Charlie's Corner - Meet the Steppenwolf Crew
“Behind every good man is a good woman”, I know you’ve heard that saying several times in your life. Well, that same philosophy of behind-the-scenes-support holds true when it comes to an international touring rock band and it certainly holds true for us in “John Kay & Steppenwolf”
When fans go to a concert, they arrive in time to see the house lights go down, the stage lights go up, the band takes the stage play their hearts out. Most don't realize the amount of work that it takes to get to that point. Let’s meet the guys in our crew who help make the magic happen.
John Kay & Steppenwolf have a crew of 4 (and each wears multiple hats). Chris Bray, our Production Manager (also drives the band gear from show to show), operates the stage monitors during the show and directs the spot light operator and is responsible for Michael Wilks’ keyboard rig and video replay system. Doug Adams is our Front of House Sound Man (mixing all of the instruments & vocals) Doug mixes the sound that the audience hears. He also is the bands stage manager and assists with set up, our backline gear (drums, guitar amps keyboards etc.) sets monitors for the band, and hookup with the monitor board. Sets all mic’s, stands and cables and checks each channel to ensure everything is working as it should. Jerry Sumner is our Guitar and Drum Tech, responsible for all guitars and Ron’s drum set (just setting up each drum, each cymbal with a microphone for each takes hours by itself). During the show Jerry hides out behind the amplifiers, tuning guitars, changing broken strings, adjusting/correcting a drum issue with Ron and gives Chris cues as to what the band members want adjusted in their monitor mix. Finally, there is me, Charlie Wolf, Tour Manager (I call myself the babysitter because of all of the little things to be done to help “the wolf” do what it does. I also manage the company’s merchandise program and am President of The Wolfpack Fanclub.
The crew’s responsibility starts a day or two prior to the show. The band gear has to be driven to the venue, then on the day of the show, all the cases containing the band gear has to be taken from the truck, rolled on stage, removed from their cases, set up, plugged in (with miles of cables) and microphones for everything! After all has been set up the crew has to see that each instrument is corrected “patched” so that all is heard through the “front of house” (the PA/speaker system). After everything is checked and in proper working order, the band arrives for sound check. After an hour or so of checking/playing/working, the crew gets a break from an already long day. Next the audience arrives and cheers for their favorite rock and roll band. After the show, the crew does everything in reverse, disconnect all the microphones, roll up the miles of cable, disassemble each instrument, put back in their cases, roll them back onto the truck. Their day is done when the truck gate is closed and locked. Whew, I get tired just watching them! This is a 1st in a 4 part series, a peak into the lives and the work of the seldom seen back bone of the organization, the crew. Each will talk about their job, their history with the band and some of their experiences.
Doug Adams is our Front of House (FOH) sound man. Born, raised and lives in Wichita,KS, he is married to Terri for 32 years and together they have a son Ryan. Ryan grew up with the band and crew and will be 26 this year. Doug has been with John Kay & Steppenwolf since 1989. He started as a monitor tech and a year later move to FOH, a position he has held every since.
Charlie: Who else have you work with/mixed for?
Doug: Oklahoma Sunshine, The Clocks, Dogs and many more. “MD Systems” (John McBride, Martina McBride’s’ husband). I was with MD when I joined up with John Kay & Steppenwolf and have been running my company and working for John ever since!
Charlie: What is your most memorable Steppenwolf concert?
Doug: This year 2016 in Brazil was one of the best ever! It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I really enjoyed our trip to Hawaii & Guam and Japan. My favorite countries to visit are Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Brazil. I really enjoyed visiting the Parthenon in Greece and I could never forget visiting two concentration camps in Germany.
Charlie: We meet a lot of people in this line of work, who have you had the pleasure of meeting over the years?
Doug: There have been hundreds of people I have had great memories with but Hoyt Axton, Peter Fonda & Wolfman Jack stand out for me.
Doug has been playing guitar since 1969. When he was 3 or 4, his parents made him take tap dance lessons and he told his parents “this is for sissies”). Then I played piano, drums and guitar. He also played trombone in Junior H.S. The first concert he ever attended was “The Monkees” with his sister Susan. He “swiped” his sisters Steppenwolf album and played snare drum & cymbal to every song. The first hard song he learned on guitar which Alan Thomas taught him to play, was House of the Rising Sun, and the first band he was in was called Bandit. “We played at school functions, skating rinks and small clubs.” His first real professional band was called “The Sweetwater Band” who played all over a four state area, and was very successful from about 1976 through 1980. One of the many bands The Sweetwater Band opened for, oddly enough was John Kay & Steppenwolf at the Cotillion Ballroom, Wichita, KS in 1978 or ’79; Doug not knowingly at that time he would work for John in the years to come!
After Sweetwater broke up, Doug purchased everyone’s share of the PA system and lights from the other members of the band and started his own sound company in 1980 “Pro Audio Systems Inc.”, which he still owns and operates today. Daproaudiosystems.com.
If his Steppenwolf connection isn’t “small world” enough for you, Doug ran sound for a band called “The Clocks” (they had a video on MTV back in the 80’s) that featured our drum/guitar tech Jerry Sumner (his story coming soon). Doug is writing a book about his life & times (with plenty of road stories, most of which we can’t mention here). In August of 2014, the band performed at the Orange County Fair inCosta Mesa,CA. Two of our guests were none other than Steppenwolf’s’ original producer and engineer, Richie Podolor and Bill Cooper. Pictured below is Doug with them backstage after the show. They complimented Doug on the mix, which obviously meant a lot to Doug. He was proud to get a pat on the back from the two guys who help launch what we all love so much… Steppenwolf!
Coming soon: Part 2, Production Manager Chris Bray.
Very cool article Charlie! Doug has always been very nice to us when we get the chance to say hello. Its great to know some of the back round information of the people who get the best band in rock & roll on stage! Looking forward to the rest of the series.
Bill & Tess
A great read! Thanks a lot Charlie and look forward to the next one!
Great to hear about all those who contribute! I look forward to reading more about Chris Bray. Doug's narrative was well done... Thanks Charlie!
Interesting article Charlie. Seen the band many times and always the show starts on time without any technical glitches.My thanks go out to you and the entire crew. I was at that 2014 Orange County fair show.Had a great time. Nice to see Richard and Bill were there. They were there from the beginning helping create all those classic albums.
Great article, Charlie! As a life-long "Wolf Fan," I must say this is the kind of behind the scenes insight that I find fascinating to read. It's always interesting to know what makes Steppenwolf tick on the road. Congratulations and please keep the good articles coming! Thanks for posting!
Very interesting well done.You do a great job to Charlie .
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