Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries is a party rock and roll show band formed in the fall of 1972 at James Monroe High School in the San Fernando Valley (suburb of Los Angeles, CA). After a brief start in 1972 and subsequent reformation in 1973, the original members today are lead singer/front man Steve "Captain Cardiac" Ogg and lead guitarist Ralph "Woody" Riganti (previously referred to as "Tiger"). Subsequent additions after the reformation include Bill "Bam Bam" Bowman (1973 - 1976), Mark "Slots" Weisberger (1973 - 1974), John "Fingers" Wittenbel (1973-1982), Tim "Corky" Causgrove (1973 - 75 and 1980 - 83), and Howard "Haard" Reitzes (1976 - 1977). Present members are bassist Joe "Lumpy" DeWitt (1976-present), drummer Tom "Tommy" Sillen (1977-present), keyboardist Pat "Pasquale" Losurdo, (1982-present) and saxophonist Scott "Boom Boom" Mitchell (1987-present). Their play list consists primarily of US American classic rock and Motown music. The music combined with lame' jackets and on stage choreography offer their audience a nostalgic audio and visual blast to the past while remaining relevant with dancers of all ages.
Early Years: 1972 - 1979
Inspired by Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids in the movie American Graffiti, the band was formed to play on a high school homecoming float in 1972. The original band consisted of Ogg, singer Jeff Cazanov, drummer Kevin Wachs, guitarists Mark Weisberger, Frank Buddenbrock and bassist Jay Cohen. The band played several Jr. and Sr. High Schools and college dorm parties around the San Fernando Valley, as well as some night clubs on the Sunset Strip before ending. A few months after the dissolution, the band was resurrected by Ogg and Riganti while they were working together at Ohrbach's department store in Panorama City, CA. They recruited Causgrove, Wittenbel, Bowman, and once again Weisberger which formed the core group that would carry it through the mid/late 1970's. Reitzes (a former member of the band Iron Butterfly) joined briefly in 1976.
Continuing to play Jr. and Sr. High Schools, they eventually landed a steady job playing monthly dances for many Church of Latter Day Saints stakes in the Southern California region. In the beginning, their costumes consisted of various 50's-60's style of clothing obtained from several thrift stores in the area. Sunglasses or "shades" were worn by most members. Choreography and stage antics haves been a band trademark since its beginning using such props such as masks, party gimmicks, and plastic crustaceans. Their shows usually ended a set by having either the guitarist or bassist take the lead singer up on their shoulders at the end of Johnny B. Goode (a tradition that continued up to 2002). A tradition that still continues to this day is the lead guitarist stands on the backs of the lead singer and keyboardist while playing his guitar over the back of his head. In 1975, the band won the Southern California Battle of the Bands at the Anaheim Convention Center.
With the departure of singer/drummer Bowman in 1976, drummer Jon Ferris (a high school friend) was added along with bassist/singer DeWitt (met Ogg in College). Ferris left the state in 1977 for a great "day job" with IBM. He was replaced with present day drummer/singer Sillen. Sillen had been in a childhood band The Offsprings with Riganti and was easily recruited to fill in the drummer position. With the departure of Wittenbel, Riganti called upon Losurdo who had been a friend at James Monroe High School playing in other hard rock bands.
In 1979 the next pivotal point occurred: a steady lounge job, working 6 nights per week, 7 weeks at a time in the lounge of the Hyatt Hotel in the City of Commerce. It was here that the seeds of a night club act were sown. Night after night of playing in a bar with mostly business clientele, the boredom turned into an opportunity for new stage antics and a shoring up of costumes. The band literally turned to entertaining themselves. Led by drummer Tommy, a new host of masks and hijinks ensued that kept the band members entertained and often in fits of laughter; this with no audience save the bartender and waitress on some weeknights. All members had day jobs, thus ending at 1:30 AM and getting to work by 6 or 7 AM was the norm during 1979. At the very end of 1979, DeWitt got married and left for Colorado. Realignment took place moving Riganti to bass and bringing back Causgrove as the guitarist.
1980's - Tipping Point:
The band continued the Hyatt performances through 1980 along with the usual staple of weddings, bar mitzvahs, baby christenings, and high school sock hops. 1980 was the first year that CCC played at the Magic Mountain (now Six Flags Magic Mountain) amusement park in Valencia, CA. 1982 saw the departure of Wittenbel who was replaced by present keyboardist/singer Losurdo (who attended high school with Ogg and Riganti).
Valentine's Day, 1983 was the tipping point in the career of the band. The band landed a job at the now defunct L.G.T. ("Let's Go To") Vegas night club and restaurant in Sepulveda, CA. It was two weeks, 6 nights per week several times a year in a cabaret venue with no dancing (by design, although during performances there was dancing in the aisles, and occasionally on the tables). Playing to packed houses on the weekends during this multiyear engagement, the band matured and perfected their stage show developing new costumes that were now more uniform in appearance. Each member wore white dinner jackets, custom bowling shirts, letterman sweaters, and one free style 50's era garb. Each set had a costume change. Later, custom black and silver dinner jackets were worn which led to their now famous trademark: Red Lame' Jackets. The show grew in entertainment value as well. Choreography was often a requirement for bringing in new songs. Several amateur videos were produced during this period. Many traditions grew out of the L.G.T. Vegas years: Intense practice sessions prior to each engagement for adding new songs/choreography/pranks, Dom Perignon and Kamakazi drinks were regularly provided by audience members, and more props. But perhaps the most noteworthy and later often requested routine was the reemergence of "the maskThe Mask". Resurrecting one particular mask from the Hyatt days, drummer Sillen took the mask to the next level by poking sticks into the eyeholes and spewing various liquids out of the eyehole such as beer, water and hot fudge. One startling visual was a blowing up of a balloon coming out of the eyehole. And all during this, the music and vocals got tighter with all members singing 3 and often 4 part harmonies. 1982 to 1989 saw CCC rapidly increase their following largely due to the L.G.T. Vegas shows.
Member changes in 1983 had DeWitt coming back to play bass and Riganti going back to lead guitar after the departure of Causgrove. The band has maintained this line up to the present with only the addition of saxophonist Mitchell in 1987, who had been in an opening act for Cardiac at the now defunct Palomino Club in North Hollywood, CA.
Other notable events during this decade were the first travel job (to Memphis to play for FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith's private 1950's party), first Super bowl party in Los Angeles where actor Bruce Willis joined the band to sing three songs, first of many Cruise Ship performances, a live on-air performance on FM radio station KCRW, and the taping of a private "for friends only" concert that is currently the promo video featured on YouTube and the band website: www.captaincardiac.com
With the demise of L.G.T. Vegas, the band picked up the pace with an increasing flurry of corporate events. The combination of choreography, costumes and tight music made the 1990's the decade of corporate jobs. The promo video was developed to address this market and it produced many engagements not only throughout Southern California, but it took them to Bermuda, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico and Europe as well as around the mainland United States. Also during this decade, ocean cruises became a regular bi-yearly event and were well attended by hundreds of loyal CCC followers.
Notable 1990's events included a second Super bowl party in Miami, a Caribbean Cruise, multiple week engagements at the Universal Studios amusement park, and a first of three private European engagements. All of this while every member held career day jobs and were raising families.
The first CD recording It's About Time was made in May, 1999. The title was suggested to be a play on words for two reasons. The first being it was about time they recorded their music for posterity, but most importantly it pointed to another point in time when this era of rock and roll music was evolving. This contained the songs that made up the core of their live performances. Recorded in the studio, there were very few overdubs or re-recordings. This in part due to the tightness of a decade's long show but also as a conscious effort to be as "live" as possible in order to capture the mood and energy of their performances. This CD was recorded and produced over two weekends.
The 2000's were a continuance of the 1990's with one notable hiccup in bookings. September 11, 2001 brought a considerable slow down to the entertainment world at the level of CCC for many months. Things eventually picked up and the band continued with bookings at resorts, corporate functions and a new venue expanding from the 1990's: summer concerts in parks around Southern California, typically sponsored by the local city. These well attended and often free events became regular yearly occurrences with some bookings repeating for more than 15 years. These took place throughout Southern California in cities such as Valencia, Newhall, Santa Barbara, Burbank, Downey, Agoura, Port Hueneme, and Woodland Hills.
Their second CD recording was made during this decade: Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries (released summer of 2006). This CD continued the band's staple of solid rock classics and has pictured on the cover, the now famous red lame' jacket with a pair of "shades" hanging out of the breast pocket.
As the band enters its fifth decade, there have been no discussions of retirement. Only one member has retired from his day job; saxophonist Mitchell has long since retired, but continues to teach music and perform in other venues. The rest of the members are going on 30+ years in each of their own careers.
Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries may go down in history as the longest running rock and roll band whose members had sustained separate professional careers during all but 3 to 4 years of their existence.