Playing With Bob Seger Since: Late 1979
Born: Flint, Mich.
Currently Resides In: Temperance, Mich.
Other Bands: The Outcast, The Capris, The Fabulous Pack, Grand Funk Railroad
Influences: “I have a lot of jazz influences — Jimmy Smith, Oscar Peterson, people like that. Even James Brown. And the Detroit influence, of course, the Motown stuff. But for keyboards it’s mostly the jazz artists.”
Hobbies: Vintage cars, motorcycles, gardening. “I plant a lot of flowers around my house, so every morning I get up and spend about an hour and a half, two hours watering them. I plant them all, and I’m getting good at it, too.”
Nickname: “Frosty, of course. And when I first joined the band they used to call me Thoe, like when somebody loses their thumb, they’ll take the big toe off your foot and sew it on and call it a Thoe. My thumbs look like big toes — monkey hands, stubby, fat. When I started playing with the band I would play so hard and break the bass strings on the piano all the time. Bob would always play a couple of ballads on (the piano), and he would turn around and look at me, wanting to kill me ’cause there was one (broken) string hanging across the rest of the strings making this noise.”
Playing Music: “My father was a drummer, and I played drums until I was18. I was in this group called the Outcast; when I was 16 we backed up Gary U.S. Bonds and Jay & the Americans, Freddie ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon when they would come to Michigan and play at these different armories and stuff. But in Flint there were drummers everywhere. Then my grandmother got a new piano and sent her big upright to our house. I started tinkering around with it and started to play things. Then another group that was in Flint needed somebody who could play organ, which I couldn’t do so we went and bought a little sheet that showed me the chords, ’cause I couldn’t read a note — still can’t. I figured out which chords were which, the inversions, minor chords, sevenths and all that stuff. I learned those and slowly put everything together.”
If I Wasn’t Playing Music: “I took, like, a year of college in Flint, some U of M classes. I was going to be in electronics technology, ’cause I really liked that. I remember with the Capris we’d build our own amps and stuff like that.”
Joining Seger: “After Grand Funk I was sitting around two or three years doing nothing, really. Then one of the crew guys called me and said, ‘Craig, I think (Seger is) looking for a keyboard player. Shortly after that I got the call that they were holding auditions, and it was really scary because I really didn’t play piano. In Grand Funk I played synthesizers and Hammond organ, mellotron and things like that. The piano I could tinker with, but it wasn’t my instrument. I think I was the first one they had come in; they knew there’d be no problem in that I’d already been on the road and stuff like that. But I remember coming in ready to play the songs, and I’d learned them in all the keys that were on the record — but they weren’t doing them in the keys of the record! I went, ‘Crap!,’ so Bob goes, ‘Call the rest of the guys and tell ‘em the right keys,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, this is so fair…’ The second time they brought me back I had to play organ, and that was my instrument. Halfway through ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’ Bob turns to me and says, ‘You got the job.’ ”
A Road Story: “We were rehearsing for one of the tours, and when I walked in there were some cigarettes on the piano — I didn’t know if they were Chris’ or Bob’s. I opened (the pack) up and put a load (exploding cigarette) in it and waited to see whose cigarettes they were. So Bob comes in and sits down, and you could tell on this day he was not a happy camper. Then he pulls out this cigarette, lights it and it blows up. I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m so fired.’ But he turns around, shakes his head and starts laughing and goes, ‘I didn’t think my day could get any worse, but somebody just blew my face off…’ ” Later on he was on his way home, driving in his car, and he came to a light and lit up a cigarette and it was another load. It blew up, and he said even people in the next car were looking over at him and laughing. He came to rehearsal the next day, ‘I was in the sanctuary of my own vehicle and somebody blew my face off. Again.’ At least he had a good sense of humor about it.”
Favorite Seger Song: “The one I like to play is ‘Roll Me Away.’ The piano is so much fun to play on that, just the way the keys go and everything.”
What Makes Seger Great: “He’s got so many stories, and he’s just great at telling them, a great storyteller. I think that’s his forte. And his voice has been so good for so many years, just really strong and it almost sounds like he has shrapnel in it. You put that together with the storytelling and he’s just unique.”