Biography (by Alex Call)
In 1967, lead guitarist John McFee, bass player Johnny Ciambotti, drummer Mitch Howie, and I formed Clover. We recorded two albums for Fantasy Records in 1969 and 1970. Harmonica player and singer Huey Cregg (later Huey Lewis) and keyboardist Sean Hopper joined the band in 1971. Clover played up and down the west coast for the next three years, building a unique sound based around McFee’s guitar and pedal steel playing, Huey’s harp playing, and the band’s five part singing. We blended country, rock, and funk in an unusual mix. in 1975, Joe Gottfried, owner of Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, approached the band with the idea of going in and cutting some tracks that would be used to get a new album contract. He brought in producer Keith Olsen, fresh from a big Fleetwood Mac album to produce the sessions.
Clover’s drummer at the time was “Madman” Kirk Harwood. Keith wanted a different drum sound, so he called in a young, pre-Toto Jeff Porcaro to play some of the cuts, perhaps most notably Child of the Streets.
The sessions did not result in Clover signing an American record deal, but a year later we were signed to Phonogram U.K. and went to live and record in England, where we made two albums, and where McFee, Ciambotti, Hopper, and drummer Micky Shine backed Elvis Costello on his acclaimed debut album, My Aim is True.
The Sound City Sessions show Clover in development. Huey and Sean brought soul and funk influences to the band, which contrasted with McFee’s, Ciambotti’s, and my own more country style. So there is a mix from the rock uptempo Child of the Streets, to the funky Free, Free, Free, to the western swing of the old Disney cartoon song, Pecos Bill. On these sessions, Huey is heard as a lead singer for the first time. The big harmonies that clover was known for are present. The sessions chronicle Clover’s transition from a club band to a big-stage touring act.
Clover broke up in 1978 after leaving Phonogram. John McFee joined The Doobie Brothers. Huey Lewis and Sean hopper, of course, formed Huey Lewis and the News. Johnny Ciambotti played with and managed Carlene Carter and Lucinda Williams, and was instrumental in launching the career of Dwight Yoakam. I made an album for Arista Records and wrote Tommy Tutone‘s classic 867-5309/Jenny. The Sound City Sessions show a bunch of good careers in the making!
Alex Call – September 2006
- Huey Lewis was known by his birth name, Hugh Cregg, during the Clover years.
- John McFee’s skills as a multi-instrumentalist were showcased from day one in Clover, where he would often switch between playing guitars, pedal steel, and violin during live shows.