prasa > Los Angeles Times, 17 sierpień 1992
Rock 'n' Roll High School
Los Angeles Times (Valley Ed.), August 17, 1992
Rock 'n' Roll High School
By Sam Enriquez
Van Nuys: The death of Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro prompts Grant alumni to
reminisce about a campus bursting with musical talent in the early '70s.
The death of Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro from an apparent heart attack at age 38
was a shock to longtime fans of the Grammy-winning band.
It also touched a nerve among the thirtysomething crowd who attended Grant
High School in Van Nuys during the early 1970s, when Porcaro, his brothers and
several other graduates made the fairy-tale leap from garage band to the Big
Time before they were even old enough to buy beer.
"I remember a high school dance where Jeff's old band was playing a Steely Dan
cover and Jeff sat in with them on drums," said Grant High grad Steve Siler,
now a Los Angeles songwriter. "That was so cool because Jeff was the drummer
for Steely Dan."
The Porcaro garage, which the family had converted to a recording and
rehearsal studio, was a place for young players to develop musically and to
socialize. Not limited to rock 'n' roll, Porcaro and the other top players of
that time also were in the school orchestra, jazz band and even the marching
"Jeff just loved to play," recalled Miles Neill, retired Grant High music
News of Porcaro's death prompted Grant alumni of that era to pick up the
telephone and talk among themselves, remembering what it was like to attend a
school bursting at the seams with musical talent.
"A lot of us knew that something special was happening," said Rich Sperber, a
Grant High graduate. "It was like a school with a great basketball team,
except we had great musicians."
The Los Angeles County coroner's office has conducted an autopsy to determine
what caused Porcaro's Aug. 5 death. He fell ill after spraying an insecticide
in the yard of his Hidden Hills home, shared with his wife, Susan, and the
couple's three young boys.
Coroner's officials said the autopsy results will not be available for several
More than 1,200 mourners attended Porcaro's funeral, including many high-
profile rock musicians such as Eddie Van Halen, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash
and Don Henley, as well as a host of session musicians not known by name to
many but heard on thousands of popular recordings.
Porcaro played on hundreds of albums for such stars as Bruce Springsteen, Paul
McCartney and John Fogerty. His band, Toto, sold millions of records in the
1970s and 1980s, earning six Grammy awards and worldwide fame.
But his first break came in his senior year--1972--recalled Mercy Leithem, a
former girlfriend, now an archeologist. Her name in high school was Marla
Baron. "Jeff was fully an incredible musician at 16--he had rhythm, timing,
charisma," said Leithem, who lives in Reseda. "He never talked about going to
college. Everybody knew he was going to make it. Then he was signed to do the
Sonny and Cher show right after graduation."
Jeff Porcaro and his younger brothers Michael and Steve seemed to form the
nucleus of a broad group of musicians who passed through the Porcaro family
rehearsal studio, nicknamed Carroting Downs, said Sperber. Sperber, a 1974
Grant graduate, is one year younger than Mike and one year older than Steve.
"I got a chance to work in that studio after I helped Mike with some
arrangements of a piece he wrote for orchestra, rock band and double choir,"
said Sperber, now in marketing. "What I noticed was they were a real close-
Joe Porcaro supported the family as a session percussionist and fostered an
appreciation for music, said friends from high school.
"We played at the Porcaros' every day after school," said Steve Lukather, 34,
Toto guitarist and a respected studio session veteran. "Jeff's dad was a top
percussionist and his enthusiasm rubbed off on everybody. He was always
saying, 'Come on, guys,' and making sure the guys were practicing."
Lukather said he was a sophomore when he met classmate Steve Porcaro, a
veteran session musician who played keyboards on Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
album and who is also a member of Toto. The two, along with Mike Porcaro,
continued Jeff Porcaro's high school band, Still Life, after he graduated.
By 1977, that band, along with David Paich, who attended Chaminade Prepin the
Valley, evolved into Toto. Mike Porcaro, who played with Seals and Crofts
after his graduation from Grant, eventually joined Toto after the original
bass player moved on.
"There was never a doubt we would be players," said Lukather. "It was either
that or become a gardener, and the idea of manual labor didn't appeal to me."
Lukather said he learned to read music, abandoning his approach of playing by
ear, in part to keep up with the Porcaros, who all read music fluently. Still,
the seriousness with which they approached music did not necessarily apply to
other aspects of campus life.
"We used to ditch to play gigs at other schools at lunch," Lukather said.
"We'd get caught sometimes and the school people would say, 'You better make
it in music.' "
Retired music teacher Neill does not recall troubles of that sort. "I'm the
one who really reaped the benefits of all that talent," he said. "I got to do
directing and arranging and got the groups to play difficult material. We
didn't just do movements; we would perform entire symphonies."
Lonn Friend, 36, executive editor of RIP magazine and the host of a nationally
syndicated heavy metal radio show, took geometry with Lukather and a golf
class with Steve Porcaro at Grant. He said he was not part of the Grant
musicians' hip social circle but, like other classmates, he did not escape
"We had a rock 'n' roll high school," said Friend. "It was cool."