Cray ~ Guitar
Chris Cardinal ~ Bass
James Greek ~ Hammond B3
Doug Johnson ~ Drums
Tim Killeen ~ Drums
Bobby Murray ~ Guitar
Jim O'Farrell ~ Keyboards
In Memory of
Doug Johnson (1951-2004)
Steakface - Photo Courtesy of Mike Cozzetti
"The Best Band From Lakewood (You Never Heard of)" is how one of a small handful of Steakfans described his favorite band only weeks before they broke up in 1973. Even people who know Robert Cray's lean years before the Cray Band became circuit regulars from Humboldt, CA to Vancouver BC have never heard the tale of the five best teenage musicians to ever blow up a borrowed PA.
Jim O'Farrell (keys) and Chris Cardinal (bass) joined Bill Bush (guitar) and Ray Koski (drums) in a band called Blue Max which basically played covers of Rascals and popular Soul. This ensemble's moment of glory (and their first gig) was for a rich friend's birthday party at Tacoma's staid bastion of golf and martinis, The Tacoma Golf & Country Club. Little of this is recalled by the participants save the unerring feeling that they wouldn't be asked back.
O'Farrell and Cardinal drifted in and out of various teen club bands until the fall of 1969, when Chris met Bobby Murray (guitar) and Robert Cray (guitar) at Lakes High. The three hit it off and in the course of lamenting over having to play "Midnight Hour", "Mustang Sally" and "Knock On Wood" over and over Bobby Murray mentioned something to the effect that he would love to start a band that played Jeff Beck or Moby Grape. Robert responded favorably and added Procol Harum and Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac to the mix.
A few weeks after school started Chris took O'Farrell over to Cray's house where Robert was "just goofing off" and proceeded to whip off a blistering "Manic Depression". It was decided then and there that it was the boys duty to save the area from the doldrums of mediocre Soul covers and it was necessary to start a band.
At the first practice in O'Farrells' parents tiny living room Jim introduced Tim Killeen (drums) to the rest of the guys. Weeks of wood shedding ensued and produced a song list like no other, before or since.
To the names of the previously mentioned bands , they also paid homage to Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grease Band, Blodwyn Pig, Jethro Tull, Forever More, Spirit, the Faces and, of course, Cray's beloved Hendrix. But a cool set list was by no means the peak achievement of this band; every one of it's members was light years more technically gifted on his instrument than the local/regional competition. Cray and Murray's extended flights of fancy while soloing off each other were edgy and imaginative. Killeen's drum work was gloriously Mitch Mitchell in it's jazzy explosions. Cardinal's cruel dominance over his Gibson EBO bass was breathtaking (could he do a MEAN Jack Bruce)! And, all the while Jim's keyboard anchored the whole gumbo down.
When the band finally emerged the opportunity they chose to show off their sound was an odd one. In the fall of 1970, Clover Park High was having a Folk Music festival in the old North Gym. While downplaying the electric aspects of their music, Jim finagled a three song spot nestled between a ready set of Peter, Paul and Mary and a Joan Baez wanna-be. There was actually scattered booing when the boys took the stage and it was apparent that they meant to use all those amps. All other sound was drowned out as Steakface launched into "Rattle Snake Shake" and the school's PA blew upan Baez Jr. wisely opted to bow out.
Steakface invested in their own PA and slowly added originals into the mix ("Ophelia", "No Brag, Just Fact" etc) and eventually picked up a modest circuit of frat gigs between UW and UPS. Other not on the first verse so that Robert's vocals were totally lost. The boys finished their allotted set without vocals and walked off the stage to a small crowd of enthusiastic Steakfans. As the PA was fried, Joable jobs included playing to bewildered teens at a Tiffany's Roller Rink in Puyallup (the great lost live tape) and an adventurous weekend at the 1890s Tavern in LaConnor. Finally, an audio tape does still exist of an A / V recording session held in the (then) brand new Evergreen State College.
The band slowly broke up in early 1972 as Cardinal and O' Farrell drifted into the Navy, but over the years the guys have remained active in music.
Tim Killeen got a degree in audio engineering, and for several years, was the chief engineer at Bearcreek Studios. Jim O'Farrell hones his encyclopedic musical chops in Wickerman, while holding a key executive position at Captura Inc. Chris Cardinal was a mainstay in the Tim Hall Band for many years and currently plays bass for Tony and the Dreamers. Bobby "Goodfingers" Murray played in Etta James touring band for years as well as stints with Frankie Lee and Mark Naftalin.
As for Robert Cray....well nobody seems to know whatever happened to this amazingly gifted guy. Anybody with information on whatever became of Robert should drop me a line through this site. He sure was good!
Kate, a Robert Cray fan, helped solve the mystery of the whereabouts of Robert Cray in a recent guestbook entry. Check out his "unofficial" homepage, The Robert Cray Band, or RICH's Robert Cray Page. Who woulda thunk it... a Steakface member also a multiple Grammy award winner.
Sammy Carlson, December 2001
Robert Cray's Official Website now resides at Robert Cray dot com
Sammy Carlson, April 2007
I still play with Etta, ( 17 years ) and also lead my own band which includes Etta's sons. Often we open for Etta. I also got a chance to reunite in the studio with Robert & BB King, on the tune "Playin' With My Friends, grammy winner co-written by Robert. Also, our last four records with Etta have all been nominated for grammies including the last one "Lets Roll". I currently reside in Detroit. Please give my best to the Mole, Bruce, Jim, Chris, Tim and the gang.
Photo Courtesy of Mike Cozzetti
Bobby Murray, December 2003
Photo Courtesy of Mike Cozzetti
Photo Courtesy of Mike Cozzetti
Two other Lakewood notables, both fine musicians, need to be acknowledged for their contributions to the Steakface brew. James Greek (whose older brother John Greek was an original member of The Fabulous Wailers) played Hammond B-3 in Steakface for a short time, with Jim O'Farrell sticking to piano. Doug Johnson served as Steakface's second drummer after Tim Killeen left for college. Both will be fondly remembered by those who new them. James Greek (1952-1999) - Doug Johnson (1951-2004)
Gary Walker, 11 March 2004
More Steakface Photos