I was born into a musical family in 1954 in Montclair, NJ.. Originally we were living in the home of my maternal grandmother. Soon, my father moved us to East Orange, NJ to live in a three family home owned by his sister, Betty. My father always had an acoustic guitar in the house. He loved jazz and raised my brother and me to appreciate all music. Betty, who lived downstairs had a piano which I loved to play and my older cousin Lee who lived on the first floor was always into electronics. I would watch him for hours fiddling with transistors and resistors. Learning how to read the colored stripes to tell them apart.
On my mother's side of the family her younger sister had attended Julliard and her brother was an early pioneer of the electric bass. I learned to read sheet music at the same time I was learning to read English. By the age of three my Uncle Freddie was teaching me bass guitar. I got my first drumset when I was five and I began taking clarinet lessons by six. I would continue playing classical clarinet until I left high school.
After a few years we got our own apartment in Orange, NJ where I got my first tape recorder. It was a small mono reel-to-reel that I would record songs off the radio. The Summer of '66 we went on vacation to visit my older brother, Bob, who was a Marine stationed in southern California. It was supposed to be for two weeks. We stayed for two years.
I received my first electric guitar for Christmas 1967 in Santa Ana, California and I immediately took to it. I already had an understanding of music. I just needed to know where the notes were on this new instrument.
In 1968 I started high school back East where it all began, Montclair, NJ armed with a clarinet and an electric guitar.
My high school years were magical. My school was teeming with talent. Many of my peers went on to dominate in their chosen genres, Joe Walsh with the James Gang, Richard Lloyd with Television, Al Anderson with Bob Marley and The Wailers, Chuck Burgi with Billy Joel, Kenny Margolis with Willy Deville...
In the early 70's I started my professional career touring and recording gospel music with Rev. Lawrence Roberts and The Angelic Choir out of Nutley, NJ. Shortly thereafter I was invited to jam with Willie Dixon in NY where I met Victoria Spivey who recorded me on her blues label, Spivey Records. She put me on the blues scene with Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Johnny Winter, Son Seals and the like. When she introduced me to Bob Dylan she told him she'd signed him when he was 19 and she signed me when I was 19 so we had to be brothers. I learned a lot about the pitfalls of fame from them and it made me rethink the direction of my life. I went back to gospel and toured across the US with Spencer Taylor & The Highway Q.C.s. I ended the 70's with Buzzy Linhart who I adored. Buzzy had played vibes on Hendrix's "Cry of Love" LP and playing the NY and LA scenes with him was a real high point but after a decade of playing with others it was time to do my own thing.
My first solo album, "Ted Stilles Bhang" in 1980 received great reviews. My drummer's schedule wouldn't allow him to tour and I didn't want to perform that music with anyone else. One of the bass players on my album, TM Stevens, had a tour coming up with Stacy Lattisaw and his guitar player was committed to another tour so I figured I'd play with Stacy until I figured out what to do about my drummer situation. When we finished her "Let me be your angel" tour I was still undecided on a drummer so I did the '81 tour for her next album which was the opening slot for the Jacksons "Triumph" Summer tour which is where I met Michael's trumpet player Alan "Funt" Prater. After 22 shows I felt like I needed to get back to my solo career so I left and went back to Jersey. My brother, Ed, was playing with Dirt Records recording artist Zap & The Wires and I hooked up with them. Meanwhile, a mutual friend hooked me up with Steve Washington who was riding high from his successes with SLAVE, Aurra and Young and Company. He loved the fact that I was doing something completely unique.
We started recording some material for a new project when external forces derailed our efforts. Steve went to Detroit and produced George Clinton's first solo record, the one with "Atomic Dog" and I made my next solo record, 1989's "When Music Becomes A Tool" after my run with "The Wires".
Coincidentally there was a flood in Texas and the pressing plant was shipping late and my good friend Larry Hartke of "Hartke Systems" fame needed a hand with a new product his company was coming out with. I figured I could help him out and kill time while I was waiting on the records to ship. Once again, two weeks turned into two years! We were making aluminum speakers by hand for everyone from Jack Bruce to Miles Davis.
Now I had two solo records to promote so I began rehearsing the band. Buddy Hank was on bass and he was also playing with a NY band, "Freckle". Something happened with their guitarist and they had dates coming up so I stepped in. That led me to play on Buddy's studio projects which turned into me playing on his "Funky Bud" CD. I really dug his genius so I joined the funk family. I played with Young and Company, The Buddy Hank Band and the Slave Family of Funk projects while sporadically making solo records of my own.
In 2008 I rediscovered Canada and decided to bring the Jersey funk North. Steve blessed me with a few grooves that I fleshed out and now I'm here doing my thing for all you funkateers.
"Ted Stilles & Friends" is my fifth solo project over the past 35 years. I produced, engineered, wrote and performed 85% of the 19 songs I'll be uploading. It was done over the last two Winters in Québec City and Montréal. I chose this track, "The Homeless", for the first single because it hits so hard. Plus, it's come full circle. Steve Washington and I are finally writing and recording together after all this time. We've even got GC in the house!