Local Noise: Richie Ranno

Richie Ranno is an unsung hero in the world of rock and roll. Known as the originator of the often copied New York/New Jersey KISS Convention, his musical legacy also includes being a member of some very influential ‘70s bands. His latest endeavor is the release of two CDs simultaneously; one a solo, all-original outing, and the other a CD of cover songs from Richie Ranno’s All-Stars, which also includes some songs that his former bands originally played.

“I was just working on them simultaneously and they happened to both get done at the same time,” laughs Richie. “The cover CD is Richie Ranno’s All-Stars. That’s George DiAna, Joe Dube, and myself. We’re all members of Starz. The original CD is mostly just me. But Dube plays drums on ‘Why Wait’ and Arnoldo Buzack plays drums on ‘Groundhog Day.’ Danny Peyronel plays keyboards and co-wrote ‘Groundhog Day’ with me. Danny was the original keyboardist in UFO. Danny, Arnoldo and I had a band called Bag. There is a MySpace page with our music on it, myspace.com/bagrpb. Steve Geller plays bass on some of the songs. He and I have played together for a few years now doing scattered gigs from time to time. He played in the Dead Elvi for nine years.”

Richie and his cohort’s musical legacy includes being a part of some very well-known names. “Dube is an original member of the Looking Glass,” explains Richie, referencing the band that is a staple of oldies radio with their hit song “Brandy.” “The group slowly evolved into Starz,” Richie explains. “Only Dube and Peter Sweval, from Starz, were in the original Looking Glass. Brendan Harkin and Michael Lee Smith were in the Looking Glass toward the end. The band morphed into the Fallen Angels and recorded one album for Arista. Only two singles were released and the group got out of its contract. They added me and then a month later we got rid of the keyboard player and changed the name to Starz.”

Starz went on to record for Casablanca Records, and tour extensively with KISS. They also became a legendary hard rock band. Two of their albums were included in the Kerrang Magazine listing of the 100 greatest heavy metal albums of all time, and stars such as Jon Bon Jovi count the band as an early influence.

But Richie’s musical journey didn’t end there. “As for Stories, I was in the band from September ‘73 to its end in late ’74,” he recalls. “When ‘Brother Louie’ hit number one, the guitarist quit. I heard that they were holding auditions, went to the city and got the gig. When the band ended, I stayed with the singer, Ian Lloyd, and put a band together for his solo album. Ian MacDonald, of King Crimson, was in the band also. I quit after awhile and Mick Jones replaced me. He recruited Ian MacDonald for a new band that he was starting. He tried to get Ian Lloyd to join but Ian had a solo deal and wouldn’t do it. It took Mick awhile, but in 1977 the first Foreigner album came out.”

The new cover CD includes many of the songs the All-Stars play at live shows, including new versions of the songs made famous by their former bands, such as “Brother Louie” and “Brandy.” Other tracks include ‘70s classics such as “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” from Van Halen, “Alright Now” from Free, and “Locomotive Breath” from Jethro Tull. “We just recorded songs we liked the most from playing live,” relates Richie. “The All-Stars play almost every weekend. Dates are up on starzcentral.com and myspace.com/richieranno. The All-Stars play strictly covers and some Starz songs, as well as the hits that Dube and I had with other bands. I did a solo gig with my other band a couple of weeks ago that went really great, and I’m hoping to do some more with that band.”

The line-up for his original band includes Bobby Messano on guitar, Steve Geller on bass, and Mike Fumento on drums. Musically, the originals are a cross between melodic pop and heavy rock. “I’m thinking that ‘Americana’ describes it best,” says Richie.

Richie comes from a traditional guitar background, where melody and substance took precedence over pyrotechnics. His influences reflect that. “There are many,” Richie points out. “For guitar, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, but Cream only, Jeff Beck, Leslie West, Johnny Winter, Randy California, and a little bit of anyone else I hear who plays great! As for songwriting, I’m into a lot of different music. I love the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Eagles, and on and on.”

As far as the future, Richie just wants to continue to enjoy what he’s doing. “Just to keep playing and having fun while doing it,” he says. Check out more information about Richie, and to find where you can see him and his bandmates, at starzcentral.com and myspace.com/richieranno.