Steve Katz - Blues Project and Blood Sweat & Tears
Steve Katz and Blood, Sweat & Tears (BS&T) are synonymous with the golden era of American rock and jazz fusion. This iconic band, known for its genre-blending music, was founded by Katz and went on to achieve massive success in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating story of Steve Katz and his pivotal role in shaping BS&T’s groundbreaking sound.
Early years and formation
Steve Katz was born in New York City in 1945 and displayed a passion for music from a young age. Katz’s journey in the music world gained momentum in the early 1960s when he joined The Even Dozen Jug Band, a folk collective. Later, he co-founded the influential rock band The Blues Project, which showcased his versatile guitar skills and songwriting.
Steve’s professional career started in the late fifties on a local Schenectady, New York television program called Teenage Barn. Accompanied by piano, Steve would sing such hits of the day as “Tammy” and “April Love”. At 15, Steve studied guitar with Dave Van Ronk and Reverend Gary Davis. It was at this time that he met and befriended guitarist Stefan Grossman. Steve & Stefan would sometimes act as road managers for Reverend Davis and, in so doing, met many of the great “rediscovered” blues men of an earlier era, like Son House, Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt.
There were many other young musicians and potential college dropouts around Greenwich Village during this time who were as obsessed with American roots music as Steve, whether it be bluegrass or blues. Many would look for a common ground in which to play music together and some, including Steve, Stefan, Maria Muldaur, John Sebastian and David Grisman found the common denominator in jug band music – the music of Cannon’s Jug Stompers and The Memphis Jug Band. They and some other friends formed the Even Dozen Jug Band and were courted by Elektra Records for whom they recorded an album in 1964. Dwarfed by some of the finest young guitarists of the time, Steve opted to play washboard in the band. He would later use the same tactic of avoiding tough chords by mastering the harmonica.
The Birth of Blood, Sweat & Tears:
In 1967, Steve co-founded Blood, Sweat & Tears, a band that aimed to fuse rock, jazz, and R&B elements to create a unique musical experience. Katz’s vision, combined with the talents of other accomplished musicians, set the stage for a new era in popular music.
Strings and Brass Unite: Steve Katz's Sonic Fusion Mastery
As a founding member, guitarist, and songwriter for BS&T, Katz played a vital role in shaping the band’s signature sound. His guitar work blended seamlessly with the brass section, creating a dynamic and unforgettable blend of rock and jazz.
Under Katz’s creative leadership, BS&T released their eponymous album in 1968, which became a massive success, reaching the top of the charts. The album’s hits like “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” and “Spinning Wheel” showcased Katz’s songwriting prowess and the band’s ability to transcend traditional musical boundaries.
Departure: Katz's Evolution Beyond BS&T
After several successful albums, Katz left BS&T in 1973. Despite his departure, his influence on the band’s legacy continued to resonate through their timeless music. Katz’s innovative approach to blending genres left an indelible mark on the music industry, influencing subsequent generations of musicians.
Striking Chords: Katz's Solo Ventures and Collaborations
Following his departure from BS&T, Katz continued his musical journey through solo projects and collaborations with other artists. He also delved into producing and engineering, contributing his expertise to various musical endeavors.
Reunions and recognition
BS&T’s legacy remained strong, leading to reunion concerts and acknowledgments of their contributions. These reunions often highlighted Katz’s role in the band’s success and his ongoing impact on the music world.
The Enduring Legacy of Steve Katz
Steve Katz’s journey from his early days in folk music to his influential role as a founding member of Blood, Sweat & Tears showcases his remarkable musical evolution. His innovative vision, exceptional guitar skills, and songwriting talents left an enduring imprint on the music industry. Through his contributions to the iconic BS&T, Katz continues to inspire musicians and music enthusiasts alike, making him an integral part of rock and jazz fusion history. Check out his latest solo album and book here and look out for the doco heading to a theatre near you.