Head East

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1969-72)

- Larry Boyd -- bass

- Roger Boyd -- keyboards, synthesizers

- Steve Hutson -- drums, percussion

- Danny Piper -- lead guitar

- John Schlitt -- vocals


  line up 2 (1972-73)

- Larry Boyd -- bass

- Roger Boyd -- keyboards, synthesizers

- Steve Hutson -- drums, percussion

- John Schlitt -- vocals

NEW - Greg Williams -- lead guitar (replaced Danny Piper)


  line up 3 (1972-73)

- Larry Boyd -- bass

- Roger Boyd -- keyboards, synthesizers

NEW - Brad Flota -- lead guitar (replaced Greg Williams)

- Steve Hutson -- drums, percussion

- John Schlitt -- vocals


  line up 4 (1974-80)

NEW - Dan Birney (RIP 2003) -- bass (replaced Larry Boyd) 

- Roger Boyd -- keyboards, synthesizers

- Steve Hutson -- drums, percussion

- John Schlitt -- vocals

NEW - Larry Sommerville -- lead guitar (replaced Brad Flota) 


  line up 5 (1980-82)

NEW - Mark Boatman -- bass (replaced Dan Birney)

- Roger Boyd -- keyboards, synthesizers

NEW - Tom Gross -- lead guitar (replaced Larry Summerville)

- Steve Hutson -- drums, percussion

NEW - Dan Odum -- vocals (replaced John Schlitt)


  line up 6 (1982)

- Roger Boyd -- keyboards, synthesizers

- Tom Gross -- lead guitar

- Steve Hutson -- drums, percussion

- Dan Odum -- vocals

NEW- Robbie Robertson -- bass (replaced Mark Boatman) 





- Petra (John Schlitt)

- John Schlitt (solo efforts)

- Somerville-Scorfina Band





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Flat as a Pancake

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-4537

Country/State: Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: still in shrink wrap; opened

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 937

Price: $10.00


Head East is one of those mid-Western bands that had plenty of talent and actually became extremely popular throughout the center of the country, but for all their touring and hard work, simply couldn't get arrested on the east or west coasts.  Shame, since they were as talented as some of their competitors who managed to become '70s megastars.


The band initially came together in 1969, featuring the talents of bassist Larry Boyd, keyboardist Roger Boyd, drummer Steve Hutson, guitarist Danny Piper, and singer John Schlitt .   The Boyd brothers and Schlitt had been students at the University of Illinois, while Hutson was going to nearby Easter Illinois University and Piper was out of school.    Originally known as The Timeations, they quickly accepted a roadie's suggestion to go with Head East.   Over the next five years the band became a fixture on the mid-Western club and touring scene, playing hundreds of dates.   By the time they recorded their debut album the band had coalesced around a line up featuring bassist Dan Birney, keyboardist Roger Boyd, drummer Hutson, singer Schlitt, and lead guitarist Larry Sommerville.


Unable to interest a major label in signing them, the band pooled their resources to record and release an album on their own Pyramid label.  Released in early 1975, the Roger Boyd produced  "Flat As a Pancake" saw 5,000 copies (and an additional 800 8-tracks) pressed with the intent of selling them at the group's live shows.  With such limited distribution  the group wasn't exactly poised for a massive commercial breakthrough, however mid-western radio stations began to play the song  'Never Been Any Reason' which brought A&M Records to their door.  Signed by the label, the album was quickly repacked with new artwork and a revamped running order  (for some odd reason A&M marketing elected to flip the sides), before being re-released on a national basis.


With Hutson, Schlitt, and Sommerville all contributing to the writing chores, creatively the album wasn't exactly ground-breaking. Anyone looking for Pulitzer Prize winning lyrics wasn't going to find them buried in the midst of tunes like 'Love Me Tonight'  or 'Flight By Night Lady'   That said, these guys were quite talented  with the band showing an ability to easily straddle the line between mindless bar band boogie ('Lovin' Me Along') and a more polished commercial pop sound ('Never Been Any Reason').  Having  a talented singer in Schlitt (who occasionally sounded a bit like Geddy Lee), an under-recognized guitarist in Sommerville, and a tight rhythm section in Birney and Hutson certainly didn't hurt the band.   Personally I've always felt keyboardist Boyd was the band's secret weapon.   His cheesy synthesizer fills always brought a smile to my face.   Released as a single, 'Never Been Any Reason' is the tune most folks know, but there were actually a couple of tunes that were just as strong -  'Fly By Night Lady' tapped into the same commercial vein, while 'Love Me Tonight' was an even more commercially successful single.  


Propelled by the  singles and extensive touring, the album proved their biggest seller, peaking at # 126 on the album charts.


For anyone interested, the band has a website at: http://www.head-east.com/index.html





"Flat as a Pancake" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Never Been Any Reason   (Mike Sommerville) - 5:10   rating: ***** stars

Music snobs may well turn their noses up at 'Never Been Any Reason', but I'll tell you it's one of those classic '70s rock tunes that many of those very folks have been humming for decades.  Cheesy '70s synthesizers (that would make Styx blush), coupled over a criminally catchy melody and Schlitt's Geddy Lee-esque voice ...   what wasn't there to love on this one ?   It sounds as good today as when I first heard it back in 1975 and is one of those songs that will  make me smile whenever I hear it.

- 1975's 'Never Been Any Reason' b/w 'One Against the Other' (A&M catalog number 1716) # 68 pop

2.) One Against the Other   (John Schlitt) - 3:47   rating: *** stars

'One Against the Other' was a nice slice of bar band rock, mildly interesting for the lyric.  Abandoning the standard sex, drugs, and rock and roll plotline, the song could be seen as a precursor to Schlitt's born again lifestyle.   That wasn't meant as a criticism since, unlike some of his forthcoming work with the band Petra, Schlitt and company kept it all subtle and optimistic on this one.

3.) Love Me Tonight   (Mike Sommerville) - 4:27   rating: ***** stars

Possibly the album's most overtly commercial tune (explaining why it was tapped as the second single), 'Love Me Tonight' had everything that mid-'70s radio was looking for - bouncy melody; a plea for groupie affection, lots of strumming acoustic guitars, a wonderful Mike Sommerville solo, sweet harmony vocals  ...   no wonder it was completely ignored by radio.  

- 1975's 'Love Me Tonight' b/w 'Fly By Night Lady / Brother Jacob' (A&M catalog number 1784) # 54 pop

4.) City of Gold   (Steve Hutson) - 3:41   rating: ** stars

Even though it was tapped as the third single, I can't say I liked 'City of Gold' that much ...   the song didn't have a strong melody, made worse by the abrupt changes in tempo, and the lyric almost sounded like John Schlitt and company were trying to make a serious statement.   What's up with that ?   

5.) Fly By Night Lady   (Steve Hutson) - 2:47   rating: ***** stars

'Fly By Night Lady' found the band returning to their patented AOR sound, right down to Roger Boyd's instantly recognizable fuzzy synthesizer washes.  Interestingly, when Schlitt reached for his falsetto, he sounded a bit like Geddy Lee.  Only complaint on this one was the track wasn't long enough. 


(side 2)
1.) Jefftown Creek   (Steve Hutson) - 6:41
   rating: *** stars

The stabbing Hammond organ opening always makes me wonder if I've mistakenly put another band on by mistake, but when Sommerville's guitar and Schlitt's voice kick in, everything returns to normal.   Nice mid-tempo Southern rocker that I've cranked up many a time while driving to the beach.   Anyone skeptical of Sommerville's chops should check this one out. 

2.) Lovin' Me Along    (Mike Sommerville) - 5:25   rating: ** stars

'Lovin' Me Along' was an example of the plodding boogie band material that would become ever more prominent in later releases.   

3.) Ticket Back To Georgia   (Steve Hutson) - 4:02   rating: *** stars

With Hutson handling lead vocals, 'Ticket Back To Georgia' had a nice keyboard-propelled country-rock feel which was even more impressive when you realized Southern Illinois was about as far south as these guys had ever been. 

4.) Brother Jacob   (Steve Hutson) - 3:10   rating: ** stars

Unfortunately the album ended on a bum note, namely the horrible quasi-Gospel-ish 'Brother Jacob'.   Geez, what were they thinkin' on this one? 






Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title: Get Yourself Up

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-4579

Country/State: Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes original lyric inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1045

Price: $15.00


Not to damn it with faint praise, but 1976's "Get Yourself Up"  was a solid and professional  addition to the Head East catalog.  Produced by band keyboard player Roger Boyd, the collection wasn't a major change from the band's debut; offering up another set of catchy, mid-western AOR with an occasional nod to lightweight progressive moves ('The Victim').  Years on the road made Head East an exceptionally tight ensemble and that showed throughout these ten tracks with guitarist Mike Sommerville and bassist Dan Birney acquitting themselves with honors throughout.   Add to that I've always had a special spit in my heart for Boyd's cheesy synthesizers.  The album also saw writing chores democratized with Birney and Boyd contributing material to the album. The funny thing about this album was that taken individually the songs were all quite good, but when heard in a single sitting, the collection quickly bogged down into an okay, but not great vibe. Maybe part of the problem stemmed from the fact the sophomore album lacked a killer tune like 'Never Been Any Reason'.   'This Woman's In Love' and 'Love My Blues Away' came close, but not close enough.  


I can also remember spending way too much time talking about the  Jeff Ayeroff cover photo.  Most of my high school friends swore the truck was loaded with weed.  To my eyes it always looked like corn stalks.  Regardless it made for an arresting cover.


While the debut wasn't a massive hit, comparatively "Get Yourself Up" proved a commercial disappointment, peaking at #161 on the album chart.


"Get Yourself Up" tack listing

(side 1)

1.) When I Get Ready   (Steven Hutson) - 3:44  rating: *** stars

Built on a nifty guitar riff, 'When I Get Ready' was one of those melodic hard rock tunes Head East seemed to effortlessly toss out.  I remember some friends thinking lead singer John Schlitt sounded screechy, but I never had a problem with his delivery.   Very AOR radio friendly and would have made a nice single; certainly better than the one A&M picked.

2.) Separate Ways   (Scott Summerville - Mike Summerville) -  2:50  rating: *** stars

Showcasing Roger Boyd's instantly recognizable synthesizers and with Schlitt reaching for some Geddy Lee range notes, 'Separate Ways' was one of their prettier mid-tempo numbers.  For some reason the vocals have always reminded me of a Boston song ...  The track was also released as a single.  

- 1976's 'Separate Ways' b/w 'Fly By Night Lady' (A&M catalog number 1872)

3.) This Woman's In Love  (Steve Hutson) - 2:51  rating: **** stars

Opening up with an acoustic, slightly country-rock flavor, 'This Woman's In Love' was a little different than their standard rocker.  Nice showcase for the group's often overlooked harmony vocals.  Shame it was faded out just as it started to really roll.  

4.) Don't Want the Chance   (Mike Sommerville) - 4:34    rating: ** stars

Instantly recognizable as a Head East tune, but in spite of Boyd's synthesizer flourishes, not particularly memorable ...

5.) Sailor   (Dan Birney) - 4:20  rating: *** stars

'Sailor' initially sounded like it was going to reveal the band's softer side, but quickly hit the accelerator joining the rest of the album in the AOR trenches.  Still, one of the prettier melodies on the album, even if the seagull sound effects were needless.  


(side 2)

1,) Monkey Shine   (Dan Birney) - 3:08    rating: ** stars

The album's first major misstep, 'Monkey Shine; made it clear these guys weren't cut out to be Southern rockers.   Seriously, bands from Illinois shouldn't be singing lyrics that had references to Alabama and Tennessee.  

2.) Jailer   (Roger Boyd) - 3:30  rating: **** stars

Penned by keyboardist Boyd who also contributed the underlying melodic riff for the tune, 'Jailor' was interesting for it's bluesy vibe, as well as one of Mike Sommerville's best solos.  One of the album's standout performances.   

3.) Love My Blues Away  (Mike Sommerville) - 3:40  rating: **** stars

I'm a sucker for jangle guitar numbers so this Mike Sommerville penned rocker grabbed me from the very start.   The album also underscored what great harmony singers these guys were.   Probably my pick as favorite tune   

4.) The Victim   (Mike Sommerville - Rodney Smith) - 5:55  rating: **** stars

Not exactly a power ballad, 'The Victim' came close with the band slowing things down for about two thirds of the song.  Add in some surprisingly restrained John Schlitt vocals and an orchestrated arrangement ....  well who knew these guys could be sentimental.

5.) Trouble   (Steven Hutson) - 3:35  rating: *** stars

You certainly wouldn't confuse them for Yes, but 'Trouble' clearly found the band adding a touch of progressive influence to their catalog.   Kicked along by a blazing Michael Sommerville lead guitar performance, it was one of the album's most interesting tunes.  








Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title: Head East Live!

Company: A&M

Catalog: SP-4579

Country/State: Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes original lyric inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1045

Price: $20.00


I remember being soooooo excited when I finally found a copy of this album as a yard sale.   Released after the band had pushed out four studio albums over a four year period, I'm guessing 1979's "Head East Live!" was intended to garner the group a little bit of creative breathing space, while allowing A&M to fatten it's profit margin with a relatively cheap-to-produce and market live album.   Stitched together from a series of 1978 mid-western dates in support of the "Head East"album (including performances in Dallas, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and St. Louis), the collection found Head East joining the deluge of mid-'70s double album sets.  Produced by Jeffrey Lesser with keyboardist Roger Boyd serving as associate producer, the 17 tracks featured a mixture of their hits, album tracks, and a couple of  obscure cover tunes.  Having been longtime staples on the Mid-Western touring circuit, you wouldn't have expected anything less than one tight group and that certainly came through on the majority of these tunes.  True, they weren't the most original band you've ever stumbled across and some of the stadium patter was formualic, but most of the performances were tight (very little navel gazing solos on this one).  In fact, some of the tunes were so close to the studio originals you were left to wonder how much post-production sweetening went into the album.  Regardless, John Schlitt and company sounded phenomenal across these four sides, making for an album that was mindless fun from start to finish.  Critics didn't have many nice things to say about the collection, but it still managed to hit # 96 on the US album charts and I treasure my copy.  


"Head East Live!" tack listing

(side 1)

1.) Take a Hand   (Rick Springfield) - 3:29   rating: *** stars

Interesting that these guys would start off with a Rick Springfield cover ...   Nice a cappella opening which served to showcase one of their most endearing traits - namely those wonderful backing and harmony vocals.   Can't say this cover was anything special though.

2.) Man I Wanna Be   (Mike Sommerville) - 3:14  rating: **** stars

I could have done with John  Schlitt's mid-song audience interplay, but 'Man I Wanna Be' was a classic slice of what made Head East such a great band - killer melody; sweet vocals, and a surprisingly thoughtful lyrics.    

3.) Gettin' Lucky   (Steve Hutson - Mike Sommerville) - 3:51  rating: **** stars

One of their should-have-been-a-hits, kudos to the band for turning in a live version that came very close to the studio original. 

4.) City of Gold   (Steve Hutson) - 3:56   rating: *** stars

Off the debut album, the studio original didn't have a strong melody, made worse by the abrupt changes in tempo, and the lyric almost sounded like John Schlitt and company were trying to make a serious statement.   The live version couldn't do much in the melody department, but did ramp up the energy a bit.   

5.) Fly By Night Lady    (Steve Hutson) - 3:01   rating: *** stars

The audience certainly liked 'Fly By Night Lady' though to my ears  Roger Boyd's over-the-top synthesizers have always given the tune kind of a Styx feel.   


(side 2)

1.) Monkey Shine   (Dan Birney) - 3:31  rating:** stars

I didn't like the studio original (off of  "Get Yourself Up") and can say the live version did much for me. 

2.) When I Get Ready   (Steve Hutson) - 3:04  rating: **** stars

Thanks to Larry Boyd chugging bass and the band's wonderful harmonies, what initially came off as a pedestrian stadium hard rock tune has actually become a personal favorite.  

3.) Every Little But of My Heart   (Roger Boyd - John Schlitt)  - 7:05  rating: **** stars

A tune off of 1977's "Gettin' Lucky", 'Every Little But of My Heart' slowed things down a little, with guitarist Larry Sommerville adding a touch of jazz to the mix.  

4.) Get Up and Enjoy Yourself    (John Schlitt)- 4:44   rating: *** stars

Back to patented stadium stomping.with another showcase for their sterling backing vocals.   


(side 3)

1.) Since You Been Gone   (Russ Ballad) - 3:04  rating: **** stars

Time for their big hit ...  kudos to the band for keeping it short and tight - no twenty minutes solos on this one.    

2.) It's For You   (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 3:08  rating:** stars

The group's largely a cappella cover of 'It'd for You' has to be one of the strangest Beatles covers I've ever heard.   It wasn't bad, rather just strange and sounded nothing like the original (which wasn't exaclty one of The Fab Four's classic tunes.   

3.) Never Been Any Reason (Save My Life)   (Mike Sommerville) - 5:37  rating: **** stars

John Schlitt's  introduction was lifted squarely out of the standard stadium tour handbook, but otherwise the band pulled off a nice replica of the radio hit - Sommerville's classic guitar riff and lots of Roger Boyd  synthesizers ...  The vocals sounded so good you had to wonder how much of it was the result of post-production polishing.  

4.) Elijah   (Charles Sabatino) - 6:20  rating: **** stars

They weren't a progressive band, but 'Elijah' came close.   Their stomping version of 'Elijah' was easily one of the album's standout performances.  


(side 4)

1.) Preclude To Creek (instrumental)   (Roger Boyd - Steve Hutson)  - 3:12  rating:** stars

Longtime fans have latched on to 'Jefftown Creek' as a band classic, so let me warn you the three minute opener 'Prelude To Creek' was a waste - basically Boyd wasting time on a needless keyboard solo.   

2.) Jefftown Creek   (Steve Hutson) - 6:41  rating: **** stars

Another tune off the debut album, 'Jefftown Creek' was a nice mid-tempo Southern rocker that I've cranked up many a time while driving to the beach.   Anyone skeptical of Sommerville's chops should check this one out.but 'Elijah' came close.   Their stomping version of 'Elijah' was easily one of the album's standout performances. 

3.) Love Me Tonight   (Mike Sommerville) - 4:21  rating: **** stars

One of their strongest melodies and it held up well in the live arena. 

4.) I'm Feelin' Fine   (Roger Boyd) - 4:16   rating: *** stars

The closer 'I'm Feelin' Fine' was another tune that's always reminded me of a Styx tune ...   That wasn't meant as a compliment.