Singer, keyboardist, songwriter and producer Greg Rolie had no idea he would be in a band and touring again, but he is.
“I seriously thought I had retired from music, but that didn’t work out,” he said.
In the world of classic rockers, there are few who possess a more high-powered resume than Rolie. He helped launch not one, but two, mega-successful bands — Santana and Journey.
As one of the founding members of Santana, he played at Woodstock and helped shape the direction of the band by co-producing its first four albums. He also sang lead on the classic hits “Black Magic Woman,” “Evil Ways” and “Oye Como Va.”
After parting company with Santana, he went on to help found Journey, where he stayed for six albums and helped create such early hits as “Feeling That Way/Anytime,” “Wheel in the Sky” and “Just the Same Way.”
After Journey, Rolie recorded solo albums Greg Rolie and Gringo, briefly reunited with Santana, worked with ’90s band The Storm and teamed up with other Santana alums in 1997 for Abraxas Pool. He was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame with Santana in 1998.
After the Abraxas Pool project, Rolie decided to take a hiatus from music and wasn’t sure he’d make another album. However, drummer Ron Wikso, who had played with Rolie in The Storm, persistently worked to try and persuade his former colleague to give music another try.
“Ron is really the one who got me out of my hammock,” said Rolie. “I tried to put him off at first, but he kept at me to do something and wouldn’t let up. After a couple of years, I finally relented and agreed to try and put something together.”
The “something,” at first, was an acoustic album.
“I thought I might try and do something a bit different for me and go with an acoustic album,” Rolie explained. “However, as I was writing songs, I kept hearing percussion in my head, as well as some of the things I had done very early on, and began moving in that direction.”
Once the musical direction had been established, Rolie and Wikso began assembling players for the project and came up with a roster that included original Santana congo player and percussionist Michael Carabello, timbales player Adrian Areas (the son of original Santana timbales player Jose “Chepito” Areas) and bassist Alphonso Johnson, who had played in more recent versions of Santana. Current REO Speedwagon lead guitarist Dave Amato was recruited to play guitar and Rolie’s former Journey and Santana bandmate, Neil Schon, agreed to make a guest appearance on a track.
The resulting album was Roots, Rolie’s 12-song tribute to the early days of Santana.
“Once we got the musicians together, they seemed to really solidified the album’s direction,” Rolie said. “We were really hitting that unique combination of rock, jazz and blues with the Latin rhythms that the early Santana was so well known for.”
Armed with new material and the opportunity to do some live dates as an opener for REO Speedwagon and other acts, Rolie set about solidifying his touring band and his playlist. Guitarist Kurt Griffey and keyboardist Wally Minko were