craig steward

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.





28 frank zappa: joe's garage act I
   (1979, lp, usa, zappa records)

34 frank zappa: you are what you is
   (1981, 2lp, usa, barking pumpkin)
36 frank zappa: the man from utopia
   (1983, lp, usa, barking pumpkin)

  infrasteff: i'm alive
    (1984, 2lp, switzerland, zytglogge verlag zyt 249) - feat. craig twister steward

infrasteff_imalive.jpg (25899 bytes)

  1986 sease, marvin- marvin sease (drums)    
  1995 sixteen deluxe- backfeed magnet babe    
  1996 sinclair, john- full circle (alto and tenor sax)    
  1997 sease, marvin- best of marvin sease (drums)  
  ike willis & zappatika, feat. denny walley, ed mann and jeff hollie: zappanale 26
    (2015, dvdr, ger, arf society) - incl. various frank zappa compositions

z26_zappatika_dvdr.jpg (15921 bytes)

  various artists: zappanale 26 - good bye session
    (2015, dvdr, ger, arf society) - incl. various frank zappa compositions, faet. ike willis, ed mann, mats öberg, jeff hollie, craig steward, denny walley

z26_goodbyesession_dvdr.jpg (15249 bytes)

  zappatika: the pony suite
    (2015, download, --, itunes) - feat. ike willis, jeff hollie and craig 'twister' steward // incl. various zappa quotes

zappatika_theponysuite_itunes.jpg (11295 bytes)

zappatika and friends: the pony suite - the ritzy 2016 spring tour edition
    (2016, cd, nl, private release) - feat. ike willis, jeff hollie and craig 'twister' steward, denny walley and ed mann

zappatika_theponysuite_cd.jpg (40480 bytes)

various artists: zappanale # 26
    (2016, 3cd, ger, arf society) - incl. various frank zappa compositions, feat. napoleon murphy brock, ike willis, denny walley, jeff hollie, craig twister steward, ed mann, robert martin, albert wing, ray white, tom fowler, robbie mangano, mats öberg

varart_zappanale26.jpg (27415 bytes)

  ike willis & zappatika feat. jeff hollie & craig steward: welcome to the starlight lounge
    (2016, download, --, itunes) - all compositions by frank zappa / feat. ike willis, jeff hollie and craig 'twister' steward

zappatika_starlight.jpg (40278 bytes)


robbie 'seahag' mangano: bumbleweenie
    (2016, cd, usa, private release) - feat. craig 'twister' steward

rsm_bumbleweenie.jpg (21653 bytes)
  z.e.r.o.: santaville
    (2017, cd, uk, cordelia cd078) - all compositions by frank zappa, feat. ike willis, craig twister steward
zero_santaville.jpg (19816 bytes)
  fred händl: the poodle magic pig type
    (2018, cd, nl, private release) - all compositions by frank zappa
  various artists: lost meat - 100% zappa rareness
    (2019, cd, uk, cordelia) - various artists playing frank zappa compositions
  z.e.r.o.: blather
    (2020, cd, uk, cordelia cd095) - all compositions by frank zappa


random notes


     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
He appeared live with the Zappa band on 12/11/81 for the early show at
Santa Monica and played a harmonica solo during King Kong.

     From: COQ Magazine, February 1974

COQ: Who is in your group now?

Zappa: 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.

Thanks! God Bless


     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?
(questions snipped)


Patrick Neve

     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.

Frank 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 artist!


P.S. 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:


He 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?  Perkins Palace?  The Troubador?  Nope.  None of the above.

   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.  Well, Frank 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 Jazz Festival 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 interested in?

   "Well, Frank told me that I am his harmonica player - that he'll call me whenever he needs one.  That's great.  And Tom Peterson of Cheap Trick is interested in using me in a band he's putting together.  I'd like to do more session work.

   "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



frank zappa  / musicians timeline



 c   d   e   f   g   h   i   j   k   l   m 
 n   o   p   q   r   s   t   u   v   w   x   y   z
soundtracks various artists