In recent months, many of Lou Reed’s older albums on RCA and Artista Records have been reissued on CD (many of the reissues include previously unavailable bonus cuts). Between 1974 and 1980, John Mars’ buddy and, colleague MICHAEL FONFARA served as keyboard man / band leader for the venerable Lou Reed. “Sally Can’t Dance” from 1974 includes standout tracks such as “New York Stars” and, “Kill Your Sons”. It is also worth noting for the added participation of Michael’s old Rhinoceros band mate, the incredible Mr. Danny Weis (on the guitar). Another classic Reed recording that Fonfara participated in, “Live- Take No Prisoners”, reveals Reed’s great cabaret sense and, his savvy in dealing with some yelping goofs in the audience. Recorded at New York’s “Bottom Line” night club in 1978, Lou often takes time out in the middle of his hits to show’em who the real loud mouth is! It’s a scream.
Other Lou Reed albums that feature Michael are: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart”, “Street Hassle”, “The Bells” (which he helped produce and co-wrote a couple of tunes on) and, “Growing Up In Public” (on which he co-wrote all the tunes with Lou Reed and, which he co-produced with Reed).
MICHAEL FONFARA began his performing career in Toronto with the pioneering group JON / LEE AND THE CHECKMATES. The group featured singer extraordinaire John Finley, guitar man Larry Leishman, and bassist Peter Hodgson (all of whom were later to play in Rhinoceros with Michael). The Checkmates still get together once in a while for old times sake but, they are best remembered for performing for 60,000 people at the opening of Toronto’s City Hall in 1963 and, for an opening spot in front of The Rolling Stones two years after that, at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. Just before RHINOCEROS started roaring (in the late 1960’s), Michael played with MICHAEL BLOOMFIELD, NICK GRAVENITES and BUDDY MILES in the short-lived (but, fantastic) ELECTRIC FLAG and, he can be heard on their wonderful Columbia album (available on CD with bonus cuts) called “A Long Time Comin’ ” . A synopsis of the other artists that Fonfara has since played / recorded with since that time is absolutely staggering… Solomon Burke, John Sebastian, Ry Cooder, B.B. King, The Everly Brothers, Foreigner, Rough Trade … and, the list goes on. He is currently a member of the Downchild Blues Band.
Says John Mars “It’s was a real honour to have Michael play on my latest release. He’s an absolute hero of mine – Rhinoceros has always been one of my favourite bands and, Michael is quite simply the greatest, most soulful Rock ‘n’ Roll organist / pianist that Canada has ever produced. He’s had a big impact on me, yet I find him to be one of the most unassuming people that I have ever met in music. I will always remember how enthusiastic he was during the recording sessions he did with me and, I hope to work with him again in the future. Fonf helped Jack deKeyzer and myself write one of the songs on my “Whasup?” CD ( “There’s A Hole In My Soul” ). He’s a man that has inspired me a lot and, is also a great deal of fun to hang with and, talk music with”.
submitted by Krista Stahl / May 2003