From the 1950s
through the late 1970s few areas of the country boasted a
more dynamic or more exciting popular music scene than
Northeast Ohio and Southwest Pennsylvania. The entire Steel
Valley between Cleveland and Pittsburgh teemed with
brilliant talent, great bands, and hundreds of clubs and
concert venues for music fans of all ages. Many of the rock
era’s most celebrated musicians spent their formative years
in this area.
And no wonder!
With dozens of teen clubs to play every weekend--and
virtually every night in summer--young musicians like LAW,
Phil Keaggy, Bob DiPiero, Myron Grombacher, Chrissie Hynde,
Wild Cherry, and countless other world-class and
world-famous musical artists, had unprecedented
opportunities to learn their craft...and MAKE MONEY TOO!
One of most popular area bands throughout the 70s was
Youngstown, Ohio’s LAW. Formed in February 1971 by Steve
Lawrence, Steve Acker and Mickey Williamson, the name was
derived from their initials. From the band’s first
rehearsals it was clear that LAW had a special chemistry and
magic which very quickly garnered them a regional reputation
as an exciting and original club and concert attraction. At
the outset the band was determined to perform original
material with the goal of securing a record contract. Even
the cover songs they did were performed in their own
LAW was known as a “boogie band.” A three piece power trio,
they were quite similar to Z.Z. Top in performing
blues-based hard driving rock, although they did not know it
at the time. Within a year of their formation LAW was
opening for national acts like Bob Segar, Edgar Winter’s
White Trash and Alice Cooper. One notable performance took
place outdoors at Lake Milton, Ohio before 5,000 fans. LAW
not only opened the star-studded program, but also later
performed as Chuck Berry’s backup band.
Family responsibilities forced Mickey Williamson to leave
the band in 1973. Lawrence and Acker had developed a close
friendship with Ronnie Lee Cunningham of Youngstown, who had
just become available because of the breakup of his band
Brainchild. They immediately called him from Florida and he
accepted their offer to join the band as Mickey’s
replacement. Ronnie Lee added a whole new dimension to LAW.
They retained their energy and showmanship, but Ronnie Lee’s
vocals and instrumental prowess, both on the bass guitar and
keyboards, was incomparable. He was funky and soulful and he
oozed charisma on stage and off. Soon, in order to free
Ronnie Lee to play the keyboards, the band added the
incredible John McIver of Macon, Georgia on bass. McIver,
too, was a very charismatic figure and he contributed
heavily to the band’s almost magical stage presence.
In 1975 LAW signed with Atlanta’s GRC Records and recorded
its first album at the label’s studio. Produced by Miami’s
famed Albert Brothers, the album was sweetened by the
Memphis Horns and contained several fine tracks. One
song—Ronnie Lee’s show opener “Wake Up”--caught the
attention of the Who’s Roger Daltrey. Daltrey and his
manager Bill Curbishly signed LAW to their production
company, put the band on tour with the Who, and in turn
signed the band to MCA Records.
At that point, former James Gang singer Roy Kenner joined
the band and LAW then evolved into a tight, powerful, rock
and soul unit that, for the next three years, opened for
many of the era’s major acts, from Boston to Jethro Tull to
Earth, Wind and Fire to Bob Seger and Alice Cooper, all
across the country. The band also developed several areas of
strong regional popularity of its own, including Atlanta,
Fort Lauderdale, Detroit, and New York City.
LAW concerts were driven, from the beginning, by the pile
driving rhythms of drummer Steve Lawrence. It was literally
impossible not to dance at a LAW show. Their music was a
unique blend of funky soul and power chord guitar rock. Few
bands in America were quite like LAW.
Many people remain who still fondly remember LAW as an
important part of their youth in a different era, when great
regional rock bands reigned and their shows were regarded as
LAW broke up after the release of its third album, Hold
On to It. Because of the multicultural nature of its
music the band’s albums had a hard time finding a place on
radio. Too rock for the R&B stations, too R&B for the rock
stations. With a lack of airplay, record sales were
disappointing. Shortly after Steve Acker left the band in
December 1977 LAW broke up for good.