The Portuguese Cousin
The first time Steve Perry heard Neal Schon play, the guitar whiz was sitting in with Azteca at the Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco and Schon gave Perry and his cousin a ride home afterwards. The next time they crossed paths, Journey was playing the Starwood in Hollywood and Perry went backstage and chatted briefly with the band, although none of the musicians yet knew he was a singer. He grew up in Hanford, a small Central Valley agricultural community not unlike the background of film director George Lucas, who would draw his first cinematic success from his childhood memories, "American Graffiti."
He played in bands around Sacramento, first working as a drummer before switching to vocals exclusively, and spent years in Los Angeles knocking on record industry doors. Finally with his band Alien Project, close to being signed with Columbia Records, the bass player was killed in a car crash.
Dejected and depressed, Perry headed home to hang up his rock and roll shoes. He had spent the better part of ten years, a large slice out of his youth, pursuing his dream and in the wake of sudden death, it looked as elusive as smoke in the sunset. His mother urged him to stick it out, but Perry was working on a farm, playing in clubs at night when Herbert called.
1977 - 1978
The Alien Project tape landed on Herbert's desk and he went through the ceiling when he heard Perry's voice. He convinced Perry to hook up with the band on tour, traveling under the subterfuge that he was John Villanueva's Portuguese cousin. At a sound check before a concert in Long Beach, Herbert arranged for Fleischman to be otherwise occupied while Perry joined the band to sing one of Fleischman's songs. It was all Herbert needed to hear. Fleischman was gone within days.
"I wasn't completely sold on Perry," said Rolie. "I don't think anybody was." But backstage at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino, Perry strapped on a bass and played a song he had nearly completed called "Lights" and the other musicians began to harmonize along with him. "It dawned on me right then that this could really be great," said Rolie.
In Denver, where Perry was sharing a hotel room with Schon, the morning after a show, Schon picked up an acoustic guitar and strummed out a few chords. Less than an hour later, almost five years since Schon drove Perry home from the Azteca show, the pair had written their first song, "Patiently."
On October 28, 1977, Steve Perry, dressed all in white, walked on stage for the first time with the band for the encores at a special three-night run at the 600-seat Old Waldorf in San Francisco. He sang two songs, including "Lights."
From the Journey Time3 Box Set Booklet