Happy the Man was an American progressive rock band from the 1970's specializing in instrumental tracks with complex time signatures. They were one of the finest 70's American prog bands. Completely out of the american standards, Happy the Man combined lush melodies, great complex interplay and a slightly jazzy touch with occasional vocals. The band claims to be influenced by Genesis, Yes, and Gentle Giant although they really do not sound anything like any of those bands. Their first two albums, the self titled Happy the Man and Crafty Hands (almost entirely instrumental) are classic albums of the highest order.
The group formed in 1973 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Guitarist Stanley Whitaker and bassist Rick Kennell first met in Germany in 1972. Whitaker, whose army officer father had left his native Missouri for Germany four years earlier, had formed Shady Grove, with fellow US expatriate, keyboardist David Bach, while Kennell had just been drafted and was stationed there, beginning a two-year stint in the army. The pair met when Kennell attended a Shady Grove gig in mid-1972, and discovering a shared love of British progressive rock, decided to form a band together. While the soon-to-be-graduate Whitaker was soon to return to the US, Kennell wasn't due back for a while, but he gave Whitaker the contacts of two former members of his teenage band Zelda, back in Fort Wayne, Indiana : drummer Mike Beck and singer/flautist Cliff Fortney, who both agreed to move to Virginia. Now a student at James Madison University, Whitaker met saxophonist/pianist Frank Wyatt in music theory class. Initially, David Bach was the main keyboard player, but sometime in 1973, Kit Watkins, the son of a James Madison University piano teacher, replaced him. When in January 1974 Kennell at last returned from Germany, the band, named Happy the Man by Whitaker's brother Ken inspired by Goethe's Faust, was finally complete. The band's early repertoire included a number of covers but they were soon outnumbered by original compositions, penned by Whitaker, Watkins, Fortney and Wyatt, with the latter providing the lion's share. In 1990, a compilation of demos from 1974–75, Beginnings, was released by Cuneiform Records in their Wayside Music Archive Series. It consisted of all previously unreleased compositions, some dating back to the original line-up with Fortney for in 1974, singer Fortney left and he was replaced by yet another old friend from Indiana, Dan Owen. In 1999, Cuneiform put out a second archive CD, Death's Crown, consisting mostly of the title track, a 40-minute suite penned by Wyatt and recorded in the band's rehearsal room in 1974, when Owen was in the band (the CD also includes an early version of "New York Dream's Suite", also with Owen on vocals). After Dan Owen left in early 1975, the band chose not to replace him and favor more instrumental material. Later that year they decided to move from Harrisonburg to Washington DC with the help of Dave Knapp. They soon signed a management deal with The Cellar Door, a popular venue, where the band would perform many times. On June 28, 1976, Peter Gabriel, who was looking for a backing band following his departure from Genesis, came down to the band’s house in Arlington for a try-out session, where he presented the band with some of his newly written material, notably the song "Slowburn", which they rehearsed. Eventually Gabriel decided against hiring Happy the Man, but this high-profile encounter proved useful in securing a five-year, multi-album deal with Arista Records.
Leave that kitten alone, Armone
I forgot to push it
Stepping through time