Check out Leo Creek. They are making regular stops at Union Street Station on the last Sunday of the month. The next show is April 24 and the 7 p.m. start is a requirement as they tour in support of bringing back the classics in their Men on Meds and Boys with Bed Times tour.
Now, Leo Creek isnt some group of old hacks offering up another rendition of Mustang Sally. They are made up of four talented professional musicians. Sure they have a few years and a lot of mileage on them, but if you drive a Ford pick-up truck you know it aint even broken in until it has 75,000 miles on it. These guys are just getting broken in and are in the prime of their musical lives.
Oh yeah, the band includes Jack Dryden on bass. Now, Dryden lives in Traverse City but is a sought after player in jazz circles and is constantly in demand. On drums is Roger Tarczon. A few years back Tarczon shared the stage with Kid Rock. After the show Rock told Tarczon, Damn youre good -- best drummer I have jammed with. Too bad youre not 20 years younger. Then there is Tim Sparling, the man on the keys. Sparling has been a long time player on both the local and Detroit scenes. Rounding out the band is a former Traverse City 8th Street resident, Drew Abbott, on lead guitar. Abbott has been around the scene and played on a few stages.
Okay, that might be a little bit of an understatement regarding Abbott; being the former lead guitar player for Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band constitutes a little more than just playing a few stages. When Seger decided to slow things down in the 1980s, Abbott had no such interest in taking it easy. He moved to Traverse City in 1983 and continued jamming. He formed a band, Burning Circle, with Tim Sparling and former Savage Grace vocalist Al Jacquez. The group developed quite the following and played regularly at Union Street Station.
We produced an album but never released it, said Abbott. I guess by the time we got out of the studio, it seemed music was headed in a different direction.
Sparling felt it was a shame the album was never released.
We even recorded a song Seger wrote and gave us to record, titled More of You. We spent a lot of time and money on the album, said Sparling. The album and the song were never released to the public.
BACK IN TOWN
In 2000 Abbott moved from the area to be closer to his son who was at U-M in Ann Arbor. His son will graduate this May and will be interning at Hagerty Insurance this summer, so Abbott figures he will spend more time up north jamming with his friends and having fun with the music.
The great thing is none of us are doing this for the money -- we are doing it for the music, said Abbott.
That is evident. For those lucky enough to have caught Leo Creek in their debut performances at Union Street, you saw a band passionate about the music and performing.
We are a jam band, said Sparling. We are not trying to score wedding gigs. We are four guys that realize life is short and we like to perform music. We said if we are going to do this band thing again we were going to take some songs that might have been forgotten about and pull them out and take them somewhere. Give them new life.
Abbott has seen the highs and lows of the music industry. He came onto the emerging Detroit music scene in 1967 with his band Third Power. The group released one album, Believe, in 1969 on the Vanguard Label. But label executives thought the album was too heavy, never gave it any promotional support and dropped the band literally days after the album was released.
In the early 70s Abbott performed as an opener with various Motown session bands. Having been managed by Punch Andrews, Abbott knew Seger; in fact, Third Power had often opened for Seger. In 1972 when Seger decided he wanted to give up guitar playing responsibilities, Abbott was asked to join Segers band. When Punch and Seger decided to create a new image for Seger by starting the Silver Bullet Band in 1974, Abbott was the only member asked to stay on (a year later saxophonist Alto Reed was brought back as well).
Having started out playing guitar I was looking to focus my energies elsewhere, primarily my vocals. So Drew was probably the most influential member back in those transition days, said Seger.
Until this point Seger had a regional following, but when the Silver Bullet Band started backing Seger, his national career took off.
Abbott remembers those days of non-stop touring.
I was the one guy that wanted to keep going, said Abbott. I loved being on the road and playing every night. I never wanted it to stop. But the others did, so when we would come off the road I would go into Detroit and find players to jam with.
One of those players was Sparling. Sparling was originally from Plymouth and moved to Northern Michigan as a child. While a student at Northwestern Michigan College, he formed Wheeling Bliss with David Fox and Mike Marois before becoming an original member of Newt Cole and The Salamanders. Sparling saw a greater opportunity in Detroit for his music career so he moved to Detroits Indian Village in the early seventies. He took an engineering job with the auto industry while forming the popular band Shadowfax and playing regular gigs at Alvins along the Cass Corridor.
I remember that night Drew came in. He had just come off of months on a Seger tour and he was looking for more, said Sparling. He got up and jammed with us and we became friends.
During the mid-70s Sparling began writing jingles for the major Detroit ad agencies. He became so successful that he left his engineering job and started his own jingle agency with an office at the Renaissance Center, and often hired Drew to perform on tracks.
Sparling ended up moving back to Northern Michigan and started an automotive parts supply company in Suttons Bay. His company manufactures parts for the Big Three auto companies.
For Abbott the early 80s spelled the end of the Seger run. Seger was on top of his game but he was interested in settling down and starting a family.
So thats what I did. I started a family, said Abbott.
Abbott invested in real estate in the Detroit area and continues to stay busy managing his properties. He also rides motorcycles and flies airplanes in his spare time. But his real passion remains with music. Abbott was delighted when Bob Seger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. Seger called on Abbott to join him on stage at the induction ceremonies at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
The best part of the whole event was sound check, said Abbott. Everyone always plays better at sound check. It was great to see Prince and Stevie Winwood perform at sound check when no one else was around.
NAME THAT BAND
As for tunes they play, Abbott and his bandmates are focusing on songs they like and are putting their own signature on them.
I wouldnt say they are obscure songs, rather we are picking songs that havent been overplayed, said Abbott.
Songs like Buddy Hollys Well, All Right, and Georgie Fames (I Say) Yeh Yeh, along with tunes from Booker T and a rousing rendition of Blind Faiths Cant Find My Way Home make this a must-see show.
I know we joke about this boys with bed times, said Abbott. But there is some truth to that. We are getting older and we cant stay out all night like we use to. Plus we have to get up and go to work in the morning and so does our audience.
As for the name Leo Creek, Sparling chuckles:
I think our first gig was for a Christmas party and we were known as Drew Abbott Formerly of Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band, said Abbott. When Kate at Union Street booked us in February, she said Whats the bands name? I need it for the poster. Well, I was looking outside my office window in Suttons Bay at the creek that runs by. Its name is Leo Creek so I just blurted out that name. It seems to fit.
To catch a great classic rock show and still make your bedtime get out and see Leo Creek. The band takes the Union Street Stage at 7 p.m. sharp this Sunday, April 24. Look for Leo Creek on May 13 opening for Jackie Greene at the Bay Theater in Suttons Bay. If you caught Taj Mahal last year, Greene was that amazing opening act.