By James Wood
Cinderella, the '80s band that broke out of the Philadelphia glam music scene and brought us songs like "Shake Me," "Nobody's Fool" and “Shelter Me,” continue to bring their brand of hard rock, blues and metal to audiences nearly three decades later.
Cinderella, who were discovered by Jon Bon Jovi, are among only a handful of acts from the era who still tour with their classic lineup: Tom Keifer (guitar/vocals), Eric Brittingham (bass), Jeff LaBar (guitar) and Fred Coury (drums).
The band's debut album, Night Songs (Buy it on iTunes), sold more than 3 million copies and peaked at No. 3 on the US album charts.
I caught up with LaBar as the band were preparing for another long, hot summer tour. I got his thoughts on the current state of hair metal, the band's longevity and his advice for up-and-coming guitarists.
GUITAR AFICIONADO: How's the tour going for you so far?
It's been great! Right now, we're in the midst of an eight-week run of dates that will take us through to the end of August.
Are you finding that, judging from the size of the audiences, there's been a revival of sorts for hair metal?
We've been touring almost every summer for years now and I've been hearing a lot about so-called "revivals." The truth is, I don't think it's ever left. If this is a revival, it's been going on for a quite while. The crowds have been great!
Cinderella still have their original lineup from when you first came on the scene. What's the secret to the band's longevity?
For us, I think it's because we all still like each other. During the tour, we basically live together and enjoy each other's company. We still have fun and ride the same tour bus. I know a few other bands from our genre whose members ride on separate buses. They pretty much stay separate until they actually get on stage, and even then, sometimes they need to be separated. I feel very fortunate to still be able to do this for a living.
What's the story behind how Cinderella was discovered by Jon Bon Jovi?
It happened while Bon Jovi was in Philadelphia recording the 7800° Fahrenheit record. On a night off from recording, Jon went out to watch Cinderella perform at a local club. I wasn't in the band at the time, but I was in a band that opened for them called Precious Metal. Cinderella didn't have a record deal at the time, but Derek Shulman, the man who signed Bon Jovi to Polygram, had the band's demo sitting on his desk.
After seeing the band, Jon was so impressed that he went back to Derek and told him he really needed to check out the band. So Derek came out, saw Cinderella play live and pretty much said the same thing every other record company had said about them: great look, great songs, great energy. They just need to change the drummer and the guitar player.
So, in 1985 Tom (Keifer) and Eric (Brittingham) began holding auditions. I had already known Tom because we both grew up not far from each other. I also remember that two of the other guitarists who auditioned were "Snake" Sabo (Skid Row) and Reggie Wu (Heaven's Edge).
How did you get started playing?
My older brother played guitar while we were growing up. When he wasn't home, I used to dance around with his guitar in front of a mirror to Alice Cooper records [laughs]. One day he caught me and asked if I wanted to really learn how to play. He showed me how to play three chords and then pulled out a song book to show me the diagrams of where to put your fingers. From there, I just started playing by ear. I learned how to play mostly by listening to records and figuring out songs.
So you never did the typical thing like locking yourself in your room?
Nah, I never locked myself in a room or anything like that. I never took a "scholastic" point of view to playing guitar. I took it more as a "This is fun, I just want to play" point of view. Over the years, I'd put bands together, but when everyone's priorities became taking bong hits instead of playing music, I'd leave and move on to a better band. From there, I started writing and getting into doing more originals. It just kept building until I got into Cinderella.
What's your current setup like for this tour?
For this tour, I'm using my 1980 white Custom Shop Les Paul, which has yellowed rather nicely over the years. I've also got a Strat, a Tele, a Dan Armstrong for slide, my Gibson double-neck and, of course, my Kramer. The red one from the "Shake Me" video and the same one my mother lent me the money to buy when I was 20 [laughs].
Do you foresee recording new Cinderella material in the future?
It's something I'd really like to do. The climate of the music business right now is a little odd for those of us who recorded on tape and dealt with a record label, but it’s something we definitely haven't ruled out. We'll see.
What's next for the band once this current tour is over?
Tom's been working on his solo record and Eric and I will continue doing studio work in the Nashville area. I've also been working on a solo project as well.
Do you have any advice for aspiring guitarists?
The big thing is to just make sure to learn the fundamentals. Don't go out there and try to be a burner or play as fast as you can. My son, Sebastian, plays and has taken my advice as he was learning. He's like a carbon copy of me. Now that he's been playing for a while, he recently asked me what the secret was to advancing as a guitarist. I told him the same thing that I mentioned earlier: When everyone around you is just in it for the party, it's time to move on.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.