Spooky Tooth Biography

Formed in 1967 as a blues outfit, Spooky Tooth quickly moved into progressive rock during the heady days of the late 60s. Formerly named Art, they released a ponderous cover version of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’ as ‘What’s That Sound’. The original band comprised Gary Wright (26 April 1945, Englewood, New Jersey, USA; keyboards/vocals), Mike Kellie (b. 24 March 1947, Birmingham, West Midlands, England; drums), Luther Grosvenor (b. 23 December 1949, Evesham, Worcestershire, England; guitar), Mike Harrison (b. 3 September 1945, Carlisle, Cumberland, England; vocals), and Greg Ridley (b. 23 October 1947, Carlisle, Cumberland, England, d. 19 November 2003, Alicante, Spain; bass). Their hard work on the English club scene won through, although their only commercial success was in the USA. They combined hard-edged imaginative versions of non-originals with their own considerable writing abilities.

Spooky Tooth made their debut in 1968 with It’s All About; although not a strong seller it contained their reading of ‘Tobacco Road’ (the album’s name in the US), always a club favourite, and their debut single, ‘Sunshine Help Me’, which sounded uncannily similar to early Traffic. It was the stunning Spooky Two, however, that put them on the map; eight powerful songs with a considerable degree of melody, this album remains as one of the era’s finest heavy rock albums. Their self-indulgent excursion with Pierre Henry on 1970’s Ceremony was a change of direction that found few takers, save for the superb cover painting by British artist John Holmes.

The band’s second release of 1970, The Last Puff saw a number of personnel changes: Ridley had departed for Humble Pie, Gary Wright left to form Wonderwheel and Grosvenor later emerged as ‘Ariel Bender’ in Stealers Wheel and Mott The Hoople. Three members of the Grease Band joined; Henry McCullough (b. Portstewart, Ireland), Chris Stainton and Alan Spenner. The album contained a number of non-originals, notably David Ackles’ ‘Down River’ and a superb version of ‘Son Of Your Father’. The band broke up shortly after its release, although various members, including Foreigner’s Mick Jones, Bryson Graham (drums), Mike Patto and Ian Herbert (bass) eventually regrouped for three further albums which, while competent, showed no progression and were all written to a now dated rock formula.

UK heavy metal band Judas Priest later recorded ‘Better By You, Better Than Me’, which resulted in a court case following the deaths of two fans. The band was accused of inciting violence, causing the two fans to shoot themselves. The original line-up of Spooky Tooth, minus Gary Wright but with Bexi Decker (b. Germany; bass) and Joey Albrecht (b. Berlin, Germany; guitar), regrouped in 1999 to record a worthy album for the German Ruf label. Cross Purpose featured a new version of ‘That Was Only Yesterday’, while other strong tracks included Mike Kellie’s ‘How’ and Karl Wallinger’s ‘Sunshine’. Spooky Two remains a vital album for any heavy rock collection.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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