JOKER entered a local Battle-of-the-Bands contest at the legendary Lake Hills Roller Rink, home to live rock and roll in Bellevue, WA since the 60's. I had the plum job of Stage Manager there from the time I was 15 till I was 18. JOKER was eliminated in the first round, but the real story from that Contest was the hot new lead singer with the band TYRANT who no one had ever heard of. His name was Geoff Tate.

TYRANT was a sensation with all of the local Metalhead crowd with their sophisticated polished look and sound. Tate's Halford-esque wail was incredible. It made people stop whatever they were doing for miles around. TYRANT was actually more famous locally for the short Eddie Van Halen-clone guitarist named Adam Brenner. Adam's rich family owned the successful Brenner Bros. Bagels. They bought him the best equipment and made it possible for him to practice all day. Adam was good and he knew it. He was the first guy locally to have a Floyd Rose tremolo bar which he showed off at the soundcheck at Battle of the Bands. (He later on got signed to Geffen and changed his name to Adam Bomb.) TYRANT used to do an awesome version of Rainbow's "Man On The Silver Mountain" with Tate singing the Ronnie James Dio part flawlessly. They also played a ton of Van Halen.

JOKER was eliminated in the first round, but TYRANT went all the way to the finals. The band who beat TYRANT in he finals was called RIDGE. They played more poppy covers like "My Sharona" which the judges liked better. RIDGE went on to become FIFTH ANGEL who had a contract with EPIC for a short time and whose drummer, Ken Mary, became a member of Alice Cooper's 1985 band with Kip Winger and that buff dude with the guitar shaped like a machine gun.

TYRANT broke up immediately after losing the finals, leaving Tate without a band.

After JOKER was eliminated from the Battle-of-the-Bands, one of the other Interlake High School rock bands - HIGH ROLLER - also was eliminated and broke up soon after. Their lead guitarist, Jeff Olson (formerly of ROX), whose parents bought him a Marshall stack and a P.A. system, was suddenly available

Chris DeGarmo couldn't afford a Marshall stack like a lot of the other local rich kids in posh suburban Bellevue, WA. All he had at the time was a little MusicMan combo practice amp. Chris had to borrow better amps from friends for shows. His family struggled through those years since Chris' dad had abandoned the family years before. That's what the song BRIDGE is about. Chris' mom worked her ass off to keep the family afloat. (As soon as he could after QR got big, Chris bought her a house and retired her. He's really a great guy.)

Chris DeGarmo's time with Joker did not last long. He was let go so that the band could bring in Jeff Olson with his massive amount of equipment. Even though Jeff was (and still is) an excellent guitarist and singer, Chris had many friend and fans who were disappointed that he was let go.

(Post DeGarmo)

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