was a band based in Tampa
Tâmpa may refer to several villages in Romania:* Tâmpa, a village in Băcia Commune, Hunedoara County* Tâmpa, a village in Miercurea Nirajului, Mureş County* Tâmpa, a mountain in Braşov city...
, FL, formed in the early '80s. Stranger toured the U.S. as opening act for many prominent headliners throughout the '80s.
Named "Lynxx" and then "Romeo" before settling on Stranger, the band was discovered by record producer Tom Werman
Tom Werman was an A&R man and record producer for Epic Records from 1970 into 1982. He has produced albums by acts including Mother's Finest, Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, Molly Hatchet, Blue Öyster Cult, Mötley Crüe, Twisted Sister, Stryper, Kix, LA Guns, and Poison. While in A&R at Epic Records, he...
Cheap Trick is an American rock band from Rockford, Illinois, formed in 1973. The band consists of members Robin Zander , Rick Nielsen , Tom Petersson , and Bun E...
, Ted Nugent
Theodore Anthony "Ted" Nugent is an American guitarist, musician, singer, author, reserve police officer, and activist. From Detroit, Michigan, he originally gained fame as the lead guitarist of The Amboy Dukes, before embarking on a lengthy solo career...
, Mötley Crüe
Mötley Crüe is an American heavy metal band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1981. The group was founded by bass guitarist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee, who were later joined by lead guitarist Mick Mars and lead singer Vince Neil...
among others) and recorded their first nationally released album shortly after being signed to Epic Records
Epic Records is an American record label, owned by Sony Music Entertainment. Though it was originally conceived as a jazz imprint, it has since expanded to represent various genres. L.A...
/CBS Records in 1981, but received little record company support, promotion or publicity when the album was released on April 18, 1982. Their self titled first album contained the track "Swamp Woman" which arguably remains their most well known song which, along with the opening track "Jackie's So Bad," received considerable airplay on Florida radio and many other markets throughout the U.S. The band toured the southeast and became the biggest drawing circuit band ever. Stranger also opened shows nationally for Triumph
Triumph is a Canadian hard rock power trio that was popular in the late 1970s through the 1980s. Eight of the band's albums were certified gold or higher, and Triumph was nominated for multiple Juno Awards, including Group of the Year Award in 1979, 1985, 1986 and 1987.Like their fellow Canadians...
, Quiet Riot
Quiet Riot is an American Heavy Metal band. They are best known for their hit singles "Metal Health" and "Cum On Feel the Noize". They were founded in 1973 by guitarist Randy Rhoads and bassist Kelly Garni, under the original name Mach 1, before changing the name to Little Women and finally Quiet...
UFO are an English heavy metal and hard rock band, who were formed in 1969. UFO became a transitional group between early hard rock and heavy metal and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal...
, Skid Row, Aldo Nova
Aldo Nova is a Canadian guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist and producer, Nova gained fame with his self-titled debut album Aldo Nova in 1981, and its accompanying single "Fantasy", which climbed to #23 on the Billboard Hot 100.-Career:Signing with Portrait Records, Nova released a self-produced...
, Eddie Money
Eddie Money is an American rock guitarist, saxophonist and singer-songwriter who found success in the 1970s and 1980s with a string of Top 40 hits and platinum albums...
and many other big name acts of the time.
The group was paid to cease-and-desist while recording their second album for Epic titled (( Runnin' in the Red )), which was par for the course with many rock acts in the early '80s when pop, new wave and post-punk were the darlings of the record companies before hair-metal rock grabbed a foothold; a classic case of the right place at the wrong time.
During the interim period between the contract with Epic and their self produced and released second album No Rules
, Stranger toured heavily throughout Florida. Stranger was "a Florida band" and gained a fanatical following throughout Florida. Fans became familiar with the songs on the second album long before its release. Other support and respect would come from the musicians who played with the band. In 1983, touring with Aldo Nova and UFO on the west coast for about five weeks, the rock acts Tesla
Tesla is an American hard rock band formed in Sacramento, California in 1984. They have sold 14 million albums in the United States.-Formation and Mechanical Resonance :...
and Kings X both saw the group and both bands became fans. Tesla actually covered a Stranger song "Jackie's So Bad" in their early days.
Strong songwriting and better production values than their first release, No Rules contained the tracks "Gimmie The Rock," "Mama Mama," "Wrong Side of the Tracks," "We Were Wrong," "Swamp Woman," "Autumn Time Again," "No Rules," "Hit and Run," "3-D," "One More Night," "Alligator Joe" and "Thunder Bay." Stranger was a respected musical force during its time, often associated with more nationally known names such as Pat Travers
Patrick Henry "Pat" Travers is a Canadian rock guitarist, keyboardist and singer who began his recording career with Polydor Records in the mid-1970s...
, Molly Hatchet
Molly Hatchet is an American southern rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1975. They are widely known for their hit song "Flirtin' with Disaster" from the album of the same title. The band, founded by Dave Hlubek and Steve Holland, took its name from a prostitute who allegedly mutilated...
, Mother's Finest
Mother's Finest is a funk rock band founded in Atlanta, Georgia by Joyce Kennedy and Glenn Murdock in the early 1970s. The group charted with the singles "Fire" , "Baby Love" , "Don't Wanna Come Back" , "Love Changes" , and "Piece Of The Rock" in the mid to late 1970s.-History:Mother's Finest...
(which they would play at the opening of their live shows) and fellow Tampa band Outlaws.
Stranger was endorsed by Peavey Electronics
Peavey Electronics Corporation is one of the largest audio equipment manufacturers in the world, headquartered in Meridian, Mississippi in the United States.- History :...
, and developed a loyalty to Tampa music store Paragon. Bassist Tom King played Peavey foundation basses, including a "Gator Bass" designed to honor the University of Florida
The University of Florida is an American public land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant research university located on a campus in Gainesville, Florida. The university traces its historical origins to 1853, and has operated continuously on its present Gainesville campus since September 1906...
Gator football team through Peavey Megabass amplifiers. After the Peavey endorsement, guitarist Ronnie Garvin played Peavey VTM 120 amps and speaker cabinets live. John Price was endorsed by REMO Drums and received many shipments of drums and accessories from REMO of California. John also became great friends with Darrell Sweet
and received many shipments of Pearl Drums and accessoried from Scotland. Ronnie and Tom were also endorsed by Dean Markley Strings, and the band was also endorsed by Viking Cases.
At the end of the decade, they were offered a new deal with Atlantic Records
Atlantic Records is an American record label best known for its many recordings of rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and jazz...
, but refused it after seeing the same dubious contract clauses and pending pitfalls they experienced with their previous contract. Also their previous manager helped put a monkey-wrench in the deal by declaring he still had ownership of management indirectly from the previous contract. Failure to find a major label deal didn't faze them much as the band release a series of self-distributed LP/EP releases on their own Thunderbay label and produced their own videos over a span of 15 years.
Their next album, No More Dirty Deals
, was probably the best mixed album. This album contains the tracks "Let Me Rock 'n Roll," "She's A Dancer," "(This Time) Gonna Love You Baby," "I Know I Tried," "Okeechobee Whiskey," "Runnin In the Red," "No More Dirty Deals," "End of the Line," "Can't Keep a Good Man Down," "Long Gone," a Dedication to Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stephen Ray "Stevie Ray" Vaughan was an American electric blues guitarist and singer. He was the younger brother of Jimmie Vaughan and frontman for Double Trouble, a band that included bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton. Born in Dallas, Vaughan moved to Austin at the age of 17 and...
. Stranger followed No More Dirty Deals
with a live album We Be Live,
the first album since their first not to contain Randy Holt on keyboards. This album contains the tracks "Intro/Bad Bad Day," "Get On Up," "Mama Mama," "Face To Face," "Shakedown," "She's A Dancer," "Okeechobee Whiskey," "Clear Blue Morning," "Wrong Side of the Tracks," "I Bark But I Don't Bite," "Gonna Love You Baby," "Play Somethin Good (Somethin I Can Dance To)," "Thunder Bay," "Dedication to Stevie Ray" and "Swamp Woman." Their final album, Angry Dogs
, contained the tracks "Take Your Best Shot," "Red Light," "Girl That Bad (Should Never Look So Good)," "I'm The Man You're Looking For," "Play Somethin Good (Something I Can Dance To)," "Poke Salad," "She Just Can't Get Enough," "Never Look Back," "Clear Blue Morning," "Kid Gone Bad" and "#1 With A Bullet." The Stranger catalog has been re-released on retrospect records.
Stranger also licensed and released an album in Japan with Alpha/Brunette Records
. This album contained many of their biggest hits and if you can find it you would have a serious collectors item.
The fact that the band was able to survive and thrive for what was essentially a self-promoted local/regional club band at that time was no small feat prior to advent of the Internet.
Lead singer Greg Billings and Bassist Tom King are still performing together regularly under the name "Greg Billings Band". www.gregbillingsband.com
|Date of release
||Epic/Sony Music Products
||Thunder Bay Recording
"No More Dirty Deals"
|Thunder Bay Recording
||We Be Live
||Thunder Bay Recording
||Thunder Bay Recording
Members of the band included lead vocalist Greg Billings, bassist Tom (King) Cardenas, drummer John Price and guitarist Ronnie Garvin. Garvin's guitar work was the driving force behind the band, developing a signature guitar style melding blues, James Brown funk
Funk is a music genre that originated in the mid-late 1960s when African American musicians blended soul music, jazz and R&B into a rhythmic, danceable new form of music. Funk de-emphasizes melody and harmony and brings a strong rhythmic groove of electric bass and drums to the foreground...
and lightning quick Eddie Van Halen
Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen is a Dutch-American guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter and producer, best known as the lead guitarist and co-founder of the hard rock band Van Halen, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...
type runs. Greg Billings' front man abilities complimented Garvin's musical virtuosity, insuring every performance was a party, even including a nightly recitation of the Budweiser
Budweiser is a 5.0% abv American-style lager introduced in 1876 by Adolphus Busch and one of the highest selling beers in the United States. It is made with up to 30% rice in addition to hops and barley malt. Budweiser is produced in various breweries located around the world...
Pledge. John & Tom provided a strong 1-2 punch rythmn-section as good as any in the business. During the era between the albums No Rules and No More Dirty Deals, Randy Holt (Randall Holt Litrell aka "the bluesmaster") played as a full member of the band, singing backup vocals, playing keyboards, harmonica and guitar. Sadly, Ronnnie Garvin committed suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...
in 1996, and is survived by a son and daughter. Greg Billings joined the band "Damn the Torpedoes" after Stranger and currently plays occasional gigs in the Tampa area with The Greg Billings Band, that includes Stranger bassist Tom (King) Cardenas and George Harris on guitar. John Price is in Tampa and is a successful business man, and Randy Holt is in Indianapolis.
Stranger lead guitarist Ronnie Garvin was well respected by his musician peers. Garvin's style of guitar playing drew from heavy metal, Southern rock, pop, blues, and bluegrass music.
He cited Ronnie Montrose as a major influence as well as Billy Gibbons, Angus Young and Eddie Van Halen. Ronnie's main guitar was a modified pre-CBS Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood fretboard. He generally would use this guitar throughout the show. It had been repainted black, retrofitted with DiMarzio PAF pickups, and had a standard nonlocking vibrato bar. On the back of the guitar was a large Budweiser sticker. Picks were Fender mediums. He usually plugged straight into his amp which was a (allegedly) stock, aluminum panel, 4 input 100w Marshall Super Lead driving 2-4 Marshall 4x12 bottoms. In concert, Stranger was a very loud band partly due to the Marshall, which Garvin ran at full volume to achieve the rich sustain, warmth and distortion that characterized his, and Stranger's, sound.
Among Garvin's admirers is Welsh guitarist and current Florida resident Paul Chapman, former guitarist with UFO and Waysted. Chapman was also a friend of Garvin's and at one point had suggested him for the lead guitar slot in UFO.
He was buried with his Stratocaster.