Johnny Colla

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Johnny Colla
Birth name John Victor Colla
Born (1952-07-02) 2 July 1952 (age 62)
Sacramento, California, United States
Genres Rock
Occupation(s) Instrumentalist
Instruments Guitar, saxophone
Associated acts Huey Lewis and the News, The Furlanders, Cottonmouth, Sound Hole, Sly and the Family Stone

John Victor "Johnny" Colla (born 2 July 1952) is an American musician, playing the guitar and saxophone,[1] and songwriter. He is a founding member of the American rock band Huey Lewis and the News. He has been heavily involved in the San Francisco Bay Area music scene for more than 25 years, having been in several other bands, including Sly and the Family Stone, Sound Hole, and Johnny Colla & The Lucky Devils.[2]

History with Bands[edit]

The first bands that Colla was involved with were Yewess Army and Cottonmouth from Fairfield CA and the Furlanders.[2] After these he joined Sound Hole as a saxophonist. Sound Hole was successful at a local level and became Van Morrison's backing band for a time. Other members of Sound Hole were drummer Bill Gibson and bassist Mario Cipollina. Sound Hole was the major local competition to Huey Lewis' band, Clover. After Sound Hole, Colla was part of Sly and the Family Stone for a few months and recorded with them. In the late 1970s Sound Hole and Clover merged to form a new group, the American Express, which later became known as Huey Lewis and the News. For the News, Colla became saxophonist, rhythm guitarist, backing singer and songwriter.

Colla was drawn to San Francisco from the Sacramento Valley during the 1960s Summer of Love. Like many others, Colla patronized the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore Auditorium, eventually pursuing his idols and musical dreams over the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County.

"I moved to Marin because that's where all the musicians moved after the San Francisco scene blew up. For a start-up musician in the seventies, it was a hot-bed of musical activity; a great place to be and be heard." He says. "Then I beat the odds. We not only started a great band, but actually became successful at it!"

"Sure, we're the Tony Bennetts of our generation[...]but it's not such a bad way to go. I can think of worse jobs."

Colla co-wrote hit songs such as "The Heart of Rock & Roll", "If This Is It", "The Power of Love", and "Back in Time". Lewis and Colla co-produced the band's 2001 album Plan B.

Solo career[edit]

Colla embarked upon a solo career to expand his personal musical horizons.

"Deep inside, every songwriter wants to sing the songs that they write." Colla states "Once a person writes something they really believe in, it's strong medicine. It's like a drug; you want to do it again and again. It's a bit self-indulgent, but songwriting is my creative outlet; It is a scratch I have to itch. I'm not looking for fame or fortune in my solo endeavor; I'm simply exploring my own beliefs and musical tastes. If I can put into words what someone else can't say themselves, I've done what I set out to do. Besides all that, it’s still great fun to jump up on stage and bash it all out!"

Colla released his first solo album Lucky Devil. Johnny Colla and the Lucky Devils were formed in the mid 1990s by Colla. Whenever the News take a break Colla plays his favorite music with his own band. Major influences in his music are rhythm and blues and 1950s music. Colla released his second solo album, I Hear Voices, in 2012, which takes a more vocal approach than Lucky Devil.

Appraisal[edit]

Earbuzz.com calls the quality of Colla's vocal performance "compelling and soulful", reminiscent of the blue-eyed Philly Sound, with "a beautiful pop subtlety", adding that "fans of pop, western movers, Americana, and guitar rockabilly have struck the mother lode of music and will fall in love with the entire CD". EarBuzz continues to say "Equally impressive is (the fact) that Colla produced, performed, and wrote all of the tracks without his signature sax playing - further magnifying his abilities as a singer/songwriter of substance and talent ".

Discography[edit]

Colla also produced or performed on these records.

  • Patrick Simmons, Arcade (Elektra Records, 1982) songwriter, "Don't Make Me Do It"
  • Heart (EMD/Capitol Records, 1985), backing vocals on "Nothin' at All" and "These Dreams" on Heart
  • Nick Lowe album - The Rose of England (CBS Records, 1988) backing singer "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)"
  • Back to the Streets: Celebrating the Music of Don Covay (Shanachie Records, 1993) lead vocal (duet) with Arlene Smith, "Letter Full of Tears"
  • Pablo Cruise, Out of our Hands (A&M Records, 1993) saxophone solo, "Talk to me Right"
  • Yoshihiro ishikawa, Peace (Pioneer ldc, Japan, 1993) produced, recorded, arranged and performed on several tracks
  • A tribute to Curtis Mayfield People Get Ready (shanachie records, 1993) produced, arranged and sang with Huey Lewis and the News on "It's Alright"
  • Yoshihiro Ishikawa Love (Pioneer ldc, Japan, 1994) produced, recorded, arranged and performed on several tracks
  • Doc Kupka's Strokeland Superband Kick It Up A Step (Strokeland Records) backing vocals and vocal arrangement, "Bittersweet With a Ray of Hope"
  • Holiday Heroes compilation cd Holiday Heroes (Soul Purpose Records, 1995) songwriter, lead vocal, producer, "My Christmas Wish"
  • Grace Slick, Software (RCA Records) backing vocals, "Through the Window", "It Just won't Stop"
  • Deborah Coleman, Soft Place to Fall (Blind Pig Records, 2000) songwriter, "Don't Lie to Me"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Biography: Huey Lewis & the News". AMG. Retrieved 19 May 2010. 
  2. ^ a b [1] Bay Bands.com, Accessed 4 May 2013.