Hometown Renaissance Man

March 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

Musical roots in the Bayou City

Steve Tyrell, singer, producer and composer, grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward and, at a very young age, performed in a band as the only white member. In recent years, The New York Times wrote “Steve Tyrell’s sizable voice filters Louis Armstrong through Ray Charles and Dr. John.”

“I grew up on the same street as The Crusaders, Joe Sample, Stix Hooper and Wayne Henderson,” Steve explains. “My biggest influences were all R &B artists, so I’m sure that’s why my style of singing has some blues in it at all times.”

At 16, Steve was producing records in Houston; at 18, he landed a job at Scepter Records in New York and was soon promoted to head of A &R Promotions, where he began to work with some of America’s greatest songwriters, such as Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Barry Mann and Carole King. “One of the first things I did was to recruit fellow Texan, BJ Thomas,” Steve reminisces, “and produce his hits, “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”” His association with Burt Bacharach and Hal David gave Steve the opportunity to work on movie projects. “I suddenly realized that you could take a good song, put it in a movie and release it at the same time as the movie came out,” he says. “So, I started a music supervision company with Barry Mann, a great songwriter. We immediately produced Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram singing, “Somewhere Out There” for the animated Disney feature, “An American Tail,” which was nominated for a Golden Globe, an Academy Award and won two Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Song from a Motion Picture.”

Steve has collaborated with such superstar artists as Rod Stewart, Elvis Presley, Elton John, Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Bonnie Raitt and Aaron Neville. His songs have been recorded by such diverse artists as Ray Charles, Diana Ross and LL Cool J. Steve’s favorite artist of all time is Ray Charles. His favorite artist to work with is Rod Stewart. “What a great guy, and so much fun!”

A singer at heart, Steve moved on to production and then back to performance. “My cameo performance of “The Way You Look Tonight” in the movie “Father of the Bride” got an amazing response,” he discloses. “Well, I didn’t think much about it. But, when I sang “Simple Life” and “Sunny Side of the Street” in “Father (of the Bride) II,” the response was unbelievable. Even Rosemary Clooney urged me to release an album of standards. I said, “Who would buy it?” to which Steve Martin said, “I would!””

Steve has released seven albums of standards: “A New Standard,” “Standard Time,” “A Christmas Album,” “This Time of Year,” “This Guy’s in Love,” “Songs of Sinatra,” (which Quincy Jones and the Sinatra family urged him to do) and his most recent release a few days ago, “The Disney Standards.” He has sold hundreds of thousands of albums and gained a following worldwide. His first four albums attained top three chart positions on Billboard’s Jazz Chart. Roz Pactor, Foley’s Fashion Director, is Steve’s sister. She says, “Steve’s so very special; he’s made me proud all of my life.” And, Steve loves his Houston cousins, too – they’re the Mandolas, of restaurant fame. When they spearheaded the Italian-American Sports Association fundraiser last April to provide scholarships for underprivileged young people, Steve performed. Emcee Dave Ward, surprised Steve by appearing in the same light blue tux that he had worn in the KNUZ band. “How I was able to get in that suit or why we ever wore that awful looking thing, I’ll never know,” Dave reveals. “It was about 1965, when a few of us decided to start a band. And we were horrible! Then, somebody brought in this kid named Steve Tyrell, who brought over a couple of guys, and before you know it, we were great. Steve and I have been friends ever since.”

“I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to do what I love in life – making music,” Steve admits. “I have such a deep love and appreciation for The Great American Songbook and feel these songs are America’s greatest contribution to the arts. I’m so excited about the renaissance going on for this music and am deeply grateful to be a part of it.” On March 17-19, Steve will be back in Houston performing with the Houston Symphony.

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