Mr. Mister Biography
Last updated: 07/20/2012 12:00:00 PM
After the tour with Gibb, Richard and Steve got attention from a lot of record companies because of their great background singing. Both Richard and Steve continued to take session work, and they worked with artists such as Kenny Loggins, REO Speedwagon, Toto, Lee Ritenour, Al Jarreau, Joseph Williams, Donna Summer, Quincy Jones, Bill Champlin, Peter Allen, Molly Hatchet, Barry Manilow, James Ingram, Twisted Sister (Richard walked out in the middle of a background vocal session for this group because of moral qualms), David Foster, Village People (Richard and Bill Champlin did a lot of vocals for this group, while the group itself never sang a note. Richard says "It’s one of my most frustrating sessions. It was really tough working with their producer too"), and others, primarly doing background vocals and/or songwriting. One of those sessions led to a meeting with studio guitarist Steve Farris (born in Nebraska in 1957), who had previously been playing on various studio session dates, as well as touring with Eddie Money. Later, they met drummer Pat Mastelotto (born in California in 1955), and a new band was formed. "We came along perfect, both personally and musically", recalls Richard. They had Richard and Steve childhood friend, George Ghiz, also a Phoenix native as manager. They signed with RCA Records in 1982, and immediately started recording an album.
While still recording the album, Richard, Steve and John Lang started their first major collaborations with Jay Graydon and Al Jarreau. They had major contributions to all of Jarreau’s albums between 1981 and 1984, and they even toured with Jarreau in 1984, along with ex-Pages guitarist Charles Johnson and others. Both Richard and Steve are featured on Jarreau’s CD/Video "Live at Wembley". Richard, Steve and George continued to work with Jarreau up until 1986.
They originally intended to be a five-piece band with one bassist, one keyboardist, one guitarist, one drummer and one lead singer. They had hired a bassist, who was also a L.A. studio musician. On a band rehearsal one day that bassist couldn’t make the date for some reason, so Richard decided to handle the bass just to fill in the holes. "At the end of that session, we were just staring at each other. It worked out fantastic! So I finally decided to handle all the bass stuff myself. In that case we wouldn’t have to deal with a fifth personality in the band either.", says Richard. Richard was chosen to do all the lead vocals for the new band. "I had way too much handling all the keyboards" says Steve. However, it was the vocal harmonies with Richard and Steve that was going to be one of the new band’s trademarks. Vocal harmonies they’ve always been well-known for.
The album was finished by 1983, and the band started to prepare for a release. "All we were missing was a name", says Steve George. The story behind the name "Mr. Mister" is quite simple: "We used to call each other "Mr. This" and "Mr. That" all the time. Our record company had been starting to come up with name suggestions, and when they heard we were giving each others these kind of nicknames, they said ‘Why don’t you guys just call yourself for Mr. Mister?’ We got hooked on the name right away. It’s short and instantly memorable, you know?" says Richard.
Their first album as "Mr. Mister" was released in the U.S. in early 1984, and was given the title "I Wear the Face" . But, just like the three Pages albums, it became a flop, only peaking at the #170 position on the Billboard Chart List. They had a minor, top #100 hit in "Hunters of the Night", which received some radio play, but allover, the album was a flop. "We brought in an outside producer [Peter McIan], and we sort of did what he wanted to do. So we weren’t 100% happy with that album" says Steve George. "We were conciously trying to write a hit song, and it didn’t work out" says Richard. There was no tour and minimal promotion behind the album either. However, it was re-released in Europe and Japan in 1986 without breaking the charts. As to whether why it didn’t become a best-seller, Steve Farris comments: "We were trying to write a hit. We did everyhing "right" to make a hit album; we brought in an outside producer; we made ourselves an image, and we failed. I think that’s because we were conciously trying to make hits. We learned that such things never can be predicted or manipulated".
Just after the release of "I Wear the Face", Richard resisted a tempting offer from Toto to replace Bobby Kimball as lead singer. "We had just gotten busy on this new project, and I didn’t want to leave the band in the midst of all that", recalls Richard.
After Richard was through with a major drug problem, they started to record the follow-up to "I Wear the Face" in October 1984. They brung in another outside producer in Paul DeVillers (who had been working with Yes), but yet they remained major control over what was going on. "We made the album less calculated than "I Wear the Face"", says Steve George. Just like in Pages, they had Richard’s cousin John Lang writing the lyrics as well as being an unofficial fifth member of the band. "The lyrics were quite improved on our second album" says Steve George. The album was given the title "Welcome to the Real World", and released in the summer of 1985. The first single, "Broken Wings" made it to the top #10 at once, and later became their first #1 hit. The second single from "Welcome to the Real World", "Kyrie", also became a #1 hit, and is considered their biggest hit ever. The title "Kyrie" was taken from the Greek phrase "Kyrie eleison", which means "God, have mercy", and is used as an invocation in the Roman Catholic Mass. Richard says, "We didn’t want to preach or tell everybody to be a Christian. It was just an inspirational, powerful phrase that fit good as a song title". The third single from the album, "Is It Love", also made it to the top #10 without reaching the #1 position. The album itself sold more than 10 million copies worldwide and was RCA’s first top #1 album in more than a decade. The guys in Mr. Mister were on their way to become historical.
Just after the release of "Welcome to the Real World", Richard got another tempting offer to become lead vocalist for a successfull band. This time it was Chicago who was looking for someone to replace Peter Cetera, but Richard let them down. "I’ve always wanted to build up a band from the bottom, and not take over for someone while the band is at the top. When Chicago came with their offer, we had just released our new album, and we didn’t excactly know how it would turn out. So, I let Chicago down, although their offer was very tempting. Another reason why I didn’t want to front Chicago was that then I’d have to sing on their old tunes all the time. I didn’t want to be on stage singing "Only the Beginning..." all the time, you know?" says Richard.
They toured worldwide with Tina Turner in 1986 successfully, and gathered even more fans. In fact, Turner personally asked the guys to write a tune for her next record. "I remember Tina Turner asking us: 'Can’t you guys write me a song just like that "Kyrie" song?'", Richard recalls. "I said ‘sure’, and we wrote her a tune that eventually ended up on our third album ["Stand and Deliver"]", he continues. Mr. Mister also opened for Heart on a few gigs in 1986, before returning to L.A. and recording the song "Something Real (Inside Me / Inside You)" for the ill-received Rob Lowe hockey movie "Youngblood".
One of Mr. Mister’s main "problems" was the lack of respect from the critics. "We’re the least respected L.A. rock/pop band next to Toto", comments Steve George humorously. The favorable reviews of "Welcome to the Real World" were minimal, but the band didn’t seem to care though.
Another "problem" of theirs is that they were accused for using tape during live shows. Mr. Mister was a hi-technological band that used keyboard synthesizers, sequenzers and much more technolocial gear, and this paid off in a great, powerful live sound. "We never ever used tape. We play all the instruments, except from when we do "Broken Wings", where Steve handles Richard’s bass parts on his synthesizer", Steve Farris comments.
Mr. Mister’s third album, which ended up with the title "Go On", was recorded in the spring of 1987. "We didn’t want to copy ourselves with "Go On"", Richard recalls. We had reached the top commercially. Now, it was time to develop creatively. Lyrically and musically, this was some of the best stuff we ever did. It was less machiney, it had more of a ‘live’ feeling to it". The album was released in the fall of 1987, and it was co-produced by Kevin Killen (Elvis Costello, Donna Lewis). The only single from the album was "Something Real (Inside Me / Inside You)" from the Youngblood soundtrack. "That song didn’t become a hit when we released it as a single when the Youngblood soundtrack came out. But we always felt that that song could be a big hit for us, so we decided to give it another chance by including it on the album and releasing it as a single.", Richard says.
Unfortunately, Steve Farris left the band just after the release of "Go On", but he was soon replaced by the well-known studio guitarist Buzzy Feiten, formerly of the Larsen/Feiten Band. Mr. Mister continued with the album promotion and tour, but the album itself didn’t do as well as they’d hoped. They recorded one more album in 1988, "Pull", which was never released, before the unit broke up towards 1989.