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Is Steve Katz A Rock Star?

Is Steve Katz a Rock Star? That's the question he explores in his news memoir, "Blood, Sweat, and My Rock and Roll Years."

Steve Katz was founding member of The Blues Project in the mid-60's, and, then Blood, Sweat, and Tears, the band famous for fusing Rock, Pop, Blues and later Jazz rhythms into their music. They turned out a string of top-40 hits and sold millions of albums worldwide.

Katz was in the middle of the psychedelic cultural explosion of the 60s and early 70s. His memoir tells of the wild ride he shared with up and coming rock n roll royalty of that day.

Today he lives with his wife, accomplished artisan Alison Palmer in Connecticut.

Steve Katz spoke with WSHU's Tom Kuser about his Rock and Roll years.


How did a kid of 15 years old get into American Roots music and then meet with some of the legendary bluesmen of that time?

I loved going into New York. And I just loved going into Greenwich Village and Greenwich Village at that time, in the very early 60s it was still beatniks. There was Cafe Bizarre, you could walk into Cafe Bizarre and people would be reading Shakespeare while drinking your cappuccino. I would go down to the Gaslight and there were people doing music that I never heard before, which was really like roots, country blues, especially my teacher Dave Van Ronk. People like Bob Dylan had just come into town. You had Tom Paxton and John Hammond Jr. and Noel Stookey before he became Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary. It was just the place to be.

Could you talk a bit about learning the Guitar?

I asked Van Ronk to give me lessons and he said he would, so every week I would go down to Dave's on 15th Street. I would go in there and take a lesson and Bob Dylan would be waking up on the couch. Dylan was sleeping on people's couches. It was that kind of milieu. Nobody had money. And I was the kid who would hang out with these guys. With Dave, Dylan, Phil Ochs. And hanging out in the Gaslight was around the time they rediscovered Sunhouse, Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt. And Skip James was just a beautiful person, and Mississippi John Hurt became one of my favorite people. I still play a lot of his songs today

The Blues Project was like a brotherhood. We even went to group therapy together, which is totally insane. I don't know how many rock bands went into group therapy but we did that. - Steve Katz

By 1970 Blood, Sweat, and Tears were on top of the Rock'n'Roll world. Were the successful times like these of your career the most satisfying?

No I would say the most satisfying was when I was in the Blues Project. Blood, Sweat, and Tears was more of a more corporate kind of thing. The Blues Project was like a brotherhood. We even went to group therapy together, which is totally insane. I don't know how many rock bands went into group therapy, but we did that. Of course, we turned on the psychologist. That's how close we were. With Blood, Sweat, and Tears we had this huge hit album. We had the stress of having to follow it up with another huge album and we didn't meet the challenge.

You have a fascinating "behind the scenes" story to tell about producing Lou Reed's classic live rock album, "Rock 'n' Roll Animal."

We got back to the RCA studios and and Gus Mosler was my engineer. We put up the tapes from the concert and we found that we lost one of the applause tracks. So I said to Gus, "What are we going to do? How do we beef up the applause tracks?" And he said well let me go into the archives and see what I can didd up.  What he dug up was the audience applause from a John Denver concert. I said, "John this is so perfect. I'm going to love doing this to Lou." Half of the applause of Rock 'n' Roll Animal is from a John Denver concert. Lou, till the day he died, didn't know I did that to him but I think he would have appreciate the prank.

Credit Ann Lopez
Steve Katz speaks to Tom Kuser at the WSHU studios.

Tom has been with WSHU since 1987, after spending 15 years at college and commercial radio and television stations. He became Program Director in 1999, and has been local host of NPR’s Morning Edition since 2000.
Ann is an editor and senior content producer with WSHU, including the founding producer of the weekly talk show, The Full Story.