The Cliff Henricksen Band
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The Cliff Henricksen Band

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"Funky blues from Bose Mountain"

Funky blues from Bose Mountain
By Chris Bergeron/Daily News staff
GHS
Posted May 29, 2008 @ 12:30 AM

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FRAMINGHAM — Cliff Henricksen began rocking on stage the same time John Lennon was playing with the Quarrymen.

But Henricksen never stopped. He's written hundreds of songs, performed in the Combat Zone, toured North America with The Linemen, earned a master's degree in engineering from MIT and secured "eight or nine patents."

The only beetles coming to Framingham these days are scurrying around the kitchens of downtown greasy spoons.

But the Cliff Henricksen Band promises to deliver smoking New Orleans funk and danceable rock Saturday night at the Amazing Things Firehouse.

"We play classic rock 'n' roll instrumentally," said the Framingham resident and senior engineer for Bose Corp. "We also play a lot of blues with a strong gospel influence. I think of it American folk music."

The band is about to release its first CD featuring 14 songs written by Henricksen which they'll showcase at 8 p.m. in two one-hour sets at the renovated firehouse at 160 Hollis St.

Together for 15 months, the four-member band brings more than 100 years combined musical experience in garage bands, recording sessions with big names, touring groups, the Boston club scene and beyond.

Forming the band, Henricksen knew he wanted a guitarist, a bass player, a drummer and himself on keyboards. And like the Beatles, he wanted everyone to sing. "There's something about four strong male voices; rich, powerful, full of sound," he said. "Everyone in the band really sings well. These guys are real virtuosos. We're sort of the ultimate compact rock 'n' roll orchestra."

The band now includes four very talented area musician-vocalists who've ridden virtually every major musical wave from rock to blues and jazz to funk which they whip together into their own heady brew.

Guitarist Tom Yates of Stow studied at Berklee College of Music, recorded with Ric Ocasek of The Cars and plays with BJ Magoon Thursday nights at the Acton Jazz Cafe. Another Framingham resident, drummer Tom Beier, toured the U.S. as lead singer for Florida-based Sunlending. Working for Bose Corp. in special products distribution, he currently records from his own studio, The Sonic Palace.

Bassist Gary "GW" Jenkins of Acton played in his first band as a seventh-grader in Europe and over the years played "various styles in many groups," including gigs at the Paradise, The Tam and Jack's in Boston before hooking up with Henricksen.

"We're trying to play enjoyable, danceable fun-time music," he said.

Mostly self-taught like his band mates, Henricksen learned to play piano by ear at 13 listening to Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.

Looking back, he described himself as "a pure geek with a crew cut who dearly wanted a hot rod." And now he regards the late '50s bluesmen and early '60s rockers of his youth as the musical "mother ship" which still exert a profound influence on his music today.

For decades, Henricksen has juggled two seemingly incompatible passions, high-tech engineering and down-and-dirty rocking blues.

As an MIT grad student in mechanical engineering, he played organ for the band Star Fire in Combat Zone strip bars. Playing "real rock 'n' roll" at the fractious Blue Mirror Lounge in Charlestown, he'd find a quiet place to solve mechanical engineering problems when frequent fights broke out between townies and sailors from the nearby naval base.

Henricksen said, "I played in a ton of pickup bands. I've always had one foot in music and one in real life. They complement each other. I would've rather been playing music. But I'm thrilled to be doing both."

Since coming to Bose 15 years ago, Henricksen invented the L1 loudspeaker system which, he said, "allows musicians to hear and control the same mix (of sound) the audience hears."

"I believe this is the first time in amplifier history the music returns to the musicians," said Henricksen who toured the U.S. and Canada with The Linemen, the "official demonstration" band publicizing the new system. Headliners such as Steve Miller, King Crimson and Todd Rundgren use the system, he said.

Equally prolific as a father and lyricist, Henricksen has nine children, ranging in age from 39 to 18, and has written an estimated 200 songs, including all 14 tracks on the soon-to-be released CD titled "Fourteen 4 You."

During a recent rehearsal in a Bose studio, the band produced a driving high-energy sound that they occasionally adjusted with the L1 system.

Henricksen's lyrics are literate, idiosyncratic and slyly funny.

In their signature song, "Life of Crime," members sing, "I'm gonna booglarize your little bank of love / Won't leave no fingerprints. I'll use a love-skin glove / If stealing your heart is such an evil deed / Then a life of crime is what I want to lead."

Writing "The Trashman," Henricksen was inspired by news reports of a cultural "garbologist" who picked through Henry Kissinger's rubbish looking for insights into his politics. Mixing paranoia while spoofing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the band sang "The trashman is sneaking in your neighborhood / He knows if you're bad or if you're good / He finds all the things you never knew he would."

During a break, Jenkins described the band's signature sound as "rhythm and blues with a New Orleans feel."

"Some light funk. Some tunes are a little more poppy. Very danceable. The lyrics are very catchy. The chord changes are very hip. I think we're very fluid, very cohesive," he said.

Sporting sinister shades and something resembling a red bowling shirt, Jenkins doesn't reveal much of his background except that he was born in upstate New York.

Asked what brought him to the Bay State and where he works, he answered, "I got in a car and came here and I work for a big company."

But Jenkins is crystal clear about where he hopes the band takes them all.

"As far as we can go," he said. "The skies the limit. It's up to the public."
- Metrowest Daily News


Discography

CD: Fourteen 4 You

Photos

Bio

Forming the band, Henricksen knew he wanted a guitarist, a bass player, a drummer and himself on keyboards. And like the Beatles, he wanted everyone to sing. "There's something about four strong male voices; rich, powerful, full of sound," he said. "Everyone in the band really sings well. These guys are real virtuosos. We're sort of the ultimate compact rock 'n' roll orchestra."

The band now includes four very talented area musician-vocalists who've ridden virtually every major musical wave from rock to blues and jazz to funk which they whip together into their own heady brew.

Composer, pianist Cliff Henricksen began playing piano in 1957, learning to play by ear listening to recordings of Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles, Bobby Peterson and Little Richard. He started playing the top-40 club circuit in the Boston area “combat zone” while a graduate student at MIT pursuing a masters degree in mechanical engineering. Henricksen invented the Bose L1 loudspeaker system which, he said, "allows musicians to hear and control the same mix (of sound) the audience hears."
"I believe this is the first time in amplifier history the music returns to the musicians,"

Guitarist Tom Yates briefly studied guitar and piano at the Berklee College of Music and went on to play on numerous Boston-area recording sessions, including projects with Ric Ocasek, Ben Orr and Greg Hawkes (THE CARS). In his collection of over 25 vintage and custom guitars Tom selects a '63 Strat and a '68 Les Paul Custom as his favorites. Tom gets inspiration from the work of Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Danny Gatton, Lenny Breau, Johnny Winter, David Lyndley, and Chet Atkins.

Drummer Tom Beier toured the U.S. as lead singer for Florida-based Sunlending. The band toured the US and went on to record with producer-engineer Eric Schilling (Gloria Estefan, Ricky Martin, Shakira.) Tom then moved on and formed BEiER Rhythms (pronounced Buyer Rhythms) with lyricist Rossi Kane. Since then BEiER Rhythms award-winning music has aired on major network TV and has been covered by other artists.

Bassist GW Jenkins is a veteran of the Boston music scene and has been playing "various styles in many groups," professionally for many years including gigs at the Paradise, The Tam and Jack's in Boston before hooking up with Henricksen. As bassist and vocalist, he brings a diverse background to the group acquired from a wide variety of musical styles. He is an accomplished songwriter, producer, engineer and plays the Steinberger/Synapse bass as an endorsing artist.