Spooky Tooth

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Spooky Tooth

Spooky Tooth, seminal British underground band. Membership: Gary Wright, kybd., voc. (b. Creskill, N.J., April 26, 1943); Mike Harrison, kybd., voc. (b. Carlisle, Cumberland, England, Sept. 3, 1945); Luther Grosvenor (aka Ariel Bender), gtr. (b. Evesham, Worcester, England, Dec. 23, 1949); Greg Ridley, bs. (b. Carlisle, Cumberland, England, Oct. 23, 1947); Mike Kellie, drm. (b. Birmingham, England, March 24, 1947). Group disbanded in 1970 and re-formed in 1972 with Gary Wright, Mike Harrison, guitarist-vocalist Mick Jones (b. London, England, Dec. 27, 1944), bassist Chris Stewart, and drummer Bryson Graham; Harrison, Stewart, and Jones left in 1973 and re-formed in 1974 with keyboardist-vocalist Mike Patto (b. Sept. 22, 1946; d. March 4, 1979) and bassist-vocalist Val Burke. The group disbanded for good in 1975.

Formed by Briton Mike Harrison and American Gary Wright, Spooky Tooth was a seminal British underground band, although they never had a hit record.

The group disbanded in 1970 and re-formed in 1972, as original bassist Greg Ridley joined Humble Pie and original guitarist Luther Grosvenor joined Mott the Hoople and later formed Widowmaker. Later member Mick Jones eventually founded Foreigner, and Harrison and Wright pursued solo careers, with Wright scoring the biggest success with The Dream Weaver in 1975.

Gary Wright performed as a child actor on television and Broadway, later playing keyboards in a number of high school bands. Graduating from N.Y.U., he traveled to Berlin, Germany, to pursue graduate work, but musical interests prevailed and he formed a band called The New York Times. Invited to England by Traffic’s manager, Chris Blackwell, Wright formed Spooky Tooth in 1968 with Mike Harrison, Luther Grosvenor, Greg Ridley, and Mike Kellie of the group Art. Spooky Tooth’s debut album featured the contrasting vocal and songwriting styles of Wright and Harrison and was eventually released in the United States in 1971 as Tobacco Road. Spooky Two sold modestly, but Ridley left after its release to join Humble Pie, and the band’s next album, Ceremony, was cocredited to French electronic-music wizard Pierre Henry. Wright left to pursue an inauspicious solo career in 1970, and Spooky Tooth disbanded after The Last Puff, recorded with Henry McCullough, Chris Stainton, and Alan Spenner from Joe Cocker’s Grease Band.

Like Gary Wright, Luther Grosvenor and Mike Harrison unsuccessfully pursued solo careers, with Grosvenor joining Stealers Wheel, then Mott the Hoople, under the name of Ariel Bender. Wright and Harrison reconstituted Spooky Tooth with Mick Jones in 1972, but none of the new band’s three albums sold significantly and the group disbanded in late 1974, with Jones going on to form Foreigner with Lou Gramm and Ian McDonald. In 1976 Grosvenor formed Widowmaker with vocalist John Butler, but the group proved unsuccessful.

Gary Wright’s second attempt at a solo career succeeded with 1975’s The Dream Weaver. He played virtually all parts on the album save drums and occasional guitar, and the album yielded belated smash American pop hits with the eerie title cut and “Love Is Alive.” He toured as a major headline act in 1976, but after 1977’s The Light of Smiles his popularity faded. He scored his last major hit in 1981 with “Really Wanna Know You.” In 1995 Gary Wright returned to recording with First Signs of Life for the Worldly Music label.


SPOOKY TOOTH : Tobacco Road (1971); Spooky Two (1969); Ceremony (1970); The Last Puff (1970); You Broke My Heart … So I Busted Your Jaw (1973); Witness (1973); The Mirror (1974); Hell or High Water (1982). GARY WRIGHT AND SPOOKY TOOTH: That Was Only Yesterday (1976). GARY WRIGHT: Extraction (1971); Footprint (1971); The Dream Weaver (1975); The Light of Smiles (1977); Touch and Gone (1977); Headin’ Home (1979); The Right Place (1981); Who I Am (1988); First Signs of Life (1995). MIKE HARRISON: Mike Harrison (1972); Smokestack Lightning (1972); Rainbow Rider (1976). LUTHER GROSVENOR: Under Open Skies (1972). WIDOWMAKER: Widowmaker (1976); Too Late to Cry (1977); Widowmaker (1992).

—Brock Helander