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Sunday Old School: Y&T

It's never a happy introduction to an edition of Sunday Old School when we need to kick things off with a tribute. However, following the sad passing of Leonard Haze at the age of 61, it feels appropriate to finally look back at his work with one of America's most underrated heavy metal groups, whose influence has been cited by many but overlooked by more. Of course, I am referring to Yesterday & Today, who would become better known as Y&T.

The band was formed in Oakland, California by Haze, along with Bob Gardner and Wayne Stitzer, who performed bass and keyboards respectively in 1982. Following a brief stint with Robin Irons on guitar and vocals, they replaced him with a guitarist named Dave Meniketti, who also handled vocal duties. Shortly afterwards, they were invited to perform their first gig, which consisted entirely of cover songs and was one of the few, if not only, performance with Wayne Stitzer, who quit a little while later, leading Gardner to take over on keyboards and a new bass player named Phil Kennemore, though Gardner himself would leave in 1974, to be replaced by Joey Alves.

By this stage, Yesterday & Today, a name they took from a Beatles compilation album that was on Leonard Haze's turntable, had begun writing original material and after slogging it out in the club scene, were able to secure a deal with London Records, through whom they released their self-titled debut in 1976. The record received a mixed response, as did their sophomore full length, "Struck Down," though more importantly, the group were beginning to build a solid fan base, whose chants of "Y&T!" led them to shorten their name to these two letters (and ampersand.)

After changing their name, Y&T signed a new deal with A&M Records and released their third album, "Earthshaker" in 1981. Though it didn't receive much in the way of commercial exposure, it nonetheless garnered some very strong reviews and is considered an important part of their catalogue and remains a favourite among fans. It also contains some of their best known songs such as "Hurricane" and "Rescue Me," which are still played live by the band at practically every show to this day.

Only a year later, the group released the album, "Black Tiger," which saw them saw them enter album charts for the first time, peaking at number 53 in the United Kingdom, where they also recorded the album. This was followed in 1983 with "Mean Streak," which also featured several fan favourites including the title track and "Midnight in Tokyo." Like "Earthshaker," these two albums remained somewhat underground but the band were able to finally crack the American charts with the "Mean Streak," which climbed as high as number 103 in their home country, as well as reaching number 35 in the United Kingdom.

Commercial success was not far away however, as Y&T would find out the next year when they released their sixth album, "In Rock We Trust," which reached the number 46 spot on the Billboard album charts. Its success was in thanks largely to the single, "Don't Stop Runnin'," which became a big radio hit, as well as the song, "She's A Liar," which was purchased by Dr. Pepper for an extensive advertising campaign. This exposure continued after the group releaed their next album, "Down for the Count" in 1985, which contained the hit, "Summertime Girls," the video for which would be featured regularly by MTV, while the song itself was (unsurprisingly) used by the popular television show "Baywatch" quite often, as well as appearing in a number of television movies.

Despite the attention the band were receiving, they parted company with Leonard Haze in 1986 and replaced him with Jimmy DeGrasso, while Joey Alves would also split from the group, with his place being taken by Stef Burns. Y&T also signed with Geffen Records, who released their next album, "Contagious" in 1987, which peaked at number 78 in the United States but received a relatively poor response critically. Three years later, the band released "Ten," which featured some notable ballads such as "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" and "Come in from the Rain" but didn't fair as well as previous releases had done and so it was decided to lay the band to rest, following the live release, simply entitled, "Yesterday & Today Live."

Four years later, the last recording lineup of Y&T regrouped and released their first album in five years, "Musically Incorrect" through Music For Nations. This reunited incarnation only performed live sporadically, including around the time they released the album, "Endangered Species" in 1997 and the band decided to split up again later that year. However, this was not the end for the group, who decided to reform once more in 2001 with practically the same lineup, save for the return of Leonard Haze, as Jimmy DeGrasso was performing with Megadeth at the time, while Stef Burns would only stay with the reactivated rockers for a short time before leaving to join Huey Lewis & The News, leaving his place to be taken by longtime friend of the band, John Nymann.

In 2006, Y&T asked Leonard Haze to step down from the group, in what appears to be a relatively amicable split, given that the drummer was scheduled to support the band with his own outfit, Hazexperience before his tragic passing last week. That same year, the group recorded a live DVD, "One Hot Night" in the Netherlands, which was released in 2007. Three years later, Y&T granted the wishes of many fans when they released, "Facemelter," their first album since 1997.

Promotion for the album led them to appear at such festivals as Download, Hellfest and Sweden Rock, but sadly, bassist Phil Kennemore was sent home after being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, an illness which he tragically succumbed to in January 2011. Since the passing of Kennemore, the band has focused more on live performances, with no news of new material surfacing as of yet, though whether or not they do record any more music, Y&T are already assured their place in the history of American heavy metal.

Y&T - "Hurricane"

Y&T - "Black Tiger"

Y&T - "Mean Streak"

Y&T - "Don't Stop Runnin'"

Y&T - "Summertime Girls"

Y&T - "Contagious"

Y&T - "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"

Y&T - "Cold Day in Hell"

Y&T - "I'm Coming Home"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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2 Comments on "Sunday Old School: Y&T"

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Blindgreed1's avatar

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1. Blindgreed1 writes:

Great piece Oz, Y&T were definitely underrated back in the day. RIP Haze.

# Sep 19, 2016 @ 11:59 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

2. Diamond Oz writes:

Cheers BG!

# Sep 19, 2016 @ 12:13 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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