Episode 42: Corky Laing

Corky Laing started his life in 1948 as the youngest of five siblings in Montreal, Canada. His early bands enjoyed a good local following, opened for many of the popular British invasion acts and, ultimately, got a record deal with Atlantic Records in New York. Through the teenage summers, his band was a regular on the Island of Nantucket, Massachusetts and frequented clubs in New York City. In September 1969, his life changed for good when Mountain happened. There started a few crazy years of rock mayhem. Mountain was followed by West, Bruce and Laing – a super group featuring Leslie West, Jack Bruce and Corky that was destined for greatness, but brought to an untimely end by the darker forces of the music scene. After West, Bruce and Laing, Mountain continued to tour and record on and off. The months and years off left Corky with plenty of time for his own musical explorations and other careers. He released a solo album, almost set up another super group, worked in a driving service and in real estate, had a senior position at Chappell Music and became a vice president of A&R at Polygram, Canada.

During his career, Corky has played, written and toured with the who’s who of rock. Keith Moon was a close pal, and Levon Helm, a mentor and friend. Eric Clapton played on his solo album and Tony Williams recommended to Jack Bruce that Corky should be included in West, Bruce and Laing. Corky Laing All Star Show Band included Mick Taylor, Lester Chambers and Meatloaf. Corky has written, among others, with Peter Frampton, Mick Jagger, Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson, and obviously, with Leslie West, Felix Pappalardi and Jack Bruce. At the Lone Star Café in New York, he partied with the likes of Robin Williams and John Belushi.

However, Letters to Sarah (Polite Bystander Productions, 2019) is a rock autobiography with a difference. In addition to the exceptionally honest and endearing voice of Corky chronicling the ups and downs of his life, there are excerpts from dozens of letters (out of the c. 200) that Corky wrote to his mother, Sarah, between the years 1963 and 1997. She had saved them all. The letters were a way for Corky, away on the road for years on end, to keep in touch with his roots and also, to make sense of his life. This continues in Letters to Sarah, as Corky relives the first 50 years of his life, up until his mother’s passing in 1998.

The book opens with a Foreword by the incomparable Kinky Friedman. It was written together with Corky’s manager and partner, Tuija Takala, PhD, who is a widely published academic author and who, initially discovered the letters to Sarah tucked away in a box at Corky’s rehearsal studio.

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