July 9, 2008
By David Huff
Firehouse - Rocklahoma 2008 - July 9-13
Quartet Shifted Gears, and Countries
The musical foundation that formed FireHouse can be traced back to 1984 when guitarist Bill Leverty’s band, White Heat, placed an advertisement for a drummer. Enter one Michael Foster. The pair immediately bonded and would often go to local clubs to scout out the competition. One night they caught the band Maxx Warrior in concert, and were immediately taken by its singer, C.J. Snare. Leverty was determined to get him in his group, and kept track of Maxx Warrior’s activities. When Snare’s band broke up, Leverty phoned the singer and soon sent him a tape. Impressed by the music, he came on board, suggesting they contact his bass player, Perry Richardson, to gauge his interest. Soon the ensemble was complete.
The band relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina to write and record. They earned income as a variety act performing in hotels. When they discovered their band name was already trademarked, they decided to name themselves after the Paul Stanley penned KISS classic, “Firehouse”. In December 1989, Epic Records signed the quartet and released their eponymous 1990 debut. Two singles, the Top 20 hit “Don’t Treat Me Bad” and their signature masterpiece “Love of a Lifetime”, catapulted the band to instant stardom. In 1991, the double-platinum act was voted Best New Hard Rock / Metal band at the American Music Awards over Nirvana.
FireHouse followed their debut with Hold Your Fire in 1992. Although not as successful as its predecessor, the record still went gold and produced three more hits for the band, including “Reach For the Sky,” “Hold the Dream” and the Top Ten hit, “When I Look Into Your Eyes.” With the alternative music scene gaining momentum, FireHouse was undaunted. Their third album, aptly titled 3, featured a significantly softer sound, with the group falling back on its strength, the power ballad. It paid off in the form of the brilliantly written “I Live My Life for You.” Despite their success, Epic dropped FireHouse from the label without explanation.
Once they were free from their recording contract, the quartet shifted gears, and countries, recording their next studio project, Category 5, for a Japanese label. The move overseas proved to be quite fortuitous. With the declining popularity of ‘80s rock acts Stateside, FireHouse found fame and fortune in Asia. They released another studio recording, O-2, as well as an acoustic version of their greatest hits album. Touring extensively throughout the Asian continent, the band would pack in crowds the rest of the decade. Not wanting America to complete forget them, the band recorded one of their live shows from Osaka, Bring ‘Em Out Live, and released it.
Founding member Richardson left in 2003 and eventually Allen McKenzie would permanently replace him. Leverty and C.J. Snare have both pursued solo careers, but neither let their projects interfere with the band’s studio and touring efforts in FireHouse.
Bill Leverty - guitars, vocals
Allen McKenzie - bass guitar, vocals
C.J. Snare - lead vocals, keyboards
Michael Foster - drums, percussion, vocals