John Hatton has been playing instruments since he was 6 years old when he begged his dad to get him a violin. He excelled on that instrument culminating with a two year stint with the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra during his Junior and Senior years of high school.
His journey with jazz string bass began with the Affton High School Stage Band in the suburbs of St. Louis. Shortly after he picked up the bass guitar and joined “The Marauders”, a very successful teen band in the St. Louis sock-hop scene.
His love affair with the string bass continued through his college years where he played in the Graceland University Orchestra and later in the Kansas City Conservatory of Music Orchestra and Jazz Workshop. He was still rockin’ on the bass guitar with his college band, “The Morticians”. The violin was gathering dust.
The Kansas City jazz scene was a great training ground. Mr. Hatton was soon earning a full time living playing steady in night clubs and learning to play quality Be Bop. He became Kansas City’s ‘first call’ bassist and was fortunate to get calls to play with some of the traveling artists that came through town. Elvis, Liza Minelli, Clark Terry, Marilyn Maye, and the Righteous Brothers were among them. Hatton also formed a Kansas City production company specializing in TV and Radio jingles, producing for Lincoln-Mercury, Doninic’s in Chicago and Schick among others.
The legendary pianist, Gene Harris of the “Three Sounds” offered him a gig, and Mr. Hatton spent two years on the road playing in jazz clubs all over the USA. This tour led him to Los Angeles in 1974 where he has lived since.
Los Angeles became the land of opportunity for this musician. He landed his first gig with Stan Worth, composer of many Hannah-Barbara hits including “George of the Jungle”. Stan used John for many live TV shows and movie scores. After Stan’s passing, John joined “Just Four Grins”, a band composed of young studio musicians. This band became the back-up band for Seals and Crofts for their summer tour of ’78.
In 1981, he toured with Dolly Parton and recorded sound track clips for “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”.
John’s bass experiences have encompassed a multitude of styles. Bluegrass, Jazz, Classical, Dixieland, Big Band, Disco, Rock, Rap and Rockabilly to name a few. He has played behind superstars including Dolly Parton, Jose Feliciano, Ray Anthony, Maynard Ferguson, John Davidson, Tony Bennet, Little Milton, Al Jarreau, Bob Dylan, Bob Hope, Supertramp, Little Richard, Etta James, Herb Jeffries, Danny Gans, Vonda Shepherd, Hank Ballard, Shirly Jones, Billy Lee Riley, Nannette Fabere’, and the list goes on.
John honed his 50’s slap-bass style as a member of Rhino Records’ “Big Daddy”, an 8-piece 50’s band, which turned modern hits into retro 50’s classics. This band conquered the world with a top 20 hit and a tour of England. Their eight-week gig in Sydney, Australia, landed them another hit with their version of “The Land Down Under”. It was in this band that Hatton created the character known as “Spazz”, the slide-rule-wielding nerd. The moniker has followed him to this day.
Johnny “Spazz” Hatton has been playing rockabilly slap bass with the Brian Setzer Orchestra since February of 2002 and has recorded six Grammy-Nominated CD’s, “Nitro Burnin’ Funny Daddy”, “Boogie Woogie Christmas”, “Dig That Crazy Christmas”, “Wolfgang’s Big Night Out” and “Songs From Lonely Avenue” and Setzer’s latest CD, “Brian Setzer Goes Instru-Mental”. Hatton has appeared with BSO on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, The Today Show, Christmas at Rockefeller Center, Christmas in Washington DC, a state dinner at the White House for President George W. Bush, The Tony Danza Show, VH1 Classics, Sirius Radio and more.
John has been touring with Royal Crown Review since 2006, visiting most of the European turf. The band and their hit, “Hey Pachuco”, was featured live in the Movie, “Mask”, with Jim Carey, and specializes in Jumpin’ Jazzy Swing.
John has been touring with Jose Feliciano since August of 2008 visiting South America, the Caribbean, Japan and Singapore in addition to the Christmas, “Feliz Navidad” tour.
John "Spazz" Hatton
The energy and personality Hal Melia brings to both his teaching and his performing are contagious. Those who have experienced his workshops, classes, and performances never forget the tireless effort and positive aura he exudes in any setting. He is the epitome of the multi-instrumentalist – he plays soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, flute, piccolo, clarinets (Bb, Eb Soprano, and Bass), and EWI (electronic wind instrument). A consummate professional, Hal is also noteworthy as a vocalist and scat singer, and has composed and arranged a body of work for a variety of settings.
Hal spent 1986 through 1991 in Los Angeles recording and arranging with top jazz and R&B groups (Tower of Power Horns, Buddy Rich Band, Billy Vera & the Beaters and Big Daddy), and appearing in several major motion pictures (Bugsy, Dick Tracy, The Marrying Man, Mobsters, Parent Trap III, and others). He has also recorded with artists on several labels, including MCA Records and Positive Music Records, Inc. Hal’s 1993 album “WADUYATHINK” was released in 1993 on Positive Music and was a top 25 Jazz CD
In the fall of 1991 Hal and his family returned to Dayton, Ohio, where Hal was founder and director of Miami Valley Jazz Labs, a jazz school for kids from middle school through high school. He also taught jazz at various schools and privately in the Southwestern Ohio area, while maintaining a rigorous regional performing schedule. During this time, he attained his Masters Degree in Saxophone Performance from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
From 1998 – 2004, Hal was Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. In Addition, he serves as Musical Director for the Miami Valley Summer Jazz Camp, teaches privately, and performs quite often both regionally and nationally.
Hal now resides in Dayton, Ohio, serving as Assistant Professor of Music (Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, and Jazz Studies) and Director of Jazz Studies at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. We were very fortunate that Hal was able to find the time to record on “Smashing Songs of Stage & Screen” as his busy schedule makes trips out to the Westcoast difficult.
The Texas Years
Billy Block's musical history dates back more than 40 years. He began playing drums as a kid in Texas. By his senior year (1972) he was performing in Houston six nights a week. Because of his age, his mother had to write a note to the bar owner permitting him to perform there. While still in his teens, Billy was tapped by producer Huey P. Meaux ("The Crazy Cajun") to drum on Freddy Fender recordings. In 1978, Mr. Block backed Billy Joe Shaver on a tour that included Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris.
Billy Moved to L.A in 1985...
and quickly became part of the city's vibrant music scene. For nearly a decade, he drummed in the house band at the famous Palomino club for The Ronnie Mack Barn Dance. Billy also drummed with other California acts such as Dale Watson and Rosie Flores, as well as Big Daddy.
Los Angeles is where Billy met Jill. They were married in 1993.
Moved to Nashville 1995
Nashville's first "Western Beat Barn Dance" was held at The Sutler in February 1996. It quickly became the epicenter of the alt-country scene, with Billy Block serving as ringmaster. From conception through years of changes, it evolved to "The Billy Block Show", one of Nashville's longest-running live radio programs.
In 2000, CMT picked up "Western Beat with Billy Block."
The weekly television program highlighted alt-country acts such as BR549 and Kevin Gordon. The show helped bring Americana music to a national audience, as did Mr. Block's syndicated radio series.
Unfortunately, Billy passed away in 2015 after a long battle with cancer.
Rodney Crowell..."Billy was the heartbeat of alternative country sensibilities in Nashville. There wouldn't be any East Nashville hipster community without his enthusiasm for all things cool, especially music. He was father and husband and friend, and we won't soon see his likes again."
Music City will never be the same.
RIP Rock-a-Billy Block. Your smile, joi de vie, and rock-solid beat will never be forgotten.
Born on Chicago’s South Side, Norman moved to the north suburb of Highland Park in 1949. He attended Highland Park High thru the 10th grade when he moved-back to the city (Lincoln Park) in 1963, where he finished high school at Francis W. Parker. As a senior, Norman wrote music and co-directed a student musical that starred a then 16-year-old David Mamet. Norman lived less than a mile from the Lincoln Park Zoo (his first cosmic intersection with Big Daddy years before their well-known TV jingle about the Zoo called “It’s Brand New, Lincoln Park Zoo”.). His first time in a recording studio was in 1959.
Norman’s 1st professional released recording was in 1964 as writer, vocalist and bass guitar player. The session was produced by David Carroll (former chief of A&R for Mercury Records, who had earlier also produced the Diamonds’ “Little Darlin’” and other hits). To this day, Norman’s favorite aroma is the smell of an acetate fresh off the lathe!
After graduation, he worked the summer of 1964 at the original Second City under the tutelage of Sheldon Patinkin, where he played music and learned improvisational acting from some of the best. Norman majored in Communications (then called “Radio-TV-Film”) at Northwestern University, where he wrote songs for the famous “Waa Mu Show”; graduated 1970.
He moved to L.A. in 1972, where he was signed as a staff writer for arranger Don Costa while Costa was with MGM Records. Norman was also Don’s studio assistant (“gopher”) for Steve & Eydie, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Osmonds and Pat Boone.
After leaving MGM, Norman wrote & produced music for the 1973 John Deere, Teleflora & Harvester industrial shows. He spent 40 years on the road playing keyboards in a variety of bands… rock, jazz, country and “Great American Songbook”. He played with classic oldies artists, including the Champs, Ron Holden, Al Wilson, Mary Wells, The Rivingtons and many others. In the early 1980’s, Norman took the professional name “Norman A. Norman” and played keyboards full time with Big Daddy from 1988 to 1991.
Norman moved to Palm Springs in 1993, where he played many clubs & private parties… returning to L.A. in 2001. Hi now devotes most of his time to composing and has written hundreds of songs through his ASCAP publishing company “MidCenturyMusic
Vince Ciavarella (aka “Fast Willie”)
The distinctive opening piano riff to Big Daddy’s UK smash “Dancing in the Dark” eloquently played by Vince Ciavarella and coming out of every radio in England circa 1985….
Vince (aka “Fast Willie”), was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He played the trumpet and Alto Horn in grade school and joined the school marching band and orchestral group in the 4th grade. He taught himself to play guitar in high school by playing folk and Beatle songs which led to playing in his first rock and roll band as a guitarist and vocalist in and around the Detroit area.
The band did not have a piano player so Vince began a self-taught process and within a short time, he was playing the piano on stage performing in local clubs. Vince was serious about playing piano and was lucky enough to meet Mike Garson, piano player for David Bowie. Vince spent a short time in New York City and learned piano exercises and a little rock n roll piano from Mike. Shortly after returning to Detroit, he formed the musical group Bliss. Vince played piano, Hammond organ and sang lead and background vocals. Bliss became a popular band that played night clubs and concerts throughout Michigan and the Midwest.
Bliss met Bob Dennis, manager of the famous Holland Dozier Holland sound studios in Detroit and founder of the Recording Institute of Detroit. Bliss spent many late night sessions at HDH recording demos for local song writers in exchange for recording their own demos. Bliss effectively developed into the house demo band and recorded with new artists from the Detroit area such as Little Ruben, Curtis Remington, Dan Mc Clellan and many others. Vince also recorded songs for local producers in Detroit where he played piano and electric keyboards. He was often hired by Bob Dennis and other local producers to play his Arp String Ensemble keyboard and record string and orchestral tracks for various R&B groups.
Bliss was signed to New Records out of Detroit and recorded several original songs including a song written by Vince entitled “I See Love “. “I See Love” made the playlist on numerous radio stations and hearing the song played over the airwaves was truly a thrill for Bliss.
In the late 70’s, Vince met Tom Lee, (aka Bubba), a local well-known Detroit song writer and performer. Vince played piano on a song written by Tom at Frank Merwin Studios in Waterford Michigan. It was a fabulous experience and Tom and Vince made a lasting musical connection.
Vince moved to Los Angeles and eventually met up with Tom Lee, now a member of Big Daddy. Vince joined Big Daddy and played piano and Hammond organ on the album “Meanwhile Back in the States”. Vince performed live with Big Daddy at such notable venues as Caesars, Harrah’s and the Tropicana in Las Vegas as well as shows in Reno, Nevada, county fairs and many other venues. Vince was a member of Big Daddy when the band opened for Jay Leno at Universal Amphitheater and performed at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He also performed live with Big Daddy on television shows including Domestic Life and Throb and played on commercials performed and recorded by Big Daddy.
Vince also played keyboards in the Latin Blues Project, a Santana tribute band based in Orange County California. The Latin Blues Project performed for multiple music festivals and large audiences. Vince was also a member of the Saint Thomas More Catholic Church musical group, where he played piano for several years. In addition, he was the keyboardist, lead and background vocalist in the Vince, Bob and Buddy band based in Orange County. Vince now resides in Orange County and continues to perform on his own for corporate parties, country clubs and multiple charity events.
Tim has been the principle keyboard player for The Beach Boys since 1996. Before that, he performed and recorded with many name acts including The Monkees and The Turtles. He was our performing keyboard player during 1992 and also recorded on our Big Daddy Sgt. Pepper’s album. You can also hear Tim playing Hammond Organ on “Sukiyaki” from our “Best of Big Daddy” and “Cruisin’ Through The Rhino Years” CD’s.
Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, Tim studied music at The University of Toronto and The Western Conservatory of Music. He also attended The Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles.
Tim has also appeared on a number of national TV shows including The Super Bowl, Farm Aid, Major League Baseball’s All Star Game, Good Morning America and Sitcoms: The Golden Girls, Wings and Throb.
Composer, Orchestrator, Engineer, Producer, Sound Designer
The Beach Boys 1996-2017
Currently touring with the Beach Boys (since 1996), the keyboardist has had an international career as a live artist, performing on some of the largest stages and events in the world. Tim has also toured with Turtles, Monkees, Big Daddy, Marisella, Elvira and Visitor thru Asia, Europe, Australia, North & South America. Some live highlights include Farm Aid, Super Bowl, Baseball All-Star game. Television appearances include ABC ‘Good Morning America’, Regis & Kelly, Ace Awards, Fox & Friends, as well as TV shows Throb, Wings and Golden Girls.
Tim’s orchestral composing style is contemporary. He also produces Rock, Blues, Pop-Rock, AOR. As a keyboardist, he has extensive knowledge and experience with digital recording, sample based composition, MIDI implementation and synthesizer programming, for electronic and virtual sound creation.
Gary "Boom Boom" Hoffman
Gary "Boom Boom" Hoffman's introduction to music came from his father, a Podiatrist by profession, was also an accomplished violinist who performed with "The Doctor's Symphony Orchestra". This took most of his personal "down" time.
Dr Hoffman's stress and career intensified when he was presented with a Theremin, the only instrument played by not touching it. Using his impeccable pitch and violin technique, he mastered the instrument, and was soon recording for major studios in Los Angeles. His music is found in epic films, such as 4 time academy award winner "Lost Weekend", Cecile B. Demille's "The 10 Commandments", Hitchcock's "Spellbound", and a long list of sci-fi classics including "The Day The Earth Stood Still".
Regretfully, Dr Hoffman's love for music also added to his daily stress.
He suffered a fatal heart attack at the young age of 54.
Picked up the Trumpet:
Gary played trumpet from 4th through 7th grade, and became a member of his school orchestra. However, once he heard The Beatles, he hung up his horn for good.
"Drummed" Into The Army:
Gary was drafted into the army in 1966. It was there that he met Wayne
Masser, drummer from The Left Banke ("Walk Away, Renee"). Masser offered to show Gary a few things on the the skins, and Gary had found his calling. He had his first professional gig at the young age of 17 at The NCO Club.
At this time, "Big Daddy Dipstick & The Lube Jobs" was a cover band playing at a small pizza place called Regular John's. The band was looking for a drummer, so saxman Ira Kalb told Bob & Marty he knew a really solid Rock & Roll drummer who was easy to work with, and a great guy to
boot. Gary met and played one night with them, and was asked to join.
1978: Bob & Sunburst
A few years later, Gary and Bob decided it would be mutually beneficial to
become housemates. Bob moved in, and also rented out Gary's garage for an extra $50 a month, and converted it into a recording studio. This became the home of Sunburst Recording for 10 years. It was during these
developing years that Bob honed his production skills, and established a lasting relationship with Rhino Records. As an additional benefit, Gary was hired to play on many of the projects that took place there.
Gary's Styles of Music:
Top 40, Rock & Roll, Country, 50's & 60's
Band's Gary has played with:
The Retro Rockers, The Strawhorse Band, & Bounty Hunter
Top 3 Bands:
Beatles, Stones, Jethro Tull
Favorite Solo Artists:
Bob Dylan, Bob Seger
5 CD's Gary Would Take To A Desert Island:
1) The Beatles (White Album)
2) Bob Dylan ( Blonde on Blonde) 3) Jethro Tull (Aqua Lung)
4) Steely Dan (Asia)
5) Billy Joel (The Stranger)
Dave Starns grew up in Hammond, Louisiana and moved on to LosAngeles, California. He received
his Film Production degree at CSUN. Through college, he supported himself by doing singing telegrams
and working for the Planetarium at The Griffith Observatory.
After college, he became a recording engineer at Sunburst Recording. He learned his trade well, and went on to work for Rhino as Staff Producer and Video Director/Editor. He also did a stint at Score One Recording in North Hollywood.
Dave Starns was a valuable early member of Big Daddy. He played great guitar, and sang like a bird!
His arranging abilities were a huge asset as we reshaped songs and banged out complicated vocal parts.
He was blessed with a seamless, soaring tenor voice that would make Art Garfunkle drool.
(That's him crooning "Dancin' In The Dark", Big Daddy's 1983 hit single in the UK)
After two albums, Dave decided to leave Big Daddy to raise his family and pursue other interests.
"Jump In The Water" an original band which released two albums, one for MCA and one for Polygram.
NOTED PRODUCTION WORK
The Disney Channel
The Turtles, Elvira , Patsy Cline, Nitro, Mamie Van Doren, Bobby"Boris" Picket,
Jesse Ventura, Edgar Winter, Steve Martin, Joe Frazier, William Shatner,
Alice Cooper, Marvin Gaye
Best Instructional Video
Clio Nomination for Big Daddy's Lincoln Park Zoo Commercial
(Dave is the Lion in the commercial!)
Dave escaped from Los Angeles, and enrolled in graduate school at LSU.
After 15 years of teaching American Literature, Dave has retired from academia.
David writes database software for the Louisiana Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities.
In the evenings, he performs at local restaurants. As a Weekend Warrior, he gigs with several hot local bands.
David continues to expand his musical career as a Studio Musician and Musical Instructor (guitar, bass, and piano). Occasionally, he provides music for feature films.