Current OVER THE RAINBOW/TED NUGENT bassist Greg Smith started his successful career in the early eighties when he first joined WENDY O’WILLIAMS’s recording and touring band. Later on he worked with such names as VINNIE MOORE, ALICE COOPER and JOE LYNN TURNER before he was asked to join to the very last incarnation of Ritchie Blackmore’s RAINBOW in 1994. Greg recorded RAINBOW’s last studio album STRANGER IN US ALL in 1995 with Ritchie, vocalist Doogie White, drummer John O’Reilly and keyboardist Paul Morris but after a couple of years the band disbanded. Later on Greg worked with BLUE OYSTER CULT, re-joined ALICE COOPER’s band before he decided to do something different, a Broadway musical called “Movin’ Out”. Next it was TED NUGENT who asked Greg to join his band and in addition to that Greg has lately been doing shows with DOKKEN, JOE LYNN TURNER and now with OVER THE RAINBOW. OVER THE RAINBOW is a brand new band, formed by a group of former RAINBOW members: Joe Lynn Turner, Tony Carey, Bobby Rondinelli, Greg and Richie Blackmore’s son Jurgen Blackmore on guitar. OVER THE RAINBOW was playing at Swedenrock last June and then Greg was kind enough to give us the latest news as well as some other interesting stories about his past and future. Read on !!
INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
THE PAST YEARS
It’s been a while since we’ve seen you playing live here in Scandinavia. It must have been around year 2000 when you were here with Alice Cooper, right?
Yeah, that was on DRAGONTOWN tour and it was around 2001, if I remember right?
What have you been up to since you departed with Alice?
Since then I have … Let’s see, in 2002 I was part of a musical with Billy Joel. In 2002 I was called by Billy Joel’s guitarist who’s been a good friend of mine for more than twenty years he’s actually my daughter’s godfather. We kind of grew up together in Rhode Island. Billy Joel was putting together this musical called MOVIN’ OUT with a ten piece rock band on stage and they wanted real rock musicians there, not Broadway guys. I did that thing for three and half years in Broadway.
How many shows you did weekly?
It was eight shows in a week but I didn’t always do all shows. What was great thing about it was that I had about five or six different guys, other rock musicians, if there was one day I had something else to do or there was just nice day and I felt I didn’t want to do show I just gave a call for somebody and put them on you know? I was my own boss really there. After I finished that thing I got a call from Ted Nugent and I’ve been working with him since… I’ve done 2007 and 2008 –tours with him. He’s off the road this year, he’s not touring, which worked out perfectly because OVER THE RAINBOW is just getting together. That was briefly what I’ve been doing lately “laughs”.
Why did you decided to split Alice Cooper?
I left off great with Alice, he is still one of my good friends, and I know his family very well. Calico, I watched her to grow up in a matter of fact I have one tattoo on my left shoulder which Calico actually drew for me. We are actually really good friends. In a matter of fact I saw Alice last year when I played with Ted Nugent in a festival in Germany. I got to see him and Calico and the whole band I’m really good terms with them all.
So if Alice someday would ask you to rejoin would you agree in any circumstances?
Never say never “laughs”
How about Dokken? It seems that you and Barry Sparks are sharing the bassist duties for Don these days?
That’s right. I actually just played a show with Dokken on last Saturday in Baltimore and in about two months time I did shows with Dokken in New York area, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I think I’ve done about six shows with them on this year?
Playing with Dokken is not a permanent thing for you, right?
I think that these days Don is using bass player depending which side of the Mississippi river he’s playing “laughs”. You know when he’s on West Coast he uses Barry or Sean McNabb and if he’s on East Side he usually calls me. That’s how it works.
Greg live on stage in 2009
OVER THE RAINBOW
About this current OVER THE RAINBOW thing, is it true that Doogie White was originally asked to sing with this band before you got Joe there?
Well it might have been, I think that Doogie might have been a part of what Tony Carey was trying to put together with that PURPLE RAINBOW thing, but this OVER THE RAINBOW initially was with Joe right from the beginning. I think that Joe was one of the guys who originally get idea of putting this band together.
How you ended up being in this band?
Well you know what, when I heard about Purple Rainbow I didn’t know really much about it. I just figured out that there were all these ex-Rainbow members getting together. Later on I get in touch with Joe and Bobby and said this sounds pretty cool and I want to be part of this. That’s pretty much how it happened “laughs”
Did you know that Doogie is also here (Swedenrock)? He’s playing a show with TANK here.
I did not know about it but I heard a rumor about it “laughs”. When he’s playing?
I think it was tomorrow?
Tomorrow, I just wonder if he’s coming here today and perhaps to see our show. It would great to see him.
We’ll see what happens? Tomorrow is his very first show with TANK did you know about that?
One funny thing is that on the last day of the festival there’s HEAVEN AND HELL playing, so here are actually three out of four Rainbow singers performing here on the same festival…
Greg, Bobby Rondinelli, Joe Lynn Turner, Jurgen Blackmore and Paul Morris in press conference
When you now have Paul Morris playing keyboards (he’s now replacing Tony Carey temporary while Tony is ill) in your band you have Doogie here and you, of course, it’s actually three out of five members of STRANGER IN US ALL –line up. Do you think that Joe would allow Doogie to come over on stage and do material from that album? I know that you’re doing some songs from that album in your set too right?
Well, I don’t know? We haven’t been in touch with him (Doogie) for a while but who knows what might happen if he shows up on stage during the show? Joe and Doogie they’ve sang together before in Spain so… anything’s possible you know?
The line-up of OVER THE RAINBOW is a great combination of players from different periods of Rainbow’s history and your set list also includes material from each period. How important it’s for you that there’s material from to STRANGER IN US ALL …
I think it’s really important to touch all the different eras of the Rainbow and that’s what is good about the band line up as well. With Tony, he got the earliest Rainbow with Ronnie. With Joe and Bobby you got that version of Rainbow which is quite different to early stuff and with me in the band you got the latest version of the band so it’s a good combination. There’s a little bit of everything there, you know?
Doogie White, Paul Morris, Rithcie Blackmore, John O’Reilly and Greg in 1995
Speaking little more about the line-up of STRANGER IN US ALL, some years ago I interviewed Joe he said that Richie actually “took” his backing band for the new version of Rainbow. You, Paul and John (O’Reilly) all played in Joe’s solo band before and Richie wanted you all, expect Joe, to join his band.
Well that’s kind of true but there was no any bad blood because of that. Actually Richie always said good things about Joe. He always said that Joe is his favorite singer, that’s what he always told me.
You played several years in Joe’s solo band, before and after Rainbow. Are you still continuing with that band as well?
Not really. I don’t think he’s now playing too often with his solo band at the moment?
Who actually do play in his band now?
There’s guitarist Karl Cochran and then there is Mike Servantino, who used to play in Blackmore’s Night, and I think that Paul (Morris) is also playing there too? The last few shows he was doing I was too busy to do them, I was busy with Ted or with Dokken, so I wasn’t able to be a part of that anymore. But when I’m around I will play with him. It’s always fun to play with Joe “laughs”.
THE FUTURE OF OVER THE RAINBOW?
There are some rumors telling that OVER THE RAINBOW might release some original material as well. Is there any truth behind that and if there is, have you already written any new songs together?
Yes definitely. In a matter of fact, we all are coming up with ideas. We already have lots of ideas and we are going to put those ideas together and go into studio as a band. We are going to try all new ideas and try to do some jamming and see how it goes? That’s the plan, there’s no doubt about it. Hopefully we can start recording already later in this year and maybe the album is coming out sometime next year?
Do you already have ideas of possible record label for the album?
No, we don’t have any idea about that yet.
It will really be interesting to hear new music from you guys because there’s lot of talent and different writers in your group. You have you background with Rainbow, Alice Cooper and Nugent, Tony has a massive solo career, Bobby has his past with Black Sabbath and Blue Öyster Cult among many other while Joe doesn’t need even much introduction here. Blackmore Jr. has also released a bunch of albums by his own, some neo classical and even metal stuff, right?
That’s true. I think that’s it’s going to be really good stuff because before we went to Japan we did some rehearsals and there was some new ideas coming right away and it sounded really great.
Well, our time seems to be done now. Thanks for your time and see you in Finland on coming fall !
Fore sure, thanks !
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MORE PICTURES FROM OVER THE RAINBOW SHOW IN SWEDENROCK 2009 !!!