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 local 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 snappy teen combo called Blue Max which basically played covers of Top 40 Soul and Rascals’ tunes. This ensemble’s moment in the sun (and their first gig) was for a wealthy acquaintance’s birthday party at Tacoma’s staid bastion of double knits and martinis, The Tacoma Golf & Country Club. Very little of this performance is recalled by the participants save the unerring feeling that they would NOT be asked back for a return engagement.
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 School. The three young dudes hit it off (natch), and in the course of lamenting having to play endless covers of “Midnight Hour” or “Mustang Sally” over and over, Bobby Murray mentioned something to the effect that he sure 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 later, Chris took Jim over to Cray’s house where Robert was “just goofing off” and proceeded to whip out a blistering rendition of “Manic Depression”. It was decided then and there that it was the boys solemn duty to save Lakewood from the doldrums of mediocre Soul covers, and it was necessary to start a new band.
At the first practice in the O’Farrell’s diminutive living room, Jim introduced Tim Killeen (drummer) to the rest of the guys. Steakface was born! Weeks of earnest woodshedding ensued, and they generated a songlist like no other, before or since.
To the names of the previously mentioned bands they also paid tribute to Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grease Band, Blodwyn Pig, early Jethro Tull, Forever More, Spirit, the Small Faces, and, of course, James Marshall Hendrix. But an ultra cool setlist was by no means the peak achievement of this band; every one of its members was light years more technically gifted on his instrument than the local competition. Cray and Murray’s extended flights of fancy while soloing off of each other were edgy and imaginative. Killeen’s drum work was gloriously Mitch Mitchell-like in its jazzy explosions. Cardinal’s cruel dominance over his Gibson EBO bass was breathtaking (he could do a wicked Jack Bruce!!) And all the while O’Farrell’s earthy 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 School 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 reedy set of Peter,Paul & Mary, and a Joan Baez devotee (the eminently talented Debbie Aqua!). There was scattered booing when the interlopers took the stage and it became apparent that they intended to use all those damnable amplifiers!! All other sound was drowned out as Steakface launched into “Rattle Snake Shake”, and the school’s hopelessly outdated PA blew up on the first verse so that Robert’s vocals were totally lost. The boys finished their alotted set without vocals, and walked off the stage to the cheerful response of a small but enthusiastic group of new fans. As the PA was fried, the rest of the Folk Festival wound down to a truly unplugged event.
Steak face invested in their own PA, and slowly started adding originals into the mix (“Ophelia”, “No Brag, Just Fact” etc). Eventually, the band picked up a modest series of frat gigs between UPS and UW. Other notable gigs included playing to bewildered teens at a Tiffany’s Roller Rink in Puyallup, and an adventurous weekend at the 1890’s Tavern in LaConnor. Towards the end of its existence, Steakface plied their wares in a session recorded at the brand new audio/video studio at Evergreen State College. A scratchy, but intriguing cassette exists of this effort.
The band slowly began to deteriorate about early 1973, and eventually both Cardinal and O’Farrell drifted into Uncle Sam’s Naval Forces. But over the years the guys have all 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 chops in The Whirlies. Chris Cardinal was a mainstay in the Tim Hall Band for years, and has played with a ‘Who’s Who’ of South Sound groups. Bobby “Goodfingers” Murray played with the late,great Etta James for over 25 years, as well as stints with Mark Naftlin and Frankie Lee. Robert Cray has established himself as a giant of modern blues in the hugely successful RCB.
Bruce Partridge - edited June 2, 2016
Kate, a Robert Cray fan, helped solve the mystery of the whereabouts of Robert Cray in a recent guestbook entry. 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