Artist Biography: Walter Egan
Hi Fi is an appropriate title for Walter Egan's third Columbia Records album, for Walter Egan's music, while unmistakably his own, betrays an extraordinary degree of fidelity to the grand and glorious traditions of such earlier rock and roll masters as Buddy Holly and the Everly Bros., The Beatles and Brian Wilson.
As Not Shy, from which sprang the hit single "Magnet and Steel," vividly reaffirmed our impression from the earlier Fundamental Roll, that Walter Egan has the uncanny knack for the irresistable hook, HiFi delightfully demonstrates, more than ever before, that Walter Egan in one of the deftest songwriters, singers, producers, and guitarists in rock 'n' roll on the eve of the 1980's.
He grew up in New york, the only child of parents who were stars in their own right in the intensely competititve Manhattan adveritising milieu. Transformed into an unabashed rock and roll fanatic by Elvis's first appearance on the The Ed Sullivan Show, he missed hardly a single American Bandstand through mid-adolescence. His parents fretted that, in view of how many hours a day he had it pressed against his ear, a surgeon might be required to separate Walter from the transistor radio on which he listened night and day to Murray the K and other great rockjocks of the pre-Beatles ear.
Only a couple of months after The Beatles arrival in America, Walter joined his first group, The Malibooz. Not content with that alone, he also pitched for the school baseball team, edited its literary magazine, and with classmate and fellow Malibooz John Zambetti, even tried to storm the famous Brill Buidling, where the composers of many of American rock's enduring classics were bastioned.
In the autumn of 1966 Walter began studying sculpure at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The following year he joined a San Francisco psychedelic-style group called Sageworth, which took its name from the communal house in which it resided. While the group remained based in Washington, Walter became friends with Chris Darrow, a folk-based singer and songwriter of some note, as well, as Linda Ronstadt's tour manager, and co-composed "Hearts on Fire," which Gram Parsons would later record on his classic Grievous Angel album, with Emmy Lou Harris.
Two years after Walter received a fine arts degree from Gelorgetown in 1970, Sageworth, having failed to come to terms with such interested concerns as Mercury, A & M, and Colubmia, moved north to Boston. There he recorded countless demos and endured two years of "the usual frustrations" before finally tossing in the towel at the end of 1973.
Walter moved out to Claremont, in Southern California's Pomona Valley, where Chris Darrow was based, in early 1974. In the spring the two friends embarked on a performing tour of the U.K. as support act for Man.
On his return from which, Walter rented a Claremont house, in which he spent the balance of 1974 composing songs, many of which later appears on his first two albums. He rehearsed as a member of Jackson Browne's touring group for several weeks at the beginning of 1975, when he discovered that he wasn't expected to play guitar, but only sing harmony. He next accepted an A&M A&R man's invitation to join Southpaw, a group that was being formed around Jules Shear. A&M ultimately passed on the act that one of their own had created; Walter and several other Pomona Valley musicians formed a group known first as Ghost Riders, and later as Wheels. A Wheels showcase performance at Hollywood's Troubadour in February, 1976, won Walter a solo recording deal with United Artists overseas; an American deal with Columbia followed shortly thereafter. Via an introduction by an engineer with whom all three had worked, Walter soon hooked up with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, newly of Fleetwood Mac, who not only produced his first two albums, but became his good friends as well.
On the strength of the success of "Magnet and Steel," Walter and his group (which is billed as The Professional Band, and which comprises lead guitarist Tom Moncrieff, bassist John Selk, drummer Mike Huey, keyboardist Skip Edwards and former Sageworth frontwoman Annie McLoone on vocals), toured all over America from May through October, 1978; becoming an extraordinarily tight performing unit as they opened for such acts as Foreigner, Heart, Kansas, and Tom Petty.
That experience is pleasingly evident throughout Hi Fi. Walter sought to avoid the "too-close-to-perfect, sort of antiseptic" sound. "We've tried on this album," Walter says, "to be as diverse as possible, without being eclectic. I think you'll find this is a much harder-edged album than the first two. I suppose," he smiles, "you could say that there's a degree of happiness in the new songs that might not have been in the earlier ones." HiFi was recorded in a studio built by Walter and Tom Moncrieff in a Hollywood Hills mansion.
The American rock audience as a whole is going to be very happy indeed with HiFi, the best work yet by a musician who knows where rock's been, and intends to play no small role in guiding it to where it's going.