Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
Nashville, Tennessee, circa 1981, is where one of the U.S.’ own earliest bands influenced by the NWOBHM movement formed.
That band was Steeler, formed by singer and guitarist Ron Keel, lead guitarist Michael Dunigan, bassist Tim Morrison, and drummer Bobby Eva. The band was heavily influenced by the burgeoning British hard rock and heavy metal that was converting metallers everywhere. This lineup released their first recording, the ‘Cold Day In Hell‘ single, through Ravage Records in 1982.
Within a year of the single’s release, Bobby Eva had left the band and was replaced by Mark Edwards. Steeler had relocated to Los Angeles, California, and was living and rehearsing in a large warehouse. However, by early 1983, the band was struggling to stay together, and eventually, both Dunigan and Morrison had also exited the band.
Enter a Swedish 19-year-old guitar virtuoso named Yngwie Malmsteen, who eventually joined Steeler along with new bassist Rik Fox. Malmsteen and Fox, alongside Keel and Edwards, would be the band’s lineup for their one and only full-length studio release. That album is, of course, the ‘Steeler’ self-titled record, released via Shrapnel Records in 1983.
The album saw moderate commercial success and is now a hugely sought-after album for many fans of Malmsteen and Keel, to this day. It features music that’s of a tight, energized technicality… laden with blistering, incendiary guitar work, and solid vocals with plenty of range and presence.
Unfortunately, not long after it was released, Malmsteen left the band to join Graham Bonnet, and together they formed Alcatrazz. Things remained on shaky ground for Steeler after the release of their début and they had problems keeping a steady lineup in place. Yngwie’s replacement, future Michael Schenker Group guitarist Mitch Perry (aka. Mitch Brownstein from the band The Kydz) was in the band for a period.
The last recording roster within the band was that of Ron Keel, bassist Greg Chaisson, lead guitarist Kurt James, and drummer Bobby Marks. Before Steeler officially disbanded in 1984, they recorded five more singles, but after constant changes in band members, Steeler never signed with a major record label.
Ron Keel decided to split up the band and start a new project which was the band that would bear his name, Keel. During Steeler‘s short time in the world of Heavy Metal, the band became quite popular in L.A. and even performed to some sold-out venues.
In the mid-2000s, two different Steeler anthology compilations would be released. Each was chock full of unreleased songs, live versions of earlier ones, and a couple of the singles that were recorded after the S/T LP release. Those anthologies are Majestic Rock‘s 2005 collection, ‘Metal Generation – The Anthology‘ and 2006’s offering from Deadline Music, ‘American Metal – The Steeler Anthology‘.