Childhood & Early Life
Gregg Alan Rolie was born on June 17, 1947, in Seattle, Washington, U.S. Soon after he was born, his family moved to Palo Alto, California, where he began his elementary school education.
He attended the ‘Ohlone Elementary School’ and later joined the ‘Cubberley High School.’ He was average in academics and was more interested in music. He had become infatuated with music at a tender age. He listened to artists such as ‘The Rolling Stones,’ Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley.
He mostly played rock music and recorded covers of his favorite music artists. However, he was never satisfied with his work. He and a few of his friends soon formed a band and performed at some local events. During one of his performances, Gregg came in touch with Carlos Santana, who played Latin music. They became good friends and introduced each other to their own kinds of music.
This resulted in a totally new music genre, which, however, did not sit well with many record companies. Such labels were hell-bent on hiring musicians who played the tried and tested contemporary music.
Back then, Gregg was studying at ‘Foothill College.’ Before meeting Carlos, becoming a full-time musician was not quite on his mind. Interestingly, he was looking forward to becoming an architect. He was also attending business classes at the same time. Soon, however, he and Carlos formed a band together and started jamming in a garage.
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The ‘Santana Blues Band’ was launched in 1966, and its name was later shortened to ‘Santana.’ Gregg was one of the founding members of the band and was the lead singer of many of the initial hits of the band. The band also performed at the ‘Woodstock Music and Art Festival’ in 1969.
The same year, the band released their debut self-titled album, ‘Santana.’ The album was different than most of the albums which were being churned out back then, as more than half of the album consisted of instrumental sound. The album reached the fourth spot on the ‘Billboard 200’ pop albums’ chart. The single ‘Evil Ways’ became a huge hit and made people refer to them as the most promising young talents of the late 1960s.
Despite the great response it received from critics, the album was considered a “fast album with no real content or meaning.” Gregg received praises for appearing in many successful singles from the album, such as ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Oye Como Va.’
The band released their second album in 1970. Titled ‘Abraxas’ and released by ‘Columbia Records,’ it became an immediate hit. Over time, it became a milestone album in American music and was placed at the 207th spot on ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” It also made a place in the book ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.’
However, despite their tremendous initial success, the band members struggled to hold the band together. Their third album, titled ‘Santana III,’ was released in 1971. It reached the top of the ‘Billboard 200’ chart. Gregg was the producer, lead singer, and keyboard artist for the album, which later became a great critical and commercial success.
However, all the success the band earned could not amend the creative differences between Carlos and Gregg. As a result, toward the end of 1971, Gregg decided to quit the band.
In 1973, Gregg started a new band called ‘Journey.’ The band recorded albums such as ‘Journey’ and ‘Look into the Future.’ Gregg also appeared as the keyboardist in the band’s first six albums. His last studio album with the band was named ‘Departure.’ It was later certified “3 x platinum” by the ‘RIAA.’
Thus, Gregg had an extremely successful run with ‘Journey,’ too. However, Gregg left ‘Journey’ in 1980, after releasing six successful albums with the band. He then started a solo career in the 1980s and came out with back-to-back hit albums such as ‘Gregg Rolie’ and ‘Gringo.’
By the early 1990s, Gregg decided to start a new band. Thus, ‘The Storm’ was formed. In 1991, the band released their debut album, ‘The Storm,’ with ‘Interscope Records.’ However, despite the success of the album, ‘Interscope Records’ released ‘The Storm’ from their contract, and their second album, ‘Eye of the Storm,’ was indefinitely shelved. It was later released by some other label.
In 1997, Gregg joined hands with his previous ‘Santana’ members and formed a group called ‘Abraxas Pool.’ Their self-titled album was released in the same year. However, the album opened to moderate reviews and had an average commercial success.
In 1999, Gregg came up with a solo CD titled ‘Roots.’ This venture led to the formation of the ‘Gregg Rolie Band,’ and in 2009, an album titled ‘Rain Dance’ was released. However, the band did not achieve much success.
In 2015, Gregg joined hands with ‘Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band’ and performed many ‘Santana’ hits such as ‘Black Magic Woman,’ ‘Everybody’s Everything,’ and ‘Evil Ways.’
He has been inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ twice.