Carmine Appice Drums Up Lost Music on Rocker Records
They were one of the most underappreciated hard rock 'n' boogie bands of the era, but few would have predicted their short, but prickly story would still not be finished in 2014.
Chipster PR Carmine Appice today
Formed in 1969 and hailed (somewhat prematurely) by Creem magazine as "the American Led Zeppelin," Cactus was a semi-supergroup bringing together members of Vanilla Fudge (Tim Bogert, bass; Carmine Appice, drums), Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes (Rusty Day, vocals), and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels (Jim McCarty, guitar).
But by 1971 after three records and scores of live gigs, the classic quartet split amid (what else?) drugs, egos, and creative differences, with a different lineup producing a final LP. They were the subject of the very first Lost Tuneage column here.
Cut to June 3, 2006, when a Cactus grew again as Appice, Bogert, and McCarty took the stage at B.B. King's Blues Club in New York City for their first gig together in decades. The trio also brought Jimmy Kunes (ex-Brownsville Station) on vocals -- Day was murdered in a 1982 drug deal gone bad -- and Randy Pratt on harmonica.
A live CD of that show, Cactus Live in the U.S.A., is one of four initial releases from Appice and partner Mike Cusanelli's new startup label, Rocker Records. A DVD of the show was previously released, while bootleg CDs had already appeared.
Others in the batch include Bogert and Appice: Friends, Travers and Appice: TNA Live in Europe, and Cactus Live in Japan, and are available for download the Rocker Records Web site.
"That was an amazing show, and who would have thought it would have happened?" says Appice, who has also drummed for Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, Blue Murder, and Beck, Bogert, and Appice.
"We had already been doing some recording for what became the record Cactus V, and got an offer to play the Swedish Rock Festival," he continues. "But we needed a warm up gig, so that show at B.B. King's worked out great."
It turns out that the impetus for the three-quarters reunion was musician Pratt, a "billionaire" (thanks to inheritance, according to Appice) and huge fan of the band whose late father was the CEO of Pfizer.
As for replacing the charismatic Day, Appice says Kunes had a challenge, but met it.
"Sometimes it was scary he sounded so much like Rusty," he offers. " [Although] Rusty was a great front man and could get the crowd in the palm of his hands, but he wasn't a great singer, just like Mick Jagger. But he did write incredible lyrics. I mean, just listen to 'Alaska,' 'Restrictions,' and 'One Way or Another.'"
Today, Cactus continues to tour, though Bogert has since left the group.
Story continues on the next page.