SickthingsUK: Musicians - Neal Smith

  • Name: Neal Allan Smith - The Platinum God
  • Instruments: Drums, Percussion, Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards.
  • Born: September 23rd 1947
  • Joined: Around December 1967
  • Left: N/A - As far as Neal is concerned he is still the drummer of the band called "Alice Cooper". The band's last full tour was in 1974.
  • Alice Cooper Tours: Every show until 1974.
  • Alice Cooper Albums: 'Pretties For You' - 'Muscle Of Love', , 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare', 'Paranormal'
  • Links:

Neal Smith, the 'Platinum God', joined The Nazz in Los Angeles in 1967, although he had known to them for some time while playing in rival bands around the Phoenix area. The Nazz became 'Alice Cooper' which technically makes Neal a founding member, and the original and only drummer of the Alice Cooper band as all future drummers played in Alice's solo backing groups. With the band Neal went on to be recognised as one of the greatest drummers in rock. After the band separated he stayed busy with various musical projects including 'Billion Dollar Babies', 'Deadringer', 'Bouchard, Dunaway, Smith' as well as his own 'Cinematik' and 'KillSmith' projects. He also has a successful second career in real estate.

Background

Neal Smith was born on September 23rd, 1947 in Akron, OH. His sister, Cindy, is married to original bassist Dennis Dunaway. Cindy also designed many of the early stage costumes for the band and performed on stage in shows.

The Smith family moved to Phoenix, AZ around 1963 where Neal attended Camelback High School and joined the school's marching band as well as local outfits including 'The Coat Of Many Colors', The Holy Grail', 'Evil', and 'The Night Riders' who became 'The Laser Beats', who played some of the same 'Battle Of The Bands' shows as 'The Spiders'.

"These were great days, I just loved to play as much as possible, whenever and wherever I could. And of course, it was always a great way to meet members of the opposite sex! At this point the only thing I can remember about 'The Night Riders' is that I had a really big bass drum, a surfboard, I played 'Wipe Out' every night and had lots of fun. The 'Laser Beats' were 'The Night Riders' with a singer, that actually I never really liked at all, but we won some battle of the bands. I played 'Wipe Out' a lot and had some great times.
I can't believe you mention the sacred 'Cloth of Many Colors'.. no one knows about that band as well it should be. We only did 2 shows and we opened for 'The Nazz', I was the lead singer and front man (no drums). Our bass guitarist Roger, was the ex-sax player from 'The Night Riders' and 'The Laser Beats', he played a fur covered fender bass and Skip (Ladd) played lead guitar. Skip was the only really cool thing about the band. We had a drummer and I don't know his name. Thank God we only played two gigs, the world would not have been ready for 'The Cloth'."
(Neal Smith, GWM Interview, November 99)

"Here in Phoenix, before Neal Smith joined Alice, while he was still playing drums for the Holy Grail, Neal was the MC for several of the Love Ins at the Encanto Park Bandshell, sponsored by the City Of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. One of them was with 'The Spiders'. When they did the song 'Boris The Spider' (by 'The Who') Dennis squished the imaginary spider on the front edge of the stage. That may have been the time that 'The Holy Grail' played with John Fitzgerald as lead singer, they were so good 'The Spiders' made up a gimmick to gain attention. They stuffed some clothes to make a dummy and then kicked it around the stage. Kids loved it!

The Night Riders with Neal (center).
Neal and I went to Camelback High School and were in Marching band together, as well as playing in groups called 'The Night Riders' and 'The Laser Beats' together. We even lived together for awhile.
We used to practice over at his house after school. His mom was great with us kids and became like a second mom to me. His sister Cindy also has real long beautiful blonde hair, I'm the one who took her to the prom in High School. Neal has a great sense of humour! 6'4" of lanky class and stature. Lot's going on in there, Neal is talented in dynamics of using both visual and audio spectrums. In other words he twirls his sticks a lot!!! Runs silver dollars over his fingers, hates drum solos, but plays the hell out of them when he has to. He is very quick to learn a new style or pick up things that he hears. I had an electronic music tape that I did back in 1972, with some very syncopated accents that I could hear in my head as I listened to play backs an original called 'EGAC', or "cage" spelled backward, which was also the chord progression, with a lead lick that was delayed a quarter beat running scales a third apart on the echoplex or DynaChord Super from Germany. Neal listened to it and me slapping my knees with the accents and picked it right up!
Never have I ever heard another drummer pick up and accent the way I wanted it! I asked Neal if he would record the drum track for me and he said "It would be an honour" but we never did record it for lack of time and money, but Neal was the only person who got into it.
We used to try to think of publicity stunts to get our group better known. We had a big fat red haired Jewish lady named Chari Zelman for a manager. Neal Smith, Roger Eich, and myself would come up with wild stuff to try. Like, in previous years, like the 50's they would have these dance marathons to see who could dance the longest. In the 60's we wanted to have a band marathon where we would try to set a World Book Of Records for playing the longest gig. We loved playing music, we loved practicing as much as possible, so it was a natural. We tried to get our manager to find us a store front downtown to set up our equipment and play live in a glass fishbowl till we dropped. Big problem with reality was no store had an insurance policy to cover us when we dropped. So, it never happened, Neal told me he even forgot about that. He wouldn't have if we did it!
Neal doesn't remember too much of his father, because he wasn't around that much. His dad was a professional drummer in the theatre, before the talkies. His father used to write music and drum parts because I saw some at practice once. Neal said he remembered his father holding him on his knee while he played the drums. While they were youngsters back in Ohio Cindy told me her and her brother wore metal braces on their legs because they had polio [in fact Neal never wore braces as his polio apparently effected his throat, not his legs]. Lot's of water therapy and exercises helped to heal them both into the normal lives they lead today if you can call Neal normal. Actually he is a very special individual with developed talents that once may have been considered a handicap, to someone who has risen above the negativity to a majestic kingly style of drumming.
(Skip Ladd, February 2000)

'The Laser Beats' featured Neal Smith on drums, Skip Ladd on lead guitar, Roger Eich on sax, David Eich on "steel", Stan B. on guitar, and Steph Mclaughlin (also known as Steve Hudson) on vocals. The following information comes from band member Skip Ladd in 2001:

"We recorded at Audio Recorders in Phoenix on Laser Records label. 'Again' (the B side of 'Rampage') was a song that Neal wrote the lyrics to and I did the music. 'Rampage' was written by all of us as a theme song to a TV show that was never written. We had the same idea that 'The Monkees' had a year earlier, but the writer got too involved with the Car Magazine he was also writing for and the Winter National Drag Races at Beeline Dragway. That guy said hindsight is 20/20 and he could have kicked himself in the ass for not promoting it more. Those guys made millions and couldn't even play, where we had already won the Battle of the Bands for two years in a row, 1964 and 1965. We also recorded 'Barbara' on Audio Recorders label. The flip side was a novelty song called 'Popcorn Man', a song about a popcorn machine that breaks and flows over, flooding the streets with popcorn. We yelled and screamed in the background into the cork walls of the studio. I wrote the music to that one and Roger Eich, the sax player wrote the lyrics. These were released just locally in Phoenix, doubt very much if anyone would find copies.


The Laser Beats with Neal (on the left).

'Rampage' was written by Steve Hudson and 'The Night Riders' for a theme song of a video production that Jerry Hicks and his wife were going to produce for KPHO channel 5. It was recorded in 1965 at Audio Recorders on 7th Street. Black/White video tapes were made so you could film on locations that year. We had been having rehearsals for acting and character study at Jerry Hick's house on Indian School Road. Some of the camera people were supposed to come over and work with us. At the time Channel 3, then ABC, had 'American Bandstand' and 'Arizona Bandstand' for their teenage viewing public.
Channel 5 was trying to find something to compete with ABC, sure they had 'Wallace and Ladmo' but they were mostly for the younger kids so they wanted us because we had just won the 'Battle of the Bands' for the second year in a row at the Arizona State Car Show. First in 1964 with KRIZ radio, and the next year for KRUX radio, both of them AM stations, FM was only classical here then. We also were suppose to have Vonda Kay Van Dyke, Miss Arizona, help with the acting parts. Neal was a very funny actor! You gotta love that!
Jerry Hicks would sit each of us down with a reel to reel tape rolling in the middle of the kitchen table asking us questions that were a bit on the obscure hypothetical situations to see what our real characters were like, so the script writers could fashion the video scripts to our real personalities. Jerry had asked if we could come up with a theme song to play so that when teens would hear it in the next room they would come in to watch TV. We worked this tune out in a practice place we fondly called the F.I.B. which stood for "Finger In Bowl", which was nothing more than a sound proofed garage at my brother Bill's house. We had curtains hanging all around the walls with room for mattresses behind the curtains to absorb the sound. We had the reel to reel for practice hooked up to the power so when anyone turned on the lights it started the tapes rolling. Made for some interesting High School tapes of guys & gals at play. Don't ask for the tapes, we probably taped over them to protect the guilty.
The singer was Steve Hudson, who later changed his name to Steph McLaughlin. He heard that Vince changed his to Alice for $30, so he did too. Neal couldn't stand him! Sure Steve was talented to sound like lots of singers, and gifted with a four octave range, but when it came to showmanship we thought he was missing a chromosome.
Yes there were 45's made of this song but when the local stations picked it up they were playing the other side 'Again' which is a song that Neal wrote the words to. The 45's were made on the Laser Records with a gold label and put out by our Manager, Chari Zelman. It also has the numbers L-101 on both sides."
Skip Ladd, June 2001

An 'Audio Recorders of Arizona' acetate 45 also exists featuring the songs 'Mr Popcorn' (written by Neal) and 'Barbara' but there's no evidence of a commercial release.

Neal lists his early influences as Gene Krupa, Sandy Nelson, Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, Ringo, Charlie Watts, Alex Dunthart and John Barry ( most famous for the 'James Bond' films).

"Carry overs to my music: Krupa and Nelson solo tom-tom work (see 'Black Ju Ju' and 'Slick Black Limousine'). The great fills of Ginger Baker ('Under My Wheels'). The great grooves that hold verses together like Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts (''Caught In A Dream' and 'Long Way To Go'). Mitch Mitchell's hi-hat work, (Killer' introduction). Keith Moons energy and showmanship ('Black Ju Ju'). John Barry's use of percussive dynamics and diversity (''Halo of Flies', 'Killer', 'Unfinished Sweet', 'Grand Finale', 'Man With A Golden Gun'. Alex Dunthart's flawless snare technique ('Second Coming). Just a few examples."
(Neal Smith, November 1999)

After the original Alice Cooper went their seperate ways Neal worked on a solo album, 'Platinum God', which wouldn't actually be released for over 25 years. When it was clear Alice wouldn't be returning to the band he moved on to the 'Billion Dollar Babies' band with Dennis Dunaway and Michael Bruce. You can see a full list of Neal's albums here.

Latter Years


The Flying Tigers.

After the failure of the 'Billion Dollar Babies' band Neal more or less disappeared from sight but he was still active on a smaller scale. He formed the 'Neal Smith Band', who later became 'The Flying Tigers', and played club shows around his home in Westport, CT for a few years and included Dennis Dunaway in their ranks during their later period. A demo was recorded and a couple of live tapes exist but nothing was commercially released. The band consisted of Neal and Dennis along with David Stackman on lead guitar and Paul Roy (deceased) on rhythm guitar and most of the vocals. They played a selection of Cooper classics along with original material and 'Rock'n'Roll Radio' from the 'Battle Axe' album, which Neal would sing himself.

"Neal was in the 'Neal Smith Band' first. I'm not sure exactly when that band formed but they played club dates in Connecticut in 1978 (such as Toad's Place in New Haven and The Apple in Milford)... then Dennis joined in the fall of 1978 and the new band was named 'The Flying Tigers'... they performed for a couple of years or so. I attended many shows of both 'The Neal Smith Band' and 'The Flying Tigers' at numerous Connecticut clubs during those years. THE SHOWS WERE AWESOME! Cooper songs performed included 'I'm Eighteen', 'Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo)' and 'Under My Wheels'. 'The Flying Tigers' had several incredibly good original songs. Neal's drumming during those years was nothing less than SPECTACULAR... his drum solos during 'I'm Eighteen' were mind-blowing... I still have a broken drum stick from one of those drum solos. Dennis was great also, and very friendly to talk with during breaks at the shows. The chemistry onstage between Neal and Dennis was always fun to watch. It really seemed that they enjoyed themselves at these gigs quite a bit. My friend and I would often sit and dance with Cindy Dunaway and Babette Smith at these club shows.
(Sickthing Ray Ieronimo, August 1999)

'I am the friend Ray referred to in his post. I saw the Tigers probably more than anyone, I have two separate live recordings of them from a small club right down the street from where I live in CT. I also have their one and only 4 track demo recording that was done to get a recording deal. I first saw the 'Neal Smith Band' at their first gig in a club in West Hartford, CT. called 'Stage West' in 1977-78 and then they played Toad's in New Haven a few months later which I also attended. Dennis came on board thereafter and I would say I saw them at least 50 times over the next 2 years until they disbanded in the summer of 1980. As far as songs, Ray was correct with his listing of AC songs done. Some of the more popular songs by the Tigers were 'Must Be Love', 'American In Paris', as well as a smokin' cover of The Who's 'Substitute'. I would venture to guess that I had seen them play in 10 - 15 different clubs in those 3 years and during that time I also got to meet Mike Bruce and Glen Buxton. who were both just as nice, personable and friendly as Neal and Dennis. I even got to dance near Glen during 'Under My Wheels'; and get a high five from the Blonde Bomber. Neal was right in his quote, the live energy of their shows was hard to recapture in the studio.
(David Pugliese, May 2001)

Later Neal and Dennis joined the short lived 'Deadringer' band which released on album, 'Electrocution Of The Heart', but that quickly disbanded. He also helped out 'The Plasmatics' for one album but didn't play live with them, and also guested on Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Buck Dhama's solo album 'Flat Out'.

To fill the rest of his time Neal became a highly successful real estate agent in Westport, CT.

"With the success of 'Love It To Death' I had a little extra pocket change laying around so I invested it into a property in Arizona. Within 2 years I tripled my initial investment. In the early 80's I went through a divorce and had to sell my home in Connecticut and met some great people that helped me become interested in a field that I was already familiar with. It is a great career because I still can make time for my music. It was not that difficult of a change for me, I love business. I'm a Libra, I need the balance of music and business."
(Neal Smith, November 1999)

With the advent of the internet age it became much easier to search out like-minded people, and Neal realised that there was a legion of diehard Alice Cooper fans who were still interested in his work and wondered where he was. He set up a web site for his real estate business as the "Rock'n'Realtor" and added a section about his musical career and achievements. This led to contact with various fans and reconnection with old band mates Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton. He finally finished up his 1975 'Platinum God' album with help from Richie Scarlet, and released it directly through his web site.

On October 10th 1997, Neal joined with Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton to perform together for the first time in over twenty years. They performed a selection of AC songs at the Area 51 club in Houston, Texas with help from ex-Ace Frehley guitarist Richi Scarlet playing bass in place of Dennis, who at the time wasn't well enough to travel. It would be the last ever performance by Glen Buxton who died just days afterwards. You can find more information about this show here.

From there Neal and Dennis began playing with ex-Blue Oyster Cult bassist turned guitarist Joe Bouchard, at first under the name 'Eyescream' and then as 'Bouchard, Dunaway, Smith'. In 2001 they released their only studio album 'Back From Hell' and performed shows around New England as well as brief trips to the UK and France. A live album followed, recorded in Paris, before the band fizzled out.

On February 14th 2008 Neal released his second solo album 'Sexual Saviour' under the name 'KillSmith'. Again self-released, the album was raw and primal punk metal and a long way from the classic rock sound people expected from him. KillSmith have never played live.


The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, 2011.

On December 15th 2010 it was announced the original Alice Cooper band would finally be inducted into the 'Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame' at a ceremony in New York on March 14th 2011. The band performed together at the induction, and also played a short set at the Revolver Awards the same month. While various combinations of the original band members had played together with Alice at small functions over the preceding decade this was really the first time since 1974 they had performed together as 'Alice Cooper' since 1974.

In 2011 a second 'KillSmith' album appeared, simply called 'KillSmith 2', and Neal, Michael and Dennis all joined Alice for three songs on his on his 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare' album.

'KillSmith and the GreenFire Empire', the third 'KillSmith' album was released on August 29th 2014 although this time it was released as an MP3 download only. This one is a concept album:

"This conceptual metal adventure will undoubtedly be the last rock opera, destined to become a movie! The story of a poor boy who grows up in the jungles of South America, then becomes "Diablos the Emerald King", the most ruthless and powerful drug lord in the world. As a young boy, he makes a discovery of an ancient secret that has been hidden for thousands of years in pre-Colombian jungle ruins. The secret he discovers is an ancient sacrificial drug called "GreenFire." As "GreenFire's" deadly addiction spreads like wildfire around the globe, it reaches a country called "Blue Soul Land." The havoc it creates in "Blue Soul Land" will unleash the rage of 'KillSmith' with grave consequences."

In 2016 Dennis Dunaway was promoting his recently released biography 'Snakes, Guillotines, Electric Chairs' and had been making appearances at book and record shops promoting it, often joined by Michael or Neal. One such even took place at 'Good Records' in Dallas, TX on November 25th - which happened to coincide with an Alice Cooper tour show the following night. It was announced that Neal, Dennis and Michael would all be at 'Good Records' book signing, and it didn't take a genius to guess what was being planned. Sure enough Alice joined his old band mates, with Ryan Roxie standing in for Glen Buxton, for a short set in the record store. The show was filmed and recorded and two songs were released as a limited edition single for Record Store Day the following year.

This all led to the "OG's" ("Original Guys", as Alice started calling them) writing and recording two brand new songs for Alice's 2017 album 'Paranormal', and later joining Alice for short "mini-sets" during the five 'Paranormal' tour shows in the UK. The original band, along with Ryan Roxie standing in for Glen Buxton, played 'I'm Eighteen', 'Billion Dollar Babies', 'No More Mr Nice Guy', and 'Muscle Of Love' before both current and original bands joined together for 'School's Out'.