The 77s (alternatively spelled the Seventy Sevens, the 77's, or simply 77's) is an American rock band currently consisting of Michael Roe on vocals/guitar, Mark Harmon on bass guitar, and Bruce Spencer on drums.
The group was “formed at a church by a church” under the name Scratch Band in Sacramento, California, during the late 1970s according to Mike Roe. Accompanying him were Mark Tootle on guitar and keyboards, Jan Eric Volz on bass guitar, and Mark Proctor on drums. They were occasionally joined by singer Sharon McCall and guitarist Jimmy A. Their repertoire included originals and songs by English poet Steve Scott among others. The “church” that brought the players together was Sacramento's Warehouse Christian Ministries with the band being a part of the ministries artistic outreach, performing every weekend at the Warehouse. The name of the band was changed to The Seventy Sevens before the release of their first album, Ping Pong Over the Abyss in 1982 on WCM’s own Exit label. While the meaning of the group's name has never been revealed, it is thought to be derived from either Matt 18:22, Daniel 9, or simply, a year – possibly 1977 – which holds some significance to the band. In 1984, the group toured with label mate Vector and Resurrection Band with all 3 bands playing the very first Cornerstone festival.
When Proctor left the band, he was replaced by Aaron Smith, who appeared on the album All Fall Down (1984) and remained with the band until 1995. Smith had been a former sideman with Ray Charles and The Temptations and a member of Vector. The next album, The Seventy Sevens, was released by Island Records in 1987. While the album received favorable reviews, it did not sell as well as it might; the reason being The Joshua Tree by label mate U2 was released that same year. In his article on the subject, John Thompson (True Tunes) thought it likely that Island put most of its resources into promoting The Joshua Tree while others on the label received less promotional support. The album received a positive review by Rolling Stone critic Margot Mifflin: “the 77s have come up with a sound that suggests not only that they know where they’re coming from, but also that they’re going places.” Mark Alan Powell called it “an artistic masterpiece – probably one of the ten best albums of the year not simply in the Christian market but in rock and roll, period.”
A compilation album of sorts called Sticks and Stones (1990) and a live album called Eighty Eight (1991) (which contained a manic version of “Over, Under, Sideways, Down”) were released after their eponymous Island Records release. At some point in 1992 Tootle and Volz left the band which left Roe as the only original member. David Leonhardt (guitar) joined in early 1992 with Mark Harmon (bass) joining that year also, replacing Tootle and Volz. Leonhardt and Harmon had previously been in a band called The Strawmen.
Pray Naked was released in 1992 but the title was changed by the label, Word Records, to The Seventy Sevens. The album title change would cause confusion in the minds of consumers and marketers since the 1987 album on Island bore the same name. Several songs by The Strawmen were re-recorded by the 77s on Pray Naked. This album was followed by Drowning with Land in Sight in 1994. Leonhardt and Smith left the band soon after, with Smith being replaced by former bandmate Bruce Spencer of Vector. This change brought about a new version of the band, namely a power trio line up with Harmon, Roe, and Spencer which started referring to itself as “the band that won’t go away”. It also brought the release of Tom Tom Blues (1995).
At the end of the 1996, The 77s started the label Fools of the World and reissued some of its albums. New material was also released following the label's formation: Echoes o' Faith (1996 live acoustic material), EP (1999), and A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows (2001). Also, Scott Reams occasionally played in the band during concerts beginning in 2000.
In 2010, The 77's participated in the tribute album Mister Bolin's Late Night Revival, a compilation of 17 unreleased tracks written by Tommy Bolin.
Critically, the 77s are considered by fans and music critics - such as Dwight Ozzard (Prism magazine), Brian Quincy Newcomb (HM) and John Thompson (True Tunes) - as the greatest (or “best” depending on whom one might quote) rock and roll band in the world.
|1982||Ping Pong over the Abyss||Exit Records|
|1984||All Fall Down||Exit Records|
|1987||The 77s||Island Records / Exit Records|
|1990||Sticks and Stones||Broken Records|
|1991||Eighty Eight||Brainstorm Artists, Intl|
|1992||Pray Naked||Brainstorm Artists, Intl|
|1994||Drowning with Land in Sight||Myrhh Records|
|1995||Tom Tom Blues||Brainstorm Artists, Intl|
|1996||Echos o' Faith||Fools of the World|
|1999||EP||Fools of the World|
|2000||Late||Fools of the World|
|2000||88/When Numbers Get Serious||Fools of the World|
|2001||A Golden Field of Radioactive Crows||Galaxy21 Music|
|2001||Happy Chrimbo!||Fools of the World|
|2002||Direct||Fools of the World|
|2007||Ninety Nine||Lo-Fidelity Records|
|2008||Holy Ghost Building||Lo-Fidelity Records|
|2014||Gimme a Kickstart….||Lo-Fidelity Records|
1991 Brainstorm Artists, Intl (7100524679)
Mike Roe – Guitar, lead vocal
Mark Tootle – Keyboard, guitar, vocal
Jan Eric – Bass, background vocal
Aaron Smith – Drum
David Leonhardt - Piano on “Perfect Blues”
Roger Smith - Hammond B-3 organ on “Wild Blue”
Mark Harmon - Bass guitar on “I Could Laugh”
This album was recorded live at the Warehouse in Sacramento, California on March 12, 1988. “This is the Way Love Is” and “Don't This Way” were trimmed from the full concert to fit the show on CD/cassette.
2000 Fools of the World (M8D-1034)
(…to be continued…)