Rockapella

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Rockapella
Rockapella 2013.jpg
Rockapella performing in Clearwater, Florida on December 20, 2013.
Background information
OriginNew York City, U.S.A.
GenresA Cappella
Years active1986–present
LabelsShakariki Records / PAID, Inc.
Amerigo Records
J-Bird Records
Rentrak Records
ForLife Records
Websitewww.rockapella.com
MembersScott Leonard
Jeff Thacher
George Baldi III
Steven Dorian
Calvin Jones
Past membersSean Altman
Elliott Kerman
Steve Keyes
David Stix
Charlie Evett
Barry Carl
Kevin Wright
John K. Brown
 
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Rockapella
Rockapella 2013.jpg
Rockapella performing in Clearwater, Florida on December 20, 2013.
Background information
OriginNew York City, U.S.A.
GenresA Cappella
Years active1986–present
LabelsShakariki Records / PAID, Inc.
Amerigo Records
J-Bird Records
Rentrak Records
ForLife Records
Websitewww.rockapella.com
MembersScott Leonard
Jeff Thacher
George Baldi III
Steven Dorian
Calvin Jones
Past membersSean Altman
Elliott Kerman
Steve Keyes
David Stix
Charlie Evett
Barry Carl
Kevin Wright
John K. Brown

Rockapella is an American a cappella musical group formed in 1986 in New York City. Their name is a portmanteau of "rock" and "a cappella". Rockapella sings original vocal music and a cappella covers of pop and rock songs; over time, their sound has evolved from high-energy pop and world music toward a more R&B-style sound. Rockapella originally found their biggest success in Japan, while in North America, they are best remembered for their role on the hit PBS Kids geography game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? as a vocal house band and resident comedy troupe, as well as the singers of the show's main theme song. Rockapella has released 19 albums, both in North America and overseas, and 3 compilation albums in Japan. The text "All sounds provided by the voices and appendages of Rockapella", the central idea of the band, has appeared on all of their CDs since the addition of their vocal percussionist.

Band history[edit]

Pre-Carmen Sandiego years (1986–1991)[edit]

The founding members of Rockapella were consisted of Brown University alumni Sean Altman, Elliott Kerman, Steve Keyes, and David Stix. They had each been in an a cappella group at Brown called High Jinks, but not all at the same time. Having been in High Jinks the longest, Altman was the only connection between the other three; when they found with each other in New York City after their graduation, they decided to form Rockapella. They began performing on New York City street corners with a hat at their feet and a song repertoire that consisted of a mix of barbershop arrangements and a cappella renditions of classic doo wop pieces that evolved to focus less on oldies and barbershop and more on contemporary rock music. Passers-by began to drop business cards into the hat, and these street corner performances led to private party and club performances around NYC.

Stix left the group in 1987 to pursue his artistic career and was replaced by Charlie Evett. That same year, a dinner party performance for television personality Kathie Lee Gifford led to Rockapella's 1988 appearance on the WABC-TV show The Morning Show, Regis Philbin and Gifford's NYC morning talk show before it went national. Their performance of Altman's signature arrangement of the calypso novelty standard "Zombie Jamboree" caught the eye of producer Gerard Brown. He invited Rockapella to perform on the PBS "Great Performances" TV special Spike Lee & Company – Do It A Cappella,[1] which would put them into the national spotlight. However, Evett left the group to continue a career in software design in 1988 before the special's taping, and Barry Carl was hired to take his place.

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991–1997)[edit]

With a PBS special and numerous morning talk show appearances under their collective belt, Rockapella was noticed by the producers of an up-and-coming PBS Kids game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?. Before the show's premiere, Keyes had decided to leave the band to launch his legal career, but was still part of the band when they auditioned and were hired to write and perform the theme song for the show as well as appear as the comic relief house band. Keyes was replaced by Scott Leonard, who had just returned from a career as the lead singer in a Tokyo Disneyland digi-rock band. Between Leonard joining the band and the start of their television break, Rockapella began to pick up fame, starring in a Whoopi Goldberg HBO special "Chez Whoopi", a Taco Bell commercial, and opened for acts such as Chuck Berry, Styx, Billy Joel, and their a cappella idols The Persuasions, who the group had met on the Do It A Cappella special. They also performed on Jay Leno's first New Year's Eve episode of The Tonight Show in 1992.[2]

Rockapella first appeared on the half-hour game show in 1991 and continued to appear daily for five seasons, catapulting the band's four members into mid-level television celebrity status and making the Rockapella-performed theme song (which was penned by Altman and his childhood friend David Yazbek) as one of the best known television themes in history. Jeff Thacher joined Rockapella as the band's permanent vocal percussionist in 1993, although he only appeared on Carmen Sandiego during its fifth and final season. While Rockapella was seen daily in homes across America, Leonard used his connections to the Japanese music market to acquire a recording contract with ForLife Records. The group released 7 albums of original and cover material under this label in Japan during their run on Carmen Sandiego and for two years after that, being the first to bring contemporary a cappella music to Japan.[2]

Post-Carmen Sandiego years (1997–present)[edit]

Rockapella performing in 2003. (L-R) Kevin Wright, Elliott Kerman, George Baldi III, Scott Leonard, Jeff Thacher.

Following the end of Carmen Sandiego in 1996, Altman left Rockapella to pursue his solo career the following year, and was replaced by Kevin Wright; it was this line-up that would find itself gaining a boost in popularity in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. An American record label, two Folger's coffee commercials that ran between 1998 and 2001, respectively, and another PBS special of their December 9, 2000 concert brought Rockapella to be known as the front-runners of modern day a cappella. In 2002, Carl hung up his pipes as bassist and was replaced by George Baldi III. In 2003, the group started their now annual "A Rockapella Holiday" tour, and in 2004, they released a live album, as well as re-released all of their previous North American albums on the independent label Shakariki Records. That same year, Kerman, the group's baritone and the last remaining founding member of the group, decided to leave Rockapella and was replaced by John K. Brown, a second tenor. This membership change initiated the era of, as the group refers to it, "The New Rockapella", in which the group has added more choreography and energy to their concert performances.[3] Between 2005 and 2009, Rockapella focused on touring both domestically and around the world, continuing their popularity in North America and Japan while also boosting their newfound popularity in Europe and Asia in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Singapore, and South Korea. Rockapella began joining the Boston Pops on stage in the eastern US in 2006, creating a concert experience that shows both the orchestra's and Rockapella's talents separately and together in a manner never done before: a cappella with instrumentation.[4] In August 2009, Wright announced he would be leaving the group at the end of the year to spend more time with his family;[5] his last performance with the band was on December 22 of that same year,[6] and was replaced by Steven Dorian.

In August 2010, the group announced their first ever concert cruise through Galaxsea Travel aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Glory. It took place on January 23–30, 2011 and included private concerts and a meet and greet cocktail party with Rockapella. On September 21, 2010, after much build up by the group since January, the band released Bang, their first full scale studio album since 2002, in digital format via iTunes, Amazon.com, and their website; physical CDs became available on October 21.[7] On December 17, PAID Inc., the group's brand management and marketing resource, announced a partnership with Fairwood Studios that resulted in Rockapella becoming the first a cappella band to be featured in the Rock Band Network.[8] The project to make "Bang", the title track off their newest album, the first track in Rock Band to feature full, four-instrument gameplay based on no live or synthesized instruments began in the summer of 2010,[9][10] and was released for purchase on January 30, 2011 through the RBN.[11] As shown by an accompanying video released through YouTube on Fairwood Studios' channel, the vocal player sings along with Leonard's lead, the guitarist strums to Brown and Dorian's backup vocals, the bass guitar player follows Baldi's bass vocals, and the player on the drums uses Thacher's vocal percussion as their notes.[12][note 1] At the beginning of 2011, the band's cover of "It's A Small World" from their album Comfort & Joy, was featured in a TV commercial for the animated film Gnomeo and Juliet.[13] Along with their usual holiday shows, Rockapella joined the Boston Pops in November and December 2011 for ten shows during their Christmas tour, a first for the band.[14][15] On November 16, 2011, Rockapella released a new holiday album, A Rockapella Holiday, announcing the release via Facebook.[16] In the spring of 2012, Rockapella revealed a new covers album was in the works, titled Motown & More, to accompany their live show of the same name.[17][18][19] Just prior to release, a YouTube sampler of the forthcoming album tracks was posted & announced via Facebook,[20] presenting song clips accompanied by album-related graphics. The album was released on March 15, 2013 on iTunes[21] and is currently also available on Amazon.com & CDBaby.[22][23] The band released two music videos of original music on YouTube in 2013: "Pretty Much You" from Motown & More on May 21, 2013, and "4U4Now4Life" from Bang on September 10, 2013. In a Facebook post on October 14, Brown announced he would be leaving the group at the end of the month to enter the ministry full-time.[24] He was replaced by Calvin Jones, who began performing with the group at their first Christmas show of 2013.[25]

Life after Rockapella[edit]

Most of the former members of Rockapella have remained in the singing business since their departures. Altman, Keyes, Evett, and non-Rockapella-member baritone Kevin Weist now comprise an a cappella group called The GrooveBarbers. They were cast in a nationwide television ad for Astelin nasal spray as 'The Astelins'. They focus more on Altman's originals, barbershop arrangements, and a cappella doo wop than covers of pop songs. Altman has also released three solo albums and two Jewish comedy albums, one of which to go along with his solo comedy act Jewmongous. Kerman is working independently on jazz music compilations. Carl recorded a solo album, The SoLow Project, in 2004 and has pursued various musical and voice-over opportunies, as well as enjoying his semi-retirement. Kerman and Carl have joined The GrooveBarbers on stage on more than one occasion, and since 2008 have reunited with Altman and Keyes on five occasions, billing themselves as XRP. This regrouping of the 1988–1991 line up of Rockapella was originally scheduled to occur only twice: once as a practice gig on July 26, 2008,[26] and a second time at the 2008 A Cappellastock in Ogden, Utah on August 23.[27] However, XRP got together for a third show on April 17, 2009[28] and sang a song written by Carl and Altman on the Schoolhouse Rock!: Earth Rock soundtrack called "You Oughta Be Savin' Water". Following this, a fourth concert on December 13, 2012 was announced by Carl,[29] and a fifth concert in support of the Harlem, New York City public school Central Park East 2 on February 1, 2014 was announced by Altman.[30]

Membership history[edit]

YearHigh TenorTenorBaritone/
Tenor
BassVocal
percussion
1986Steve KeyesSean AltmanElliott KermanDavid Stix
1987Charlie Evett
1988Barry Carl
1989
1990
1991Scott Leonard
1992
1993Jeff Thacher
1994
1995
1996
1997Kevin Wright
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002George Baldi III
2003
2004John K. Brown
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010Steven Dorian
2011
2012
2013
2014Calvin Jones
Temporary Members

Discography[edit]

Domestic Releases[edit]

Release DateAlbumLine-upLabel
March 2013Motown & MoreLeonard, Dorian, Brown, Baldi, ThacherShakariki Records / PAID, Inc.
November 2011A Rockapella HolidayLeonard, Dorian, Brown, Baldi, ThacherShakariki Records / PAID, Inc.
September 2010BangLeonard, Dorian, Brown, Baldi, ThacherShakariki Records / PAID, Inc.
June 2004Live In JapanLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Baldi, ThacherShakariki Records
November 2002Comfort & JoyLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Baldi, ThacherAmerigo Records
Re-released on Shakariki Records in 2004
August 2002Smilin'Leonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, Baldi, ThacherAmerigo Records
Re-released on Shakariki Records in 2004
March 2001In ConcertLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, ThacherJ-Bird Records
Re-released on Shakariki Records in 2004
October 2000ChristmasLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, ThacherJ-Bird Records
Re-released on Shakariki Records in 2004
March 20002Leonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, ThacherJ-Bird Records
Re-released on Shakariki Records in 2004
February 1999Don't Tell Me You DoLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, ThacherJ-Bird Records
Re-released on Shakariki Records in 2004
Mid-1997RockapellaLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, ThacherIndependent
Mid-1996Lucky SevenLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, ThacherIndependent
Mid-1995PrimerLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, ThacherIndependent

International Releases[edit]

Release DateAlbumLine-upLabel
June 2005Live At Duo Music ExchangeLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Baldi, ThacherDuo Records
2002In ConcertLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, ThacherRentrak Records
November 2001ChristmasLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, ThacherRentrak Records
November 1996Lucky Seven:
Memories And Dreams
Leonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, ThacherForLife Records
November 1995Best FestLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, ThacherForLife Records
November 1994Out ColdLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, ThacherForLife Records
April 1994VocobeatLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, ThacherForLife Records
December 1992Bash!Leonard, Altman, Kerman, CarlForLife Records
May 1992From N.Y.Leonard, Altman, Kerman, CarlForLife Records
May 1992To N.Y.Leonard, Altman, Kerman, CarlForLife Records

Compilations[edit]

Release DateAlbumLine-upLabel
September 2002Best A CappellaLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, ThacherForLife Records
2002More Than EverLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, ThacherRentrak Records

Various Releases[edit]

YearAlbumLine-upSong
2007Hokie Nation: An A Cappella TributeLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, Thacher"I'll Hear Your Voice"
200220 Christmas Stars, Vol. IVLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Baldi, Thacher"Merry Christmas Darling"
2000Mark and Brian: Little Drummer BoysLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, ThacherSilver Bells" (Live performance)
2000A Cappella Christmas PartyLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl"Hold Out For Christmas"
1999RevivalSam HarrisLeonard, Wright, Kerman, Carl, Thacher"A Change In My Life" (Background vocals)
1996Voices Only: A Cappella OriginalsLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, Thacher"Bed Of Nails"
1995Ben & Jerry's One World-One Heart For KidsLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl"The Light Of The Sun" w/Richie Havens
1994Biggest Little TicketLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, Thacher"Everything To Me"

"I Like You Very Much"

1993Carmen Sandiego: Out of This WorldLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, Thacher"Big Wet Rag"
1993Put On Your Green ShoesLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl"Light Of The Sun" w/Richie Havens
1993Muppet Beach PartyLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl"Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow"
1992Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?Leonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl, Yazbek"Capital"
"Everything To Me"
"My Home"
"Let's Get Away From It All"
"Indiana"
"Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?"
1992Modern A CappellaLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl"Zombie Jamboree"
1991Zappa's UniverseLeonard, Altman, Kerman, Carl"Elvis Has Left The Building"
"Heavenly Bank Account"
1990Spike Lee & Company: Do It A CappellaKeyes, Altman, Kerman, Carl"Zombie Jamboree"
"Under The Boardwalk" (with True Image)

Solo/Other CDs[edit]

Release DateAlbumArtist
1997SeanDEMOniumSean Altman
March 2002Alt.maniaSean Altman
June 2005Losing StreakSean Altman
2006UnorthodoxSean Altman (What I Like About Jew)
2008Taller Than JesusSean Altman (JEWMONGOUS)
2005GloryThe GrooveBarbers
March 2010GutsThe GrooveBarbers
July 2004The SoLow ProjectBarry Carl
1996My Favorites: The Bee GeesScott Leonard
February 1999BluespeelScott Leonard (Flying Faders)
2002Nice KittyScott Leonard (fi-Ling Fader)
May 20071man1mikeScott Leonard
March 2010Tokyo RobotsScott Leonard
January 2009Essence of WorshipJohn K. Brown
January 2009God Has A Hold On MeJohn K. Brown
June 2010bOOmbOOmJohn K. Brown
June 2011UnpluggedJohn K. Brown
November 2012A "Just Play It" ChristmasJohn K. Brown

Songs in Commercials[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Full length video of "Bang" gameplay on expert autoplay. Youtube.com (January 31, 2011). Retrieved on October 17, 2011.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Spike & Co.: Do It A Cappella Review | TV Reviews and News. EW.com (October 05, 1990). Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  2. ^ a b The Showbiz Wizard: ROCKAPELLA'S SCOTT LEONARD!. Theshowbizwizard.blogspot.com (January 03, 2011). Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  3. ^ Interview With Rockapella's Jeff Thacher | A Cappella Music – The Contemporary A Cappella Society. Casa.org (August 14, 2010). Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  4. ^ News – Spring '06 | News. Rockapella. Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  5. ^ Kevin Wright Says a Loving Goodbye to Rockapella | News. Rockapella. Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  6. ^ Kevin Wright's Final Shows with Rockapella | News. Rockapella. Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  7. ^ New Album "Bang" – Download TODAY! | News. Rockapella. Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  8. ^ Rockapella Makes Unprecedented, All-Vocal Contribution to Rock Band Network. Fairwoodstudios.com (December 17, 2010). Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  9. ^ Rockapella to Do It on the RBN. Rockbandaide.com. Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  10. ^ Did you hear that.... Facebook. (December 22, 2010). Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  11. ^ Full Song – "Bang" – Xbox.com. Marketplace.xbox.com. Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  12. ^ Rockapella (Performers) (December 17, 2010). Rockapella Comes to Rock Band! (Video game). New York: Fairwood Studios. Retrieved December 21, 2010. 
  13. ^ Featured in Gnomeo and Juliet Commercial | News. Rockapella. Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  14. ^ Rockapella's Scott Leonard | Spot on Long Island. Spotonli.com. Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  15. ^ Jeff Thacher (June 8, 2011). Jeff Thacher Checks In. Boston. Retrieved June 10, 2011. 
  16. ^ Rockapella proudly announces the new album!. Facebook. (November 16, 2011). Retrieved on November 16, 2011.
  17. ^ Yes, it's true.... Facebook. (May 31, 2012). Retrieved on May 31, 2012.
  18. ^ Rockapella's latest show.... Facebook. (March 19, 2012). Retrieved on May 31, 2012.
  19. ^ September 14, 2012 Boston, MA Upcoming Show | Tour schedule and concert tickets. Rockapella. Retrieved on May 31, 2012.
  20. ^ FAN PREVIEW: EXCLUSIVE SAMPLER of the new album.... Facebook. (March 11, 2013). Retrieved on March 11, 2013.]
  21. ^ Here's the iTunes.... Facebook. (March 15, 2013). Retrieved on March 15, 2013.
  22. ^ [1] Amazon.com Retrieved on April 15, 2013.
  23. ^ [2] CDBaby.com Rockapella page. Retrieved on April 15, 2013.
  24. ^ Good Evening FB, I wanted to let you all know... Facebook. (October 14, 2013). Retrieved January 26, 2014.
  25. ^ A Farewell...and A New Addition Rockapella.com. Retrieved on January 26, 2014.
  26. ^ XRP – Sean Altman, Steve Keyes, Elliott Kerman & And Barry Carl Tickets. Smarttix.com (July 26, 2008). Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  27. ^ A Cappellastock. A-cappella.com. Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  28. ^ XRP – Original Members of Rockapella | TCAN – The Center for Arts in Natick | The Center for Arts in Natick | MUSIC. ArtsBoston.org (April 17, 2009). Retrieved on October 17, 2011.
  29. ^ XRP rides again!!.... Facebook. (October 1, 2012). Retrieved on October 24, 2012.
  30. ^ Harlem Public School Benefit!. (January 23, 2014). Retrieved on January 26, 2014.

External links[edit]