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"Return of the Light"

10 Year Reunion Show
June 21, 2008
The Plain Dealer Pavilion (Nautica)



Roots And Rock

Volume 15, Issue 59
Published June 18th, 2008

When Reggae Ruled Cleveland
I-TAL in later years (with Dave Smeltz, center reaR) The first reggae band to make an impact in Cleveland.
I-TAL in later years (with Dave Smeltz, center reaR) The first reggae band to make an impact in Cleveland.

1988. On the national record charts, metal bands like Def Leppard and Guns N' Roses, post-new wavers like INXS, pop stars like Whitney Houston and George Michael and flashes in the pan like Tiffany and Expose ruled the charts. In Cleveland clubs, Richard Marx lookalikes with lounge mullets and proto-alternative bands playing spirited originals beloved by scenesters struggled to draw crowds.

Though it was rarely mentioned in anyone's recitation of the hottest buzz bands in Cleveland, there was one band that had the buzz where it counted: on the street. Outside Peabody's DownUnder in the Flats, the city's top concert club at the time, a line snaked down Old River Road whenever Cleveland's First Light had one of its two-night stands there. College-age kids in cargo shorts, tie-dyed T-shirts and sandals mingled with older blue-collar types in jeans, both a contrast to the sorority girls and men on the make flocking into the surrounding dance clubs.

1988 was the year First Light began to surge to its prime. The group, at that point seven members strong, had soft-released its first full-length album, Reggae Meltdown, at the beginning of the year, sneaking some cassettes into peoples' hands before releasing it officially in June, one of the first local bands to release a CD. By then, most of the band's fans were already familiar with songs like "Situation," "Island Time," "Unity of Conscience" and "The Light," from the live shows.

On the momentum created by that album, which eventually became the best-selling self-released album by a Cleveland artist until Mushroomhead eclipsed it in the mid-'90s, First Light toured constantly, built a strong college following and showcased at the top industry music conference South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. It self-released a couple more albums, but never signed to a major label and it broke up in 1998, a victim of burnout, changing life priorities and singer/guitarist/percussionist Carlos Jones' desire to play a purer form of roots reggae than the hybrid First Light had developed.

Now, 10 years after its breakup and 20 years after the release of Reggae Meltdown, the Light will shine again at a headlining concert at the Plain Dealer Pavilion in the Flats at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 21, bringing the core members — Jones, guitarist/bassist Mike "Chopper" Wasson, guitarist/bassist/vocalist Gino Long, percussionist Bob Caruso, keyboardist Ed Marthey and drummer Rod Reisman — back together for the first time in a decade.

How did a reggae band become Cleveland's top band for nearly 15 years? Rewind to the mid-'70s: A small clique of out-of-town rock critics have dubbed the city "the new Liverpool," although resident music fans can't quite fathom why. On one hand, the big bar bands are fighting the rust-belt gloom by wearing satin and velvet and playing theatrical glitter rock. On the other, a tiny cadre of underground bands are celebrating that same decay in clamorous, mostly unheard music. And off to the side, some bands are playing what we'd call roots music now, preferring the timeless sounds of blues, folk, country and jazz.

FIRST LIGHT in the '80s. Their hybrid sound attracted a wide range of fans.
FIRST LIGHT in the '80s. Their hybrid sound attracted a wide range of fans.

Meanwhile, over 1,600 miles away in Jamaica, a sound was catching on that would soon touch Cleveland, in the wake of the 1972 film The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff as an ill-fated reggae singer, and the international release the following year of the Wailers' debut album, Catch a Fire, featuring Wailer Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" (a huge hit for Eric Clapton in 1974).

Here and there in Cleveland, ears started perking up. Chris Dunmore first heard it when he was working at Record Revolution in Athens and then its parent branch on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights in 1974. Shaker Heights High classmates Dave Smeltz and Bob Caruso saw The Harder They Come while visiting friends in Boston, friends who kept playing the album during their stay.

Dave Valentine opened a bar in University Circle called the Coach House in mid-1977. He was booking an eclectic assortment of bands and also playing in a blues band fronted by Gair Linhart, who lived upstairs. In early 1978 he took a trip to Key West and was blown away by a Bob Marley album a guy at another campsite kept playing.

These were some of the Clevelanders who planted the roots of Cleveland's reggae scene.

"When I got back to Cleveland [after the Florida trip]," Valentine recalls, "I started stocking the jukebox with reggae songs. I was the first bar in Cleveland to stock reggae songs. Word started spreading that this little bar in the circle had a reggae jukebox and people started coming to be near the jukebox. Not large crowds, a few dozen or so. Most people at that time had no idea what reggae was."

Meanwhile, Dave Smeltz had been hanging out at Dailey's on East 116th, a recently opened hub for the local Jamaican scene, and got bitten by the bug.

"Around 1978, I wanted to start playing the stuff," he recalls. "We tried to start a band, myself, Bob [Caruso] and a guy named Ralph Tubbs. On 71st and Euclid there were some lofts you could rent out. We rented a loft out and began practicing there. We had been going to Dailey's and they had a whole bunch of reggae records there and we started hanging around Jamaican folks more. They had chicken patties and curried goat, and overproof rum was a draw also. They had 12-inch records for sale, long versions of reggae songs. While we're there we met a couple of guys, Jamaican guys, named Beebo and Shadow who had a band called Black Lion. That was the first reggae band I know of in Cleveland."

SATTA One of the better-known Cleveland reggae bands among the many in late '80s.
SATTA One of the better-known Cleveland reggae bands among the many in late '80s.

He also stopped by the Sunday night jam sessions he'd heard about at the Coach House. Out of that emerged I-Tal, the band that kicked off the area's non-Jamaican reggae scene. "It was an amazing thing at the Coach House," says Caruso. "It was so laid back. They made hamburgers in the back. They had beer and wine, no hard liquor. Valentine said if we can get some kind of thing together, we'll play every Friday and Saturday so we had a guaranteed gig on weekends. And it took off, American guys playing reggae."

Ron Jarvis, who replaced Valentine on bass after the band's first year, recalls the sound that drew in a diverse audience.

"I-Tal itself brought its own sensiblity to music. They were very rootsy, very knowledgable, but being from Shaker Heights and around Cleveland, I believe everybody's heart still beat to that rock 'n' roll feel. We did what reggae was meant to do but did it with midwestern rock 'n' roll attitude, kicked the energy and excitement up a couple of notches. I think that was key to our success."

After establishing themselves as the Coach House's de facto house band, I-Tal started playing other clubs, opening up their nights for other bands which grew up in their wake. Soon Peabody's DownUnder was booking reggae shows and Peabody's in Cleveland Heights at the corner of Cedar and Taylor roads (now Platinum Dreams) established its Wednesday night reggae nights, which ran for 15 years.

"We started playing Peabody's Café," recalls Dunmore, who became I-Tal's drummer and booker. "A hundred, 150 people on a Wednesday night and it grew from there. That's what really pulled the scene together. It gave other bands a chance to play — Jah Messenger, Black Scorpio. We started playing Mother's in Kent, going down to Swanky's in Athens. We used to play Mother's in Kent upstairs in this absolute sweat box. Those nights used to be absolutely packed. It was a fire hazard. First of all it was upstairs, and the stage was all the way back in the back corner. It was a big college type of crowd. Then people would come home for the holidays and it slowly grew that way."

After Bob Marley died of cancer in 1981, his reputation grew to mythical proportions. His posthumous album Legend was released in 1984 and went on to become the biggest-selling reggae album of all time. Reggae wasn't a closely kept secret anymore. But at the same time there was turmoil in the ranks of I-Tal and early that year the group splintered, leaving Smeltz and a couple of other members on one side, and Dunmore, Caruso, Jones, Long and Chopper on the other. They soon formed the new ensemble First Light, while I-Tal continued, led by Smeltz, with various other members, into the early '90s, playing mostly outside Northeast Ohio.

Propelled by Marley's exploding popularity and the resulting increased familiarity of white audiences with reggae, and the band's own propensity for blending rock, soul, funk, pop and even jazz into their reggae base, First Light soon eclipsed I-Tal and piggybacked onto the same circuit I-Tal had started to play, with Dunmore now acting as their manager. Rod Reisman came on board to play drums and Ed Marthey joined on keyboards. With soundman Larry Rhodes, they formed the core of the band for virtually its entire existence.

Caribbean flavor in Euclid - A newer hotspot for reggae music.
Caribbean flavor in Euclid - A newer hotspot for reggae music.

"We had people coming out immediately," recalls Reisman. "I don't know if it was buzz from I-Tal or because the band knew so many people and so many different kinds of people. This music would have people who love heavy guitar to the best-looking women who came to see any band I was in, maybe because the guys in front had an exotic look for that time."

But more importantly, they had a sound that cut across genres and especially appealed to the growing legion of young jam-band fans turned on by musical hybrids. Certainly, they led with reggae: It was there in their name, their album title, their logo, the dreadlocks on their three frontmen. But their appeal to a wide cross-section of audiences earned them slots opening for Meat Loaf, the Clash and Living Colour as well as the more predictable shows with Toots & the Maytals, Steel Pulse and the Wailers.

"We played Pink Floyd's "Time' and it's not reggae but our influences would filter through," says Reisman. "Some rock is going to come through and some reggae is going to come through and some soul is going to come through. The audience would see dreadlocks and assume it was a reggae band. Even if we had become a different band, the reggae's always there because no matter what you do, you have to have a starting point and that was our starting point."

He explains how the band's modus operandi appealed to the nascent jam-band nation.

"We played together all the time and when you do that you're able to improvise. You can rehearse until your head falls off but it's not the same. We were just playing all the time and letting the music morph. I think "Situation' really encompassed a lot because Chopper, Gino, Carlos love that sound - Manhattans, Dramatics, the male vocal groups of the '70s. You'll hear that in that song, but it's also technically what they'd call lover's rock. If we were supposed to be a reggae band, that song encompasses a lot. I think on Meltdown we captured it well. I even dropped my stick on the take but I wouldn't stop playing, the feel was so good."

As First Light's popularity grew, other bands such as the Champion Bubblers and Satta, featuring early First Light bassist Chellis, sprang up. National reggae tours stopped in town more frequently. Packy Malley, who, like Dave Valentine, discovered reggae while on a camping trip listening to a Bob Marley tape over and over while it rained, started promoting concerts in Columbus while attending Ohio State and launched his Midwest Reggae Fest in 1993. And college radio, which underpins so many scenes in Cleveland, buoyed this one too. Rich Lowe, whose show Night of the Living Dread is heard on WRUW 91.1 FM from 7-9 p.m. Fridays, debuted his show on John Carroll's radio station in 1982.

He first heard reggae on Don Kirschner's Rock Concert television program. "They had Bob Marley on. I said wow, this is so unusual. I'd never seen anything like that. The dreads, the whole vibe. I started to go see I-Tal, Jah Messengers. I started going to Dailey's Mountain Inn and got a radio show when I was up at John Carroll. It was '78-'79 when I started listening to the music."

FIRST LIGHT TODAY Ready for their June 21 reunion show in the Flats.
FIRST LIGHT TODAY Ready for their June 21 reunion show in the Flats.

Like Lowe, Tommy Fox, whose program, Rudie's Hi-Fi, is heard on WCSB-89.3 FM from 2-4 p.m. Saturdays, is a Cleveland white boy who became deeply immersed in Jamaican music. Although a rocker (known for his lengthy stint with the Mice), he'd been "mesmerized" by DJ Prince on WRUW and bought a lot of reggae records as a result. He briefly played with a local reggae band, Riddim Fish, in the late '80s. When he went back to school in 1999, a friend who was WCSB's program director suggested he get a program.

"I thought, I have all these great reggae records that no one else plays and I've been obsessed with it ever since. I started really embracing reggae in mid-to-late '80s and I've been going to shows ever since. In the '80s it was all roots music. Everybody wanted to be Bob Marley, everybody wanted to be Peter Tosh. Now more people are into Sizzla, Lovota, Capleton. There's a wider variety of reggae music out there. But the two paths never seem to intersect."

Fox is referring to a split in reggae in the '80s. While the older generation loved the politically and socially aware roots reggae of Marley that the white rockers had discovered, younger Jamaicans were listening to a raunchier version of reggae, dubbed dancehall or bashment. That music came to be embraced in Cleveland's Jamaican community about the same time First Light was packing clubs with Phish fans, creating two separate, parallel scenes that both Lowe and Fox traversed.

"When I started doing my radio show a friend of mine named Trevor came up to the station and he introduced me to the real Jamaican scene," says Lowe. "He introduced me to the sound systems and selectors — DJs. You'd go to clubs and the whole crowd would be Jamaican. It would be dark and everyone would dance until the floor got wet. It was slippery like someone spilled water but it was sweat. They played at a place called Playhouse East on Miles. They had dances at the Spectrum, they played reggae music at the Plush. They would have house parties in peoples' basements."

"Reggae music is always evolving and doing something different," he continues. "It's always moving ahead. I play music in clubs and you have the people that want to hear old rock-steady music and people that want to hear brand new Sizzla Kalonji and you have to kind of appeal to everybody and it's challenging."

Today, there's plenty of reggae, both old and new, on college radio, with about a dozen shows at any given time. "From about 1981 it's been just solid reggae music," says Lowe. "Radio has always pumped out good Jamaican music."

The Midwest Reggae Fest has grown into a three-day event at Nelsons Ledges Quarry Park in August. Dailey's is still the place to go for Jamaican food, music and culture. The Caribbean Flavor on Babbitt Road in Euclid joined the scene about five years ago. And although the plethora of live bands that played the clubs in the '80s and early '90s is gone, Carlos Jones's P.L.U.S. band is a reliable favorable at nearly every festival in town.

Rich Lowe looks back to that peak of the live-band reggae scene and First Light's role in it. "There were about 12 to 14 different bands. Splash in the Flats was around, Peabody's DownUnder. I would go to Peabody's at Taylor and Cedar with 8 to 10 friends. You had some smaller clubs here and there. Brothers Lounge, once in a while. You had First Light, Harambe, Satta. They stretched it, they were something that was very appealing to the masses. First Light were able to get into a lot of clubs and broadcast out. They used to jam, and it was a lot of fun. They made the music cross barriers and borders."

"First Light's rock and reggae reunion probably a one-shot' deal"

fl 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008
John Benson
Special to The Plain Dealer

Exactly a decade after First Light's last gig at The Odeon, the rock 'n'reggae act is traveling down memory lane for its first reunion show. It has been a long wait for diehard fans, who spent the '80s and '90s asking "I Want to Know Where Reggae Comes From." So what is it exactly about this Northeast Ohio act that created such a large following? "I kind of think that First Light may have been one of the pioneers of the rock and reggae sound," said First Light co-founder and erstwhile I-Tal percussionist Carlos Jones. "We were pre-Sublime and pre-311, and all of that music became popular with the kids today. We were really one of the first bands to bring that rock-reggae hybrid out. I think that's why we appealed to a broad cross-section of people. And as far as we're concerned right now, this [reunion] is a one-shot deal." Jones, who remains busy with his own Peace Love Unity Syndicate (P.L.U.S.) Band, said First Light will be cherry-picking its fan favorites ("Apartment Living," "Running" and "Where Reggae Comes From"), as well as playing its popular cover of Pink Floyd's "Time" at the reunion gig. First Light -- Jones, Chopper (guitar), Rod Reisman (drums), Ed Marthey (keyboards), Gino Long (guitar) and Bob Caruso (congas) -- performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Plain Dealer Pavilion, 2014 Sycamore St., Cleveland. Tickets are $19.50 to $27.50, on sale at all Ticketmaster locations.

"First Light reunion brings founder Carlos Jones full circle
Reunion brings founder Carlos Jones full circle"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Michael HeatonPlain Dealer Reporter

Cleveland's Mr. Reggae, Carlos Jones, will be 50 this August. He is celebrating a 30-year musical journey that spans three bands: I-tal, First Light and Jones' current outfit, the P.L.U.S. Band (Peace Love Unity Syndicate).

"Carlos is a great ambassador of the Cleveland music scene," said Packy Malley, a local reggae promoter. "He is an excellent musician and is one of the coolest cats you will ever meet. He always treats everyone with respect -- fellow musicians, club owners and even embarrassing fans. He makes everyone feel better. He gives respect and gets respect."

That sentiment will be put to the test when First Light comes together for a reunion show Saturday night at The Plain Dealer Pavilion in Cleveland's Flats.

"This has the feeling of coming full circle," Jones said recently, while rehearsing with First Light bandmates at the Audio Kreme studio on East 185th Street in Cleveland amid Persian rugs, stacked amps and stray musical instruments.

"I'm both amazed and amused."

Jones grew up an Army brat. His family settled in 1969 in Maple Heights, when his mom told his dad she was done rambling around the country with three kids. His dad took a job at a Veterans Administration hospital.

Jones has an older brother, Ngoki, now a street musician in Santa Barbara, Calif., and a younger brother, Norm, who teaches percussion music to children in Los Angeles. As kids, the Jones boys jammed with other musicians in the neighborhood.

In 1978, Carlos saw Bob Marley and the Wailers at the Music Hall in downtown Cleveland. "It was a life-changing experience," Jones said. "It felt like a church more than anything else.

"The stage was ablaze with flames and incense and colored lights and flags and banners. Everyone in the place was moving wall to wall and corner to corner, while one skinny little guy had the whole scene in the palm of his hand. My whole life took a left turn after that night."

That same year, he began frequenting a place in University Circle called The Coach House (which later became Club Isabella's), where he could see his favorite band -- Cleveland's only American reggae band at the time -- I-tal.

The band's leader was Dave Smeltz, who worked at Record Revolution on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights.

"Carlos would sit by the side of the stage and play his bongos right along with the band," Smeltz remembers. "Eventually, I asked him up on the stage -- and shortly after that, he just became part of the band."

I-tal had a growing following playing at the Euclid Tavern, Peabody's Cafe and Mother's in Kent. Jones was 20 when he quit his job as an auto mechanic in Bedford to pursue music full time. He has never had a day job since.

The nine-piece band played four to five shows a week. Jones was making $500 a week and sharing a house with a couple of other guys.

In 1984, I-tal split up over creative differences (and a girl). Jones wanted to write more songs and sing more lead. The next year, he and four other guys formed First Light. The band had more rock and rhythm-and-blues influences.

"We were saying to each other that it was a new day for our band. A new dawn. Then somebody said First Light, and it stuck. We covered Marley, Peter Tosh and Third World tunes mixed in with our own originals," Jones said.

"I give Dave [Smeltz] credit. He paved the way. We had a built-in following because of the popularity of I-tal."

The first First Light performance was in 1985, when they opened for the Clash. The band worked steadily from 1985 to 1998. Because of the I-tal roots -- and because three of the five band members wore their hair in dreadlocks -- they became known as a reggae band. Their cult classic album "Reggae Meltdown" sold more than 12,000 copies without a record label.

But First Light was more than just reggae.

"We crashed musical boundaries," Jones said with glee. "We played pop, funk, country, gospel. We had a rehearsal gig at the Grog Shop last week. We still play the pants off that stuff."

Ed Marthey is First Light's keyboard player.

"From the time I auditioned for the band," Marthey said, "Carlos was always the assumed leader. He always had this aura of impartiality that good leaders use to keep things together. He has a calming influence on some of the more nervous members of the band. Including myself. Without him, the band would have imploded much earlier than it did."

In 1997, Jones gave First Light a year's notice. It was the same year he married his wife, Dori. She works at an accounting firm.

"She sacrificed herself to the office gods so I can do my thing," Jones said with love and gratitude.

The beginning of the end of the band and his getting married were both part of a natural evolution for Jones.

The life of a party band on the road was getting to him. The drugs, the alcohol and the women were combining to create a self-destructive lifestyle. His focus had shifted to family. It was time to come off the road. He also began caring for his mother, Mary, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. She died in 2005.

"It was all about coming to know who I am and what I wanted to say with my music," Jones said of his current project, the P.L.U.S. Band.

"I turned toward spirituality after my mom passed on. It was a milestone and rite of passage for me. It led me to seek a higher understanding."

The P.L.U.S. Band has a more spiritual, roots-reggae flavor than First Light. Today, Jones is an enthusiastic biker, hiker and environmentalist. Though he still enjoys a shot of Cuervo tequila after a show.

"Exercising and being healthy is my drug of choice now," he said.

He recently took his daughter, Soraya, 18, for a tour of the Kent State University campus, where she will attend college in the fall. He has another daughter, Rachel, 20, from a previous relationship.

Last year, all the members of First Light came together at the funeral of Larry Rhodes, their former soundman. There, the reunion seed was planted.

"We thought it might be a good idea for us to get together for another show," said Jones. "You know . . . before it's too late."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4569



The reunited members of First Light played a secret gig at The Grog Shop on May 29th as a dry run rehearsal for their reunion gig at The Plain Dealer Pavilion in June under the false name "Buck".  Check out these photos from Bob Urban of the event.  By all accounts the band looks and sounds great!

This shot from John Harmon:
Light 037

Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2008 01:14:42 -0700
Subject: Notes on the Reunion...

Notes on the Reunion:

Well, who would have ever thought...?

When we said our final goodbyes at The Odeon 10 years ago, after nearly 15 years of making music and memories, that we would ever again have the opportunity to get together with a few friends and re-live some of the best times of our lives - to take that familiar ride that always left us breathless and exhilarated. True, we were all younger then, fearless and foolish, fewer worries, maybe a few less pounds and a little more hair, and had our whole lives ahead of us. On those nights it seemed like anything was possible and we partied like tomorrow would never come. Yet, this year, on the night of the summer solstice, for a brief moment, time seemed to turn on itself and we were all magically transported together back to those heady days and nights of joyous abandon, before jobs and kids and mortgages became our reality.

    I can hardly find the words to describe the feeling of looking out from the stage at Nautica (I still call it that) okay, PDP if you must, and seeing so many happy, smiling, familiar faces and hearing so many of you singing along to songs we hadn't played for so long. And not only that, but seeing younger folks, who I know weren't even around back then, totally digging it and singing too. It blew me away, folks. And I think it would be safe to say on behalf of my bandmates, my brothers, that we were all moved by the ecstatic outpouring of love and support that came at us in wave after wave the whole night, which, by the way, seemed to go by in like, a half an hour. The whole thing seemed very surreal, like a lucid dream where you can't tell if you're asleep or awake. Yet, for me there were some very vivid moments that would break through the dream state and hit me like a photon phaser blast that made the hair on my arms stand up. In those moments I was very aware that "Wow! this is real - it's really happening." I wonder if anyone else felt that too. I've been told that there were many smaller reunions going on within the big one: college roommates and high school sweethearts, frat brothers and sorority sisters, neighborhood friends who had moved away and lost touch, and folks who had simply moved on with their lives and didn't get out much any more. Then there were the couples who had met at one of our shows, who are now married and whose families may have started as a direct result of one of those nights. I know some of those kids were there in the audience too. It truly seemed like a huge family reunion or birthday party or something like that. I can't wait to see all the photos that were taken. Anybody who wants to send their pictures in can do so and we'll post them on the site. ( They don't even have to be photos of the band, just memories from the night. Of course, the monsoon that blew through just a couple hours earlier was a nice touch; classic Cleveland weather – sunny and beautiful one minute, then all hell breaks loose. I thought the Nautica might actually break free and set sail down the river. And then, as if on cue, it cleared up and the sun came out just in time to paint the sky with spectacular colors as Mifune played the soundtrack to the transformation. I’m pretty sure there was a rainbow. I may have even seen a unicorn. The rest of the evening was near-perfect, aside from the fact that we had to scramble to figure out what songs to cut from the set after finding out we had to stop a half hour sooner than we were originally told. From the first note on, it seemed to take on a life of its own, and everything just worked out. One of the greatest moments for me was when The Prayer Warriors joined us for the encore, along with longtime friend, Arlene Bowie. It was both magical and spiritual.

    Playing with the guys again was a tremendous pleasure. It was a rediscovery. It made me remember what it was that brought us all together in the first place and made it all work so well. Much has been made of my role as founder of this band, when in all reality it was so much more a collective effort. It can't be overstated that Chopper was just as much, if not even more so, instrumental in forging the band's sound and creative direction, and was just as much a mentor to me as he was a partner. He is also one of the most gifted musicians this town has ever seen. I think a whole new generation is discovering that now. All the guys: Rod, Bob, Eddie, Gino, and Joe have that level of musicianship that was easy to take for granted at the time because they made it look so effortless. But hearing them now, it just takes on a whole new meaning. Even though our years of experience separately may have changed us in various ways, that chemistry, that primal fire is still there. After the initial shaking off of rust and barnacles, clearing the cobwebs and dust that had settled over time, the engines fired and the old ship was found seaworthy. What a gift we've been given; the chance to appreciate with a new perspective, the talents that each one brings individually to create the whole, and not have the added baggage of past personal issues, demons, egos and drama drag it all down and drain its power. That is the truly amazing thing, and for that I am so grateful to have been able to experience it. I never thought I'd see the day come all those years ago. A special recognition goes out to Kenny LeGrande, who stepped in at the last minute and performed the impossible feat of learning all those songs with only one rehearsal. 

So now we find ourselves celebrating what we've achieved and pondering our present and possibly even future. Realistically, I know it can never be like it was, and that's okay. I feel that I'm doing what I am supposed to be doing right now, and I'm lucky to have a great group of very talented and dedicated guys with me, helping me to keep it going (BIG UPS to the PLUS Posse!) I gotta say though that I'm glad we had what we had and that we all (well, almost - R.I.P. Larry "D") survived to tell the tale, and that we even got the chance to re-visit that place one more time. It's a part of our shared history, and for good or bad, it helped to shape who we are today. It's a bond that will never be broken. I am proud to have been a part of something that meant and still means a lot to many people, and has affected their lives as it has affected mine. So, a big, big thank you goes out to my brothers in music, to our families, friends, fans and supporters, and to this town which has embraced us all along and has always made us feel like one of its own. How did we get so blessed?


We'd like to thank by name: 

Chris Dunmore

Dan Kemer

Michael Belkin

Barry Gabel

Marcy Szabados

Regis Sedlock

Carrie Samek

Matt Korona

Maria Lamphier

Kathy Simkoff & Grog Shop

Nautica (PDP) crew

Jim Burley

Larry Dolan


Joe Miller

Kenny LeGrande

Herb Thomas & The Prayer Warriors

Arlene Bowie


Anastasia Pantsios - Free Times

John Benson - News Herald/Plain Dealer

Pete Chakerian - News Herald

Michael Heaton - Plain Dealer

Sage Satori - North Coast Voice

Mark "Munch" Bishop - WKNR

Michael Stanley - WNCX

Dee Perry - WCPN

Dave DeOreo - WCPN

"Papa" Dave Smeltz

Dave Valentine

Packy Malley

Scott Landry

Dewey Forward

Larry Koval - Cross Track Music/Little Fish Records

Woody Robison - Cross Track Music/Little Fish Records


In Memoriam: 

Larry "D" Rhodes

Modesta Wasson

Mary Jones

Inez Smeltz

Oscar Dunmore


Thanks again Cleveland!

Much love,


First Light

Here are a few shots from the reunion show from Bob Urban:

Here are a few shots from Light keyoardist Ed Marthey's Camera from the Reunion Show and a great memory from his days on the road with the band in response to "what makes Carlos a good band leader?"...

 i don't know if i can cite a specific incident without dragging up some long- buried disagreement, but from the time i auditioned for the band in March 1984, it was always assumed that Carlos was the leader. Most of our original songs were written by him, and he has this aura of calm impartiality that good leaders need to keep things together.

 Without his calming influence on some of the more nervous people in the group, me included, First Light would have imploded sometime around April, 1984.

 Which is not to say that Los doesn't have a forceful personality, and we've seen his ire get roused...

 One time at a frat party at Dennison College, the kids set up a bunch of connected low tables, set out platters of ribs, fruit and other foods, and reclined on the floor in sheets. While they had their little Roman feast we were across the room playing reggae, it was very odd. The kids were already drunk, and, predicatably, a food fight erupted. An apple got through and hit my amp. i picked it up and threw it back with all my might, connecting with a gigantic cup of draft beer and exploding it all over its owner.

 Then, a slimy piece of banana sailed across the room and hit Carlos' guitar (i think it was sitting on a stand if i remember right)-- a collective gasp went up from the band, while the kids continued to trash the room.

 Carlos walked purposefully over to where the kids were going apeshit and stepped up on a table. i remember thinking, "Carlos is about to wear a fruit suit" when he yelled "Stop!"

 (Once again, i think he shouted "Stop!", but it could have been something else.) The kids stopped and looked up at Los, shock registering on their food-smeared faces. He proceeded to tell them that if they continued, we would pack up and leave, and that we would still get paid, and that if any equipment was damaged they would pay for that as well.

 Incredibly, no more food was hurled, a few of the kids even apologized. i sure couldn't have pulled that off, i'd have been a food mummy in several seconds.

 the show was perfect last night. Incredible musicianship, best vibes, a really sweet crowd and finally clear skies.
 And I got some amazing photos :)
thank you,
p.s. there's lots more, if you haven't seen enough. please use anything you might like for whatever
  I knew, from a long time ago, the difference between notes and life.
 I'd rather play life than notes.- Carlos Santana
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