I can distinctly recall, way back in “the old days” (as my kids call them) of the 80’s, I was sitting in my room just starting to play through a brand-new compilation album of Christian Rock music (Soaring Vol 2), and listening to Valerie, by Sweet Comfort Band. I didn’t even know who those guys were (shame on me), but this particular song jumped up and got a hold of me. It was perfect. The sound and the music were amazing. Definitely an aha moment for me as a musician. I grabbed my liner notes to find out who the producers were: John & Dino Elefante. Never heard of ’em before.
But I never forgot them.
Later, I saw the Elefante brothers’ names on Sweet Comfort Band’s Perfect Timing album (one of my all-time favorites) that Valerie inspired me to grab, as well as a LOT of other releases that I gravitated to. Obviously, the connection between amazing songs and the Elefante boys was a strong one. And with good reason. They were amazing.
In the years to come, I must admit, I lost track of Dino. But have continued to follow John’s multi-faceted career as an incredible vocalist, songwriter, keyboardist, producer, etc. I can’t count the times I’ve listened to his voice, tried to replicate it, then yelled at the record player that I was giving up for good! He is phenomenal and eloquent and his range is seemingly unlimited. His tone is that oh-so-cool, classic rock vocal that nothing but a truckload of God-given ability can produce. To be blunt, John is one of the greatest voices I will ever hear, in any genre of music, I have no doubt. Scientists will probably one-day discover that his vocal cords actually are made of silk and velvet.
In 1981, John was chosen from over 200 other applicants (including guys like Sammy Haggar) to take the reins as lead vocalist for the rock super-group, Kansas. Vinyl Confessions debuted with his classic voice and today is considered a true part of Rock Music history. Play The Game Tonight is a song that will forever remain in my own internal jukebox as one of my favorites, mostly due to the insanely smooth singing on it. John’s contributions to the Kansas legacy produced some of the best-sounding rock vocals in the band’s history (Sorry, Steve Walsh. Even so, you are still another of music’s greatest voices!). It is second only to Leftoverture as my favorite Kansas album.
John’s journey through music has placed him in the rare company of the Who’s Who of the industry. I mean, legends. We’re talking about Kansas, Petra, Kerry Livgren, Rick Cua, Jude Cole, Toto, Greg Long, Sandi Patty, Vestal Goodman, Styx, Natalie Grant, Larnelle Harris, Bono, Pat Boone…you get the picture, right? Not to mention production of and performances on over 100 major record releases. Five Dove Awards. Four Grammys. Ten Grammy nominations. Multiple Gold & Platinum releases. Iconic performances. Stellar studio work. And arguably one of the most talented music production names in the business, bar none.
In 1993, John & Dino also built the now-iconic Sound Kitchen recording studio in Nashville, one of the premier and most sought-after studios in the Southeast. The Sound Kitchen has been the birthplace of countless examples of great music, cooking up tasty recordings from anybody who is anybody in music today…from Amy Grant, Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen and Brad Paisley to Vince Gill, Buddy Guy, Dolly Parton, Keith Urban, Third Day and Jimmy Buffett. Talk about being starstruck…wow.
If you want to follow John online, the best place (IMO) is his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JohnElefanteMusic). Of course, you can also catch him at http://www.johnelefante.com. This is a guy you want to follow, and get to know, and listen to. And an artist whose life and career you can confidently let your kids discover. World-class talent, world-class example.
I am amazed at my good fortune and the chance to post this FOTF. I invite you to share the experience with me. Join me for five minutes (or less)…read, share and be inspired! And soak up my brief chat with truly one of the most gifted, encompassing, hard-working and humble individuals, in any business…as well as another of my personal and musical heroes…the amazing, legendary John Elefante!
1. Who has been your greatest influence (personally or artistically), and how?
Allow me to mention 2 people here…first I have to say my mother. She pushed me very hard toward believing that I had what it took to be successful in music, she gave me a ton of confidence when I didn’t have much of my own and always stood by me when things were up or down. The second person is Kerry Livgren, having had the privilege of spending time with a musical genius had a humungous influence on me both musically and spiritually.
2. Which previous job/project had the most impact on you, and why?
I would have to say my first Kansas record, going from a garage home studio to working along-side seasoned pros is hard to put in to words, not to mention working with the legendary Ken Scott (Google his credits) as a producer.
3. Is there a “secret of success”? If so, what? And if not, why?
I don’t think there is a “secret to success” because luck and being in the right place at the right time cannot always be planned out, it certainly is not talent if you look back through the years and have seen folks with not much of it have big time success. I won’t name names!!
4. Is there a particular moment or event that had a great effect on your life or career?
Yes, in 1980 when accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior it was a total game changer. I no longer ran the show. His word and influence on me DID.
5. If you could share one, single pearl of wisdom, what would it be?
Stay humble, get out of your own way…but still allude confidence. And when you think you’re done, re-examine and make it better….
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This FOTF interview can also be found on the Ricky Fitzpatrick website at: http://www.rickyfitzpatrick.com/five_on_the_five.html/five_minutes_with_john_elefante/