10 Questions For Wally Bryson, Guitarist Of The Raspberries
The Green Mountain Outlook Chester, VT. Jan. 27,2010
Cleveland, Ohio native Wally Bryson was the lead guitarist and contributing songwriter for the Raspberries, one of the pioneering bands of the early 1970’s “power-pop” era. Although the band would be short-lived, Raspberries had several Top 40 hits including their biggest single “Go All The Way,” which peaked at # 5 on the U.S. singles chart in 1972. The Outlook recently caught up with Wally for this exclusive, Outlook interview.
Photos courtesy of Wally and Kay Bryson
Joe Milliken: When did you start playing music and who were your musical influences as a kid?
Wally Bryson: I listened to early 1950's radio and after hearing Duane Eddy, asked my mother what that sound was, and she told me it was electric guitar. So, I got a four-string ukulele at age eight and got my first electric guitar at age 12. My first influences were James Burton in Rick Nelson's band, Buddy Merrill, and Scottie Moore with Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show.
JM: Your first band, The Choir, formed in 1966, featuring future Raspberrie members Jim Bonfanti and Dave Smalley. How did you meet Eric Carmen and ultimately form The Raspberries?
WB: Eric came to see The Choir at the Lorain, Hullabaloo. He wanted to audition for the band, but we had just hired Ken Margolis. Later I went to see Eric, Marty Murphy, Michael & Bob McBride in the band Cyrus Erie at the Mentor Hullabaloo. I joined the band the next day. After two years in Cyrus Erie, Eric, Jim Bonfanti, John Alecksic, and I started the Raspberries.
JM: Most music lovers do not realize the rich history of the Cleveland music scene during the 50's and 60's. Tell us something you remember or loved about the Cleveland music scene in the mid-60's? (I know The Choir had a #1 hit in Cleveland with "It's Cold Outside")
WB: I loved the fact that The Choir got to open for The Who, Herman's Hermits and The Blues McGoos at the Cleveland Music Hall. I remember asking Pete Townshend how he played the intro to Substitute, which he showed me.
JM: The Raspberries were the pioneering band of what would become the "power-pop" sound of the 70's. However, isn't it true that you originally drew influence from the British Invasion bands?
WB: The Beatles and The Who, Badfinger, Left Banke, Eagles, Bread and Small Faces were big influences on us.
JM: The Raspberries signed with Capitol Records in 1971 with Jimmy Lenner producing your four albums. Was Lenner a major influence in helping to develop those harmonies and melodies you became famous for?
WB: Both The Choir and Cyrus Erie were indeed, fully developed harmony bands. Jimmy (Lenner) was also a vocalist from working with The Tokens and the Four Seasons. I also remember one time, John Lennon had stopped in the studio (Record Plant, in New York City) to help Jimmy mix one of our records.
JM: The Raspberries biggest hit, "Go All The Way," peaked at #5 on the U.S. Charts in 1972. Is it safe to say that this is the crowning achievement of your music career?
WB: For me, headlining Carnegie Hall was just great. Jimmy Lenner told me Gene Cornish of The Rascals was there. After Raspberries, playing with Gene, Dino Danelli, Lex Marchesi, and Frankie Vinci in the band Fotomaker was another great achievement in my career. One other special aspect of my music career was recording a CD with my son Jesse.
JM: The Raspberries broke up in 1975. In hindsight, is there something you can share about the break up that will help your fans perhaps understand the situation a little better?
WB: Disputes over song writing credits and money will always break up a band if allowed to fester and are not be resolved.
JM: In 2004 the Raspberries did a reunion gig at the Cleveland House of Blues. Can you share a fond memory or story about that night?
WB: We got to play and sing a lot of my songs, including When You Were With Me which was a Choir single, and my family was there to enjoy it.