By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT
Rockford Rocked Interviews: Hey Jeep, thanks for stopping by.
Jeep Capone: Thanks for having me.
RRI: You’re a very well respected drummer/musician who has been at it for years, and making a good go of it I might ad. How old were you when you realized that being a drummer in a band was what you wanted to do full time?
JC: As far back as I can remember. As a child when people asked me what I wanted to be I would respond “I’m a drummer” (laughs).
RRI: What was the music scene like in Rockford when you started out and what were the hot clubs to play?
JC: Well, we played Sherwood Lodge, Rumpus Room, high school dances, etc. There were several bands in town and I guess we all had a friendly rivalry going. We didn’t make much money but we made some great music and the musicianship was wonderful for a bunch of young kids.
RRI: Could you get away with playing original music or did you find most people wanted to hear cover tunes, songs by other artists?
JC: We mixed it up. We would also take a piece of cover music and put our own twist to it. We didn’t want to be just like anybody else. In the ’60s and ’70s it just wasn’t cool to be just like another band.
RRI: Most local club owners were booking bands two and sometimes three weeks at a time in the 1970s and ’80s. Could you make an actual living doing this? It would be unheard of today.
JC: Yeah, we were very fortunate, we managed to make a living doing it. We were basically the house band at Maggie’s Pub on State street in the ’70s and the Off Broadway in the ’80s. Six nights a week every week. It was crazy.
RRI: I understand that you have a passion for jazz music. Who are some of your favorite jazz artists?
JC: I have a picture of Miles Davis in every room in my house. My mother owned Kay’s Records in south Rockford for many years. I was raised with jazz playing in the house everyday. I have way too many jazz heroes to mention here. I love big band, bebop, cool jazz, fusion, and funk jazz.
RRI: You eventually found yourself in Michigan playing for the band Stonefront. As the story goes, you all lived in a giant mansion near Detroit called Garwood. Please sum up your time there in as few words as possible (laughs).
JC: It was magical. We practiced every day and played with just about every big name from the ’70s you can think of. We were fortunate to have that place to work on our craft. I got to play with some stars as touring artists that would stop by on a regular basis. One of my favorite memories to this day is when I got to play with Larry Graham (Sly and the Family Stone’s bassist at the time). He was one of the founders of the slap style of playing. We jammed for several hours and Sly sat on the couch and watched.
RRI: Later on you attended The Allen H. Young College of Music in Chicago?
JC: It wasn’t really a school (laughs). I wrote that in my bio as a tribute to Al when he passed away. Allen was my music partner for 39 years. He was a graduate of Northwestern and went there on a scholarship for music. He did really mentor me without a doubt. Any question I had he had the answer. Rockford’s Jack Brand was also a big influence. He got me started with reading and gave me a few lessons.
RRI: You’ve worked with a lot of industry heavyweights on side projects and studio sessions. Are there any sessions in particular that stand out above the rest?
JC: I had Johnny Graham from Earth Wind & Fire in my band for several months as well as Basia for one year. Trish Turner from Duke Ellington’s band was with us for several years. I’ve been lucky to work with many top players but my favorite session was with Ted Nichols. Ted wrote and produced 12 operas and many movie scores and television shows. He had a lot to do with the Flintstones and The Jetsons music. I had the pleasure of playing the drums on a movie score with him as writer/producer. It was a religious film called Word For Word. We knocked out the project in record time so we got to have a really cool quality and question/answer time with him. We all had a great laugh when the first question asked was about the Flintstones sessions. He just shook his head and said, “Every time, first question, I’ve done some very important productions, 12 operas, several pieces for the Queen of England, etc. and you guys always ask the same question.” He laughed out loud!
I also did a session at Chick Corea’s studio in Los Angeles. He was playing basketball with the electric band and the ball got away from them. I threw it back to Chick, he caught the ball wrong and jammed his finger! I thought I was gonna die (laughs)! He turned out to be fine and very sweet about the whole thing.
RRI: Tell us about your latest projects and what you’ve been up to.
JC: The last CD release was Mr. Smooth. Mixed by the great Tom Tucker and released by Bobby Z of Prince fame. We had some guest artists on the recording who were great. Alex Ligertwood from Santana, Dean Brown from The Brecker Brothers (and everybody in the jazz world), Steven Wolf ( Elvis, Brittney Spears, Johnny Cash, just to name a few) Jason Miles (producer for Miles Davis, Sting, Chaka Kahn, Luther Van Dross, just name a few). The CD was quite successful overseas.
Unfortunately the day we finished our follow-up CD Allen passed away. I just couldn’t go on with the project, I was heart broken. I have now decided to release the music and it will be out the first of the year. It’s a mixture of fusion jazz and smooth jazz. I’m not the biggest smooth jazz fan but it gets airplay and it can be fun to play.
RRI: In some of your photos you bear a strong, almost uncanny resemblance to the notorious gangster Al Capone. Any relation that you know of?
JC: Sorry Todd but I can’t talk about that right now. There is a book coming out October 25 by Dierdre Bair. She came to Rockford and interviewed our family several times. Check it out, it is the best book ever written about the Big Man!
RRI: Give us your thoughts on the following if you would.
RRI: Sammy Davis Jr.
JC: Multi-talented, gifted man.
RRI: Jaco Pastorius (Famous eccentric Bass Player).
JC: He and Darryl Wright are my favorite bass players. I saw Jaco one time with Weather Report and it was the best show I ever saw or heard in my life.
RRI: Maggie’s Pub (Popular Rockford club in the ’70s).
RRI: Favorite Sunday morning album?
JC: Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis.
RRI: Kenny G or Branford Marsalis?
RRI: What’s next for Jeep Capone?
JC: I’m working on getting some gigs for my band Jamtrak. Reggie Boyd, Darryl Wright, Mark Johnson (Rockford boy) and yours truly. It’s possible we might have Alex Ligertwood for a few dates and a trumpet player yet to be determined.