Many great stories have humble beginnings, and this is certainly the case for the musical legend of Steve Katz. Growing in Schenectady, N.Y., Steve’s career began when as a kid he would appear on a local television show called Teenage Barn where he would sing local hits of the day. From there, Steve would embark on an epic career that saw him form the hugely influential rock band, Blood Sweat & Tears, win three Grammys and even produce an album for the legendary guitarist Lou Reed.
Now in his 70s, Steve Katz has written an autobiography of his life in music called, Blood, Sweat & My Rock ‘n’ Roll Years: Is Steve Katz a Rock Star? On April 14, Steve will be will be in town for an exclusive performance and discussion of his memoir at the Saint Paul JCC. In advance of his show, we had the chance to chat with Steve about growing up Jewish and the world of Rock and Roll.
What was the Jewish community like for you growing up in Schenectady?
Very small. My mother had to look in the phone book for Jewish names to invite people to come to my Bar Mitzvah. When we lived in the borough of Queens, we belonged to a conservative shul. We switched to reform in Schenectady. I have no idea why.
What impact did that have on your path in life and your music career?
None on my music career, but everything in my life, including my sense of humor, my values, and my perception of things in general.
You have traveled all over the world; have you had the chance to spend time in the Twin Cities?
I played the Tyrone Guthrie Theater years ago with Blood Sweat & Tears. The only real amount of time I spent in the Twin Cities was when I watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
You will be in town on April 14 for a performance and to discuss your memoir. What was it like to make the transition from writing songs to writing a book?
In many ways, it’s easier to write a book. You’re not constrained to rhyme, for one thing. You’re also not limited by length, as you are in a song. In fact, you’re rarely constrained from anything. Yet both start with a blank canvas, and, as in any art, the canvas still has to be filled. A book’s canvas just happens to be a lot larger.
After all the success you’ve had in your amazing career, what moments stand out most to you?
Accepting the Album of the Year Grammy from Louis Armstrong. Shaking hands with Otis Redding at the Monterey International Pop Festival. Working with George Martin, the Beatles producer, on the first American Flyer album.
Are you currently working on any new projects?
No, just performing and talking about my book on the road. Thinking about it though, I’d like to get back to writing songs, but writing songs about unrequited love, for example, is difficult when you’ve been happily married for thirty years.
A mixture of song and story, a retrospective of my career in chronological order, all of it entertaining and interesting, especially to those who are interested in the early sixties and seventies’ blues, folk, and rock music scene.
One lucky reader will win 2 tickets to see Steve Katz at the Saint Paul JCC. Simply send an email to [email protected] by April 14 at noon. Winner will be drawn at random and notified by e-mail.
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[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]This article was made possible in part with support from the Howard B. & Ruth F. Brin Jewish Arts Endowment, a fund of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s Foundation, and Rimon: The Minnesota Jewish Arts Council, an initiative of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.[/box]