Al Kooper, Jim Fielder, Fred Lipsius, Randy Brecker, Jerry Weiss, Dick Halligan, Steve Katz and Bobby Colomby formed the original band. The creation of the group was inspired by the "brass-rock" ideas of the Buckinghams and its producer, James William Guercio, as well as the early 1960s Roulette-era Maynard Ferguson Orchestra (according to Kooper's autobiography).
Al Kooper was the group's initial bandleader, having insisted on that position based on his experiences with the Blues Project, his previous band with Steve Katz, which had been organized as an egalitarian collective. Jim Fielder was from Frank Zappa's the Mothers of Invention and had played briefly with Buffalo Springfield. Kooper's fame as a high-profile contributor to various historic sessions of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and others was a catalyst for the prominent debut of Blood, Sweat & Tears in the musical counterculture of the mid-sixties.
Kooper, Colomby, Katz, and Fielder did a few shows as a quartet at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York City in September 1967, opening for Moby Grape. Fred Lipsius then joined the others two months later. A few more shows were played as a quintet, including one at the Fillmore East in New York. Lipsius then recruited the other three, Dick Halligan, Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss, who were New York jazz horn players Lipsius knew. The final lineup debuted at the Cafe Au Go Go on November 17–19, 1967, then moved over to play The Scene the following week. The band was a hit with the audience, who liked the innovative fusion of jazz with acid rock and psychedelia.
After signing to Columbia Records, the group released Child Is Father to the Man. The album cover was considered quite innovative showing the band members sitting and standing with child-sized versions of themselves. Characterized by Kooper's penchant for studio gimmickry, the album slowly picked up in sales despite growing artistic differences among the founding members which resulted in several personnel changes for the second album. Colomby and Katz wanted to move Kooper exclusively to keyboard and composing duties, while hiring a stronger vocalist for the group, causing Kooper's departure in April 1968. He became a record producer for the Columbia label, but not before arranging some songs that would be on the next BS&T album. The group's trumpeters, Randy Brecker and Jerry Weiss, also left and were replaced by Lew Soloff and Chuck Winfield. Brecker joined Horace Silver's band with his brother Michael, and together they eventually formed their own horn-dominated musical outfits, Dreams and The Brecker Brothers. Jerry Weiss went on to start the similarly-styled group Ambergris.
After Kooper left the group, Colomby and Katz began to look for a new vocalist, considering Alex Chilton (after the breakup of soul-rock group the Box Tops but before the formation of Big Star), Stephen Stills and Laura Nyro. Ultimately, they decided upon David Clayton-Thomas, a Canadian singer, born in Surrey, England. Reportedly, folk singer Judy Collins had seen Clayton-Thomas perform at a New York City club and was so taken and moved by his performance that she told Colomby and Katz about him (knowing that they were looking for a new lead singer to front the band). With her prodding, they came to see Clayton-Thomas perform and were so impressed that he was offered the role of lead singer in a re-constituted Blood Sweat & Tears. Trombonist Halligan took up the organ chores and Jerry Hyman joined to take over trombone. With new trumpeters Soloff and Winfield the now nine-member band debuted at New York's Cafe Au Go Go on June 18, 1968, beginning a two-week residency.
The group's second album, Blood, Sweat & Tears, was produced by James William Guercio and released in late 1968. It was more pop-oriented, featuring fewer compositions by the band. The record quickly hit the top of the charts, winning Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards over the Beatles' Abbey Road, among other nominees. Three hit singles were released from Blood, Sweat & Tears: a cover of Berry Gordy and Brenda Holloway's "You've Made Me So Very Happy", Clayton-Thomas' "Spinning Wheel", and a version of Nyro's "And When I Die". Each of these three #2 singles was on Billboard Magazine 's Hot 100 chart for 13 weeks.
The commercial and critical acclaim enjoyed by the band in 1969 culminated in an appearance at Woodstock, in which the band enjoyed headliner status. The festival's film crew even caught the band's opening number, "More and More", as they took to the stage. But the band's manager at the time, Bennett Glotzer, ordered the movie crew to turn off the cameras and leave the stage since the band had not agreed nor been paid to be filmed.
While Blood, Sweat & Tears achieved commercial success alongside similarly configured ensembles such as Chicago and the Electric Flag, the band had difficulty maintaining its status as a counterculture icon at a time when record company executives deemed this characteristic important as a tool to lure young consumers. This was compounded by the band going on a United States Department of State-sponsored tour of Eastern Europe in May/June 1970. Any voluntary association with the government was highly unpopular at the time, and the band was ridiculed for it. It is now known that the State Department subtly requested the tour in exchange for more amicability on the issuance of a visa to Clayton-Thomas.
After returning to the U.S., the group released Blood, Sweat & Tears 3, produced by Roy Halee and drummer Colomby. The album was another popular success, spawning hit singles with a cover of Carole King's "Hi-De-Ho" and another Clayton-Thomas composition, "Lucretia MacEvil". While this was a successful attempt to re-create the amalgam of styles found on the previous album, the band again depended almost exclusively on cover material. Album reviews sometimes focused solely upon the band's willingness to work with the U.S. State Department, without bothering to discuss the actual music. Compounding the image problems of the band was a decision to play at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip, widely seen at the time as a mainstream venue for acts that did not engage in radical politics.
In 1970, the band provided music for the soundtrack of the film comedy The Owl and the Pussycat , which starred Barbra Streisand and George Segal, further damaging the group's underground reputation.
Following this period of controversy, the group reconvened in San Francisco in January 1971 with jazz writer/saxophonist Don Heckman serving as their producer. With Dave Bargeron replacing Jerry Hyman, they recorded material that would form the basis of their fourth album, BS&T 4 (June 1971). For the first time since the first album, Blood, Sweat & Tears presented a repertoire of songs composed almost entirely from within the group. Also included on the album is a cover of former member Al Kooper's "Holy John (John The Baptist)". Loaded with hooks and a wide variety of moods (featuring such songs as "Go Down Gamblin'", "Lisa, Listen To Me", "High on a Mountain", "Redemption"), BS&T 4 broke into the album charts, resulting in a gold record for the group. Unfortunately, none of the singles from the album managed to land in the Top 30 on any of the singles charts, and the period after the release of the fourth album began the group's commercial decline.
Difficulties arose inside the group between its pop-rock and jazz factions, with Clayton-Thomas refusing to pick sides and eventually choosing to leave in early January 1972 (after playing a final show at Anaheim Convention Center with the group on December 27, 1971 in Anaheim, California) to pursue a solo career. He was briefly replaced by Bobby Doyle (who, reportedly, failed to work out with the band when his voice had problems being heard over the horns, though he did stay around long enough to play a few shows with the band and contribute his piano playing to two of the songs on the next BS&T album) and then Jerry Fisher, who went on to front the next incarnation of Blood, Sweat & Tears. Fred Lipsius left as well and was replaced by jazz legend Joe Henderson (who did not stay long enough to record), before Lou Marini settled into the new lineup. Another founding member, Dick Halligan, also departed, replaced by jazz pianist Larry Willis (from the Cannonball Adderley Quintet), and Swedish guitarist Georg Wadenius, from the popular Swedish outfit Made in Sweden, joined as lead guitarist around the same time.
Amidst the personnel changes, a Greatest Hits album was released, which hit the top 20 and eventually went gold. This record would be the band's final gold album.
During this period of time, a proliferation of bands employing similar brass-rock stylings began to compete in the popular music marketplace. Among these groups were Chase, Ides of March and Lighthouse, offering testimony to the legacy of Blood, Sweat & Tears.
The new edition of Blood, Sweat & Tears released New Blood in September 1972, which found the group moving into a more overtly jazz-fusion repertoire. The album broke through the Top 40 chart (the last BS&T LP to do so) and spawned a single ("So Long Dixie", chart peak: 44) that received some airplay. Also included on the record was a cover version of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage", featuring the voice/guitar soloing of Georg Wadenius.
In mid-1973, Katz, who was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the group's leaning towards jazz fusion, decided to leave to pursue a career as a producer (for Lou Reed and others). Winfield departed as well and was replaced by Tom Malone.
Blood, Sweat & Tears' next album, No Sweat (June 1973), continued in a jazz-fusion vein and featured intricate horn work. Tom Malone's stay in the band was brief and he left to make way for jazz trumpeter John Madrid. But Madrid's tenure was likewise short-lived and he never recorded with the band. Both Madrid and Soloff left in early 1974, making way for new horn player/arranger Tony Klatka on their next release, Mirror Image (July 1974), which also saw the addition of vocalist/saxophonist Jerry LaCroix (formerly of Edgar Winter's White Trash), sax player Bill Tillman, bassist Ron McClure and the exodus of original bass player Jim Fielder. This recording features the adoption of a sound pitched between Philly Soul and the mid-1970s albums by Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, along with aspirations to Chick Corea's jazz-fusion group Return to Forever.
Jerry LaCroix left BS&T to join Rare Earth after playing his final show with them at Wollman Rink in New York's Central Park on July 27, 1974. Luther Kent, a blues singer from New Orleans, was recruited to replace LaCroix.
By the close of 1974, Jerry Fisher decided that he was tired by BS&T's heavy touring schedule, so Bobby Colomby, together with the band's manager Fred Heller, engineered the return of David Clayton-Thomas in the hope of restoring the band to its former level of success. Clayton-Thomas agreed and met the current group at a concert in Milwaukee while Jerry Fisher and Luther Kent were still with the band. All three singers ended up on stage together before a wildly enthusiastic crowd.
The next album, New City in April 1975, featured Clayton-Thomas back fronting the band and contained half cover tunes (Janis Ian, Randy Newman, the Beatles, Blues Image) and half original material. New horn player Joe Giorgianni joined for New City, which charted higher (#47) than any of their previous albums since New Blood. This was chiefly the result of an entry in the singles charts with a cover of the Beatles' "Got To Get You Into My Life", which peaked at #62. But it still did not sell as well as albums from the group's 1969–71 commercial peak period.
In the summer of 1975, BS&T recorded a live album that was released in Europe and Japan the following year as In Concert. This very same album was later released in the US as Live And Improvised in May 1991. The album featured different guitarists on different nights: Georg Wadenius, Steve Khan and Mike Stern, the latter who took over permanently for a time (Jeff Richman filled in for Stern in mid-1976). Jazz percussionist Don Alias was also present for the live album. After its recording, Joe Giorgianni left and was replaced by Forrest Buchtell (formerly of Woody Herman's band).
Around the same time, Bobby Colomby discovered a talented bass player by the name of Jaco Pastorius in Florida. He produced Jaco's first solo album in the autumn of 1975, which was released in the spring of 1976. In late 1975, Jaco toured with BS&T subbing for Ron McClure and when McClure left in early 1976, Colomby arranged for Jaco to join the band, though he stayed for only about three months. On April 1, 1976 Jaco officially joined Weather Report where he became world-famous. When Jaco left BS&T, he was briefly succeeded by Keith Jones, before Danny Trifan stepped in.
In 1975, Blood, Sweat & Tears was offered a slot at a Jazz concert to be held in Newport, Rhode Island. The city government viewed the band as a "rock" band and was concerned that it would attract a rowdy audience; it threatened to revoke the concert permit if Blood, Sweat & Tears was not removed from the program. Ultimately, concert organizers were only able to force the event forward via judicial injunction. The ensuing litigation reached the United States Supreme Court.
In July 1976 More Than Ever, produced by Bob James and featuring guest vocals by Patti Austin and appearances by a host of NYC session players, including pianist Richard Tee, guitarists Eric Gale and Hugh McCracken, trumpeter Jon Faddis and Eric Weissberg (banjo, dobro), was released but sold disappointingly. After it stalled at US #165, Columbia Records dropped the band. At this time Bobby Colomby, BS&T’s sole remaining original member, stopped touring with the group and Don Alias assumed sole percussion duties before leaving as well to make way for Roy McCurdy.
In 1977 BS&T was signed to ABC Records and they began working on their next release, Brand New Day (November 1977). The album was co-produced by Bobby Colomby. But Colomby's direct involvement with the group ceased after its release, although he continued on as sole owner of the Blood Sweat and Tears trademark. Brand New Day garnered positive reviews but was not a major seller. At this same time BS&T were said to be recording tracks for an instrumental album with a personnel of Tony Klatka, Forrest Buchtell, Dave Bargeron, Bill Tillman, Larry Willis, Danny Trifan, Roy McCurdy and Mike Stern, but this album never materialized.
During 1977 the BS&T lineup continued to be ever fluctuating. Stern, Trifan, McCurdy, Buchtell and Tillman all departed to be succeeded respectively by Randy Bernsen, Neil Stubenhaus, Michael Lawrence and Gregory Herbert. Barry Finnerty then took over guitar and Chris Albert trumpet when Bernsen and Lawrence left at the close of '77.
In January 1978 the group undertook a European tour that ended abruptly after 31-year-old saxophonist Gregory Herbert died of a drug overdose in Amsterdam on January 31, 1978. Rocked by this shocking turn of events, the group returned home and temporarily ceased activity.
In 1979, with the encouragement of longtime BS&T manager Fred Heller, who had numerous requests for the band to play more shows, David Clayton-Thomas decided to continue Blood, Sweat & Tears with an entirely new lineup that consisted of himself and other Canadian musicians (Kenny Marco – guitar, David Piltch – bass, Joe Sealy – keyboards, Bruce Cassidy – trumpet, flugelhorn, Earl Seymour – sax, flute, Steve Kennedy – sax, flute and Sally Chappis – drums, with Harvey Kogan soon replacing Kennedy and Jack Scarangella succeeding Chappis).
The group signed to Avenue Records subsidiary label LAX (MCA Records), with a slightly altered lineup of: David Clayton-Thomas (vocals, guitar), Robert Piltch (guitar), David Piltch (bass), Richard Martinez (keyboards), Bruce Cassidy (trumpet, flugelhorn), Earl Seymour (sax, flute), Vernon Dorge (sax, flute) and a returning Bobby Economou on drums, and with producer and arranger Jerry Goldstein, recorded the album Nuclear Blues (March 1980). The album was yet another attempt to reinvent the group, showcasing the band in a funk sound environment that recalled such acts as Tower of Power and LAX labelmates War (with whom BS&T did several shows in 1980). The album, unfortunately, was regarded by many Blood, Sweat & Tears fans as uncharacteristic of the group's best work.
During this period, another live album was recorded at The Street Scene in Los Angeles, California on October 12, 1980 (this was eventually released as Live in February 1995). Robert and David Piltch left shortly before this concert, as did Richard Martinez. They were replaced by Wayne Pedzwiatr on bass, Peter Harris on guitar and Lou Pomanti on keyboards. And Mic Gillette (from Tower of Power) replaced Cassidy on trumpet at the tail end of 1980. Following more touring, including Australia, this incarnation of the group disbanded in 1981.
Since he did not own the rights to the Blood Sweat & Tears name, Clayton-Thomas attempted to restart his failed solo career in 1983 after taking some time off. This caused complications during his initial months on the road when promoters would book his group and instead use the Blood, Sweat & Tears name on the marquee. Consequently, his manager at the time, Larry Dorr, negotiated a licensing deal between himself and Bobby Colomby in 1984 for rights to tour using the band's name.
For 20 years afterwards, Clayton-Thomas toured the concert circuit with a constantly changing roster of players (see roster below) as "Blood, Sweat & Tears" until his final departure in November 2004. Clayton-Thomas, now residing back in his home country of Canada, continues his solo career and does occasional shows using only his name in promotional efforts.
The band continued on without Clayton-Thomas. Larry Dorr has been the band's manager (and much more) for over 30 years now, and Blood Sweat & Tears is still one of the most popular touring acts of all time. At last count, the overall number of BS&T members since the beginning is up around 140 total people (see roster below).
On March 12 and 13, 1993, Al Kooper organized two shows at the Bottom Line in NYC that were advertised as "A Silver Anniversary Celebration Of The Classic Album The Child Is Father To The Man", which featured Al, Randy Brecker, Jim Fielder, Steve Katz and Fred Lipsius playing together for the first time in 25 years, accompanied by Anton Fig, Tom Malone, Lew Soloff, John Simon and Jimmy Vivino, as well as a two-woman chorus and string section.
The following year, in early February 1994, Al returned to the Bottom Line for his 50th birthday celebration, in which he played with members of his new band plus the Blues Project & BS&T. The BS&T lineup at this show was the same as the 1993 Silver Anniversary show, with the exception of Will Lee sitting in for Fielder and John Sebastian (ex-Loving Spoonful) contributing harmonica. Colomby would not allow Kooper to use the name Blood, Sweat & Tears, so the two reunions were billed as "Child Is Father To The Man". This second show appeared as the CD Soul of a Man in 1995. According to page 20 of the CD's liner notes, Steve Katz elected not to allow his performances onto the CD, which were digitally replaced by Jimmy Vivino. Bassist Jim Fielder is said to have added some parts to the CD as well.
Blood, Sweat & Tears continues its heavy touring schedule throughout the world with its current line-up of members, some of whom have been with the band previously during the past two decades. Under the direction of Larry Dorr and founding member/owner Bobby Colomby, the band has enjoyed something of a resurgence. Blood, Sweat & Tears donates money through its "Elsie Monica Colomby" music scholarship fund to deserving schools and students who need help in prolonging their musical education, such as the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Since late 2005, the band has been touring worldwide with a refreshed line up and sometimes backs up former Three Dog Night singer Chuck Negron in his shows. The year 2007 witnessed the band's first world tour in a decade. From 2008 through 2010, Steve Katz even returned to appear at BS&T's shows as a special guest. 2011 saw BS&T and Chicago co-headlining a Jazz festival in Stuttgart, Germany on July 9 and they also appeared on the same bill together again at Gretna Heritage Festival in Gretna, Louisiana on October 5, 2013.
Since 2013 Blood Sweat and Tears has been fronted by Bo Bice, who was the runner-up against Carrie Underwood in the fourth season of American Idol.
All of the band's albums, with the exception of Brand New Day, are currently available on compact disc. BS&T's first four albums were reissued by Sony Records in remastered editions (typically with bonus material), except for its third album, which has been reissued by Mobile Fidelity. The later Columbia albums have been reissued by Wounded Bird Records, and Rhino Records has reissued Nuclear Blues. Brand New Day was issued on CD in Russia in 2002, although the disc may not have received authorization from copyright holders.
Current membersBo Bice: vocals
Dave Gellis: guitar
Glenn McClelland: keyboards
Ric Fierabracci: bass
Carl Fischer: trumpet
Brad Mason: trumpet
Dan Levine: trombone
Ken Gioffre: saxophone
Dylan Elise: drums
Original eightAl Kooper: keyboards, vocals (1967–1968)
Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn (1967–1968)
Jerry Weiss: trumpet, flugelhorn, backing vocals (1967–1968)
Fred Lipsius: alto sax, keyboards (1967–1972)
Dick Halligan: keyboards, trombone, horns, flute, backing vocals (1967–1972)
Steve Katz: guitar, harmonica, flute, mandolin, vocals (1967–73, and as a special guest at some shows 2008–10)
Jim Fielder: bass, guitar, backing vocals (1967–1974)
Bobby Colomby: drums, percussion, backing vocals (1967–1977)