THE MICHAEL STANLEY BAND
March 25, 1948, in Cleveland, Ohio, Michael Stanley Gee's early
musical inclinations, as a Rocky River High School student, were
typical of most teen boys in a 'garage band': "It was just
something that was fun to do," Michael Stanley recalled, in a
1981 'TEEN Magazine interview, "It was a good way to pick up
some quick money and meet some girls." In 1965, the
proverbial 'first' band was one called the 'Scepters'. Things
became more serious, musically, when Michael joined the 'Tree
Stumps', and a single was released, "Listen To Love". By
1969, Michael was a student at Hiram College, working on his
Bachelor of Arts degree, and the Tree Stumps had become 'Silk', a
locally-popular folk group that had advanced into the recording
studio and produced an LP, "Smooth As Raw Silk"...
After graduating college, Michael Stanley Gee
continued pursuing music (both with the band and as a solo
performer of his folk-based ballads) while moving up in the ranks
of his 'day job' at Disc Records.
At a point when the band was on the verge of breaking up, they
were asked to play a local Cleveland hotspot and they took the gig
with the idea that they could, at the very least, 'go out on top'.
New York record producer, Bill Szymczyk, was in the audience
that night, and was impressed. A record contract followed. Michael had continued working his 'day job' at Disc Records,
having by then become the Regional Manager, in charge of stores in
12 states, AND married--with 2 infant twin daughters, Sarah and
Anna. For 2 years, he juggled his time between the studio, work
and family at a somewhat leisurely pace, judiciously using several
weeks of vacation time a year to record both his debut,
"Michael Stanley", and second LP, "Friends &
Further supplementing his creative Zen, he had also begun
collaborating with 2 area musicians, Daniel Pecchio and Jonah
Koslen, with the newly formed trio playing Stanley's solo songs as
well as new material.
In 1973, Michael and his boss had a dispute that resulted in
disaster: he was fired. With a new family, new car--and no
job--Michael was momentarily 'stranded'. By now a close friend,
Joe Walsh (another Cleveland area musician, who had joined Michael
in the studio on both LP's) suggested Michael either 'give it
(music) his all' or get out -- no 'half-efforts' were going to
suffice. It was a turning point for Michael, and one where he
finally saw music as his lifeblood, deciding to consider it a full
Michael's decision to 'hang tough' with the music, along with
prodding from Pecchio and Koslen, became the catalyst that brought
in drummer Tommy Dobeck, and the Michael Stanley Band came into
From the mid 70's to the mid 80's, the Michael Stanley Band
enjoyed a strong and fiercely loyal following, touring with some
of the superstar bands of that period (including Bruce Springsteen,
The Eagles, Foreigner and The Doobie Brothers); there were several
Top 20 and Top 30 hits, among them "He
Can't Love You" in 1980 and "My
Town" in 1983, but it seemed the 'one great hit' never
came -- the kind of chartbuster that saw acts like Bob Seger,
Bryan Adams, John Cougar (now Mellencamp), make their names and
hometowns, literally, household words .
In late 1982, MSB released what would be their final album for
EMI: "You Can't Fight Fashion". The single, "My
Town", had made it to 29 on Billboard Magazine's
charts, sales were good, and the band was on tour, when EMI
stunned the band by offering them an 'extension', rather than a
contract renewal with a long-term financial commitment. When
Michael confidently 'called their bluff', their label pulled the
plug, halting promotion and tour backing immediately.
Although it was a financial blow that staggered the band, they
gamely continued performing in the Northern Ohio and
Midwest circuit, producing 2 independent releases, 1983's
"Inside Moves", and "Fourth And Ten" in 1984
(recorded live at Blossom Music Center -- a 2 nighter that saw the
venue's all time attendance records shattered), before formally
disbanding in late 1986, shortly after performing 9 'farewell'
concerts at Cleveland's Front Row. "...We broke up not
because we didn't like each other, but because we couldn't
survive. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was like a
group divorce," Michael Stanley would later recall, to
Cleveland Magazine in a July 1994 interview.
"After we did the last show with the band in Dec.
1987 (the Front Row Club "farewell" shows), I didn't
touch a guitar for 6 months," Michael Stanley said in a
1992 interview, "...I wanted to walk away from it for awhile.
I thought, 'Yeah, I'll stop for a little bit, come back and it'll
be like turning on the faucet.' It was the total opposite. It was
like writer's block for a long, long time." In late 1991, the
'block' fell away ...
Not surprisingly, Michael's 'post-MSB' years found him still
working in the Cleveland area entertainment spotlight: he served
as co-host of WJW-Channel 8's "Cleveland Tonight" and
"P.M. Magazine", 'til they were cancelled, and later as
a weekly featured reporter for TV8's "First Look". It
was only natural he'd find music calling him again, and he
overlapped his television career with a new one in radio as afternoon disc jockey and on-air personality at
Cleveland's WNCX 98.5.
In Dec. 1991, during a Las Vegas vacation, Michael
suffered a heart attack. The near tragedy resulted in Michael's
re-evaluation of his life and career, and, with renewed
determination and perspective, he began building a life of
balance, exploring new interests while rediscovering old ones. He
'settled in', buying Chagrin Falls acreage, and lent his support
to a number of good causes and charitable projects. Former Ohio
native and MSB-fan, Razor & Tie Records' Cliff Chenfield, had
contacted him, and the 'compilation' release they had discussed,
"Right Back At Ya", was released in Feb. 1992,
leading to a following decision to 're-issue' the entire Michael
Stanley catalog. Michael remarked, in a 1994 Cleveland Magazine
interview, "After a 6 year drought, we had 8 albums out
one year and 4 the next. I finally got to have a copy of
everything we'd done."
In 1993, Michael reunited with Jonah Koslen, Bob Pelander and
Jennifer Lee (an area singer whose vocals had contributed to many
MSB studio projects and concert appearances) to form The Ghost
Poets. With the MSB reissues selling so well, Cliff Chenfield
decided to release the group's eponymously-titled "The Ghost
Poets" through Razor & Tie Records in 1994. Sales that
followed were good, but local airplay was difficult -- a Cleveland
'blackout' had resulted, as many radio stations viewed Michael
Stanley -- WNCX's highly-visible personality -- as a competitor.
The Ghost Poets continued to perform for a little over a year
after the release, when a decision was made to disband the effort,
and move on.
While maintaining a strong relationship with his first wife,
Libby, and their two twin daughters, a good working relationship
with former "P.M. Magazine" co-worker, Mary McCrone, had
by then blossomed into something more: they were wed on July 9,
Following the quiet disbanding of The Ghost Poets, Michael went
into the studio with another set of former MSB bandmates --
including Bob Pelander, drummer Tommy Dobeck, bassist Michael
Gismondi and guitarist Danny Powers -- and recorded his first
'solo' endeavor since 1973's "Friends & Legends".
"Coming Up For Air", a quiet, intensely emotional and
introspective album that centered around the title track --
Stanley's chilling reliving of his recent heart attack -- was
released through Intersound Music (now Platinum Entertainment) on
Feb. 27, 1996.
Though declaring a 1994 Blossom 'MSB reunion' concert as the
'final' one, Michael Stanley continued to perform with several
long-time friends and former band members in and around the
Cleveland area, billed as 'Michael Stanley & Friends'.
Recently, his solo work has led him to a more 'acoustic' approach.
In April 1997, a 2 nighter at Akron's Tangiers was duly
recorded, and released by Razor & Tie Records as "Live In
Tangiers: The Acoustic Shows" on June 3, 1998.
Michael currently mans the airwaves as afternoon 'drive-time'
personality at Cleveland's popular WNCX, frequently appearing at
many area events as well as via the occasional 'Friends' concerts.
In the summer of '98, Michael was busy (the double-live CD
release, concert appearances at Tangiers, Nautica, Youngstown, a
grand-opening multi-header gala at the new Cleveland Hard Rock
Cafe), and he continues in the new millenium to show few
signs of letting up.