Growing up in Detroit, the rhythm and blues capital of the world and home to
Motown Records, is an obvious influence that cannot be denied by a young
musician. Add the fact that practically everyone in the family was musical
(father played drums with a big band, brother Brian plays drums and brother
Brad plays bass) and, voila, you get an interesting musical mix! Kevin began
playing guitar when he was only 7 and by the age of 10 had joined with his
brother Brian on drums and a friend on accordion to form Brian And The
Sensations. Since his parents owned a musical instrument/record store, young
Kevin was able to latch on to all of the hit R&B 45's he could hold, plus
albums of such blues greats as Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed and surf innovator
Dick Dale. This gave him plenty of material to play along with and play
Brian And The Sensations recorded a Motown-style version of the old Frankie Lymon hit, "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" and played on the local dance show, "Swinging Time". From that point on, Kevin's career as a "professional" musician was launched.
Admittedly, however, the single most important event that changed most young musicians' lives occurred in 1964. It was the appearance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. From that time on, every teenage boy in the States combed his hair down and changed their focus to this burgeoning form of British rock and roll. Kevin, extremely affected by The Beatles, was now playing only rock and roll and became quite adept with his guitar. By 1973,he followed his passion for playing publicly by joining a summer stock troop in New York performing such musical plays as "Hair".
In 1976, he had moved to Los Angeles and met up with Jim McClarty, a drummer from Detroit with whom Kevin had previously played. The two met Duke McFadden (piano) and Phil Bryant (bass) and became determined to make it as a band. They played the Starwood, Whiskey A Go Go and the Troubadour for larger and larger audiences and began to attract attention in the industry. They needed a catchy name and decided on 707, which was actually Kevin's birthdate (July 7). At that point, they were signed to Casablanca Records and recorded their first album in 1981. As they were recording their second album, the record label discovered that "I Could Be Good For You" was an FM hit in the Midwest and arranged a tour schedule for the group. Also, REO Speedwagon, who was starting to experience breakout success and who loved 707's sound, asked the band to become part of their "Hi Infidelity" tour. This lead to the band's first stadium tour and helped to "season" their stage presence.
707 returned to the studio with the addition of Tod Howarth (guitar) and recorded "The Bridge". However, changes were afoot at the record label, due to owner, Neil Bogart's death. The label folded without releasing the third album.
Boardwalk Records signed the group but did not want to release the already finished "The Bridge" and instead opted to record a new album entitled "Megaforce". The corporate heads requested a "front man" and Kevin Chalfant was brought in to handle the role. The band then had a harder Journey-like sound, which had a wide appeal among rock audiences of the time. The first song on the album, produced by Keith Olsen, was used on the soundtrack to a movie similarly titled, "Megaforce", which starred Barry Bostwick (Spin City), but did not do well at the box office. To compound the problem, the song was buried at the very end of the film. Even with these problems, the song and album managed to creep up the Billboard charts.
During this time period, 707 continued to do stadium tours with the likes of John Mellencamp, Rainbow, Scorpions, Ted Nugent, REO, Loverboy, Michael Schenker Group, .38 Special, Judas Priest and more. They were well received at the concerts, gained fans and sold records. For Kevin, the highlight of these tours was being able to return to his hometown, Detroit, and play Cobo Hall and Joe Louis Arena with his friends and family in attendance.
After the group disbanded in 1983, Kevin got by on his wits and guitar playing. Without a record deal or tour support, he was forced to become a side musician in top 40 bands that paid cash. He then jumped at the chance to join the band Kokomo which was made up of Bill Kreutzmann and Brent Mydland of Grateful Dead fame, as well as Dave Margen from Santana. The group toured throughout the summer of '85 and consistently played sold-out shows.
When that fell apart, Kevin joined Phantom, Rocker and Slick for about a year and a half; then played with Earl Slick in another ill-fated group called NYC; and finally ended up with Taxxi. When their album, recorded for MCA was scrapped, Kevin decided to change direction, return to the roots so ingrained as a child in Detroit, and began playing blues.
Also, Kevin worked as a session musician and producer for Mike Varney's labels Blues Bureau and Shrapnel and produced albums for such rock and blues greats as Rick Derringer, Frank Marino, Leslie West and many more.
The story goes that Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons happened to hear Kevin playing one night and said "I gotta have that cat in my band!" Kevin became employed as guitar player and musical director for The Clarence Clemons Band, which toured extensively world-wide. Kevin left Clarence after a year and a half, moved to the Bay Area, and became a well-respected blues performer. He recorded several blues albums, and played with Neil Schon, Doyle Bramhall II, Brad Russell (brother), Kevin Hayes (Robert Cray Band) and Jimmy Dillon.
In 1998, Jimmy Dillon signed on with the newly-formed independent label, Bedrock Records. Jimmy, being a close friend of Kevin, suggested that he contact Sherre Birenbaum who handled artist relations. This began a very long conversation between Kevin and Sherre, which resulted in Kevin's return to rock music, recording his first album as 707 in 18 years. The album titled "Trip To Heaven" was released late in 2000 and will yield several singles for the rock radio format early in the year 2001.This time, Kevin merged all of his influences from his earliest days as a musician up to the present to create something fresh and very different from any rock or blues album he had previously done .As the singer, songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist and producer, this album is all Kevin Russell and nothing but Kevin Russell! He has served up a plate-full of straight-ahead, meat and potatoes rock and roll with a side helping or two of blues, roots and balls! Next will come the long awaited tour of the new-improved 707!
Copyright © 2001 The Classic Rock Homepage
This page was created on Monday, January 08, 2001.
Most recent revision Monday, January 08, 2001.