Sawyer Fredericks fans, especially the younger ones, might think his TV appearance on NBC’s “The Voice” this week is unparalleled in Capital Region music history. Well, not so fast.
As impressive as Fredericks’ run to the final four in “The Voice” may be, other Capital Region musicians have risen to national prominence in the music industry and enjoyed special TV moments.
In August of 1981 a band of Albany-area musicians who went by the name of Blotto were among the first groups to have a video aired on a brand new music station, MTV. And back in the summer of 1965, The Knickerbockers, discovered at the University Twist Palace in Albany, got their big break by performing on ABC TV’s “Where the Action is,” a summer spinoff from Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” More recently, in February of 2014, the Saratoga-based electronic rock duo Phantogram made an appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
“It’s hard to compare Sawyer Fredericks with anything that’s gone on in the past,” said Greg Haymes, an original Blotto member who runs the music website Nippertown.com. “Sawyer is 16, and no one before him from around here had that kind of stardom that young. There are some musicians who went on to the national spotlight after they left the area, but I think part of the appeal of Sawyer is that he’s so young and he’s still here.”
The results of tonight’s season finale of “The Voice” may carry Fredericks toward stardom surpassing anything else the Capital Region has seen. Television exposure, Haymes will tell you, does have huge benefits.
“In a way, our success, much like Sawyer’s, was built to a large degree by television,” said Haymes. “We were playing all around the area, but when MTV broadcast our video on their very first day on the air it gave us national exposure. Then we started playing all over the Northeast.”
The video of Blotto’s “Lifeguard” was made by a group of students from SUNY-Plattsburgh.
“These kids from the film division were looking for a senior project so they came to us and asked us if we wanted to do a music video,” remembered Haymes. “We did some of the filming in Lake George, the Empire State Plaza and Central Avenue in Albany. MTV was just starting so they were in desperate need of videos.”
Among the other many talented musicians from the area who have achieved national prominence is Schenectady native and Clifton Park resident David Malachowski. A guitarist, Malachowski’s long career has included a television appearance with Shania Twain on “The Tonight Show.”
Delmar’s Dani Moz made the final 12 on “The Voice” last year, and is working on a recording career in Los Angeles, and Greenwich’s Hal Ketchum, who recently played at The Egg, is a country music star who in 1994 became the 71st member of the Grand Ole Opry.
There are others. Alternative folksinger Sean Rowe from Troy signed with a national label, Anti-Records, in 2011 and the following year released “The Salesman and the Shark.” Earlier this year he played his new release, “Downwind,” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Drummer Scott Underwood, a Saratoga Springs native, won a Grammy with the rock band Train (“Drops of Jupiter,” “Hey, Soul Sister”). Underwood played with the band for 20 years before leaving last June. In 1967, another drummer, Cohoes’ Bob Tousignant, found fame with The Music Explosion and their hit song “Little Bit O’ Soul,” which reached No. 2 on the U.S. charts.
Troy native Brian Prout is drummer for Diamond Rio, a country music/Christian band and four-time winners of the Country Music Association’s Group of the Year Award.
Former Guilderland resident and Bishop Gibbons grad, multi-instrumentalist Jim Hoke, has had a long career in Los Angeles and Nashville. He is heard on the new Boz Scaggs album and is part of the studio band for the ABC-TV show, “Nashville.”
Albany native Eddie Angel, familiar to fans of rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly and surf music, is a Grammy-nominated guitarist who has been on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” nine times.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]