He was a saxophonist, percussionist, flautist and producer, born Steve Kreisman in California. As a teenager he heard “Pachuco Hop” and the influence of Chuck Higgins’ playing was enough to convince him to take up the saxophone.
He was a founding member of the Sleepwalkers that would evolve into Kip Tyler & The Flips, with two of the members being Bruce Johnston and Sandy Denny who would later join The Beach Boys , and at the same time he was a sought after session musician. Before long he was working and recording with Duane Eddy and the experience he had gained there led him to form his own group with Phil Spector on guitar.
When Phil Spector left to take up production work in New York he was given even more opportunities as he was called on to perform on many releases by artists that included The Crystals, The Ronettes, The Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner, and was a member of Phil Spector’s famous “Wrecking Crew”. Constantly busy during the 1960s, he performed on virtually every album by The Beach Boys, appeared on songs by B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Darin and Elvis Presley , The Ventures and many of Jan & Dean’s hits.
When the 1970s came he began to experience health problems but he still managed to do his session work as well as release his own solo albums and ever expanding his horizons he performed in a chamber in one of the Great Pyramids in Egypt which gave us his The Music of Cleops. His 1970s appearances were as many and as varied as in the 1960s and he was seen performing with Mink DeVille, touring with Bob Dylan , and working with Cher and many others.
Sadly in 1993 he suffered heart failure at the young age of 55 but not to be forgotten he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
Mink DeVille recordings
Spanish Stroll (Willy DeVille )
Gunslinger (Willy DeVille )
Here he is with Ry Cooder and his friends performing sax on “Just a Little Bit”….