Gene plays keyboards in the band and also plays bass guitar and guitar and has been playing professionally since 1977. His major influences include Rick Nelson, Don Henley, Johnny Rivers, Paul McCartney, Johnnie Johnson, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry, and Billy Peek.
Prior to putting Butch Wax together in 1986, Gene played in the bands “Ruckus”, “Windfall”, and “Route 66″ and in Billy Peek’s band. His professional highlights include getting to meet and perform with many of the musicians that inspired and influenced him. Gene recalls, “I remember getting a phone call to audition with a band that Billy Peek was putting together. Billy had been lead guitarist with Rod Stewart for several years in the 70′s and had played with Chuck Berry and Johnnie Johnson before that. It was 1981 and Billy had just left Rod’s band. Billy’s new band would lean heavily on Chuck Berry Music and the Blues. I loved that style of music and Billy played it with so much passion and energy. I was thrilled to get the gig! Billy introduced me to Chuck Berry, Johnnie Johnson, and Carmine Appice and I got to play with all of them. Chuck and Johnnie would periodically stop into clubs that we were playing and sit in with us. Johnnie and I became good friends and he recorded with Butch Wax on all of our CD’s and sports songs.
I bought my first bass guitar (a Rickenbacher like McCartney’s) and a Fender Rhodes piano and would practice every night. I’d listen to Chuck Berry’s “Greatest Hits” album and The Beatles “Rock & Roll Music” album and played along with them on bass until I knew them note for note. It was not uncommon for Chuck to drop into a club in St. Louis and sit in with the band. I knew Chuck’s songs and memorized what key every one of his songs were in and still know them. I wanted to be ready if Chuck or Johnnie ever came into a club I might be playing in. Playing with Billy Peek, I got that opportunity as Chuck and Johnnie stopped by often. These guys were my idols. Getting to play with Chuck, Johnnie, and Billy was an absolute thrill!
Writing “Gotta Go To Work” that went on to become the mantra for the St. Louis Rams Super Bowl season was something real special to me. It was fun to be part of that unbelievable season and time in St. Louis. I wrote the song and Dickie Steltenpohl wrote the intro and horn lines. Butch Wax went into the studio and we invited Johnnie Johnson to play piano, Ray Vollmar to play sax, and Smash from KLOU 103 to sing it with our band. The song was a hit in St. Louis as the Rams went on to win the Super Bowl in one of the greatest Super Bowl games ever! We got to perform “Gotta Go To Work” at all of the Rams Rallies and even at the Rams Super Bowl Victory Parade and Celebration. Having over a quarter million people singing along with something I helped create was a moment I’ll never forget! We later did the same thing for the Baseball Cardinals and the Hockey Blues, writing and recording “Pennant Fever” and “Let’s Go Blues”.
Other musical highlights for me includes my friendship with Johnnie Johnson and getting to travel with him around the country and see him get the recognition that had long been overdue to him. I met many greats in the music business with Johnnie and loved to see how respectful and in awe they were of him. It was a thrill every time Johnnie came out and set in with us, just getting to play with one of the true founding fathers of Rock & Roll!
In early 2003, Johnny Rivers came to St. Louis to participate on some recordings we were doing with Johnnie Johnson. Johnny Rivers spent 4 days in St. Louis and we recorded 3 songs in the studio together and did some bumming around town. We hit some nightclubs in St. Charles and in Soulard and Butch Wax did a show at the Casa Loma with Johnny Rivers and Johnnie Johnson. How cool it was to be onstage that night singing “Wee Wee Hours” and “Almost Grown” with Johnnie Johnson on piano (2 songs Johnnie originally recorded with Chuck Berry in the 50′s) and Johnny Rivers on guitar. Then getting to do “Memphis”, “Maybelline” and “Midnight Special” with Johnny Rivers singing and playing guitar! The very first 8-Track tape I ever bought was “Johnny Rivers Gold”. I used to drive around in my Dad’s 1966 Ford Galaxy listening to “Poor Side of Town”, “Memphis”, “Midnight Special” and “Summer Rain” over and over and I was onstage with Johnny Rivers at The Casa Loma playing these same songs with him! What a great night and weekend and a real musical highlight – Thanks for everything Johnny and Johnnie!
Also working on those same Johnnie Johnson and Johnny Rivers recording sessions in 2003 were Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Hornsby, John Sebastian, Pat & Danny Liston, Pat St. John, Gus Thornton, Kenny Rice, Tony T, Tom Maloney, Dickie Steltenpohl, Dan Hommes, Max Baker, Ray Mcanallen, Ray Vollmar, Bill Sextro, Kenny Rice, Mama’s Pride, Charlie Glenn, Henry Lawrence, Jim Manley, Mike Scott, Ed Callison, Seth Hutcherson, Laura Hanson, Amy Thorn, and Butch Wax & The Hollywoods. We had a lot of fun during the sessions and it was great working with so many talented musicians. Thanks for your friendship and contributions!
Thanks also to Johnny Rivers, Walter Stewart, John Sebastian of The Lovin Spoonful, and Richard Young & The Kentucky Headhunters for their friendship, guidance, and encouragement through the years.
Gene can be emailed at: email@example.com
Professional Equipment: Korg SG1-D, Korg CX-3, Yamaha S-90, Leslie 147 and 145.
Gene’s Top 10 Favorites:
1. Garden Party – Rick Nelson
2. Soul and Inspiration – The Righteous Brothers
3. More Today Than Yesterday – The Spiral Staircase
4. Crystal Blue Persuasion – Tommy James & The Shondells
5. Poor Side of Town – Johnny Rivers
6. Time Won’t Let Me – The Outsiders
7. One of These Nights – The Eagles
8. Chuck Berry’s Great 28 – All 28!
9. Only The Lonely – Roy Orbison
10. She’s Not There – The Zombies
Butch Wax Highlight
“We’ve done a lot of fun things through the years so I can’t name just one. Every time Johnnie Johnson ever played with us was something special for me. Getting to play and work in the studio with Johnny Rivers and Johnnie Johnson is at the top of the list! In 2010 we did several events with Theo Peoples from The Four Tops. What at incredible singer and entertainer and a real thrill having Theo onstage with us. Also our association with The Cardinals and The Rams and all of the fun stuff we did with Gotta Go To Work and with Smash. Having Pat Liston as lead singer in the band for 3 years in the early 90′s and the past few years was really a treat. Playing with Billy Peek and Johnnie at several Cardinal Baseball Home Openers and other events thru the years were big highlights. The first time and every time we opened or shared the stage with a national act and every time we have been in the recording studio will always be a highlight.”
Favorite Butch Wax Story
“I have many here, too but will stick to just one. Back some 15-20 years ago Mike Tate our bass player was having one of the ‘big’ birthdays on a night when we were to play the Municipal Auditorium in Union, MO. I called his wife and asked if it was OK if I hired a stripper to come out and entertain Mike during our break. After getting her approval I contacted the client that hired us and also got the approval from them. Well, the band had taken our break and the beautiful blonde comes in and gets up on stage with Mike seated and starts to do her show. By the way, this was not a family event and was an ‘Over 21′ show. Somebody in the crowd gets offended and races up on the stage and decides to shut the stage curtains and pulls the ropes to close those heavy velvet curtains. When they do that, the curtains closing knock over all of our equipment and we have broken lights and stands and equipment and a big fight breaks out. The police come and they close down the event and later in the week there is a news story in the local paper (I still have a copy) saying how a ‘near riot’ broke out at a performance by Butch Wax & The Hollywoods in Union, Missouri. We have not been booked back in Union since then.”