Happy The Man

Happy the Man were often compared to Yes because of their melodicism, and Gentle Giant because of the complexity of the compositions they wrote. However, their progressive rock sound was enhanced by their musicianship, symphonic drama and odd time signatures. Even though their mostly instrumental output was inconsistent, Happy the Man has a loyal following on the prog-rock collectors’ circuit. The group was founded in 1974. It featured Kit Watkins as keyboardist, Frank Wyatt as keyboardist and woodwind player, Stan Whitaker as guitarist, occasional vocalist, Rick Kennell and Rick Kennell as bassists. Cliff Fortney, the original vocalist, left the group before Arista signed it. The band’s 1977 self-titled debut was recorded with Mike Beck. It introduced each member of the group’s compositional styles: Watkins possessed the symphonic grandeur while Wyatt preferred songs with lyrics. Whitaker let his humor shine through in pieces like “Stumpy Meets the Firecracker In Stencil Forest” or “Knee Bitten Nymphs at Limbo”. Crafty Hands was the follow-up and featured Ron Riddle as drummer. It was released one year later. Happy the Man received favorable reviews for Crafty Hands, but the group’s prog-inclined style became increasingly unpopular in the market, and Arista removed the band from their roster. Happy the Man performed live dates and continued rehearsals with Coco Roussel, the French drummer. The group faced many challenges, so Kit Watkins, a French drummer, left the band to go with Camel. He appeared on two Camel albums. Happy the Man was eventually disbanded in 1979. Watkins would eventually start his own label, Azimuth. In 1980, the label released Watkins’ solo album Labyrinth. Roussel was also on drums and percussion. The original title of Happy the Man’s third album was Labyrinth. Watkins’ album with that name contained some of the material. In 1983, Better Late …, Watkins would issue demo material from the group that was recorded four years prior to the release of the third album. This material had never been released. In Time was also released by Roussel and Watkins in 1984. Watkins would keep recording solo albums with an age-tinged sound into the 21st Century. Independent labels made additional Happy the Man material available. East Side Digital released the Retrospective collection in 1989. Cuneiform also issued several valuable archival recordings during Happy the Man’s 1970s glory days. In 1990, the label kept the Azimuth-issued Better Late… in circulation. The following Happy the Man collections were 1994’s Live (recordings taken from two 1978 club dates in Washington, D.C. and Falls Church, VA), 1995’s Beginnings, a series of early studio recordings with Fortney, and 1999’s Death’s recordings made from the band’s’s). The Muse Awakens CD was released in 2004 by allmusic.

Leave a Comment