It was 1978 and rock ‘n roll was in decent form in the Salt Lake City area. There were some bands on the local scene that were beginning to make some noise in the area and one of those acts was the guitar-driven band FREEFALL. These rockers played out as often as they could, playing at all the local clubs, including the Silver Cloud, Castille, Crazy Horse, Uncle Alberts, and the Terrace Ballroom in 1979. It was during that time that a few of the clubs in the Salt Lake area started bringing in top acts that went on to play in bands that were later signed to major record labels.
Guitarist Danny Dickman (FREEFALL, BILLY THE KID, THE HOMELESS BLUEZ BAND) began looking for experienced musicians who also wanted to move away from playing copy tunes to composing and playing originals. Danny quickly found vocalist Mike Rafone (STONE CREEK, NASTY MAC, BAD BOYS) and drummer Bud Williams (ROADWORK, TUSH) and they started playing as a three-piece band. After about a year they added Jim Robertson (RAGE, THE NEWS, DOGS DAY, WHIPLASH, THE PEDESTRIANS, SLIM CHANCE) to the lineup. The new band was ready to go to work. Danny Dickman and Jim Robertson polished their notable skills as guitar players, song writers and vocalists. The list of original tunes grew quickly when front man Mike Rafone added his lyric writing skills and Bud Williams (ROADWORK, TUSH) on drums brought the hard-driving melodic big sound to life. The band added Paul Hoffman (NASTY MAC, FREEFALL, FYREYE, BILLY AND THE BULLETS) on bass and the band was set. After many months of collaborating, song writing, and perfecting their music in their studio, the band was ready to hit the stage. The melodic rock guitar combination of Dickman and Jim, Bud’s hard-hitting drums, Paul’s driving bass, and front man and main vocalist Mike Rafone, emerged on the Salt Lake Music scene with their own style of music as THE TOOLS.
THE TOOLS quickly gained notoriety for their high energy stage presence and their music became very recognizable. THE TOOLS played five nights a week for years, packing the local clubs every night. These rockers continued to play out as often as they could at all the local clubs including the Silver Cloud, Uncle Alberts, Reggie’s Rockin R, The Down Under, The Barb Wire, Touch of Class, The Fairground Coliseum, New Faces Roadhouse and many more. They often booked five nights but hired other bands to play on the weeknights. Those same bands then opened for THE TOOLS on Friday and Saturday night. After months of non-stop playing, THE TOOLS returned to their studio to do what they did best—compose new material.
THE TOOLS played for 20,000 people at the Great Salt Lake Salt Shaker Beach Festival. They hit the stage in bright yellow clothes, rockin’ THE TOOLS originals. The crowd was on their feet screaming and singing. THE TOOLS headlined at the Lakefest concert at Lake Powell. They also played for 10,000 people at Pepsi’s Tropicana Suntan Contest at Trade Tech College and headlined an outdoor concert at Weber State College. They played Shake and Bake Beach Festival for 15,000 people and played for Lagoon’s Last Blast. THE TOOLS were showcased on TV20 Morning Show and a variety show live on local channel 5. Their music was played on KRCL and KALL radio. They opened for national acts MOLLY HATCHET, ROBIN TROWER, BLACK OAK ARKANSAS, THE TUBES, RANDY HANSEN, BAD FINGER, DAVID LAFLAME, IT’S A BEAUITFUL DAY and BIBLE BLACK, featuring members of RAINBOW and ELF. They Shared the stage with locals THE LAWYERS with Randy Rand (AUTOGRAPH), NASTY HABIT with Rick Phillips (THE BABYS, BAD ENGLISH, STYX, COVERDALE-PAGE, TED NUGENT), MANNEQUIN, and COW JAZZ that featured members who went on to play with Chris LeDoux in WESTERN UNDERGROUND. Danny Dickman shared a funny story: “I walked into Sam Foster’s Audio Vision Studios one night and the lead guitarist in Chris LeDoux’s band was recording guitar tracks on my 74 Marshall Plexi. Sam told him it sounded great, so I started teasing him that he did not have permission to use it. That was kind of fun as I hugged him.”
In November 1982, THE TOOLS recorded their first album at Audio Vision Studios. This album was originally released as a self-titled cassette. In honor and memory of Dickman’s brother Terry, the album was renamed Diamond Lace and issued by Metallic Blue Records. Terry tragically lost his life at the young age of twenty-two in a car accident. Diamond Lace was Terry’s favorite song so when Danny found THE TOOLS tape in Terry’s crashed truck, Danny put the tape in Terry’s shirt pocket at his funeral.
THE TOOLS continued to pack the local clubs, earning the title of Salt Lake City’s top band. The album sales were going up and the band was gaining more notoriety with every show. THE TOOLS were approached by one of the clubs they frequently played at (Uncle Albert’s) to enter the “Wasatch Rocks” battle of the bands. To promote the event, the club was putting out a WASATCH ROCKS ALBUM featuring the top winners in the contest (THE TOOLS, STRYDER, THE NERVE, OILY BOYS, BEL-AIRS).
Just as THE TOOLS entered Audio Vision Studios on March 30, 1983, to record the Wasatch Rocks compilation album, Paul Hoffman parted ways with the band. They soon met engineer and bassist Randy Young who was eager to take on bass duties in the band. The band liked the technicality that Randy brought, and he was added to the group. With the slightly new lineup, the band recorded the songs “Crazy” and “Lovers Game” while they added the already recorded song “Dreams” with added drum licks.
With one album and an appearance on the Wasatch Rocks compilation, THE TOOLS were well on their way to be one of the more successful bands in the Utah music scene. The self-titled cassette had sold well and opened some doors for the band, but the band did not want to become stagnant. THE TOOLS worked hard and were continually improving live shows and song writing.
THE TOOLS stage shows erupted with lights, fire, and indoor explosions. THE TOOLS added local pyro technician Curtis Churchtown, to engineer a wall of fire with twenty-foot high side flame throwers, cannons, and aerial explosions to their show. You could hear the band start playing and they would soon appear behind the wall of flames with concussion mortars blasting and indoor aerials exploding. You knew they were there when everything started to explode very loudly. Victor Ogden lit the stage up with twenty to thirty 1000-watt par lights plus other lighting effects. The pyrotechnic and lighting displays all set to music took the THE TOOLS show to a new level of entertainment. This added a new element of showmanship to the act.
The band felt it was time to enter the studio once again and lay down some original tracks for the second album titled “Remodeling.” The band found much success with the new album where the new songs got a lot of radio time. Some of these new songs— “Rock & Roll on the Radio,” “Thinking of You,” and “Looking Back”—became regulars on the radio station Z-Rock. The cassette sold well and gained interest from Geffen records. THE TOOLS left a stamp on the Salt Lake music scene and are often talked about amongst local rockers. THE TOOLS loved their fans and were very proud of the live shows they were able to create. This line up was Danny Dickman on Guitar, Johnny Walker (LEO SWIFT, NASTY HABIT) on Drums, Paul Hoffman on bass, and vocalist Mike Rafone. THE TOOLS had much success on the local Salt Lake scene with the combination of great songs, huge stage presence with lots of energy, and pyrotechnics that rivaled national touring acts. THE TOOLS had created a brand for themselves not to be outdone by anyone. THE TOOLS black and yellow logo was marked on every amplifier and guitar. The band wore black and yellow clothing. This made a very impressive stage show, and what a show it was. They had one album under their belt (1982 Diamond Lace) and an appearance on Uncle Albert’s “Wasatch Rocks”.
As the band continued to write melodic hard rock songs and were getting ready to enter the studio again to cut their second album, they were on the hunt for another bassist. They needed to find one quick, as THE TOOLS were opening for THE TUBES that week. The band recruited Brian Iverson (RAGE, NASTY MAC, MANNEQUIN) from another local band MANNQUIN. Danny stayed up all night teaching Brian the songs so the band could open for THE TUBES the next night.
They added Brett Miller (LIXX) on drums a short time later. With the new lineup the band entered Audio Vision Studios where they used former bandmate Randy Young as their mixing engineer. They also chose Dave Mendenhall as their sound engineer. Dave had been the engineer for many of Utah’s top hard rock bands such as SOJOURN and MEGATTACK to name a few. They also added the talents of studio owner Sam Foster (THE OSMONDS). The combination of a great sound team and solid hard rock songs had the band’s second album titled “Remodeling” ready to be praised by their fans. “Remodeling” was released in 1987 and sold quite well to the awaiting crowd. The band was getting attention from Geffen Records as the band was only gaining momentum. While the band was getting rave reviews, Mike exited THE TOOLS and joined what would become the band BAD BOYS. THE TOOLS hired a well know very talented singer in John Hoffman (FYREYE, RIFF RAFF, BILLY THE KID, THE HOMELESS BLUEZ BAND) who was actually the younger brother of original bassist Paul Hoffman. When this lineup hit the stage, it was one of the most professional bands you would ever hear and see. The sound was incredible. Dickman played through a 100-watt Marshall Plexi stack on 11. Brian played through a Peavey Maxx 800-watt head through 2 EV cabinets with 4-15 inch speakers and a SVT cabinet with 8-10 inch speaker plus a set of Moog Bass Pedals. Brett had a custom-built set of double kick Ludwigs with drums so big they also had to be custom built and ordered. John Hoffman’s powerful vocals fit the style that THE TOOLS had been accustomed to. THE TOOLS were known as the loudest cleanest sound you have ever heard. The song list was put together as one big orchestrated show. There used to be a line down the street to get into the Barb Wire and Uncle Alberts. The stage shows stayed just as amazing and the songs were every bit as strong.