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Non-Prog Interviews

The Tygers

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with The Tygers from 2010
MSJ:

You guys were discovered by Herb Alpert and Les Paul - can you tell us about that?

Craig Fairchild: Les Paul became acquainted with the group after hearing us at a national band competition at which he was a judge. Les was from Wisconsin, so we connected with him in Milwaukee some time after the competition when he returned to visit with his family. He was an amazing guitarist and entertained us with some fabulous riffs. He was interested in getting the group to record in his New Jersey studio. Most of us were minors at the time, so our collective inexperience combined with decisions made by our parents took us down a different path. Our manager booked some studio time at RCA in Chicago to record "Little By Little". After local success, the record was picked up by A&M, which is the Herb Alpert connection.

Tony Dancy: Les Paul was a judge at the National Jaycees Battle of the Bands in 1967. He liked us so much that he wanted us to move to New Jersey and live and record in his house. Unfortunately, that never happened. Our manager Jon Hall saw to that. But, in the next year, 1968, the band had a local hit called "Little By Little', written by me, Tony and Dennis Duchrow, our drummer. Jon sold it to Herb Alpert who released it on A&M Records, but it wasn't a national hit and it was the only record of ours released on A&M.

Lanny Hale: Les Paul discovered The Tygers when they were Tony’s Tygers at the 1967 Jaycees National Battle of Bands Finals.  He stated, “I haven’t been this excited about a group since I first saw The Young Rascals.”  He invited the group to move to New Jersey and record with him but that never happened.  Herb Alpert was the next to acknowledge The Tygers by signing them to A&M Records for their first single release in 1968.  That relationship ended abruptly for reasons still unknown to the band to this day. 

MSJ: There was a forty year break between your first and second albums. Do you feel you were able to maintain a continuity despite that?

Craig Fairchild: Feedback from those who have heard our recent music confirms that the feel remains true to our 60's roots despite all the intervening years. The music is new, written after many years from our original experience and has been reviewed as fresh, while incorporating our roots.

Tony Dancy: Yes, it's been a seamless transition, as if the 40 years didn't happen.

Lanny Hale: Tony and Craig had maintained a musical connection of some sort for most of those 40 years.  I was the one out of the loop for the longest time, although I would surface periodically when the urge was overwhelming and try to get things going again.  In the 1980’s we gathered at my house on Monday nights and learned Hi-Lo’s and Four Freshmen songs.  We recorded a couple of tunes very quickly but never played them out.  We just wanted to sing.  It’s in us and it doesn’t ever go away.  So, after all these years, it finally worked out that we were all in the same place long enough to create and record this album.  As with most old friends, the time between albums didn’t seem to matter at all.

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of the group and your involvement in music beyond what was discussed in the last couple questions? 

Lanny Hale: Better for Tony and Craig on this question as I have been in medical practice for the past 30 years.  I was slowly collecting the musical and electronic equipment necessary to create this album. 

Craig Fairchild: After the group went its separate ways, Tony and I headed to California to find the pot of gold. After a couple of years there, which included landing some material with the “Brady Bunch” and “the Flintstones” television shows, Tony and I headed back to Wisconsin where we formed another group which he ultimately took back to California. At that point I decided to stay in Wisconsin. After an eight year hiatus from music, I re-entered the biz, performing with a couple of locally popular groups. I'm still doing that today.

Tony Dancy: After "Little By Little" the group remained very popular locally and continued to make records, but nothing ever charted again and we finally called it a day. Lanny went off to medical school. Fred became a chef. Craig and I moved to L.A. To recount my involvement in music up to now would take more time than you have because I never got out of music. But Craig and I had a bit of success after moving to L.A. when wet Jackie Mills, who produced the music for "The Flintstones" and the “Brady Bunch." We got a few of our tunes on those shows.

MSJ:

Where does the name The Tygers come from? Is there some significance to it?

Tony Dancy: We get a gig at my junior high school, but we didn't have a name and we needed one fast. A friend named "Leroy Lieske" suggested Tony and the Tigers. "Too corny," we said, but we decided to use it just this once. The gig was a big success, so we used it again, and again. We always planned on changing it, but never did. We didn't want to use it now, but, wouldn't you know it, we're The Tygers again.
MSJ:

If you weren’t involved in music what do you think you’d be doing?

Craig Fairchild: Writing - fiction, novels, short stories

Tony Dancy: Probably making money.

Lanny Hale: I hope to be progressively more involved in music over the coming years, otherwise I will just keep pursuing the medical career I am in.  I would like to work with new songwriters and groups, in the recording process specifically.  I had to learn to be an audio engineer during the creation of The Tygers Second Album. 

MSJ: How would you describe the sound of The Tygers?
Craig Fairchild: Vocal ala Crosby, Stills, Nash, very melodic, very memorable, catchy tunes.

Tony Dancy: It's new. It's old. It's neo-retro.

Lanny Hale: Neo-Retro has been a term used to describe our music.  We maintain the spirit and sound of the past with a message for today. 

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences - both as a group and individually?
Craig Fairchild: Vocal groups: Take 6, Manhattan Transfer, Hi-Lo's. Inspiration to take a serious shot at the big time came from the Beatles.

Tony Dancy: The Association, The Four Freshmen, The Beatles, CSN, Steely Dan, The Carpenters, Burt Bacharach - lots of one hit wonders. Almost anything that a songwriter listens to influences his writing in some way or another.

Lanny Hale: Beatles were the biggest single influence for me.  I love vocal groups so The Beach Boys, The Eagles and CSN&Y were very influential also.  Genre to me wasn’t as important as the singing, so I liked anyone that could sing.  Don’t get me wrong, you need a beat, can’t sing ballads all the time. 

MSJ: What’s ahead for you?

Craig Fairchild: Hopefully the Tygers are rediscovered at a level the leads to broad recognition and wide public acceptance. Then I reap the benefits: no more work-a-day world. Better living through music

Tony Dancy: A few more years without assisted living, I hope.

Lanny Hale: Hopefully more writing, recording and performing.  With our new label Fairtone Records, we would like to find and develop other talent also. 

MSJ:

How has the music industry changed for the better since your first time around as The Tygers?

Craig Fairchild: Back then, when a group had a hit, it was always followed by an album, typically to profit from the momentum of the hit record. Often, the only good song on the album was the hit. Now consumers have the option to purchase by the tune. That tends to challenge the creative people to put out better stuff. The technology, of course, is quite different. Unlike the 60's, now anyone with a computer can record.

Tony Dancy: It hasn't.

Lanny Hale: I think that from the technical side of the business it is much better.  We have recording equipment and tools available to us now that we could never have afforded in the old days.  The equipment is great.  You can create a great sound on your own and take your time doing it, more ability to be create when you’re not being rushed by the clock.  The Internet and the ability to manufacture and sell your own CDs, track your sales, generate fan activites, etc., is also a plus, but it all takes a lot of work.  

MSJ: How has it changed for the worse?
Craig Fairchild: In the 60's, we all believed that obscure musicians could legitimately expect a shot at the brass ring. It seemed like opportunity was endless. And there were dozens of come-from-nowhere groups with hits. Now the likelihood of hitting the big time seems reserved for a lucky, well-connected few. The Hot 100 wasn't so stratified, specialized and segmented. DJ's would play local groups. Now it seems that the music we hear is in the hands of major corporations.

Tony Dancy: Where to begin? Mainly it's gotten more corporate than it was. For local bands to get airplay on local stations (now major corporate stations) is nearly impossible because their playlists are written by statisticians in distant cities who review only the "most popular" tunes. Nothing is really local anymore. Music is just another commodity like soap or soda pop. It always has been, of course, but not like today; look at "American Idol."

Lanny Hale: It was always difficult to get a new record played but now it seems almost impossible except for Internet radio and it’s hard to tell who’s listening out there.  So, while the Internet is great, it also has allowed the market to be flooded with new talent, some of which is pretty bad, and creates a lot of “noise” that listeners have to cut through.  

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Craig Fairchild: Yes, The Tygers.

Tony Dancy: Yes

Lanny Hale: I would imagine that the ultimate for most guys my age would be McCartney.  But CSN&Y, or The Eagles would be great too. 

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
Craig Fairchild: From the musician's point of view, illegal downloading certainly impacts product sales negatively - but it may actually boost exposure for the group given the large number of people with the capability of downloading illegally. That, in turn, may enhance the opportunities for live performance if that large group of illegal downloaders happens to like what they hear.

Tony Dancy: It's neither a help nor a hindrance. Technology marches on. Sheet music publishers complained when records came out. Record companies complained when tape decks came out. I think the problems that the major labels are having are irrelevant. They are the problems of businessmen, not of songwriters or musicians.

Lanny Hale: I don’t believe it’s appropriate to condone anything that is illegal and classify it as helpful or not.  The mere fact that everything has become electronic has clearly damaged traditional physical CD/album sales.  I suppose the only positive could be that it can spread the word and help develop a fan base that could lead to improved performance attendance.  I would guess that the mainstream record labels don’t use YouTube, etc. to promote their artists but it certainly is a way for independents to get themselves seen.  The music business is hard enough but if you take one of the main sources of revenue away it has got to cause problems in the long run.   

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

Craig Fairchild: Clearly not in favor. Not fair to the people who paid the price of admission. Cheap videos produce acoustically cheap reproductions of the event. I grimace when I hear that type of recording.

Tony Dancy: I would hope that they love us enough to record us. It's OK with me, except that every show is immortalized on Youtube, even the ones that you wish were not.

Lanny Hale: I don’t know the legality of this action.  If venues stipulate that you can’t record, etc., then I guess we’re back to the previous question about downloading.  These are rarely high quality enough recordings to do much other than transmit the energy and likenesses of the band and stimulate interest in the group and it’s music.   

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

Craig Fairchild: Dealing with promoters can be like dancing with the devil. But you can't live without them.

Tony Dancy: Sandler and Young. Here you have two guys singing, but always in unison. They never sing two part harmony. I'm sorry, but if you've got two singers you should sing two parts - at least some of the time. Why didn't Sandler just double track himself, fire Young and make twice the money? Or vice versa?

Lanny Hale: Probably Ozzy Osbourne as I am not much of a heavy metal fan.  

MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band, who would be in it and why?

Craig Fairchild: I like to think I'm playing in my ultimate band. If I didn't believe that, I would look elsewhere. The type of music, the approach the Tygers take vocally, was something I envisioned as kid before I had the opportunity to join the band. This is the right fit.

Tony Dancy: The Tygers is my ultimate band. This is it!

Lanny Hale: I have far too many diverse artists that I admire to be able assemble a reasonable size band.  Too many great players and singers.     

MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

Tony Dancy: Assuming I could raise the dead, some of the performers on the roster might include: James Brown, The Ventures, Dave Brubeck, The 3 Suns, Lesley Gore, Steely Dan, The Trashmen, Earth Wind and Fire, Los Panchos, John Coltrane, The Hi-Los, Chet Atkins, Take 6, Peter Paul and Mary, The Fleetwoods - and that's for starters.

Lanny Hale: Some great instrumentalists like Bela Fleck & Ottmar Leibert, great storytellers like James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel, great vocal groups like The Eagles, Beach Boys and CSN&Y.   

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Craig Fairchild: Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits

Tony Dancy: I think the last CD I bought was at the bank. Recently I've listed to "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto, "The Rite of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky, "Sing We Now of Christmas" by the Harry Simeone chorale, "Thriller" Music from the TV series starring Boris Karloff, "Exotica" by Martin Denny, "Dominique" by the Singing Nun, "Epistrophe" by Thelonius Monk, "El Paso" by Marty RObbins, "Whispering Bells" by the Dell-Vikings, "L'Apres-Midi D'Un Faune" by Claude Debussy.

Lanny Hale: The last album I bought was Al Jarreau’s Christmas Album.   Al Jarreau’s music director, Joe Turano, is a former Tyger from the 1960’s and he was working on some horn arrangements for our album and we were checking out some of the arrangements he had worked on.  Other than that, I have been listening to the Tygers album a lot and hoping that others hear in it what we do.  

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Craig Fairchild: My daughter asked me to attend a Weird Al Yankovic concert with her. I thought it was great. Satire appeals to me. Lanny's lyrics in "Scottsdale Blues" are exactly the kind of thing that's right up my alley. Tony and I co-wrote, "I'm a Superstar" - the utterances of a pathetically unaware musician with an over-inflated ego - which was in reaction to the overly indulgent, self-focused soloing of the 70's which followed what I saw as a group focus in the 60's. We'll have to get that one out there for the general audience one of these days.

Tony Dancy: Well, I think it was either Dave Brubeck in Chicago or Jaap Blonk at Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee.

Lanny Hale: Ottmar Leibert, Phoenix, Celebrity Theatre, June 7, 2007.   

MSJ: Do you have a musical "guilty pleasure?"

Tony Dancy: I have many. "It's a Gas" by Alfred E. Neuman, "Ape Call" by Nervous Norvus, "Muskrate Love" by Captain and Tenille, "Downtown" by Mrs. Miller, "Juanita Banana" by the Peels, "The Blob" by the Five Blobs.

Lanny Hale: I still enjoy the old analog vinyl sound.  I think we preserved some of that sound in the way we recorded the CD, and then took it one step further by releasing The Tygers Second Album on vinyl also, mastered by an engineer that also had a love for vinyl and experience with it in the past.   

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

Craig Fairchild: On tour in the 60's in the wake of our hit record, we stopped in Elwood, Indiana. I recall that it was at an armory. I guess it pays to let people know there's a gig. Two people showed up.

Tony Dancy: There are many, but one comes to mind. We were playing a gig somwhere and the audience was very inattentive, uninterested. We would talk to the audience, but there was never a response. So, we finally pulled our pants down and played the rest of the set with our pants around our ankles. Still, no one noticed.

Lanny Hale: We played a high school dance in the 60’s and when we arrived in the gym and started to move our equipment onto the stage at one end the school staff stopped us and told us we couldn’t go up there because it had been recently refinished and they didn’t want us to mark it up.  So we set up on the floor in front of the stage, except we turned all of our equipment so that it faced the stage and all the kids would have to dance on the “new” stage.  

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Lanny Hale: The Tygers are trying to break the mold.  We are trying to be the first group of 60ish year old vocal artists to break into the popular music scene essentially as unknowns with original music.  Not sure this have ever been done but even a forty year break was not enough to damper our inner enthusiasm.  It’s hard to get heard, but some outlets like Music Street Journal are trying to give us a chance.  In the end, the music has to stand by itself but we know that even good music can easily be overlooked in the bombardment of choices available to people today.  I hope that if you like our dream and our music you’ll join us and maybe we can get back a bit of those old vibrations that we grew up with but in a style that still speaks to us today.   

Tony Dancy: Yes. You are never too old to fulfill your dreams. Never, never give up. It's never too late. Oh, and "We're back!"

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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