A List Of Our Favorite Bands And Artists From Connecticut

A List Of Our Favorite Bands And Artists From Connecticut

Feature Photo: Ben Houdijk / Shutterstock.com

Our Favorite Bands And Artists From Connecticut also presents a roster of musicians who’ve made the biggest impression on the music industry from New York’s neighborly State. This is the same state that produced the iconic duo, The Carpenters, as well as other notable legends such as Michael Bolton and Vinnie Vincent. Among them, there were also some highly influential stars who shaped the music industry.

Top 10 Bands and Artists from Connecticut

 Jeff Porcaro

From Hartford, Connecticut, Jeff Porcaro was one of three sons of Joe Porcaro, a well-known jazz drummer who performed with a number of greats such as Gladys Knight and Frank Sinatra. Like his father, Jeff also became a career drummer. His younger brothers, Mike and Steve, also carried on the family legacy as musicians. Mike became a bass player while Steve played the keyboard. As for Jeff, he followed in his father’s footsteps as a session musician before becoming part of Steely Dan’s lineup that produced the 1975 album, Katy Lied. Although born in Connecticut, the Porcaros were mostly raised in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, California.

While growing up, he learned how to play the drums when he was seven years old as he was first taught by his father. After his successful run as Steely Dan’s drummer, Jeff teamed up with Steve to form Toto in 1977. They, along with childhood friends Steve Lukather and David Paich, formed what became one of the most popular rock groups at the time. Joining them as lead vocalist was Bobby Kimball and David Hungate as bassist. Together, they released Toto as the group’s debut album in 1978. This brought forth “Hold the Line,” a single that earned the Porcaros and their bandmates nationwide attention as rock stars.

Upon the success of Toto’s debut album and the group’s first tour, Porcaro and his bandmates got to work on the second album, Hydra which was released in 1979. This album turned out to be a flop and it was back to the drawing board for Toto as the group worked on its third album, Turn Back. Upon its 1981 release, Porcaro and his team ventured into arena rock that featured heavier guitars and less keyboard. Aside from the nations of Japan and Norway, Toto’s third studio album was also a flop. Now it appeared as if Toto’s future as a rock group was in jeopardy but the lineup decided to keep moving forward with the hope that the next recording would become less disappointing.

After the release of 1982’s Toto IV, the group’s popularity went from national superstars to international. Its two biggest singles, “Africa” and “Rosanna” became Toto’s all-time fan favorites and catapulted the band’s popularity to new heights. “Africa” became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 while “Rosanna” peaked as high as number two. After this, Hungate and Kimball left the lineup. Hungate was replaced by Mike Porcaro as the group’s bassist while the role of lead vocalist became a revolving door of singers. Among them was Fergie Frederiksen and it was he who recorded Isolation with Toto in 1984. This one produced “Stranger in Town,” a single that played a key role in the album to become certified gold with the RIAA.

After Isolation, it was the 1986 release of Fahrenheit. This one produced the ballad, “I’ll Be Over You.” This was sung by Steve Lukather. This was followed by 1988’s “Pamela” and “Stop Loving You,” along with its album, The Seventh One. This album still had Jeff Porcaro in the lineup but his brother, Steve, decided to opt out. This album joined Toto IV as among the group’s best but the group’s fourth album was a tough act to follow. Toto IV became platinum four times with the RIAA and twice with Australia and with Canada. It was also certified platinum in France, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands. It was gold in Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, and the UK.

The August 5, 1992 passing of Jeff Porcaro left behind his wife of almost nine years, Susan Norris, and three sons, Christopher, Miles, and Nico. Deciding to keep Toto alive as a band, he was replaced by Simon Phillips. Today, Steve Lukather continues to perform while David Paich is still part of the roster but has mostly refired from touring. To date, Toto recorded and released fourteen studio albums, eight live albums, and the 1984 soundtrack for Dune. In 2009, Toto was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. Prior to this, Jeff Porcaro was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1993.

Vinnie Vincent

Before becoming the infamous Vinnie “The Ankh Warrior” Vincent who wowed the world as a member of KISS from 1982 until 1984, he was born Vincent John Cusano in Bridgeport, Connecticut on August 6, 1952. As a child, he grew up in a musical household where he was influenced by the genres of bluegrass and rock. The man’s talent with the guitar came at a young age that would dictate the course of his career choice as a musician. Vinnie Vincent’s first recording gig took place with Epic Records in 1977 as a member of Treasure. After this, Vinnie Vincent moved to Los Angeles, California in 1980.

While there, he became a staff songwriter for Happy Days and its spinoff series, Joanie Love Chachi. He also became a session musician that included working with KISS’s for its tenth studio album, Creatures of the Night. This would lead Vincent to serve as Ace Frehley’s replacement as KISS’s new guitarist but he never formally became a member of the band. It was he who performed with KISS as the group recorded 1983’s Lick It Up. He was also a co-writer for some of its songs, as well as 1997’s Carnival of Souls.

While Vincent performed well with KISS as a live performer, he refused to sign any employment contracts as a band member offered by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. At one point, the sour grapes resulted in a split but in 1992, Vinnie Vincent became KISS’s songwriter again for 1992’s Revenge. “Unholy” was one of the singles that stood out as a fan favorite. After this, tensions rose again, giving Vincent reason to part ways with KISS again.

Between 1984 and 1992, VVinnie Vincent took an extended vacation to travel across Europe, India, Mozambique, the Philippines, and Tahiti. It would be during this time he founded his own band, Vinnie Vincent Invasion. The roster included Journey’s Robert Fleischman as he sang lead vocals for the first album, Vinnie Vincent Invasion in 1986. After this, he left and was replaced by Mark Slaughter for All Systems Go in 1988. In 1989, Vincent’s group broke up as Mark Slaughter and bassist Dana Strum moved on to form Slaughter.

In 1996, Vinnie Vincent released an EP, Euphoria, as a solo artist but had Robert Fleischman team up with him again as his vocalist. In 2008, Kiss My Ankh: A Tribute to Vinnie Vincent was released as a compilation album on August 27, 2008. The music featured Vincent’s performances as a member of KISS and as the leader of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. The album’s recording featured a collection of guest artists, including Fleischman. In 2023, a third album from the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Judgement Day (Guitarmageddon Pt. 1) was recorded, featuring Fleischman again as his lead vocalist. So far, this guitar hero from Connecticut is far from done making music.

Willy DeVille

Willy DeVille was originally born as William Borsey, Jr. from Stamford, Connecticut, and was raised in a working-class neighborhood where most of the employment came from factories. While growing up, DeVille became a fan of the Drifters as he could feel the influence of their music coursing through his veins. When he was a teenager, he performed blues music with a couple of bands. He also married at seventeen years old to a woman named Susan “Toots” Berle. After dropping out of high school, he headed for New York City and its Lower East Side and West Village.

He was eager to play music as a guitarist and singer but had a difficult time finding the right crowd to perform with. At the time, the music scene in the area was influenced by psychedelic music and it simply wasn’t DeVille’s style. He was more interested in bluesy music by legends such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. He was also especially fond of John Hammond. This is the man whom he credits for the stage personality and vocal performances he took on as his source of inspiration.

At one point, DeVille headed to London, England to see if he’d have any better luck. Two years later, he came back to New York before deciding maybe he’d fair out better in San Francisco, California. In his quest to find a team of musicians who shared the same taste in music he had, he drove his truck out west and all over the country. In 1974, as Billy Borsay, DeVille sang for Billy de Sade and the Maquis. The band’s lineup featured Thomas R. “Manfred” Allen, Jr. as the drummer, Ruben Siguenza on bass, Robert “Fast Floyd” McKenzie as guitarist, and Ritch Colbert as keyboardist.

It would change to Mink DeVille in 1975 as he officially adopted the name of Willy DeVille as his identity. At the same time, he was able to convince some of his bandmates to go to New York so they could audition for The Village Voice. McKenzie and Colbert opted to stay behind and were replaced by Louis X. Erlanger, a guitarist who specialized in the blues. It would be his musical influence that would establish the Mink DeVille sound.

Between 1975 and 1977, Mink DeVille played at a New York nightclub called CBGB. This was the site that spawned the influence of punk rock during the mid-1970s. Live at CBGB’s was a 1976-released compilation album that featured the house bands who played for the nightclub. Three of the songs on it came from Mink DeVille. In the meantime, Mink DeVille recorded and released Cabretta as its debut album which focused on the mix of blues, R&B, rock, and soul music. The lead single was “Spanish Stroll” and it became a number twenty hit on the UK Singles Chart. It was the only recording Willy DeVille performed to become a hit in the United Kingdom. With that nation, his band was referred to as Cabretta while in the US, Mink Deville.

In 1978, Return to Magenta was the follow-up album that would become one of Willy DeVille’s most successful albums as Mink DeVille. After this, he opted to take his group to new musical territory. This led to 1979’s Le Chat Bleu, an album that had DeVille team up with Doc Pomus as they wrote the songs. At the time, Capitol Records felt Le Chat Bleu was a mistake and that it would not appeal to American music fans.

At first, the album was released in 1980 in Europe only. However, many copies were imported to the United States by an audience the label assumed wouldn’t be there. This led to Capitol officially releasing Le Chat Bleu that same year. As far as many music critics and historians are concerned, Le Chat Bleu became one of the best rock albums of all time.

By this time, Mink DeVille’s lineup only had Willy DeVille left as the original roster moved on. He continued as Mink DeVille with new musicians as he recorded and released 1981’s Coup de Grace and 1983’s Where Angels Fear to Tread. Again, these became especially popular in Europe. The final album DeVille recorded was 1985’s Sportin’ Life which once again became a hit in Europe. Unfortunately, it was not enough to rescue DeVille’s financial situation.

In 1986, he filed for bankruptcy but that wasn’t the end of the road for DeVille. He continued to record music, starting with 1987’s Miracle. At the time, he was teamed with Mark Knopfler after Knopfler’s wife made this suggestion, knowing her husband was a fan of DeVille’s. Miracle‘s “Storybook Love” was the song taken from the album that same year to serve as the theme song for The Princess Bride. It became one of his most popular songs and it was even nominated for an Academy Award but lost the Best Original Song to Dirty Dancing and its “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” megahit performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.

The legacy of Willy DeVille and his music still carries on, even after he passed away on August 6, 2009. The cause of death was due to the complications created by pancreatic cancer, a condition that was discovered while he was undergoing Hepatitis C treatment earlier in the year. The day of his death fell just three weeks before his fifty-ninth birthday. DeVille became an idol for many singer-songwriters and musicians around the world. The fans also credited the man for influencing them as listeners who enjoyed his brand of music. In 2015, Bob Dylan suggested Willy DeVille deserved to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Deep Banana Blackout

The bandmates of Deep Banana Blackout was founded in 1995 by musicians who hailed out of Connecticut and New York. Together, they teamed up to perform cover music from the 1960s and 1970s as they proudly expressed their love for R&B and soul music. They were also noted for coming up with original musical material that consistently put the love of music above any other agenda. It didn’t take long before Deep Banana Blackout’s funk rock brand became a popular favorite in the East Coast underground live music scene. The key influence behind the original music performed by this eight-person group came from legendary greats such as James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, and Stevie Wonder.

In 1997, the group released Live in the Thousand Islands. It was recorded in Hartford in its old Colt.45 building and was a production the band did themselves. In 1999, Deep Banana Blackout released another album, Rowdy Duty. This live recording came as a double CD set and was recorded at a concert in Port Chester, New York. Later in the year, B’Gock! was released by Artkin Touchya Records, the label that belonged to Deep Banana Blackout. Among the signature songs that Deep Banana Blackout produced that became fan favorites were “Blackout” and “Bump & Sway.”

As a group, Deep Banana Blackout consistently performed in one sold-out concert after another. In total, there were four albums credited to Deep Banana Blackout that were locally produced and released. The third was 2001’s Feel the Peel and the fourth a live recording, Leave the Grease, which was released in 2002. What makes Deep Banana Blackout stand out is the raw energy that came from a team of musicians who never held anything back, especially when it came to live performances. Currently recognized as part of the lineup belonging to Deep Banana Blackout are Jen Durkin, Johnny Durkin, Eric Kalb, Benj LeFevre, Cyrus Madan, James “Fuzz” San Giovanni, Rob Somerville, and Rob Volo. Previous key members were Hope Clayburn and Bryan Smith.

 

Fates Warning

Founded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1982, the lineup of Fates Warning underwent a series of lineup changes over the span of a career that’s over forty years old. This progressive metal band was regarded as among the “Big Three” pioneers of the genre, along with Dream Theater and Queensryche. What Fates Warning accomplished was using the influence of British heavy metal to power American metal in the group’s thirteen studio album recordings. There are also two live albums and a compilation album.

1984’s Night on Brocken was the first studio album Fates Warning released while under the Metal Blade label. The influence of its music came from Iron Maiden and other heavy metal fans that served as a source of inspiration for songs such as “Damnation.” In 1985, The Spectre Within was next which became even more progressive than its predecessor. “The Apparition,” “Epitaph,” “Pirates of the Underground,” and “Traveler in Time” laid out more complex musical material, along with fantasy-style lyrics with double meanings.

During this timeframe, Fates Warning was a popular live act between the American East Coast and the Midwest. Unfortunately, the band’s original guitarist, Victor Arduini, would find himself on the outs in 1986 and was replaced by Frank Aresti. Awaken the Guardian would then be released later in the year as the group’s third studio album. This would serve as one of progressive metal’s groundbreaking recordings between the complex and unusual riffs and varying tempo changes that never seemed to skip a beat.

The success of Fates Warning continued with 1988’s No Exit, 1989’s Perfect Symmetry, and 1991’s Parallels. However, they did this without original vocalist John Arch in the lineup as he was the next to go in 1987. He was replaced by Ray Alder who played an instrumental role in shifting away from the fantasy themes with cult favorites such as “The Ivory Gate of Dreams.”

After these releases, Fates Warning experienced a popularity decline as grunge music became the new trend that was winning over a new wave of fans. After undergoing additional lineup changes, one of the founders of Fates Warning and its primary songwriter continues to rock on as its leader. Guitarist Jim Matheos has kept Fates Warning going strong with 2020 marking its most recent album, Long Day Good Night.

 

Steelheart

The glam metal band known as Steelheart got its start in 1989 in Norwalk, Connecticut. With vocalist Miljenko Matijevic in the lineup, along with guitarists Frank DiCostanzo and Chris Risola, the group made its album debut, also titled Streeheart, in 1990. Its hit single, “I’ll Never Let You Go” peaked as high as number twenty-three on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was the group’s only major hit in the United States. Also in the lineup at the time were James Ward and John Fowler. When Streetheart first came together as a band, it was called Red Alert by its founders, Matijevic, Risola, Ward, and drummer Jack Wilkenson. Upon moving to Los Angeles, California, it was changed to Steelheart. Another change was Fowler replacing Wilkenson in the lineup.

After the success of Steelheart’s self-titled album selling enough copies to become certified gold by the RIAA, Tangled in Reins was released as a follow-up in 1992. However, it wasn’t nearly as successful as its predecessor and none of the singles released became hits. However, “Mama Don’t You Cry” became extremely popular among the nations in the Orient as it peaked as high as number one on some of their charts.

It was enough to embark on a tour in Asia where Slaughter asked Steelheart to open for them at a Halloween concert in Denver, Colorado, in 1992. While performing “Dancing in the Fire” at this fateful concert, an unsecured lighting truss fell on top of Matijevic, crushing him face down into the stage. The accident left the lead singer with a broken cheekbone, nose, and jaw. He also sustained a twisted spine injury and severe memory loss. As serious as this incident was, he was still able to walk off the stage but this setback put his career on hold until 1996 and it was the end of Steelheart’s core lineup.

By the time Matijevec was ready to perform again, he was the only founder left. The lineup now had Kenny Kanowski as guitarist, Vincent Mele as bassist, and Alex Makarovich as drummer. With this new roster, Steelheart recorded and released Wait. Instead of sticking with glam metal, the music shifted to alternative metal and it featured the single, “We All Die Young.” Although the album failed to make a chart impression, the single was featured in a movie called Rock Star.

This spiked the popularity of this song but not enough to become a hit on any of the music charts. After this, it would be ten years before Steelheart brought forth another recording. 2006’s EP, Just a Taste, was released before 2008’s Good 2B Alive would feature three of its tracks on it. In 2017, Through Worlds of Stardust became Steelheart’s fifth studio album, which was followed by 2018’s live album, Rock’n Milan.

 

Michael Bolton

When it came to contemporary ballads and soft rock, Michael Bolton was at his prime as a solo artist. However, prior to this, the man from New Haven performed in hard rock and heavy metal bands from the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s before going solo. With over seventy-five million records sold that have seen eight of them became top ten hits on the US Billboard 200, Bolton has made a name for himself as one of the best-selling musical artists of all time.

The start of his musical career began at fourteen when he formed his first band, the Nomads. Two years later, his group secured a recording contract with Epic Records. This came about after receiving permission to drop out of high school when he was fifteen years old so he could pursue music full-time. In order to make ends meet, he worked a series of odd jobs. One of them included working as Paula Abdul’s babysitter.

In 1975, Bolton began recording at a studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His first album was titled Bolotin, which was his original surname. From 1979 until 1980, he fronted Blackjack a heavy metal act that once opened for Ozzy Osbourne while he was on tour. In 1982, he co-wrote “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” with Doug James. It was written for Laura Branigan and it became a number-one hit for her on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number twelve.

In 1988, Bolton performed his own version and it was that one that became a number-one hit on both of the US Billboard charts, as well as in Belgium and Canada. It was also a top ten hit among the nations of Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and the UK. His version of the single also became certified silver with the UK’s BPI and platinum in Australia. This song was featured on his sixth studio album, Soul Provider, which was released in 1989. It was this song that earned Bolton a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The album itself sold over twelve million copies worldwide and became a multi-platinum success among the nations of Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US.

Between 1987 and 1995, Bolton was at his prime as a recording artist who released four of his best-selling albums and seven songs that became top ten hits in the United States. He dominated the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart with eight of his fourteen consecutive top ten singles becoming number-one hits. He was also immensely popular on an international level, especially in Canada. As popular as he was at the time, he was also heavily criticized.

He also encountered a lawsuit in 1992 when the Isley Brothers accused him of plagiarism with “Love Is a Wonderful Thing.” Their claim was his 1991 hit was the same one the group recorded and released in 1966. After a court battle that lasted for fifteen years, the judge ruled in favor of the Isleys which forced Bolton and his team to pay them over four million dollars in compensation. Prior to this, Bolton experienced another lawsuit for the same thing with “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” but that one worked in Bolton’s favor as the judge sided with his case instead of the plaintiff’s.

Bolton’s legacy boasts several accolades and awards, including his cover version of Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” which earned him his second Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. This number-one hit single played an instrumental role in the multi-platinum success of Time, Love & Tenderness. That was a 1991 release as Bolton’s seventh studio album and it became even more successful than its predecessor, Soul Provider. That one sold over sixteen million copies worldwide. Overall, Bolton recorded and released twenty-six studio albums, a live album, and thirty-five singles. There are also twelve compilation albums under his belt. When walking the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Michael Bolton’s star can be found there, thanks to his musical contributions and notable charitable contributions.

 

The Carpenters

The Carpenters featured the brother and sister team, Karen and Richard Carpenter. The two were born in New Haven, Connecticut before moving to Downey, California in 1963 when they were young teenagers. Karen’s soft contralto vocal style was beautifully matched with Richard’s harmonizing as the duo came up with a string of hits that set them apart from the rest of the musical talent starting in the mid-1960s.

As musicians, Richard learned the piano while Karen played the drums. The two performed together for the first time in 1965 when Richard Carpenter formed a jazz group before starting up Spectrum. In 1969, the siblings signed with A&M Records which would pave the way to stardom. The duo’s debut, Offering, was a critical success but didn’t sell so well at first and Karen’s soft vocals covering “Ticket to Ride,” was merely a minor hit on the music charts compared to the original performance done by the Beatles in 1965.

As a means of reinvention, A&M and the Carpenters worked with Burt Bacharach which would lead to a rewrite of his and Hal David’s “(They Long to Be) Close to You.” This became a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 after it was released in 1970 and it served as the big breakthrough the brother-sister duo needed. This was followed with another signature hit, “We’ve Only Just Begun.”

This one peaked as high as number two on the same music chart. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart, it became a number-one hit as its predecessor did. Both singles became certified gold by the RIAA, and certified silver by the UK’s BPI. The album, Close to You, wound up selling four million copies worldwide. With over two million copies sold in the United States, it became certified platinum twice. It was also certified gold in Australia.

The next big hit for The Carpenters came in 1971 as the duo covered Bread’s “For All We Know.” It was performed for a wedding scene for the 1970 movie adaptation of Lovers and Other Strangers. For the Carpenters, this became their third number-one US Billboard Adult Contemporary hit and third certified gold single. It also won them an Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as two Grammy Awards, namely for Best New Artist and Best Contemporary Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus. This was followed by “Rainy Days and Mondays.” It also became a number-one hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, as well as the duo’s fourth certified gold single.

After this, it was “Superstar,” a slightly altered version of a song that first appeared on Joe Cocker’s 1970 album, Mad Dogs & Englishmen. This also became certified gold, as well as yet another chart-topper for the Carpenters. Also in 1971, the Carpenters released their third album the same day they performed a sell-out show at Carnegie Hall on March 14, 1971. Carpenters went on to become the duo’s best-selling album as it sold over four million copies in the United States, enough for it to become certified platinum by the RIAA four times. It also became platinum in the UK and gold in Australia. The album also earned a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance Duo or Group.

While the Carpenters were at the height of their popularity, Karen and Richard endured a grueling tour schedule that led to addictions and medical issues where they needed to take some time off. In 1979, Richard took a break as he contended with his dependence on Quaalude. Meanwhile, Karen was dealing with anorexia that would claim her life on February 4, 1983. The cause of Karen’s death highlighted the media attention revolving around eating disorders that would not only be featured in news stories but also in movies and television. Despite this dark chapter that put an end to the career of the Carpenters as a duo, it didn’t diminish their popularity as one of the best-selling musical artists of all time. With over one hundred million records sold worldwide, Karen and Richard Carpenter continue to influence fans of easy-listening music.

Where Karen Carpenter stood out as a world-class vocalist, Richard Carpenter was the engineering force behind the creativity of the duo’s musical sound. Regardless if they were covered versions of previously recorded hits or original material by the songwriting team who directly contributed to the duo, Richard was able to work with the music to establish some of the best contemporary-style songs ever recorded. After his sister passed away, Richard Carpenter continued to compose and perform music.

The legacy of the Carpenters still continues today as several top-notch recording stars have credited the duo for sparking their own career paths as musicians themselves. On more than one occasion, there have been petitions against the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame issued who feel the Carpenters deserve to be inducted even though their brand of music seemed to be too soft to fit the rock genre. Meanwhile, “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “(They Long to Be) Close to You” were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 and 2000, respectively.

 

John Mayer

John Mayer was born in Bridgeport and then raised in Fairfield on October 16, 1977, as the son of a Jewish high school principal and middle school teacher. While in elementary school, Mayer became close friends with a future tennis star named James Blake. The two often played video games together for about three years after school. As a high school student, John Mayer attended the Center for Global Studies at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk. At the time, it was known as the Center for Japanese Studies Abroad as it featured a program for students to learn the Asian nation’s language.

When he was thirteen years old, Mayer received a rental guitar after he was inspired to learn the instrument after watching Michael J. Fox’s 1985 movie, Back to the Future. When a neighbor handed a Stevie Ray Vaughan cassette to Mayer, this triggered a love for blues music that also turned Mayer into a huge fan of Vaughan’s. This set Mayer on a path that would lead to a musical career as he sought to learn more from other blues guitarists, namely Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Otis Rush. Between their influence and a local guitar shop owner named Al Ferrante, Mayer honed in on a niche that also served as his means of escape.

When Mayer was seventeen years old, he was hospitalized for a weekend to treat cardiac dysrhythmia. According to him, this is what triggered him to become a songwriter. This served as another means of dealing with reality in an effort to maintain his mental stability. After his hospitalization, Mayer had to contend with high anxiety that sometimes led to panic attacks.

At one point, he considered skipping college so he could pursue music but his parents talked him out of that decision. It led to his enrollment in 1997 at Berklee College of Music but he and his new friend, Clay Cook, left after two semesters for Atlanta, Georgia. The duo formed LoFi Masters and began to perform in the city’s coffee houses. When the two realized their taste in music differed from each other, Cook and Mayer went their separate ways. This marked the beginning of Mayer’s career as a solo artist.

Mayer’s first recording was an EP, Inside Wants Out. This 1999 release featured “No Such Thing,” a song that was written by Cook and Mayer as a team. In 2002, it was the big hit single from his debut album, Room for Squares. It became a number-one hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs Chart while on the US Billboard Hot 100 peaked as high as number thirteen. “No Such Thing” also sold enough copies to become certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association and by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Also from this album was “Your Body Is a Wonderland.” It also became number one on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Song Chart but didn’t climb quite as high on the US Billboard Hot 100 as it peaked as high as number eighteen. However, it sold more copies that would certify this single double-platinum with the RIAA and triple platinum with ARIA. It also became platinum in Denmark and silver in the UK. It was also this song that earned Mayer a 2003 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

On the heels of Room for Squares was the 2003 release of Heavier Things, an album that would feature another Grammy Award-winning hit, “Daughters.” In addition to winning his second award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2005, Mayer also won Song of the Year. While at the peak of his career, John Mayer made a risky move that shifted his brand of music from acoustic guitar to bluesy rock. Since this was the brand of music that originally influenced him, he wanted to embrace the same styles that inspired him to become a musician, to begin with.

He formed the John Mayer Trio and released Try! in 2005, then Continuum in 2006. Both albums were favored by music critics and it was Continuum that earned Mayer a 2007 Grammy Award win for Best Pop Vocal Album. The single, “Waiting on the World to Change” also earned him another Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Also in 2007 was the release of Rob Reiner’s film, The Bucket List. “Say” was a ballad John Mayer wrote for the movie that would earn him his fourth Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

This was followed by 2009’s Battle Studies as Mayer went back to performing pop music again. “Gravity” became yet another Grammy Award-winning song for Mayer, this time for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance. It was also among his best sellers as it became double platinum by the RIAA, as well as platinum in Australia and Denmark. After this, the man’s life became more complicated when he publicly revealed his involvement with two high-profile actresses, Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson.

This controversial media coverage later caused him to withdraw from the public spotlight until the 2012 release of Born and Raised. It was also in 2012 that his vocal cords were contending with granuloma, a medical condition that forced him to cancel a tour he had planned. As a result, it wasn’t quite as commercially successful as his previous recordings. In 2013, Mayer began to sing again and released his sixth album, Paradise Valley. This one featured the influence of country music as the man continued to explore new musical horizons. This was followed with 2017’s The Search for Everything and it was themed after a romantic breakup. Sob Rock would be next as a retro-style soft rock album that was released in 2021.

 

A List Of Our Favorite Bands And Artists From Connecticut article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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