A Tale of Two Cities

With award-winning compositions, arrangements, productions and engineering among his accomplishments, Robert Slap's original music spans a wide spectrum of styles and influence. It ranges from R&B, Rock, Soul/Funk, and Jazz to New Age, Latin, World, and music for films. 

Early Years: The 1950s and 60s – Building Chops 

Born in the Polish blue-collar town of Hamtramck, MI adjacent to Detroit, Slap’s family lived with his grandparents until his parents bought a house in suburban Roseville. As the grandson of two sets of Polish immigrants, young Robbie grew up listening to records by Harry Belafonte, Al Hirt, Detroit’s own Gaylords and an abundancy of polka music. His Grandpa Zig mastered the harmonica and was proficient on the chromatic, so there was always music present in the house. Slap watched Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts on TV, fancying himself taking the podium to lead the orchestra.

 Slap launched into trumpet lessons at about age 10, continuing throughout high school. He performed with the marching and concert bands, drum & bugle corps and learned to read and write music, which he considers his second language — a considerable benefit in his musical career.  

1st Performance 1962, E.Detroit, MI
Novak Music Conservatory

The first concerts Slap attended were the Motown Revues at Detroit’s Fox theatre, where he watched all the legendary artists perform. But the kindling of his personal musical ambition really caught fire when he tuned into the Beatles’ American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in February, 1964. That further inspired the purchase of his first guitar/amp combo from Sears, a Silvertone, made by Danelectro. Slap found playing the guitar more enjoyable than the trumpet, learning the basics from music books while listening to area radio programs late each night. He searched for new music styles to master, a unique variety exploding at the time onto local and global airwaves.

Slap practiced on his new guitar with schoolmate Jon Wearing, whose older brother, Tom, led a trio, a group called the Tidal Waves. Superior musicians and vocalists, the group was known as one of the most popular bands on the east side of Detroit. Jon Wearing and Slap sat in on the band practices in the garage or basement of the Wearing house, ironically located on Roseville’s Rock street. That birthplace of Roseville rock was also just a few doors down from the Levise family, whose oldest son, William, later gained international fame as performer Mitch Ryder.

 In mid '65, Slap joined the Tidal Waves, bringing his expertise on the bass guitar and knowledge of current hits by the Ventures, Beach Boys and Beatles. The group played predominantly at teen clubs, competing in “battle of the bands,” entertaining at outdoor parties and as active leaders of what is now referred to as "Garage Rock." Jon Wearing further helped the band grow by adding vocals and more percussion.

Detroit News 1966, Official Promo Photo

Slap’s recording career kicked off in 1966 when he signed with SVR Records, a local label, and the Tidal Waves released the single, “Farmer John”/”She Left Me All Alone". The record broke big in the Detroit area, leading to a national contract with Hanna-Barbera Records in Los Angeles. The Tidal Waves shared the bill at shows with many great artists of the 60s: The Dave Clark Five, the Animals, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Herman's Hermits and Detroit groups Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, the MC5, Bob Seger and the Last Heard, and more. Those connections also led to Slap meeting future bandmates Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson and John Angelos. 

 But the Tidal Waves weren’t successful with two subsequent singles and by 1967, Slap left the group to pursue other musical ambitions. He was especially intrigued, and influenced, by the release of popular albums, Cream’s “Fresh Cream," "Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix’s "Are You Experienced?"

His passion was to write original songs as well as play guitar and sing. He formed a new group with friends and classmates in 1968, Freewood, performing with them through 1970. This allowed Slap to forge his own path in what was to become a lifetime career. The edgy new band strived to create its own brand of music, appearing with other popular acts like LA’s Electric Prunes and Phoenix natives, the Alice Cooper Group. 

Sugarbush Ranch, New Baltimore, MI 1970

It was also during this time that Slap struck up a friendship with fellow Roseville musician, folk singer/songwriter John Mariotto, who performed under the name of Jonathon Round. Slap was remarkably impressed with Round’s vocal and songwriting prowess, and the two spent many evenings in area restaurants and coffee shops sharing ideas. Round’s insights into the world of folk music provided new depth as he shared the work and philosophical struggles of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, who also lived in Detroit from 1965-1967. Round subsequently released a solo album in 1971 on Westbound Records, which was hailed for his distinctive cover of the Rolling Stones’ hit, “Sympathy for the Devil.” 

Jonathon Round Album Cover 1971

The 70s – Climbing the Ladder

 In addition to music, Slap was also interested in movies and theatre. He dove into drama classes and events, performing in high school musicals, followed by similar studies at Oakland University and Wayne State University. Relocating to the inner-city of Detroit, he immersed himself in R&B, funk and blues and began collecting the early records of James Brown, Jimmy Reed, Curtis Mayfield, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and B.B. King. 

Never considering himself a virtuoso, Slap instead focused on style and a genuine feel for each tune. He realized that in order to reach the accomplished levels of Hendrix, Beck or Clapton, it would take years of dedication and practice, while Slap’s interests centered more on composing and his own unique originality. He was earning a living in the field he loved, gaining experience playing weekend nightclub gigs and working in backup bands for The Magic Tones (later The Undisputed Truth), vocalist and former Temptation David Ruffin, and touring with The Drifters. Slap’s life was a mixed bag of working and practicing for hours each day, experimenting with new methods, all the while educating himself in business and networking within the music business.

 He knew that his destination would eventually lead to L.A. — the panacea for both music and acting. It was during this period that a high school friend and fellow musician, Andy Peabody, introduced Slap to a young singer/songwriter John Angelos. Slap and Angelos immediately hit it off, forming a duo ala Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The two began writing and recording new material, seeking other artists or labels looking for songs.

 Meanwhile, the Ruffin band-mates wanted to try some rock ‘n’ roll for a change, so Angelos joined them to form the impromptu group Hot Lips during the summer/fall of 1971. Slap fondly remembers this as the greatest band he’s ever put together, with David Waller on bass and Larry "Fatback" Talbert on drums. 

Hot Lips

"No rehearsals were required,” says Slap. “We’d call out a tune and key, Fatback would start the groove and everything just happened!" They played a few festivals during the summer; then Talbert teamed up with Bill Withers and Angelos joined Ted Nugent’s tour. Not looking forward to a winter playing in Detroit nightclubs, Slap began his own life-changing adventure of “On the Road.” He traveled south, reaching Florida with his acoustic guitar and harmonica, stopping from town to town to sit in on jam sessions. A love for music was shared, meetings occurred between journeymen, and Slap wound up in Miami where, on a whim, he flew to Kingston, Jamaica. There, he discovered the rhythms of ska, multi-instrumentalist Jimmy Cliff, and reggae. 

The travels opened his eyes and ears to world music, the very roots of the music he heard as a kid while listening to Harry Belafonte, deeply moving him in the process. Returning to the U.S., he traveled to New York City and spent time in Greenwich Village. In the waning days of the Fillmore East and Anderson Theatre, Slap listened to early Bob Dylan records, The Velvet Underground band, poet Gil Scott-Heron and a poetry reading in Washington Park, as the relationships all came together – folk, blues, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, reggae, bebop, and Broadway musicals. He returned to Detroit to build on those musical explorations, adding new elements to his repertoire, performing in the nightclub circuit from late 1972  to 1973. The next stop was New Orleans and Dixieland Jazz at the Mardi Gras from Louis Armstrong and Fats Domino to Dr. John, it was essential listening for any aspiring composer. The swinging brass sections even brought back memories of his own beginnings on the trumpet. 

Hollywood CA. 1973

Slap was ready for a change and Motown Records was leaving
Detroit for the sunny skies of California. Hooray for Hollywood!

In July 1973, Slap received a call from former partner John Angelos, who was already garnering some success in Hollywood. He was writing songs for a new Joe Cocker album and working on yet another for Native-American guitarist Jesse Ed Davis, and urged Slap to join him. The two wanted to work together again, so Slap sold his Harley and used that cash to fund a trip to L.A. for the next phase of his career. The two friends formed the L.A. version of Mighty Quick in late '73, adding Detroit bass-player Rick Rinz, drummer Barry Anderson, and Bob "Buffalo" Roberts, of Ruben and the Jets, on tenor sax. The first months in the new environment were like living in a dream for Slap; after all, Hollywood was the land of fantasy. Residing in Beachwood Canyon just a short jaunt from Sunset Blvd & Vine, Slap and Angelos began putting together a new set of material more suited for the times. 

Griffith Park, LA. 1975

Topical pop tunes were mixed with a touch of Detroit edge and soul, but not as raw as the sounds of the Stooges, New York Dolls or the MC5. The two collaborators combined their previous teamwork with a newer sound, transformed to appeal to youth, yet filled with deeper meaning. Angelos brought his talent as a lyricist, vocalist and harmonica player to Slap’s acquired skills at composition, arrangement and guitar. Angelos penned "Rock & Roll Kids" about Slap while also creating the melancholy, soulfully bluesy "The Same Old Song," recorded at Mystic Sound Studios. For the next two years, their numerous tunes were showcased across Southern California, along with that of other up-and-comers, like Van Halen, the New York Dolls, and Iggy (Pop) and The Stooges.

 An influx of other Detroit groups/musicians coming to L.A. included New Order with Dennis Thompson, Flack with Marc Falconberry, Punk with J.T. Youngman, and The Dogs. One of Slap's favorite studios was Goldstar, where the legendary Phil Spector created the "wall of sound." While there, Slap met John Lennon and David Bowie when they were collaborating on the "Fame" record. Needless to say, he was spellbound having access to so many of the artists he truly admired. 

The Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sunset Strip in
West Hollywood was a famous era hangout/eatery and there were many nights that Slap and other entertainers spent reminiscing there or at the neighboring nightclub, Rodney's English Disco. However, the environment was becoming very competitive and by early 1976, the L.A. music scene was shifting with the popularity of disco and punk. Slap began working with Hollywood’s independent label Franklin Records adding guitar on recording sessions for their artist roster and commercial/jingle productions.

Dollar Varden 1976
Franklin Records
 He used this opportunity to network, connecting with numerous agents, managers, studios and musicians to create additional outlets for his future plans. As a result, his skills as a recording guitarist improved immensely, and Slap found session work at RCA, Capitol, Wally Heider Studios, A&M and Goldstar. He rented a rehearsal room within the former Paramount lot on Sunset and Gower, with sound stages utilized by popular recording groups on tour. It was also an outlet for mingling with musicians he had met in earlier years: Alice Cooper, Eric Burdon, and Joe Walsh. An added plus was the ability to listen to the Eagles rehearsing "Hotel California," Fleetwood Mac working on "Rumours,” and Gary Wright arranging "Dreamweaver" and more. 

John Angelos 1976

In 1977 Angelos was working on a second album project with Jesse Ed Davis, so Slap approached the latter hoping for a second guitarist spot in their group. But Davis was already mentoring another upcoming guitarist, Walter Trout. As it turned out, the labels were not interested in a second Davis solo venture, so Davis left for Hawaii and Angelos returned to Detroit and in time formed the Torpedoes. Through his longtime Roseville friend and neighbor, Dennis Cooper (who was working as a limo driver), Slap gained backstage passes and access to various parties. He subsequently met some of the performers he admired most: Jeff Beck, Bobby Womack, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. 

At just 27 years old, Slap found his Hollywood years drawing to a close, along with a valuable lesson: It’s often who you know rather than what you know. He also learned the value of networking and not burning bridges. His remaining time in Hollywood was spent sharing ideas with future album collaborator, guitarist Steve Powell, while Slap added trips to Detroit and New York in search of his next project.

Echo Park, LA. 1977, Photo by Chuck Krall

Into the 80s…

 Responding to an ad for a guitarist singer/songwriter placed in Rolling Stone Magazine by former members of Detroit's own MC5, Slap returned to his hometown. He then auditioned in a Wyandotte, MI studio for the new group being formed by drummer Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson and bass-player Charlie Bell. 

Detroit MI. 1980, Photo by Charles Whitelock

The collaboration was an instant success and included Slap presenting at least a dozen new tunes he had prepared to share. Thompson assured his partners that he had sufficient connections with management and labels to get this new project off the ground, and Slap accepted the offer to join. Discussion followed about other band plans and they chose a name: The Secrets.

Rehearsals began in January, 1980 and scheduled performance dates began to roll in. The music ranged from pop rock to new wave and rock-reggae, allowing Slap to incorporate much of his past experiences through lyrics and blending musical genres and arrangements as he and Bell shared lead vocals. They began their quest in the burgeoning Detroit nightclub and concert scene at places like Bookie’s Club 870 and the Red Carpet Lounge, a local Punk Archive. Immersed in recording demos of newly-created material at area studios, they finally released Slap's pop-rock single, "Escape (Cry a Little Harder)," and the hard rocker, "Ain't Life a Bitch" through Motor City Records. But, after a year of performing together, Slap was growing weary of all the duties required in fronting a band, writing new material and playing lead guitar. He invited guitarist Steve Powell to join them, but Steve was reluctant to leave L.A., so they considered adding Mike Skill. Recently having left the Romantics (of “What I Like About You” fame), Skill had been occasionally stopping by the Secrets’ rehearsal studio to listen in. As fate would have it, however, Bell was involved in a serious car accident in February, 1981 and sidelined for several months while Thompson accepted an offer to tour Australia with another group. Disappointed by this turn of events just as the band was building momentum following a tour of Toronto, Slap hoped Thompson would come through with his prior assurance of major label attraction. It was a hope hinged on touring in the spring in New York City and along the East Coast. 

Finally reunited in June, 1981, they commenced performing in Detroit, in the same spots where they’d performed the previous year. Thompson grew more irritable at promoters, leaving the group altogether that summer. Slap was furious with Thompson’s action, feeling he had wasted nearly two years of hard work at that juncture. The two never met again until 35 years later.  

In the meantime, Slap reached out to his former partner, John Angelos, who was gaining some notoriety with his group, the Torpedos. He’d hoped to possibly fit into that ensemble, but Angelos’ personal problems resulted in even him exiting the group. So, at Slap’s 30th birthday party in August,1981, he made a career announcement to those gathered. Centered at his farm in New Haven, MI, with the presence of friends and road crew of the Secrets and Torpedos, Slap announced he was leaving Detroit permanently to return to Los Angeles, where he had already secured a beach house in the Malibu region. 

It was going to be California girls and lifestyles of the rich and famous from here on out, he thought.

 Malibu CA. 1983

 Slap arrived at Rancho Sea Air on the Pacific Coast Highway in January, 1982 to launch the next phase of his career, a horse ranch where producers, directors and their children came to learn to ride. It was already famous for being the locale where Elizabeth Taylor had trained for her role in “National Velvet.” It promised to be a great environment for Slap to heal his mind, body and spirit from the failure of the Detroit venture. The sea air, warm weather and beautiful views of the Pacific ocean would do him good. 

It wasn’t long before fate stepped in again and this time it was a sure thing, with an ad placed in a local newspaper in March, 1982. Slap subsequently joined the staff of Valley of the Sun (VOS) Publishing in Malibu. The small corporation was headed by Dick Sutphen, a successful author and human-potentials trainer whose interests were in past-life regression hypnosis and seminar-training events. Besides offering books, hypnosis and lecture tapes through its quarterly magazine, "Master of Life," VOS also offered a small line of music tapes for meditation, including the work of soothing composer Steven Halpern and pianist David Naegele. Known first as "Inner Harmony Music,” the term later evolved to “New Age Music.” Slap soon rose to the position of recording engineer and producer of Sutphen's narratives in a small, two-track tape recording studio in the VOS offices on Pacific Coast Highway. Having spent most of his recording studio experience as a performer, he was eager to learn the skills behind the soundboard in the mixing room, recording, processing sounds, editing tape and producing a master recording for duplication. Although the music style was new to him, recent years had increasingly piqued his interest in jazz improvisation, especially while listening to Wes Montgomery, Charles Lloyd, Miles Davis, George Benson and Herbie Hancock. 

        Inside and  hangin' out at VOS studio                        

In November,1982, an unfortunate horse-riding incident resulted in a badly-broken leg for Slap, followed by surgery and a week-long hospital stay. During the numerous months that accompanied his sojourn on crutches, he began formulating ideas for his own style of music, dubbed "Music for Creative Visualization." Slap composed an entire album's worth of instrumentation, loosely based on a recurring dream he’d had since childhood. Through a coffee-shop buddy, guitarist Domenic Buscemi, they secured time at a small 8-track studio to begin recording in the summer of 1983.  

The new creations were rooted in musical elements of classical, jazz improv, soft rock and film-scoring themes. Slap was heading in a new direction, incorporating all the styles he’d experienced earlier in his life’s travels. The spontaneity and unorthodoxy of the recording sessions, utilizing acoustic and 12-string guitars, synthesizers and special effects, led to his first solo album, "Mystic Memories,” released by VOS in late 1983. Slap continued to expand his vision of music and tonalities, while mastering the craft of recording and producing records.  He became music director and producer for the New Age label until 1993, recording 12 solo albums. He also attained numerous production album credits with a variety of other artists who signed with the label during that period. As Valley of the Sun grew its artist and album base, it was also building larger audiences through the popularity of the New Age movement, meditation, reincarnation, karma, and alternative healing. VOS’ distribution network now extended worldwide and Slap's music was gaining international exposure and acceptance.

Slap & Powell 1989

By the late 80s, Slap was contemplating yet another career shift – this time to film and TV music. Having composed the music for the video documentary, "Sedona: Psychic Energy Vortex" and the "Video Hypnosis" VHS series written and narrated by Dick Sutphen, Slap was preparing for another change. Calling upon his longtime friend, guitarist Steve Powell, a project was embarked upon to build a library of TV and film music in hopes of placement. The team’s music was upbeat and dramatic, with influences from composers Jan Hammer (theme from “Miami Vice”) and Wang Chung (“To Live and Die in L.A.”) and the German band, Tangerine Dream. Some of this collaboration was compiled for the "Drive" album, released through VOS in 1990. By then, Slap was a member of The Recording Academy (presenter of the Grammy Awards), and the Audio Engineering Society (AES), keeping  abreast of the latest trends in the business and technology sectors as well as pioneering the use of midi guitar innovations into recordings.

 In addition to his duties at Valley of the Sun, he returned to live performance, and established the jazz/fusion group, Lateral Movement, with Karl Schaffner on guitar and bass, flutist Suzanne Ghiglia Arthur and Marie Matson on percussion. They performed locally, and most notably with Todd Rundgren at the Hollywood Palace. After Schaffner left L.A., Slap formed a duo with multi-instrumentalist Bray Ghiglia, former member of the Roberts/Meisner band. Roberts was formerly with Firefall while Meisner with the Eagles. Their musical relationship continues to this day, and Bray has been featured on several of Slap's recordings throughout the years. 

With the decade drawing to a close and his career established as a composer/producer/engineer/recording artist, Slap then 38 years old, married the love of his life, Linda Krause. It happened at Lake Tahoe, CA. in August, 1989, after which they bought a house north of Malibu in Camarillo Springs, CA. They have been together ever since.


 The New Century’s Launchpad: The 90s

 Once the last decade of the century debuted, Slap was busily producing a series of recordings for Great American Audio Corp, including a line of aerobic exercise music, "Walk to the Beat," and the popular "Music for Relaxation" series; both were distributed nationally through bookstore outlets.

 Venturing into the Sci-Fi Horror genre, Slap created a series of books on tape of select authors for Spine Tingling Press, featuring Hollywood voice-over actors, music and sound effects. His work received musical placements on the Leeza Gibbons show, the Playboy channel, NPR radio, and various TV commercials. Slap also composed the music for a documentary on the life of Takemusu Aiki, the founder of Aikido martial art, which was widely distributed in Japan and released in the U.S. with subtitles. The Eastern music influence is primarily credited to the diverse Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who originated in the field of pop music. The music later appeared on his final album for VOS, "Zen Morning", which was released in 1996. 

Rather than dwell on past successes and failures, Slap had by then learned to strive along explorations of new avenues of musical tonalities and genres. What also emerged was the philosophy that improving one's musical abilities through practice and education is critical to evolving and innovating in composing. He completed the Film Scoring Certification Program at UCLA in 1992 and studied music theory with Professor Kenneth Koenig, former pianist/arranger for the Bob Hope orchestra, Don B. Ray (Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-0, CBS orchestra director), Gerald Fried (Roots, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer, Emmy Award-winning composer Mark Waters, and  Jerry Grant (Quantum Leap, Hunter, Magnum P.I., The A-Team).

 In the There and Back Again Category, when Slap left his position at Valley of the Sun in November, 1992, he had broadcast licensing placements as well as an established private client list. The purpose of the latter was to track people who recognized the power of healing music: mental health therapists, massage and physical therapists, doctors and hospitals. Slap wanted to contribute to helping others through his recordings. The more ambient and sustaining ethereal tracks were explorations into sound design, using pentatonic synthesis, voices, chanting and sounds of nature, and Slap continued this work for several more years. The “Eternal OM”, recorded in 1986 has become his most  popular production for meditation worldwide and is still widely used and available today on all digital platforms.

 However, his dream of landing a major film score never materialized, and with both his father and father-in-law having health problems, Slap and Linda returned to Michigan City, IN. It was 1994 and near the shores of Lake Michigan, 60 miles east of Chicago. By this time, Slap had acquired his own recording equipment and soon set up a home studio seeking new projects. TM Productions, located near his home, commissioned him to produce additional music for their popular children's video series, "I Love Toy Trains" including "I Love Big Machines" and "A Lionel Christmas." Next Slap landed a producer/engineer position with the GMP Music Library in nearby Buchanan, MI. There, he worked full-time in the studio producing and editing music for their library that was available for film, video and TV licensing. The facility was a state-of-the-art, 24-track digital studio that also offered hourly studio rates to local musicians. Composers nationwide were submitting music in need of formatting and preparation for delivery to music supervisors. Slap also contributed several albums of production music to the library, and it is still active today.

And yet, Slap was growing tired of writing music for others. He often felt as if he was giving away some of his best material, so he left GMP at the end of 1996. The serious composer within him was dominating his thoughts, causing frustration with the opportunities presenting themselves and the shifting nature of the music business. 

Slap never wanted to wind up being an old guy playing blues in a bar or in being part of a tribute band. He had pursued his career ambitions for more than 30 non-stop years, sacrificing relationships, hobbies and many of his prior interests enjoyed in his youth. With a royalty stream still active from his music sales, licensing and a profit-sharing pension pay-out in place, Slap walked away from it all by the millennium and returned to study, receiving a B.A. degree in Computer Programming & Technology from Purdue University. He did not return to the music business until events in 2014 rekindled his desire — and then he had the Internet at his disposal.


The long and winding road into the 21st century…

 As the years have passed, Slap’s main interest has centered on studying chordal structures of 20th century tunes from the 20s, 30s, 40s, bebop jazz, and their bearing on the music of his era. He also found it amusing that public interest in "Garage Rock" and early "New Age" sound was reviving. He’s often received messages from listeners inquiring where his music was available — some after hearing vintage Tidal Waves tunes on oldies radio programs, some wanting more info on retro album compilations or some hearing his compositions for the first time.

 During Slap’s hiatus from the often chaotic world of music, Valley of the Sun had ceased selling music and had been tied up in litigation for years in determining who owned the rights to the product line. As a result, he had not received any sales royalties in a long time – until 2014 when he was suddenly contacted by his performing rights organization (PRO), BMI. He had registered each of his original compositions throughout his career, and BMI wanted to verify that he was the writer/producer listed for all the titles he published through VOS. The writer/publisher share was always a 50/50 split for fees collected from non-sales commercial broadcasts. Amazingly, shortly after that contact, Slap started receiving back royalties that were withheld for years during pending litigation. This led him to review his library of unfinished or unpublished creations that during the hiatus was sitting dormant. 

Grammy Awards 2016, Photo by Kahne Krause

With the unexpected funding in hand, Slap embarked on yet another journey, although the road back to the industry was neither quick nor easy. He spent up to three hours per day playing guitar for the next two years, and he updated his studio to 2016 standards with new equipment. He tested the waters by putting together a two-CD demo of unreleased material to tempt various labels, critics and radio stations to review. A return to Los Angeles to attend the 2016 Grammy Awards also afforded the chance to network with old friends, new artists and promoters. Slap joined the newly-formed Indie Collaborative, an organization devoted to uniting independent artists outside of the mainstream record label market.

HMMA Awards Show 2017, Hollywood, CA.

 Reconvening with Bray Ghiglia, Slap laid out plans to record some new material, inviting him to his Indiana home studio later that year to join him in working on some new tracks. Performing live again as a duo at an Indie Collaborative event in Chicago was also in the works, followed by Slap connecting with Bongo Boy Records in New Jersey to release his recording of  "Modern Medicine". The blues-rock piece presented a social commentary on the era’s opioid crisis, with Slap on lead vocals and guitar and Ghiglia on tenor sax. It was released on the compilation album, "Backroom Blues Vol. 4" in 2017, after which Slap, once again, returned to L.A., this time for the 2017 Grammys. The duo rounded out that event by performing live at two shows that week. 

Later in 2017, Slap released the instrumentals, "Healing Temple" and "Sahara" on Bongo Boy Records’ "Escape the Mind Vol. 1" compilation album. The 2018 follow-up was another instrumental, "Aspara," for Bongo Boy on "World Music Vol. 1." Things were progressing again, and he reached out to yet another old friend in Detroit, harmonica player Larry Minne. Developing projects followed when Minne suggested they record a new version of  "The Christmas Song", with veteran R&B singer Charles "Buddy" Smith. That led to Slap arranging a newer version, which was included on "Let’s Have a Rockin' Christmas Vol. 3" released by Bongo Boy in 2018. In early 2020, Slap contributed another New Age instrumental, "Migration", to "Escape the Mind Vol. 3." 

The uptick in activity didn’t go without notice; in early 2019, Slap was approached by an A&R representative for Numero Group, a Chicago-based record label specializing in retro music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Its primary focus was to bring attention to artists believed to be underappreciated, artists who deserved another look. Numero Group did its homework, and the first conversation with Slap caught him by surprise. The firm was familiar with his entire catalog, not just from Valley of the Sun, but also from Great American Audio and other projects, and Numero Group was able to identify the music by his style. An offer followed – to buy his entire catalog if Numero Group could be retained to negotiate and secure the copyrights and ownership of the master recordings. For the next year, Slap focused on those objectives, although many of the VOS masters and contracts had disappeared. By 2020, he provided contacts for other VOS artists and Dick Sutphen and secured a deal ensuring that Numero Group would buy the entire Valley of the Sun music catalog. This entailed the original music being re-mastered, re-packaged and available through downloads, streaming, CDs and on vinyl with album notes and pictures. The "Drive" album that was reissued in 2020 will be followed by two or three more per year going forward. And although Steve Powell, Slap's co-writer on that initial recording, sadly passed away in 2004, the pair’s dream is finally coming true. Slap will not only see that work appreciated again, but also appear with impressive packaging, artwork and merchandising.

With his legacy secured and productive gains due to downtime of an interim pandemic, Slap planned to make 2022 a special year. He wanted to work on something more unique, something with a message to the world that reflected the times. Recalling the efforts he made with the "Christmas Song," Slap targeted the 1973 Timmy Thomas song, "Why Can't We Live Together?" Gathering Charles "Buddy" Smith on lead vocals, Larry Minne on harmonica and adding singer/songwriter Audra Kubat on vocals, he added background vocals and all additional instrumentation. He was seeking a true Detroit sound, so in September, 2021 he travelled to the Motor City and recorded each musical part before returning home to finish the track and mix. Slap had planned on a 3-minute result, but improvising during the session incorporated additional unplanned sound elements and arrangement. He was pleased with the end product, and added "Together Again" as the B-side with Ghiglia soloing on alto sax.

 On February 1, 2022, a contemporary jazz instrumental, "The Looking Glass",  debuted and featured Ghiglia on flute. "Why Can't We Live Together?" followed on Valentine’s Day in an A/B product arrangement. Soon after, Slap created a video to complement the record’s theme, a powerful message that is also available on YouTube. The song and video were met with widespread acclaim, resulting in his receipt of the "Best Production" award from Intercontinental Music Awards in July.


The subsequent record/video reflection on Slap’s Malibu life, "90265" was released in July, followed by his percussive African-themed offering, "Serengeti" in August. Completing the summer trifecta in September was "Voodoo",  a dark, mysterious jazz groove, and one of his favorite compositions. “Voodoo” was subsequently awarded the best song in Instrumental/Jazz from the Los Angeles-based Akademia Music Awards.

"Why Can't We Live Together?" was placed on the 2023 ballot for the Grammys in the category of "Best Traditional R&B Performance." However, Beyonce won the award at that time. But, Slap had already moved into the major players game.
As 2023 progresses, more promise looms; HBO has licensed his music for the third season of the popular documentary series in New York, "How To with John Wilson". His music appears on the newly released documentary film "Welcome Space Brothers" directed by Jodi Wille. Slap is additionally hard at work on composing the third installment of his Atlantis Mythology series of albums with "Atlantis Trilogy Suite." His first album of the series, "Atlantis: Crystal Chamber", was re-released in November, 2022 through Numero Group, while the second album, "Atlantis: Healing Temple," has a TBA release date. A new music catalog of contemporary TV/Film music for licensing will be released in 2024. With this ongoing productivity during the last seven years, Slap is at last doing what he wants to do and at his own pace.

 His philosophy is: "Music is created to generate an emotional response, and life is a tapestry of ever-changing moods, colors, textures, and emotion. Music reflects life, touching our souls' strings, pulling into the open our feelings with passion. It is the only medium through which I can, and many more in humanity, truly express our innermost feelings, the essence of our being."

Photo by Wendy Hakes

A very special thanks to all those I have met over the years, 
sharing their memories and photos of our times together.
 Researched, written and edited by Wendy Stevenson Clem
 from notes provided by Robert Slap