Craig Steward played harmonica on a couple of Zappa records and performed live (as a special guest) with the Zappa band as well.
The picture on the right shows Craig Steward with Willie Dixon.
zappa: joe's garage act I
(1979, lp, usa, zappa records)
zappa: you are what you is
(1981, 2lp, usa, barking pumpkin)
zappa: the man from utopia
(1983, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)
(1984, 2lp, switzerland, zytglogge verlag zyt 249) - feat. craig twister steward
marvin- marvin sease (drums)
deluxe- backfeed magnet babe
john- full circle (alto and tenor sax)
|1997 sease, marvin- best of marvin sease (drums)|
From: Bill Lantz
Craig originally tried out with the band for the 74 tour. Guess he didn't make the cut. Frank talked about him being "tried out" in an early 74 interview that appeared in the 2/74 COQ magazine.
From: Charles Ulrich
Based on the line-up FZ describes, that interview must be from early '73, not early '74.
From: Bill Lantz
From: COQ Magazine, February 1974
Who is in your group now?
Ian Underwood from the Garrick Theater. Ruth Underwood on marimba and percussion.
George Duke on piano. Jean-Luc Ponty on violin. Ralph Humphrey on
drums, Bruce Fowler on trombone. Tom Fowler on bass. and we're trying out a
harmonica player named Craig Stewart.
From: Craig Steward
Just wanted to say hello and let you know I am still breathing. Craig Twister Steward harp artist with FZ several years. I have been involved with my tree career. Arborist for the City of Wichita, Kansas. If you would be interested in some Zappa news related to my career with him please contact me. I will soon have a book titled Book of Juke and a current Web page. Probably around October of 2001. If a link could be established with you that would be excellent.
From: Patrick Neve
I'd love to know more about your career, especially the work you did with Zappa. Can I ask you a couple of questions?
From: Craig Steward
Thank you for your quick and positive response! It is indeed Steward. I am married and my marriage has always been my first commitment in respect of my love for my wife and the vows we exchanged. This has had a defining impact on my music career. I started work in the tree care industry approximately the same time I began harmonica, 1968. I can not think of anything more in harmony with themselves as music and nature.
The '74 audition was established when FZ heard me in a club in Wichita, Kans. my home town. He invited me up on the stage which was featuring my friend's band called Bliss. We played a slow blues in the key of A and afterwards he said he would be flying me out to LA to audition. He had Smith, Ponty, Duke, Underwood's, Fowler's and others at that audition. I really wasn't able to play ensemble work as I had only been playing 5 years. After 3 days FZ called me over and asked me what I thought and I said Frank I think I should go back home. He graceously smiled and said I think you are right! Please don't think of this as being a failure. You go home and practice, call me when you feel you are ready. Frank felt I had a style on the Diatonic Blues Harp unique to anything he had ever heard. He said you put notes together in an innovative way. Nice compliment! I told Frank for a tree trimmer to have a chance to jam with him and his personnel was not a failure! Besides Jean-Luc Ponty and I had a warm friendly relationship that I treasure to this day. I went home practiced 5 years, called him back and he flew me out to record on Joe's Garage Act I. Thus began a 3 year studio session relationship with the Zappa's plus I trimmed their trees on several occassions. I performed live with FZ in Wichita and the Santa Monica Civic Center when FZ had Steve Vai with him, 1983. Rip Rense wrote a beautiful article in the Herald Tribune complimenting my performance and career.
I have about 3 hours of original music that is all analog and I am in the process of getting them into digital. This will take at least a year. Vinnie Coliauta has recorded on some of my music analog and perhaps I will be honored to have him again. DaWayne Bailey (lead guitar) formerly of Chicago in the 90's might be a participant and Jeff Hollie (sax)who I met through FZ played on Joe's Act I, might be a participant. If these guys are not available then I will employ the use of modern tech and use drum machine and I will play bass, guitars, key synth, vocals and harmonicas.
My book, Book of Juke and music will be available on the Web site I am presently putting together. All of these efforts have had to wait until my wife and I established the move back from 20 years in the LA area to return to my hometown of Wichita for the City Arborist position. The music scene in Wichita is limited but Wichita won the best local Blues Society Award in the nation for 2000.
Zappa was my friend! Everything I did with him was
on a handshake! He always gave me more than he had promised!
He was a no nonsense man with genius qualities!
I feel I was validated beyond belief to have
been welcomed and featured as Frank Zappa's harmonica
In October of this year I will be doing a duet and
selected musicians (I selected) to feature Jay McShann
as a highlight for a Wichita Blues Soiety joint
venture with Kansas Newman University in Wichita.
Jay McShann and the late Willie Dixon are two old
and very close and great friends of mine. Willie Dixon
provided me with a 22 minute interview for my book.
He and his wife Marie shared hundreds of hours of
their lives with me!
From: 1983 LA Herald Examiner, via Twister:
Also Trims Trees...
(by Rip Rense)
He does to the harmonica what Jimi Hedrix did to the guitar... or, that is,
what John Coltrane did to the saxophone... er, maybe what Jean-Luc Ponty
does to the violin...
Well, what Craig "Twister" Steward does to the diatonic
harmonica is something
to hear. In his hands, the tiny
mouth organ pumps out enough musical
textures to fill a cathedral. It
hums, and it howls, it whispers and
stutters, it screams, mutters, growls, honks, seethes, grunts...
It dances of upper-register pianissimo runs faster than an Eric Clapton guitar
solo, roars out a bottom-heavy blues big enough for the south side of Chicago,
and whips lithely through improvisations that might raise the eyebrows
of Ornette Coleman.
And where can you hear this guy, you ask?
Is he touring the states? Is
he appearing at the Roxy? The
Parisian Room? The Palomino?
The Troubador? Nope. None of
Craig Steward appears every day, all right, but on the streets of Glendale,
where he works as a tree-trimmer. He
plays harmonica on his lunch
hours, though, so you might drive by and give him a lsiten sometime. Or
maybe you can catch him at home in Sherman Oaks after he finishes dinner.
He practices then, too.
Nobody has yet really caught on to the talent of the 32-year-old Steward.
-well, not quite nobody.
"I found him in a bar in Wichita, Kansas, about six years ago", said Frank Zappa. "He sounds like Coltrane on the harmonica. And I mean fast like you won't believe. This guy is like the Al DiMeola of the harmonica.
Zappa, a musician who always has an ear out for originality, first heard
Steward in 1971 at a Wichita bar called Caesar's Palace. "Frank
was on tour, and after his concert he wanted to go out and hear some
music," the friendly, softspoken Steward said. "I was sitting in with
a group called Bliss, and we were playing a blues shuffle.
walked in in the middle, listened, asked somebody my name and then said,
"Hey, Craig", when we finished playing. He walked over, introduced himself,
then got up and played with the band."
Zappa then told Steward he wanted to have him "do some
recording." A year
later, Steward took Zappa up on the offer, and was promptly flown to L.A.
for three days of auditions with Zappa and the band - which at that time
included Ponty, George Duke, Ian Underwood, among others.
Those sessions proved Steward's potential - and also proved that he wasn't
ready to record. Although
self-taught (he grew up jamming to Canned
Heat, Hendrix and "Little" Walter Jacobs albums), he did not read music.
By mutual decision, "the Twister" returned home - with encouragement
from Zappa and the suggestion that he learn musical notation.
He did. The next few years
were devoted to music, music, and also
a little more music. Steward taught
himself to read notes in between playing
six nights a week on the Wichita supper club circuit - nights that sometimes
found him sitting in with the likes of Willie Dixon, Jay McShann,
and Charlie McCoy. In 1975, Steward
was invited to the Wichita Jazz
Festival, where his performance earned him a scholarship.
By 1979, Steward had pretty much covered Wichita and its surroundings. The
jazz festival now only hosted big names from out of town, and wouldn't even
allow Steward a return appearance "because they said I wasn't famous enough"
The future looked repetitious, at best.
More Holiday Inns and smoky
bars. His wife, Vickie, encouraged
him to keep the faith. Then Zappa
hit town again.
"Frank invited me on stage with his band, and said, 'The Wichita
will not allow Craig Steward to perform tonight. I think that stinks.
So we're gonna let him play here at our own festival.'"
From there, Zappa brought Steward back to Los Angeles, and this time, he
was ready to record. The Twister's
harmonica can be heard on Zappa's "Joe's
Garage" album, and more recently on his "You Are What You Is" album.
Those who attended the first of Zappa's two Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
concerts last November got a chance to hear Steward trade solos with
Zappa when he "sat in" with the band during a lengthy instrumental.
The Twister ("not like Chubby Checker, like the Kansas
cyclone") moved to
Los Angeles in 1980. Although he
has appeared at the Palomino and the Bla
Bla Cafe one time each (he also say in with Jay McShann at the Parisian
Room last year), Steward is not interested in reviving nine years of
nightclub circuit work. What is he
"Well, Frank told me that I am his harmonica player - that he'll
whenever he needs one. That's
great. And Tom Peterson of Cheap
interested in using me in a band he's putting together.
I'd like to do more
"But really," said the grinning Steward, "I'd just like to
make as much money
playing the harmonica as I do trimming trees."
- Rip Rense