It was 1976 and Eric Martin had just moved to San Francisco to join the established band KID COURAGE. All the local bands were fighting to get the big Friday night show. One of those local bands was MILE HI which featured guitarist John Nymann, guitarist Mark Ross, bassist Tom Duke, and drummer and vocalist David Notary. In 1977, KID COURAGE and MILE HI were both playing a show at Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco and that is where Eric Martin and John Nymann first met. Both knew of the other and the top talent they each had. John said to Eric, “I wish you were in my band,” and Eric said to John, “Dude, I wish I were in your band.” Nothing transpired too quickly as Eric moved to Los Angeles for a year where he sang in the band STARK RAVING MAD with Paul Taylor (WINGER) on guitar and keyboards. Eric moved on and created his own band called ERIC AND THE RIVALS. It was during this time that Eric’s friend, Dave “Jake” Jacobsen, put Eric in contact with his friend, John Nymann, and the band MILE HI. Their vocalist and drummer had just quit the band. In September 1979, Eric was brought in to sing with the band. Eric quickly gelled with the guys and they played a few shows under the name MILE HI. The band then recorded their first four-track demo in a small basement studio in San Leandro, California. The band passed the demo cassette to John Villanueva who gave the tape to Herbie Herbert, the manager of SANTANA and JOURNEY. Herbie called John Nymann and said, “We love it!” Herbie went on to tell John that the guys from JOURNEY, who listened to the tape with him, also loved the songs. Herbie persuaded the band to change their name. The band was settling on the name ROMANCE when Herbie suggested they go by the name 415, the area code for San Francisco.
415 played out as much as possible and they started to build a solid fanbase. Longtime punk rock drummer Jimmy Hogland (X-RAY TED) departed the band 415, due to faded interest and longtime struggles the band was having in landing a record deal. The band knew they needed to land a very talented drummer to help them score the record deal they were seeking. John reached out to Troy Luccketta who had just departed the band BENNIE AND THE JETS and asked him to come tryout as John knew Troy would be a great addition to the band. It was a unanimous vote that Troy was the guy and in February 1982, Troy became the drummer for 415. Troy had three rehearsals to nail down twenty songs for their show that weekend. The band played a flawless show and hoped to soon be signed to a serious record deal. The band began playing lots of shows up and down the west coast playing with such bands as NIGHT RANGER, GREG KHIN, RICK SPRINGFIELD among others.
Herbie tried to get a record deal for the band with Columbia Records who had signed JOURNEY several years prior. However, management changes in the Columbia Records organization brought new opportunities, as a friend of Herbie’s moved from Columbia to Elektra. The band got the break they were waiting for. Elektra agreed to sign the band to a one album deal with the option of a second record at the discretion of Elektra Records. Their record created at Fantasy Studios got shelved and the band recorded a new album. In December 1982, Elektra set up a month of recording sessions in Doraville, Georgia, with engineers Kevin Elson and Rodney Mills at Studio One. The night before the band’s first day in the studio, they all went to the JOURNEY concert in Atlanta. The band had quite a bit to drink and a few of the members were slightly hung over the next day. As the band went to the studio, Eric stopped by McDonalds and grabbed a strawberry milkshake to see if it would help give him a little jump-start out of his hangover to perform at the studio. When Eric arrived to the studio, he threw up the milkshake in the snow and went inside and the whole ordeal gave Eric a bit more edge and natural gravel to his voice, which can be heard on the track. Luckily it only took him one take.
The band was enjoying their time in the studio, none more than John Nymann who loved playing the lobby pinball machine almost as much as he loved playing guitar. If John did not have the guitar in his hand, he was at the pinball machine determined to get the game’s high score. On December 14, day nine in the studio, the band recorded their song “Letting it Out” while Troy’s wife was giving birth to his son “Troy Jr.” back in California. After getting out of the recording session, Troy received a call from his mother-in-law to tell him that he was now a dad. The band took Troy out for dinner and champagne to celebrate before he flew back to California. The rest of the band continued to complete the recordings and before the month was up, John reached his goal and achieved the high score on the lobby pinball machine before heading back to California.
When things were getting close for the album art and press kits to be printed up, Herbie got a letter from the attorney of a record label called “415 Records” telling him that they owned the name and the band would be sued if they continued under that name. Herbie suggested that the band change the name to ERIC MARTIN BAND since Eric wrote most of the songs and was the frontman. Eric was taken back by the suggestion and wondered what the rest of the band was going to think about the name. Nobody in the band had an issue, but the name was not met with much enthusiasm. Eric recalled a completely silent ride with the band back to their house in Novato, California, following the name suggestion. Though there was awkwardness for the ride home, the band was united in getting their album out and the name was approved by everyone.
THE ERIC MARTIN BAND went to Los Angeles to film two music videos. They filmed a video for the title track “Sucker for a Pretty Face” and a video for the song “Don’t Stop.” Both videos were filmed in two days. Most of the indoor footage was filmed in L.A., but the outdoor scenes were filmed in San Francisco. The scene in “Don’t Stop” where Eric breaks the glass with his arms made him hesitant because of the risk of injury. Eric was reassured by the stage manager that it was safe because it was candy-coated glass and it could not hurt him. So, Eric smashed the glass and a shard of the candy-coated glass stuck in his left arm. Eric got bandaged up and the rest of the filming was done at certain angles to not show the bandage on his inner arm.
Herbie was able to get the band a spot on the television show “American Bandstand” to promote the new record. The band went on the show and played the album title track “Sucker for a Pretty Face.” Dick Clark interviewed each member as they described their musical background, influences, and part of their writing process. The band went on to play the song “Letting it Out” where they got a great reaction from the crowd.
The ERIC MARTIN BAND started to lay down the initial tracks for the follow-up album before they left to go out on tour with ZZ TOP to support the major label debut album. The band packed up all their gear alongside guitar tech/bodyguard/tour manager Zeke Clark. The tour was mildly successful with a wide range of dates across the USA. Upon the band’s return, they were told that Elektra Records was dropping them from the label. Herbie explained to the guys that this was not their fault. Inner politics between Herbie and the current CEO of Elektra stirred by a past scuffle when Herbie managed SANTANA (many years before the ERIC MARTIN BAND was signed to Elektra) led to the separation. Regardless of the reason, the band was now without a label. Herbie did everything in his power to try and land the band a new record deal. The music scene had shifted a little over the past few years and most labels were more interested in the tattooed glam metal or synth-pop/new wave bands. There was not much room left for the power-pop/AOR bands coming onto the scene, unless you were already established (such as LOVERBOY and NIGHT RANGER). The band was struggling financially and had to move from Novato to Petaluma. Things just were not looking up for the band and they decided to part ways.
Each member was on their own to start a new career. John went to see Y&T (who he was good friends with) in Palo Alto, California, and, after the show, the band brought him backstage and told him about their new album “In Rock We Trust.” The album had a lot of additional backing vocals and keyboard parts and they asked John to come on tour with them to help with the live shows. John jumped on this new opportunity and joined up with Y&T. John was also given additional responsibilities of wearing the “ROCK” suit and coming on stage as the Y&T robot. John also played drums during certain segments of the show to give drummer Leonard Haze a chance to come out front and interact with the crowd.
Troy Luccketta left the band’s breakup meeting in Herbie’s office and drove across the Bay Bridge and recalled feeling that everything was going to be okay. Shortly after the ERIC MARTIN BAND broke up, Troy was recruited by EDDIE MONEY and a band called CITY KIDD. Troy was a fan of EDDIE MONEY, but did not want to be just a hired gun. Troy wanted to join and contribute to an actual band. Troy tried out for CITY KIDD and got the job. CITY KIDD would change the band’s name to TESLA and go on to sell millions of records and have great success.
Herbie encouraged Eric to continue writing as he saw so much potential in his writing ability. Eric joined with Neal Schon and Tony Fanucchi and began to write songs for a movie called “Vision Quest.” The movie company decided to take a different direction and did not end up using the song “Eyes Of The World.” The song was later picked up and used in the movie “Iron Eagle” where Eric also sang the song “These are the Good Times.” Eric, Neal, and Tony wrote another song together called “I Can’t Stop the Fire” that was used on the soundtrack for the movie “Teachers.” The “Teachers” soundtrack released by Capitol Records helped Eric land a record deal with the label. Eric released two solo albums on Capitol before receiving a phone call from Billy Sheehan through mutual friend in Mike Varney (Shrapnel Records) about putting together a supergroup. The supergroup became known as “MR. BIG” and they went on to have several gold and platinum albums aided by the double-platinum #1 hit “To Be With You.”
Tom Duke continued to play bass in various bands including TUMBLING DICE and the SANDY WELLS BAND. Tom played thousands of shows in his career and enjoyed playing on various stages and venues. Tom always loved the brotherhood that 415/ERIC MARTIN BAND had and was grateful for their time and the songs they created together.
Dave “Jake” Jacobsen got a call to fly out to Phoenix Arizona and join the band UFO. Dave had to cram and learn the entire setlist in 1 day for the band to complete the US tour. Dave continued to write and record songs.
Mark Ross continued to play guitar and went on to play in the band JET RED. Mark and the rest of 415/ERIC MARTIN BAND reunited in 2006 for a reunion show where the band captured some of the magic from many years ago. Sadly, in 2012, Mark passed away. His loving memory is cherished by everyone he encountered. He is celebrated for his energetic stage presence and his great smile, but he will always be remembered for what a caring and kind human being he was. Mark, you are so missed.