A special four-part feature on Max Creek aired on the May 13, 20, 27 and June 3 editions of Greasy Tracks to mark the 46th anniversary of the group.
The 11-hour spotlight includes interviews with 14 current and past members and key people associated with the band which played its first dates in 1971. A wide range of live recordings highlighting how their style and sound changed over the nearly five decades they have been active.
Best known as one of the earliest groups of what would become the “jam band” genre, Creek’s roots can be traced to a trio: bassist John Rider, guitarist Dave Reed and drummer Bob Gosselin, augmented, albeit briefly, by an accordion player.
The humble beginnings of the group — centering more on folk rock, influenced by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and The Byrds — would go through a number of personnel changes and musical styles over time, yet still maintain many characteristics of those formative early years.
Although never known for their studio work — Max Creek released four solid studio efforts — the band forged a legacy as a live act with a substantial repertoire of original and tantalizing covers.
Rider, along with guitarist Scott Murawski and keyboardist Mark Mercier proved to be a formidable group of composers, especially in the 1970s and 80s when, according to Murawski, crafting songs became especially competitive between the members.
Oddly enough, Murawski was focusing on becoming a trumpet player – Rider and Reed were also trumpet players — when Reed, who was the then-15-year-old Murawski’s music teacher, asked him to sit in with Creek in 1972 after hearing him play guitar.
The Creek as a quartet again only lasted a few months as the underage Murawski was kicked out of the Rocking Horse — a Hartford club the group regularly played — for drinking a beer on stage. As fate would cfhave it, Murawski would be back in the band in 1973, returning shortly after Mercier, once a roommate of Rider’s at the Hartt School, was hurriedly drafted by Rider to fill in for Reed who was sidelined by acute appendicitis head of some holiday shows late that year.
In 1976, Amy “Barefoot” Fazzano, joined the band as a vocalist – she had been a bartender at Mad Murphy’s, one of the clubs in Hartford where Creek played. She was invited to join the band by Mercier who heard her singing while she was doing post-concert cleaning following a Creek gig.
A year later, Creek put out their self-titled debut album — pressing 1,000 copies of their self-released LP — which featured all original compositions minus “Big Boat” a bouncy re-arrangement of Willie Dixon’s “Tell That Woman” which remains in the band’s sets to this day.
In 1979, percussionist Rob Fried joined the fold, providing a fuller sound as he alternated playing a wide array of percussion and a traditional trap set along side Gosselin. A year later, the band’s second studio album, Rainbow (Wranger Records) came out.
The 1980s were the busiest years for the band when it came to playing live shows with 1982 proving to be the peak as the band logged 241 gigs that year.
The band recorded a three-night run of shows in June 1982 at Cellblock Eleven in Hartford and soon after released Drink The Stars (Wranger Records), a double album packaged with a poster and notes in a nicely designed box set.
A handful of Max Creek shows over the years aired on WRTC so there’s a chance a track or two from one of those performances could show up on this feature.
Fazzano left the band in 1983, but would often sit in during annual anniversary shows. Gosselin exited in 1985 and was replaced by Greg DeGuglielmo. This line-up recorded a pair of studio albums, Windows (Relix) in 1986 and MCMXC (Wranger Records) in 1990.
In 1991, DeGuglielmo was replaced by Greg Vasso — a longtime Creek fan who had been seeing the band since his high school days. Vasso did two spells with the band, the first ending in 1996 before he returned for a second go-around from 2004-2011. Scott Allshouse, another fan of the
band, joined in 1996 and would partner with Vasso in the dual drummer format as Vasso returned in 2004 to take the place of Rob Fried who left the band that year. Fried died in 2006.
In 1998, Creek recorded a pair of shows at the Webster Theater in Hartford for their live offering, Spring Water. Their New Year’s Eve gig at the Connecticut Expo Center in 1999 was also recorded and later released.
The Allshouse-Vasso partnership gave way to Creek’s current back line of drummer Bill Carbone and percussionist Jamemurrell Stanley who continue to handily carry on Max Creek’s rich timekeeping tradition.