Alan Harkrader – My Favorite Musician

It was my mother who, at the early age of 5, started me on piano and later accordion lessons. I stayed with the music lessons until I was about 9. My mom was a tremendous talent herself, and still plays piano and sings. I started singing in church and the school choirs while in grade-school, but after a while, I decided I wanted to give up playing music in pursuit of other interests like sports and girls.

My mother enrolled my sister Donna and me in a dance class while I was in the 6th or 7th grade. I discovered that I was pretty good; in fact, I even won a little trophy that says “Cha-Cha King” on it. My picture and that of the “Queen’s” appeared in the local newspaper. Back then, I liked to dance and even wanted to learn tap dance. But it was my sisters Donna and Darla that ended up taking the tap lessons. I did, however, practice some of their rudiments when they were studying that dance.

I turned my attention to little-league and then graduated to pony-league baseball and even ran some track.

I think things turned around musically for me when I was a sophomore in high school; I attended a school dance and on stage was a classmate of mine, Rick Cantrell and his brother Paul. They were part of a group and were playing electric guitars; I was mesmerized. I had heard my Uncle Leland play acoustic guitar before, but this was a completely different ball game. I later got turned on to the Beatles and a few of the other British groups and was hooked. I had already been listening to Ray Charles and Johnny Mathis. About my junior year of high school, my friends, Mike Barker, Glen Welker, Larry Macnamey, and I decided we wanted to start a band. As it turned out, Mike’s younger brother, Steve, and a couple of his friends were going to start a band too. All I remember is that I wanted to play drums for our group. As circumstances would have it, we ended up merging these two groups of guys into one band. I switched from playing drums to playing bass, and we were off and running.

We had a lot of fun and learned a lot.

Mike and Steve’s dad was a professional piano player, and he had given both boys lessons. He helped us know a few musical things about how certain types of music needed to be played. We called ourselves “The Accents” but changed the name to “The New Generation. We played at some of the local teen clubs and a few nightspots in and around the Phoenix area.

After the tragic death of Steve, the band lost interest. Gary went on to play with “Chase” and “Survivor.” Mike played in some traveling show groups. I joined “Steph and Themselves,” which became “The Cornerstone. We were a regular fixture at a Phoenix nightclub called “Mr. Lucky’s. We eventually did travel around the area with the band. The owner of the club was Bob Sikora. Mr. Lucys was a two-level club with country music upstairs and rock and roll downstairs. Billy Williams was the leader of the country band. He and Bob were our managers. I was 19 at the time, and some of the other guys were even younger, but because of our age, when we traveled to California or played in Las Vegas, we had to use fake IDs to just to get into the club to play.

Steph Hudson had a great tenor voice, and because of the unique sound and style the band had, we managed to land a record deal with Liberty records. The president of the company was Al Bennett, his son Wayne became our producer. Our first release was called “Holly Go Softly; it charted nationally and did very well in a couple of other key markets around the country. I remember that back then, the lyrics were considered very controversial; as a result, a couple of marketing areas wouldn’t play the record. Today those same lyrics wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow.

The follow-up release, however, did not capitalize on the momentum of the first record, and things went downhill from there. The group split up and in the summer of 1970, and I ended up joining another Phoenix band called “The Gringos” ( )

This was a 10-year ride that took the band all over North America and Europe.

Visit our website if you want to know more about this fantastic 70s horn band. “My wife Betty, daughter Alana and I were living on Cape Cod when The Gringos broke up in January of 1980. Betty took on some extra shifts at a restaurant she was working at, and I stayed home for a couple of months and prepared myself to work as a single artist. I played solo around Cape Cod for a couple of years. During that period, I had a wonderful time also playing a duo with James Queenan. Then Betty’s dad became ill with cancer, so we moved back to Phoenix, where I spent the next few years solidifying myself in the Phoenix area market once again.

In 1986 I put together a project that culminated with recording three songs in Northridge, California, at Mark Cramer’s “Sounder Studio” with John Florez producing. John was part of the Gringo years, and he had made several top artists while at RCA. We recorded a song I wrote called “Slow Boogie,” which is on my current CD. We had some good airplay in the south, but we only had three pieces to work with, and alas, we ran out of gas.

In 1997 I started playing at a restaurant in Williams, AZ called Miss Kittys. I ended up staying there for seven years. While there, I had the opportunity to work with a musician named Bob Henke. We hit it off from the beginning and decided to work on a few new projects together. Bob and I have several projects that are currently under development.


I returned to the Phoenix area and found myself working with an old friend to record 11 songs I had written over the years.

These 11 songs, plus Slow Boogie, make up my new CD, Journeyman. To add to it all, my old friend, now Grammy Award Winner, Billy Williams, helped me record and produce the Journeyman CD. Billy is currently finishing work on Lyle Lovitt’s latest project. I was happy to have Billy work with me and make an excellent CD. I even ended up with a Christmas song I had written for my wife Betty back in 1975 but never got the chance to record until I showed it to Billy, and he encouraged me to add it to this collection of songs. Another of my current projects involves my friend Bob Henke along with Dr. Mike Vandermark. Together we have put together a product that combines music parodies with corporate training and coaching. We have an excellent website that displays precisely how this works. My latest musical endeavor involves Bob again, and together we have just finished laying down the essential tracks for a CD that will feature nine originals and three covers with the theme of the CD is “travel. The title of this CD is “Duet In The Road. With any luck, we hope to have that CD finished and ready to market by late Fall of this year.