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Light Year

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1. Light Year was formed in 1974, when drummer Zak McGrath joined forces with his friend and colleague, pianist Cornelius Williams, with the idea of putting together a band to play new music. They recruited Randy Sellgren (Mingo Lewis-Flight Never Ending) to play guitar. John Yu, the bass player, brought Doug Johnson to play percussion (vibes, marimba, hand drums and other bells and whistles). The singer Sharon Pucci joined later to complete the ensemble.

The band was fortunate in having a fledgling manager, Sandy Einstein, who later went on to success with Journey and Mr. Big. Einstein’s energy and persistence secured Light Year gigs at the best clubs in the Bay Area, as well as the reviews reproduced on this site, despite the definite oddness of their music. The one thing the band could not achieve was a record contract.

Light Year was, as a rule, admired by the public and reviled by club owners. They were also championed by such notable groups as The Tubes and The Sons of Champlin, who would persuade reluctant impresarios to let Light Year open for them. One exception was Todd Barkan of the well-known jazz spot Keystone Korner, who liked them and booked them on Monday nights—one of the few unsigned groups to play Keystone. But most clubs refused to book them more than once.

Their big “showcase” gig at the Starwood in Los Angeles was marked by record executives exiting the club en masse with their hands over their ears. Without a contract, and with the scarcity of gigs and money fraying their psyches, the band broke up after less than two years.

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