOVE THIS MAN. HE TRULY IS A NICE MAN. I JUST FEEL IT! GO STEVE!
August 25, 2017 at 6:39 am
PJ i really respect and love your comment! This is what I really think about Steve Perry! I first heard him singing when I was 8 years old and my brother kept listen to his music throughout the years and I just felt in love with his voice and the lyrics on each song that he did sing! He really can show his feeling with his voice and with his eyes! His smile is just like a child smiling! I really admire his work and as well his beautiful personality! Big hug to you B
January 24, 2018 at 3:13 am
If Ross was the other holdout, I know an easy to get along with 53-year-old bass player who is clean, straight, and healthy, can play Journey’s stuff and sing some backings.
June 10, 2018 at 10:44 pm
I just hope they include Aynsley Dunbar in the reunion. His drumming is what gave the original Journey the progressive sound that was so awesome. One of the best rock drummers of our time…. amazing track record and helped elevate Journey as well. http://Www.aynsleydunbar.com
December 5, 2018 at 11:17 am
No matter how hard you try You and the rest will never be the Greatest rock band again (without Steve) yourjust another retro band that old and done!! Steve Perry is was always will be Journey and his awesome Solo albums prove it they stand on they’re own! Texas
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Gregg Rolie Says Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nomination Is for Journey's Fans
Journey co-founder Gregg Rolie had resigned himself a bit to the thought that the band would never be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So his reaction to the group's first-ever nomination this week is understandably cautious.
"It's taken a long trip to get here," Rolie -- who was inducted into the Rock Hall with Santana in 1998, and was with Journey from 1973-1980 -- tells Billboard. "I have to admit the only thing I thought is it might not ever happen, because of whatever politics were involved. I just didn't know. But here we are now, so...we'll see."
Journey has, in fact, long been a poster child for bands snubbed over the years by the Rock Hall -- particularly late-'70s mainstream rock favorites such as Foreigner, Boston, Styx, etc. Rolie credits the tenacity of Journey's fans with finally getting the group placed on the nominating ballot for the class of 2017.
"The way I look at this is it's all those Journey fans that have petitioned for this for years -- and they have," Rolie notes. "They've written in many, many times, and their support made this happen. It's funny the way they go about doing this, but this time evidently there's a fan base of voters that are beyond the current inductees and the people that run us that support (Journey). So it's for them as well."
Rolie recently wrapped up a North American tour with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band, and is now off to Japan with the group. In addition to the All-Starrs, Rolie is also playing with Journey guitarist Neal Schon in Santana IV, a reunion of the 1970-71 lineup of that band that jettisoned the two musicians to go and form Journey. Santana IV has just released the new Live at the House of Blues, Las Vegas on CD and home video, and after playing just four dates this year, is looking to do more during 2017.
"Y'know, Journey's still out there doing this, big time," Rolie says. "It never quit. That was part of the dilemma of why it doesn't seem right (that the band's not in the Rock Hall). It's really current, on top of making the music that we did back then."
"There's a lot of people I believe ought to be in there," Rolie continues. (All-Starr bandmate) Todd Rundgren, for sure. There's a whole list of bands that have been overlooked, Bad Company, there's a whole list. And we were one of them, so now we're in this other situation."
Rolie hasn't had a chance to speak with any of his former bandmates about the nomination. But if he's elected, he will definitely serve. "I know I'd do it," Rolie says. "I'll have to talk to everybody, I guess. As far as Steve Perry goes, I have no clue."
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Journey Reunion Stirs 50 Years of Memories for Gregg Rolie
Gregg Rolie is the rare two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, an architect who built foundations for Santana and then Journey .
Neal Schon was part of both construction projects, as a teen prodigy for two Santana albums in 1971 and 1972 and then as a fellow co-founder of Journey in 1973. Rolie and Schon appeared together on six Journey albums, beginning with a trio of often-overlooked more improvisational LPs that showcased their close musical relationship.
"Back then, the way we were approaching it, if we had done that now, we'd be a jam band," Rolie tells UCR. "We'd be playing in a different circuit, we'd be playing different music. It was based on jams, real eclectic – very different. That's still really valid today. It's almost like, 'What, are we ahead of our time'? You know, in a way – yeah. And that's kind of what was going on – it just didn't catch at that time."
Steve Perry arrived before 1978's Infinity , and Journey began its transformation into platinum-selling hitmakers. Rolie made key contributions over the next three albums, notably on the radio favorites "Anytime" and "Just the Same Way," but then departed to focus on family. He later worked with Carlos Santana and Schon again on Santana IV and served a lengthy stint as a member of Ringo Starr 's All-Star Band.
Rolie relocated to Texas along the way, making a recent 50th-anniversary reunion encore with Journey in Austin into the equivalent of a hometown gig. They touched on songs from every era of his musical life, playing "Of a Lifetime" from 1975's Journey , "Feeling That Way" and "Anytime" from Infinity , "Just the Same Way" from 1979's Evolution and "Anyway You Want It" from 1980's Departure , as well as Santana's "Black Magic Woman" with help from Steve Lukather , Journey's touring partner in Toto .
The set ended up bringing lots of memories rushing back, as Rolie returned to his earliest collaborations with Schon and the creation of Journey.
Listen to Journey's 'Of a Lifetime'
What was it like being back onstage together again in Austin? I think the main thing is it just brings the smiles out of Neal and myself. You know, if you write and record things like that, and then do them for years, it becomes inbred. You don't have to rehearse much, you just don’t. You go back and say, ‘What have I done?’ – and then change it a bit, so that it's new but not too far off from the song. That's kind of what happened. Quite frankly, the sound check was it for me, because I'm a one-take kind of guy. And then we went to play and it was stunning; the whole thing was just stunning.
Surely, you didn't imagine that Journey would still be going five decades later. I said this in the short bit I did before our set: Journey has become this runaway freight train with no brakes. People come in and out, there have been all these changes, but Journey keeps going. It just keeps going and going. I'm proud to have been a part of building something like this that has reached millions of people and continues to do so. That's amazing to me. I mean, when I started playing in Santana, I knew a couple of chords and that's about it. It was a matter of the attitude behind it and just growing with it. So to have done this twice, and then play with Ringo for seven years, which is almost longer than I did with Journey? I’ve had a great time.
The Austin set also touched on those often-overlooked years together in Santana. Neal and I talked about it and I said, ‘What if we could go back 50 years and do ‘Of a Lifetime’? It stunned people when we did it back then; it could do it again. And then, ‘What about ‘Black Magic Woman’? Boom. ‘Because you were in Santana with me for a couple of years, and we'll go back and do that song.’ I sang it then, which also was shocking to some Journey fans. ‘I didn't know he was in Santana.’ They didn't even know Neal was in Santana. History is a funny thing.
‘Black Magic Woman’ turned into a reunion with your old All-Starr bandmate Steve Lukather, as well. Luke and I did that with with with Ringo for seven years. So it came up, and now two guitar players are getting to play off each other. It was a good evening. It was really good.
Watch Santana Perform 'Black Magic Woman' With Neal Schon
Your relationship with Neal Schon predates both Journey and Santana. It's an interesting story. I used to pick up Neal from high school, and we were recording Abraxas at the same time. He wasn't going to high school, he was sitting in the quad playing guitar. [Laughs.] He said he was going to do this for the rest of his life – and here he is, right? Fifty-four years without missing a gig with Santana or Journey. It's amazing. So I brought him out while we were recording Abraxas and we jammed a lot at the studio. We did a lot of that, and I loved what he did at 15, 16 years old. He had a choice of either going with Eric Clapton and Derek and the Dominos or Santana at that point – because Eric had heard about him and seen him. At the same time, I went to Carlos and asked, ‘What do you think about having a second guitarist, having Neal join us’? And I was thinking it the whole time, it's pretty hard to tell your guitar player that we need another guy. That's not going to float too good. ‘What a great idea!’ But that's exactly what happened, and those guys began learning off of each other. Neal picked up on blues with a nine in it from Carlos. They picked up on each other. Suddenly Neal was more on fire. Then they became what they became. It was great. I thought it would work like that – and it did.
What convinced you that you could start another band with Neal Schon? Neal and [founding Journey manager] Herbie Herbert called me. I was in the restaurant business, and they saved my life. Don't get in the restaurant business. You need at least 1,000% of capacity to make it work. Nobody eats in the same place every night. So anyway, that was difficult, but they called me up and said, ‘We’re starting a band.’ I left Seattle and joined in on what they were doing. It was called the Golden Gate Rhythm Section, and it was supposed to be designed for singers or players that came into San Francisco. We’d have a ready-made band that could play what they wanted. But I think they lied. I think it was a band all the way. [Laughs.] And that's OK.
Watch Journey's 'Just the Same Way' Video
Journey shifted to a more song-focused approach when Steve Perry arrived. How was that received? Everybody has to have this focus when they write about a band. They have to have a focal point, always a focal point – so they can make the headline. They design what the band is by their headline. And then you go, ‘Well, that's not quite true but OK, we're getting somewhere.’ It happens all the time, and that's what happened with us. We were a jam band early on, and Perry came in, and we started designing songs. I'd never really done that before, where the song came first. It was a song and then we’d elaborate. It was an eye-opener. It actually made me a better writer, because it opened my eyes to the fact that we could do this and continue that way.
Has your musical relationship with Neal Schon changed over the years? It's the same. We know a little bit more – well, he knows a lot more. He can play just about anything. I know a little bit more about where I fit in and what I'm comfortable with and what I like hearing. I have been backing up guitar players all my life, where I lay a bed, as Carlos put it, while they play. That was my position, to fill up the room. So for me, it never changed. We play off each other because that's how we grew up. Same thing with Carlos: We grew up doing that. So when you start playing, you play off each other, and you're not quite sure what's gonna happen – and then it does. Getting back onstage with Neal was like riding a bicycle. ‘You're gonna do that? Oh, that's a new one. OK, well, let's do this.’
The reaction in Austin was immediate. Do you think those early Journey records are due for a reevaluation? We blew up the internet afterwards. There was one person who wrote, ‘Should I know this song, ‘Of a Lifetime’? It was awesome,’ If you thought Journey started in 1977 when Steve Perry arrived? Well, no, then you wouldn't know.
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Journey Co-Founder Gregg Rolie Makes Surprising Appearance To Mark Band's 50th Anniversary
Gregg Rolie made Journey's 50 th anniversary tour extra special.
On Feb. 22, Journey members came together in a concert in Austin, Texas, to mark the band's anniversary. The rock band was formed in 1973 in San Fransisco, introducing its founding members Neal Schon, Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory, George Tickner, and Prairie Prince.
Its current lineup includes Schon, Jonathan Cain, Jason Derlatka, Deen Castronovo, Todd Jensen, and Arnel Pineda.
On the band's 50 th anniversary, Rolie joined Journey's encore at Moody Center, Texas. The co-founder swooned fans' hearts with his performances of "Just the Same Way," "Of a Lifetime," and "Feeling That Way."
Journey then ended its show with a heartfelt rendition of "Any Way You Want It."
He also thanked the crowd for being there with the band. He credited them for staying, saying the place would be empty if it was not because of them.
Schon hinted at Rolie's appearance in a tweet, saying that Journey would offer a special surprise at their Austin show.
Why Did Gregg Rolie Leave Journey?
Journey hailed Rolie as its first singer. However, he saw changes in his role when Steve Perry joined in 1977.
Three years later, he left Journey and was not able to be with the band during its commercial heights.
Before his recent appearance, he told Rolling Stone in an interview in 2019 that he left the rock band because he did not like his life anymore.
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"I've said this a million times and I know there's people that say, 'That's not the reason.' But I left because I was unhappy with what I was doing in my own life," he continued. "I loved the management. I loved the music. I loved what we built. I just wasn't happy, so I had to blow the horn on it and just stop it."
Rolie noted that people always insisted that Perry's arrival had something to do with his departure. However, he insisted that the musician was a welcome sight to him and that he was never against it.
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Two journey members are not on board with gregg rolie joining the 50th anniversary tour.
As previously reported, Neal Schon recently indicated that Journey ’s original keyboardist, Gregg Rolie , would be turning up at the band’s upcoming 50th anniversary tour. But his revelation may have been premature. In a post to their joint Facebook page , Neal’s wife, Michaele , shared that not everyone in the band is on board with Gregg’s return.
The post started off by noting how Jeff Beck ’s death should make people realize how precious life is — then she brought up the tour.
“TWO BAND MEMBERS of the Journey current LINE UP ARE ‘adamant’ NO against Gregg Rolie to return,” she writes. “Life is so precious Neal and Gregg agree. Who wants to have that feeling, truly sad.” She added, “Everyone LOVES you Gregg ROLIE and respects who you are and ALL You have been and are to Journey,” noting, “Neal Schön and Gregg ROLIE will be somewhere Together at least one time this Year in Honor of what they began in 1972.”
The post comes amid major turmoil in the band, particularly between Schon and his bandmate Jonathan Cain . Cain recently made it known that he will be on the Journey tour, sharing a post from a ski trip and noting he was enjoying some time on the slopes before “hitting the road with Journey.”
The Journey 50th anniversary tour is set to kick off February 4 in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
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NEAL SCHON Says Fans Will See JOURNEY Co-Founder GREGG ROLIE On Band's 50th-Anniversary Tour
Neal Schon says that fans can expect to see JOURNEY co-founder Gregg Rolie on the band's 50th-anniversary tour.
The JOURNEY guitarist addressed Rolie 's participation in the upcoming run of dates in a social media post earlier today. After Schon shared a graphic for JOURNEY 's 50th anniversary on his Facebook page, a fan commented: "I am SO looking forward to this. Please tell me Gregg Rollie is coming along for the ride! He's the better keyboard player and a co-founder it only seems right. Timing couldn't be better either!!!!" In response, Neal wrote: "you'll be seeing him".
Neal 's latest post comes just a couple of weeks after JOURNEY keyboardist Jonathan Cain fired back at Schon when the JOURNEY guitarist called him a "hypocrite" for performing the band's 1981 hit song "Don't Stop Believin'" at Donald Trump 's Mar-a-Lago property. Cain , whose wife, Paula White-Cain , is the former president's self-styled spiritual adviser, played the track in November with a backup chorus of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene , Donald Trump Jr. 's fiancée Kimberly Guilfoyle and former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake .
" Neal Schon should look in the mirror when he accuses me of causing harm to the JOURNEY brand," Cain said in a statement. "I have watched him damage our brand for years and am a victim of both his — and his wife's — bizarre behavior."
An attorney for Schon sent a cease-and-desist letter to Cain after he performed at Trump 's Florida estate.
The latest legal move comes a few weeks after Schon filed a lawsuit against Cain in California state court, alleging that Cain set up an American Express card without telling Schon and that "millions of JOURNEY funds have flowed through it." Cain , for his part, accused Schon of misusing the card, citing his "excessive spending and extravagant lifestyle."
A month earlier, former JOURNEY singer Steve Perry took legal action against both Schon and Cain , asking them to stop registering federal trademarks on the names of many of the band's hits.
Rolie was JOURNEY 's first singer, though his role quickly diminished when Perry arrived in 1977. Gregg left JOURNEY in 1980, just before the band achieved its commercial heights.
Back in 2019, Rolie told Rolling Stone magazine that he left JOURNEY "because I didn't like my life anymore. I've said this a million times and I know there's people that say, 'That's not the reason.' But I left because I was unhappy with what I was doing in my own life. I loved the management. I loved the music. I loved what we built. I just wasn't happy, so I had to blow the horn on it and just stop it.”"
He continued: "Everyone thinks it was because Perry came in and started singing all the leads. My God! Again, I was spread so thin with all these keyboards parts and singing leads, he was a welcome sight to me. And he could sing like a bird! It wasn't too hard to figure out. I was never against it."
Rolie went on to say that he was drinking too much and that he wanted to start a family. He also said that he was happy about the fact that JOURNEY became a household name after he moved on. "I felt very proud that I helped to build something that went to that extreme," he said. "I've always felt that way. Yeah, without me doing this, that might never have happened. But it's not about me. It's about all of it. It's a misconception in this business of, ‘Who does what?' We all did something."
JOURNEY 's tour with TOTO will kick off on February 4 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Presented by AEG Presents , the "Freedom Tour 2023" will make stops in Austin, Montreal and Memphis before wrapping April 25 at the brand-new Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs, California.
The 2023 run includes rescheduled dates in Washington, D.C., plus Hartford, Toronto and Quebec, which were postponed last year due to the coronavirus.
Posted by Neal Schon on Wednesday, January 4, 2023
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Gregg Rolie Looks Back on His Days With Santana, Journey, and Ringo Starr
By Andy Greene
You might not know the name Gregg Rolie, but you definitely know his music. Not only did he sing “Black Magic Woman,” “Evil Ways,” “Oye Como Va,” and all the other early Santana classics as the group’s original lead vocalist, but he went on to form Journey with Santana guitarist Neal Schon. He was their keyboardist and lead singer on the first three albums before Steve Perry took over as frontman in 1978. He then stuck around for the next two years, playing keyboards on massive hits like “Lights,” “Wheel in the Sky,” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”
Rolie has made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice for his pivotal roles in the history of Journey and Santana, and for the past six years he’s toured with Ringo Starr in his All Starr Band. He’s also just released the new solo disc Sonic Ranch, and he called into Rolling Stone to talk about his long career, the real reason he parted ways with Santana and Journey, and what’s coming next.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you first meet Carlos Santana? Carlos and I met in a tomato patch. He played at the Fillmore on a Tuesday night, when Bill Graham just let locals on. And a friend of mine, Tom Frasier, saw him and said, “I’m going to go find this guy.” He came to my house and told me that, and I was like, “All right, cool.” He found him working at a hamburger stand called Tick Tock, on Columbia Street in San Francisco, and said, “Do you want to come jam with this guy?”
He came and we played, and of course we were smoking marijuana and stuff. When the cops came, I said, “We have to get out of here.” And all I saw was his ass and his elbows. He was way ahead of us. I was like, “Great idea.” I ran into a tomato patch and waited until the cops left. And that’s how it started with me. I think it was 1968.
How long after that did the band form? 1968 and a half. It just happened. We had this high school buddy Danny Haro and Gus Rodriguez on drums and bass, and [Michael] Carabello was there. Then it grew. We just kept getting new people in. The music that everyone knows has Mike Shrieve on it and Chepito and David Brown and all the rest of us. That’s it.
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How many times in your life do you think you’ve been asked about playing Woodstock? Do you think it’s in the thousands by now? [ Laughs ] I can talk about it. It’s the same old story. The fact of the matter is, it started my career. It started all of us. If you were there at that concert, you had a career. After that, it’s what you do with it. Musically, we connected with a generation of people that need to be connected to. That’s kind of it. And it’s gone on from there.
Did you know when you were playing just how hard Carlos was tripping on mescaline? No. I had no idea. As a matter of fact, all I could think was, “Man, he’s having a really hard time tuning up.” That was my thought. I didn’t find out about that for years later. Then I went, “Oh! OK! Now I get it!”
You were totally straight? Other than a beer or two, yeah.
I think it was really the movie that created the legend of the group that will never die. It won’t. It’s totally amazing. When you look back upon what everyone was going through, each individual, but especially Carlos. . . . He is sitting there holding onto his guitar because he was on mescaline. He was like, “God, let me get through this. I’ll never do this again.” Well, he lied. And I’m just playing as hard as I could. Carlos said, “We were floating like kites and Gregg was on the ground holding onto the strings.” All I could tell him was, “Yeah, but I caught up to you.” Pretty soon we were all floating everywhere.
After Woodstock, Santana had a bunch of big radio hits and you sang lead on all of them. Does it irritate you that a lot of people think that Carlos sang them or, at the very least, they don’t even know your name? Not “irritate,” but it confused me. “You’ve got to be kidding me? Have you watched any of the things we’ve done? Have you ever been to a concert?” It’s always the same thing. But look, we picked “Santana” because it was a cool name. It prints well. It emphasized, at the time, what was going on. It was like “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band” or “Allman Brothers.” All of the names were blues-based. And he was kind of the front and center. So we picked it and that’s it. Everyone said he was the leader of the band and he was the guy.
In retrospect, it’s not how that happened. The band was really a band. That’s why it worked so well. Let’s put it this way: Without the 10 percent this guy put in and the 20 percent this guy put in — Carlos and I did 40/40 or whatever — without the rest of it, it wouldn’t have been the music that it is.
After the third album, he wanted to go in a different direction musically. Did you have a different opinion about that? I had a totally different opinion about it. If you’re the Beatles and you want to go to putting horns on your music or doing Rubber Soul or whatever, you can, because you’re the Beatles. . . . But we’re Santana, and to change the complete direction of the music and lose the people you already have, going from the music of Santana III to jazz, basically — I thought it was a mistake and I was right.
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But you couldn’t stop it. No. The other point is that personally we were all upside down. Carlos puts it well these days when he says, “We didn’t treat each other too good.” That’s exactly it. It was too much too soon. We had the world by the balls and didn’t realize it. That’s what happened. But talk about having a moment in time? I was so proud of what was created with this. So proud.
Tell me about the day you left. What was your breaking point, where you knew you were done? I don’t like talking about it much, but Carlos made a demand that so-and-so leave the band. But we all did this together. He made demands and, not to say that he was totally wrong, but it was the way he did it. I couldn’t live with it. That’s not what I signed up for. We ended up pretty bad. But the music we created was done by all that fervor. Without it, it probably wouldn’t have happened. I’ve always said, “Hey, you want a good Latin rock band? You better have a Norwegian in it!” [ Laughs ]
What did you do right after leaving the band? I left music completely. I was just like, “I’m done. I want to do something else completely.” So I started a restaurant with my father up in Seattle. Not that it was a bad idea to be in business with my father, but jumping into the restaurant business from the music business is like going from the pan to the fryer. Forget it. It’s horrible. In a nutshell, you need a thousand percent of capacity to make it work because nobody is going to come every night. It was kind of a disaster. At the same time, I learned a ton of stuff. I was really proud to do it with my dad, but it was a bad endeavor. Hey, you win, you lose. That’s how it goes.
How did Journey start? That started right after that. I got a call from Neal [Schon] and Herbie [Herbert]. And Herbie was the mainstay of why that thing worked. They called me up and said, “What are you doing?” I said, “Nothing.” They said they were going to start something called the Golden Gate Rhythm Section. It was basically a band that would play for artists that came to town. That’s what they told me, but within two weeks we were writing songs. It was nonsense. They lied [ laughs ].
Journey toured a lot in those early years and didn’t sell a ton of records. It must have been difficult. Very much so. At the time, when you’re young and you get that gypsy blood and you travel, everything is forgotten. We had a goal. There was a real goal to this of success. We didn’t feel it so much. We did go out for four months at a time, two weeks off, four months at a time, two weeks off. It was just constant and pretty grueling.
How did you hear about them hiring a second singer? I thought that was tremendous because I would no longer have to play four instruments at the same time, harmonica, and sing leads and sing backgrounds. I liked the whole image of what it could become. When [Steve] Perry first came into the fold, Neal and I were like, “I don’t know. This guy is sort of crooning it.” We wanted to rock. But when you look at the end product, we were wrong. At least as far as being successful, he was the guy.
We started writing songs for a singer instead of writing songs for all the solo work and the expertise of playing. By the way, if Journey had come out 10 years ago, we’d be playing the jam circuit. It would be a total different thing because it was energized and cool and different with all the rhythms and soloing and stuff. Then we got into playing it for vocals and it was cool.
A song like “Lights” was a very different kind of thing for you at that point. Did you mind doing softer ballads like that? No. You know what? Let me put it this way. Music is music, and for me, it doesn’t matter. I could go back to Frank Sinatra and go, “Man, that is awesome.” What we did with Journey was the same thing. There was a jam thing with it, but then it got more congruent and more about the vocals and harmonies. I’d never done that. I found it very appealing.
As a matter of fact, to the day, I use those ideas with my own music. It’s maybe not as strong or as many harmonies and triples and all that stuff, but it’s the same attitude. I learned a lot about writing music from Journey and its . . . journey [ laughs ].
So the band takes off. You have huge hits with “Wheel in the Sky” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” and then you leave. What happened? I left because I didn’t like my life anymore. I’ve said this a million times and I know there’s people that say, “That’s not the reason.” But I left because I was unhappy with what I was doing in my own life. I loved the management. I loved the music. I loved what we built. I just wasn’t happy, so I had to blow the horn on it and just stop it.
Everyone thinks it was because Perry came in and started singing all the leads. My God! Again, I was spread so thin with all these keyboards parts and singing leads, he was a welcome sight to me. And he could sing like a bird! It wasn’t too hard to figure out. I was never against it. I still wanted to sing, but that kind of fell by the wayside [ laughs ]. That’s another story. That’s kind of it, man. I loved the fact we were going to write something different.
I think those misconceptions come because Departure came out in 1980 and you didn’t sing much. It’s totally wrong! The whole thing is wrong! It doesn’t matter how many times I say this. Maybe you’ll get it right. That’ll be really phenomenal. No matter how many times I tell people very simply: “Here is the deal. I was unhappy. I drank too much. Blah, blah, blah. I didn’t feel like it was for me anymore. And most of all, I wanted to start a family.” And by the way, my family was my best work. It truly is. My son and daughter, my wife, it’s extraordinary. I did the right thing, but it just doesn’t play well with the guys on Facebook [ laughs ].
How did you feel when you left and they just got bigger and bigger and had all those hits? Did you ever have a tiny moment of regret? No. I felt very proud that I helped to build something that went to that extreme. I’ve always felt that way. Yeah, without me doing this, that might never have happened. But it’s not about me. It’s about all of it. It’s a misconception in this business of, “Who does what?” We all did something. I gotta tell you, without manager Herbie Herbert, that shit would not have happened.
You were on a few Santana albums in the 1980s. It seems like you guys became friends again. We’ve been on-and-off friends. That’s the best I can say. I love playing music with him, but then some things he does, I go, “No, I disagree.” Then we grow apart.
Tell me about the band you formed in 1997, Abraxas Pool, which was basically Santana minus Santana. We did that at my house in a little tiny cabin with the smallest amount of equipment. We were all crowded in one room like you did when you were a kid. And in two weeks we had written that music.
I’m sure without Carlos it was hard to get much attention. Yeah. That’s always the case because the name is Santana. And so it’s hard to realize there were other players in the band that made that music happen. Carlos did not do that by himself. And I’d equally say that I didn’t either. It was everybody.
How was the Hall of Fame experience when you got in with Santana? I got the call that I was going to get added to that and went, “That’s very cool, but I’m building a hot rod. Just send me whatever.” I was building a ’32 Ford and got a call from my drummer, Ron Wikso, and he said, “You might want to think this over. A lot of people get Grammy Awards and this and that, but the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? It’s here to stay.” So I went and I loved it. I had a ball doing it.
You played with Peter Green that night. Yes! Michael Shrieve turned me onto Peter Green way before that. He turned me onto “Black Magic Woman.” I was like, “That is so cool. I can really sing this.” It became a Number Five hit or something. To this day, I sing it the same way, expect with more balls. I’m just older now.
How has the experience of being in Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band been? Without the Beatles, I probably would have been an architect. In high school and college at the time, playing in a band became really cool. It was always in my background to do it. So I connected with these guys to play this. Most of all, I always wanted to play the music I wanted to play, not to copy from someone else. That’s because I can’t. I’m horrible at it. “Where does your finger go? Forget this! I don’t know what chord that is, but it sounds better.”
Getting with Ringo, that’s the first time someone said to me, “We’re doing these songs.” I’m going, “Holy crap. You sure you called the right guy? I don’t do this. I don’t do this!” Seven years later, apparently I do!
What were the first few rehearsals like when you found yourself playing all these Beatles classics with a Beatle? I practiced so hard. I told Mark Rivera, the music director, “Send me the stuff right away. If you don’t send it right away, I’m going to be embarrassed. I don’t know what to do with this. You want me to play organ or piano? There’s no piano on this or organ on that. I don’t know what I’m doing!” So they did and I went into the first rehearsal and my first audition and Ringo showed up and I’m like, “Holy fuck! I’m playing with Ringo Starr! Are you kidding me?”
And for two years I’m going, “Holy fuck! I’m playing with Ringo Starr!” Then one day on a plane we’re all sitting there all relaxed. He’s such a cool man, a beautiful man. I was sitting next to him and we were talking about stuff. I said a couple of things and he said, “You’re finally loosening up!”
What’s funny is that All Starr Bands used to last one summer and then it would be different people the next time out. But he’s kept you around year after year after year. Me and Luke [Steve Lukather]. I can’t say enough about Luke by the way. Beyond his talent, he’s a real good human being. The reason he plays so well is because he’s got that in him. He’s a great human being. And Ringo was just like, “This is really jelling. Why would I change this? This is really working.” Between me and Luke, we can pretty much play anything. I didn’t know that at the time.
You can play Toto songs or Men at Work or Todd Rundgren, or whatever. Yeah. It’s not exactly what was played on the records. It’s like, “OK, here’s the changes. But where does this fit?” Same thing with Ringo’s stuff. His attorney, who has been with him for 40 or 50 years, said, “You just filled up the room with that thing. It sounds fantastic.” I’m like, “I know. If you sit in the background, it’ll fill the whole room up. If you sit in front, it’s an organ band and it’s not so good.”
It’s got to be a nice experience since you’re on private planes, staying in nice hotels, and the whole thing isn’t just resting on your shoulders. That’s the whole point. He ran the band the way I run my own, except it’s on steroids. It’s the best travel, the best food, the best everything. Everybody is treated well. There’s no rules beyond take care of your gig. And you get paid. It’s like a boys’ club that travels all over the world to play for people. And they come. It’s the best damn thing I’ve ever done because there’s no in-betweens. The way he runs it, there’s nothing to argue about.
How was the experience of making the Santana reunion record, Santana IV, in 2013? Incredible. The thing I was most reminded of by Michael Shrieve was, “Gregg, it doesn’t matter what you do. It’s all correct.” Being with those guys and playing with them was like old times. We really wanted to make it work for all of us and it did. I think the recordings are incredible. It’s what I would have done if I was directing things, I would have done Santana IV after [1971’s] Santana III. And the point is, Carlos was the one to call it that. He said, “I want to call it Santana IV because that is when the band ended.” I said, “I’m in.”
You guys played Las Vegas and just a few other shows. Why wasn’t there a tour? I don’t know. Management or Carlos pulled the plug on the whole thing. We did three great shows with Journey. Neal played with us. It was something to see. It went over great. We did three dates: New York, Allentown [Pennsylvania], and Mohegan Sun [in Connecticut]. Big coliseums. And then the whole thing, the plug got pulled. I would have wanted to do 30 dates and paid back the people that wanted to see this.
You have no idea why it ended? Nope. Not to this day.
Did you ask Carlos? Nope. [ Laughs ] I may know, but I’m not going to be the guy to say so. Know what I mean?
Not really, but that’s OK. Earlier this year, you played a few shows with Neal Schon and former Journey drummer Deen Castronovo under the name Journey Through Time. How was that experience ? Also amazing. I had a great time. First of all, I got to play with Deen and Marco [Mendoza] along with Neal. I really connected to them. They are incredible players. We had so much material. I had to cut it back. What Neal wanted to do I was like, “This is impossible. Nobody is going to be able to do this. It’s too much info.” I had to go back and learn the stuff. But I loved playing it and the reaction from the crowd was like, “Wow, this is the Journey I remember.”
Some of those Journey songs, I imagine you hadn’t played in about 40 years. Yeah. I had to go back. There’s a song called “Daydream,” and I asked the keyboard player, “What’s the song ‘Daydream’? Where did it come from?” He goes, “It’s from Evolution .” I went back and listened to it and went, “Oh, I co-wrote it.” [ Laughs ] I didn’t remember I wrote it.
How was it to play songs like “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” that you were never on? I had no problem because Deen was singing the stuff and it sounded the way it’s supposed to sound. We made it a little more earthy because there was no . . . It was just real. Everyone played real. I had no problem with that stuff. As a matter of fact, when Jonathan Cain joined the band, he came with some songs I couldn’t write in a million days — and he did. And the band became successful because of it. My point is that I helped build that and I know I did. If I had been there, he wouldn’t have had a gig.
You did just a few Journey Through Time shows and Neal tweeted that more were coming later in the year, but you haven’t played since. What happened? Basically, he got back with Journey and they’ve been out this year, so the whole thing kind of fell apart. We had a few dates that we played together, but he went on to his next thing. And that’s what happened. And that’s OK.
Do you think in the future it might resume? I don’t know. Right now, I owe Neal a debt of gratitude because I have Deen and Marco in my own band, called New Blood. We’ve already recorded three songs that are totally different from all this stuff. If you heard it you’d go, “Holy crap, this is different.” It’s based upon what Neal started. As I said, I owe him a debt of gratitude. These guys are phenomenal musicians. The kicker here is that my son plays slide guitar on [my new solo album] Sonic Ranch. And he’s all over the DVD and the videos. It’s not all about this nostalgic stuff. I feel like Jack Nicholson. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” That’s really how I feel.
Tell me about Sonic Ranch . I know it was years in the works. I started it about 18 years ago. I started it and then I got busy. I got with Ringo, Santana IV . . . all this stuff took all my time and I couldn’t finish what I started. And all those things took precedent. I’m sure everyone would understand that.
Tell me about “What About Love.” It was inspired by Ringo? The message is inspired by Ringo. I started playing it with Ringo’s band during our soundchecks. It wasn’t completely done and I found the bass line I wanted to have and it became thing. Mainly, it’s about his message of peace and love. I hiked it up a bit. I was like, “Are you people listening? Is anyone hearing this?”
What drew you back to re-record the old Journey song “Look Into the Future?” It’s very simple. I’ve always loved the song, and back then I didn’t really have that much of a vision about what it said. Actually, it says tons. But I loved it lyrically and the whole thing. I decided, “Let’s go do this. I love this tune.”
It was great that you brought on Michael Shrieve to play drums. He plays on the song “Only You.” It’s a song I wrote about my wife. She said, “You have never written a song about me” and I said, “Baby, all the songs are about you.” In her own way she went, “Bullshit.” And I said, “I’m going to write a song about you.” And that’s the one. Shrieve was the perfect guy to play drums on it because he’s a very lyrical drummer. He plays for the song. By the way, so does Deen Castronovo. I’m blown away by it. He plays simple and always in the right places. It’s very hard to find. Shrieve is the same way. It’s about the song. That’s why he was chosen. Plus he’s a great friend. I’ve known him forever.
Tell me about your new band. It’s called New Blood. We’ve already done three songs. I’ve got four that I’ve written. I hope to write some more with these guys. It really does come down to the guys in the band. It’s not about me. If I get some accolades, that’s terrific, but I can’t do it without them. I’ve got players that really play, that are really extraordinary. That’s what we are doing. My son is involved, and also Yayo Sanchez, a 26-year-old guy. He’s the Kiss guy that got 200,000 likes from playing with Dave Grohl . And he’s a friend of my son.
Is the band going to tour next year? Once we get everything together. I’ve been asked if I’m going to tour Sonic Ranch. No. I’m going to tour all of it. I’m going to break all the rules. I’m going to break every rule there is and make a couple of new ones. I’m going to go out there and do the new stuff with Sonic Ranch, Santana, Santana IV, and Journey because I have all the people that can do it.
How was the Journey Hall of Fame experience for you? It was cool. It was the same old thing with those guys. You get up there and do this, take the award. It was cool to get the award. It was really cool to sit next to Neal and go up there and just hang out and do this. We hadn’t been together in years other than Neal and I. It was a cool experience. It was good.
You finally played with Arnel. What I’m going after now is a way cooler experience, I can tell you.
Did you talk to Steve Perry that night? No. Nobody talked to him! He does everything behind closed doors and I don’t get it. I don’t understand it and I don’t care. I wouldn’t do it that way. Here I am talking to you. And aren’t I pretty simple to talk to? It’s me. All that nonsense that he goes through, sneaking in the back door. . . . Come on, man! Are you going to do this your whole life? Are you kidding? [ Laughs ]
I spent time with him about a year ago , when he put his album out. He seemed pretty normal and open to me. I’ll tell you what: He always appears to be that. My point is that after knowing this guy for years, he only appears to be that. What I’m telling you, you can print any day you want, any time you want. Everything is absolute gospel. Sure I fucked up here, they fucked up here, and blah, blah, blah. Steve is very protective of who he is and his vocal prowess. It’s fucking nonsense. Sooner or later, everyone is going to go, “He’s kind of a dick, huh?” I know I’m right. That is what is going to happen. The real people will show up, and the ones that aren’t, they will show up too. I’ve been living my life like that.
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Gregg Rolie Talks Journey, Santana, Ringo & More
How many musicians can say they’ve co-founded not one—but two—classic rock bands with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame credentials? And of those musicians, how many can claim status as a longstanding member of a former Beatle’s backing band? With Journey’s 2017 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Gregg Rolie now occupies that rarefied position.
Furthermore, he became only the 23rd musician to be inducted into the Hall a second time.
Fans with Woodstock-era memories are likely familiar with Rolie’s legacy, but perhaps a brief summary is in order. As the original lead vocalist and keyboardist for Santana , Rolie was a driving force behind such hits as “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va” and “Evil Ways.”
Watch Santana (with Rolie on keyboards) performing “Evil Ways” at Woodstock in 1969
Dissatisfied with a change in Santana’s musical direction, Rolie left the group in late 1971, and subsequently teamed with former Santana bandmate Neal Schon to form Journey . His eight-year tenure with Journey ended in 1980, just as the group was entering its greatest period of commercial success.
The ensuing years have been filled with a variety of projects—including a brief reunion in the late ’90s with former Santana members, under the name Abraxas Pool. For the most part, however, Rolie has forged an independent path characterized by bands he formed himself, or by solo endeavors. One thing is certain: the past five years have been exceptionally active ones for the veteran musician.
An acclaimed Santana studio album—titled, fittingly, Santana IV —was released by the group in 2016. Later that year the band issued Santana IV: Live at the House of Blues Las Vegas that documented one of a handful of reunion concerts. Future projects from the revived Santana lineup remain a distinct possibility.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been this busy,” says Rolie, born June 17, 1947. “I’ve never played before with several bands at the same time. Between Santana and Ringo, and working on my own projects, the music couldn’t be more diverse.” Best Classic Bands spoke with Rolie about his time with Journey, the Santana reunion and what it was like working with Ringo.
How surprised were you when you first got news of Journey’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction? Gregg Rolie: I was really shocked. There’s been such a political pull, evidently, [against] Journey even getting nominated. I think the fans had a lot to do with pounding the idea of Journey getting in. They kept at it, kept petitioning. The band started a new genre of music in the ‘80s, which I believe is what the Hall is about—making a difference in music, doing something recognizable that changed things. That describes Journey.
Given that critics have sometimes been unkind to Journey, does the induction feel like a validation? GR: That’s not really a concern of mine—I can’t live like that. Things happen for all sorts of reasons. If I wrap myself up in thoughts like that I’ll never get out of that cocoon. It’s great to be recognized, irrespective of the fact that it’s taken some time.
Related: Recap of Journey’s Class of 2017 induction
Were your feelings different from when you were inducted as a member of Santana? GR: It’s different in a lot of ways. I think the biggest difference, for me, is that I’m now in that rare group of musicians to go in there twice. I’m sort of astounded by that—it’s really exciting. And I’m happy for Journey. I left in 1980, and they went on to do more and more. They wrote some great songs and became very popular. I helped build it, and I’m proud as hell about that. The same is true of Santana. I’m proud of my role there as well.
Journey in 1977 (l. to r.): Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory, Aynsley Dunbar, Neal Schon, and Robert Fleischman
You left both those bands as they were on the cusp of great commercial success. In retrospect, do you feel those were courageous moves on your part? GR: No. In the case of Santana, I’ve always said it was just too much, too soon. It was great fun when we all got back together [for the reunion album]. The music was terrific and it just started rolling out. At one point Carlos said, “You know, we just weren’t very kind to one another.” And that’s actually true. We took it so seriously that it became personal. Plus, at the time I left, the music was going in a direction I didn’t want to go, with the Caravanserai album. The exploration was great, but there was more exploration than playing the songs I loved to do. In the case of Journey, by that time I had been on the road for 13 or 14 years, and helped build two bands. For me, that gypsy life—traveling all the time, not having your feet on the ground, going all over the world—is cool, until it’s not. I reached a point where I wanted to change my life, start a family. I wasn’t happy, and therefore I wasn’t making anyone else happy. Why should I stay there and do that to people?
Tell us more about the Santana reunion. Before the idea to reunite began to coalesce, did you ever think that might happen? GR: I had no idea. I had gotten to a place in my life where I believed anything is possible. When Neal [Schon] began pursuing Carlos, I was playing with Ringo in the Pacific Rim. We were ahead of Carlos, who was also coming to the Pacific Rim, and then Journey was coming in behind him. We were all sort of chasing one another around. Neal was really the catalyst in getting things going. When he came to me, I said, “Let me first talk with Carlos.” I gave Carlos a call of couple of days later and asked him if what I was hearing was true, that he really wanted to do this. He said, “Yeah, and I want to call it Santana IV, since this band left off with the Santana III album.” First off, I told him that was brilliant, and then I said, “I’d love to.” It was that simple. I just wanted to hear it from him.
What was it like when you first played together, after all those years? GR: It was like riding a bicycle. We picked up where we left off, but with a lot more knowledge and a lot more patience. Maturity is a wonderful thing sometimes.
Are there plans to work together again, to make another album? GR: Actually we discussed that as we were working. I would never close the door on that. Everybody gets busy, but if I get the call I would certainly entertain the idea. It so happens that every time I sit down to try to write a new song, it sort of goes in that direction.
Rolie and Ringo (photo from Rolie’s website)
Let’s talk about the All-Starrs. You became a member in 2012. How does being in that configuration compare to being in a regular band? GR: Actually, it is a regular band, one that’s made up of really good musicians and great guys. Ringo really knows how to run a band. There are just a few basic rules: show up, and don’t be late, or I’ll leave you on the tarmac. He gives us a lot of room to play—we’re not copying people. It’s a matter of taking the music and doing what we can to make it as good as possible, just like any other band. The fact that I’ve been doing this for four-and-a-half years with Ringo just blows me away. It took me about a year and a half to get used to seeing him there whenever I would turn around onstage. But you get to know him and he’s such a regular guy, and a great human being.
Watch Rolie perform “Evil Ways” as a member of the All-Starr Band
How did you go about fitting a Hammond B-3 into Beatles songs? GR: You know, when I got the call from Mark Rivera, Ringo’s music director, I told him he had better send me [the material] right away. Whenever I’ve played anyone else’s music, I’ve had to learn it and then play it my own way, as opposed to just copying somebody. When I sat down and played these songs with the B-3, everyone loved it—especially Ringo. He said, “Man, this just fills up the room.” The thing is, if you hear too much of a B-3, it becomes an organ band, and I don’t care for that. With rock music I prefer that it just sits there and does what it’s supposed to. In Santana it can be pretty predominant, but that’s a different kind of thing. With rock music, you might not even consciously hear the organ, but if you take it away, people will say, “What happened?”
Watch the All-Starr Band perform a Beatles favorite on the last show of the 2019 tour
Is the social aspect of making music—being in a band—especially important to you? GR: Absolutely. That’s a big part of being in the All-Starrs. It’s like a tremendous boys’ club, except we get to stop and play music. It’s the way I always dreamt it could be. There’s no politics involved, nothing like that. It’s all about playing and having a good time and going on to the next place, with a bunch of great people—including the crew. It’s truly one of the best things I’ve ever done. I told that to Ringo.
Related: Our review of the All Starr Band in 2018
And here is Rolie singing his tune “Everybody’s Everything” with Ringo’s All-Starr Band in 2012
Rolie and his wife, Lori, celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary on December 20, 2022.
Related: Rolie shared more insights with us in 2019 about his packed career
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4 Comments so far
Thank you so very much for this info on Gregg Rolie. I love Santana & Journey but have always been curious about Gregg. Love to watch him play & sing. Thanx again!
One of the best interviews with Gregg I’ve seen. Met him once. Nice guy. And very successful, even though he got out of Journey before they got insanely popular. Not to mention rich as hell. What he says about getting sick of the road and wanting to have a family and a more normal life says a lot about what a real person he is. And I seriously doubt he’s short on cash. He’s still working, and enjoying his life. And he damn well deserves it.
It was a great interview. I’ve always liked Gregg a lot, and was saddened when he left Journey, but I understood why, I think. I read so many reasons why he left, but never really believed any of them. Only he knows why he left. I just wish he was back with them. But, you can never go back. Steve Perry said that, himself, when he was fired from Journey. I still think Gregg looks fantastic, too!
Aside from being THE definitive voice of Santana, Gregg is my favorite organ player of all time, which is saying a lot, up against some of the other greats. But the fact is that every time he’s given some space in a song, he really heats it up, and creates excitement. And even though he’s in the HOF with two different bands, i think he’s still terribly underrated behind that B3. I guess that could happen pretty easily when you’ve played with iconic guitarists much of your career.
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