The first was the union of John and Rick in Champaign around 1980.
Never intending to become a live band, their demos began to be
played on local stations creating demand for the music to be played
in front of an audience.
This led to phase two, where John and Rick enlisted the help of
local jazz and world musicians to play the music they had arranged
and recorded. It was during this period they crossed paths with
Rocky Maffit - who became a member for a short time - and
eventually to Tom Broeske, who would become the band's first full
time bass player and official third member.
In "the Tom years", phase three, Combo Audio solidified its power
trio identity, and began to play shows regularly with occasional
live appearances by guests like Rocky Maffit.
Phase four began when Angus Thomas joined the band replacing Tom on
bass. It was at this time the band had a top Billboard single and
was being courted by major labels, eventually signing with EMI and
touring and recording extensively.
Combo Audio's fifth phase was after their deal with EMI was over.
Rick pursued painting and other artistic interests. Angus departed
temporarily to tour with Miles Davis and Peter Wolf. John continued
to write and record with producer / engineer Paul Klingberg and
begin work in the surround sound business.
During this last phase, John and Angus reunited, enlisted Chicago
drummer Dave Sycott and several back up musicians for a number of
shows in Chicago and Champaign. Angus left again for another tour
with Miles Davis. John played a few more shows under the moniker of
Combo Audio with the other musicians and a replacement bass
Combo Audio played its last show under that name in mid 1987.
The band never actually broke up.
Combo Audio's roots lie in the midwest. Since the late 70's, John
Kellogg had played in various hard rock cover bands all over
Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin. Weary of the bar scene and
playing the music of others, John moved to Champaign, Illinois to
pursue writing and recording his own music. At that time, Champaign
had a vital, healthy music scene which supported and nurtured
Rick Neuhaus had also played around the midwest, eventually landing
as the drummer for Chicago's Off Broadway for a few years. Upon his
departure from Off Broadway Rick also gravitated to Champaign. He
and John knew each other but had never worked together. John
approached Rick at Putt Putt miniature golf course, where Rick was
employed at the time, and suggested a collaboration.
Soon John and Rick were writing and arranging John's songs after
hours in a stereo store where John worked by day. From this came
the name of the project and eventually the band - a combo formed in
an audio store or Combo Audio.
John had recorded a few demos at a local studio which caught the
interest of Dana Walden, a local writer and producer who suggested
they go into the studio, work on the material together and see what
happens. (Dana eventually went on to success as the writer of the
hit "How 'bout us" and "Try Again" with CBS recording artists
A four song demo was completed by John, Rick and Dana. They sent
them to local radio programmers. Much to their surprise, local
stations picked up the songs put them into rotation and began to
get requests for them.
"We're not a band"
Early on, John and Rick did not want Combo Audio to be "a band";
they wanted to make records. It was a collaborative studio project
based around John's writing with the goal of a major label deal.
But, once their music began to be played on local radio stations,
they were approached to perform live. Willa Iglitzen, who was
managing of a new emerging hot music club called Mabel's, urged
them to play. Mabel's was a former 70's style fern bar and
restaurant in Champaign on Green Street that traditionally
presented local live folk and jazz and had begun to book "new wave"
bands. Problem was, Combo Audio had never performed any of the
music in front of an audience; John and Rick had never played in a
"When Willa approached us, Rick and I were reluctant at first, but
then decided to have a go at it. We had been spending all our time
writing songs, rehearsing, arranging and recording them on my
little cassette 4 track after hours in the hi-fi store I was
working in. Word had gotten around about what we were doing. Dana
Walden had heard my work. I had already been in Creative Audio
studios with him and recorded one of my songs, "Television Girl".
Once Rick and I had teamed up, we went back in and recorded four
songs for a demo. We recorded demos of "The Look", "Shortwave",
"Boys World" and another version of "Television Girl" and sent it
to the local radio stations who began to play them in
Playing out meant we had to find a bass player and some other
musicians. We had no idea what we wanted so we just started asking
people we knew and liked to play with us. We met Rocky Maffit
around that time. He liked the music and we loved what he did as a
percussionist and artist so we invited him to play and he
We rehearsed for that first gig in the winter in this wood working
shop outside of town and it was freezing. I just remember all of us
shivering with our little amps and percussion and drums and a tiny
PA system. We only had something like 6 songs and somehow we winged
it through that first show. Rick and I were surprised at the
turnout since the band had never played before - power of radio at
the time I guess. People knew the songs, it was amazing. "
After a couple of gigs and a few rehearsals, Combo Audio was a
becoming a popular live attraction; but still did not have a full
time bass player, so it was difficult to commit to any further
"I guess we had decided at that point that we would become a "real"
band. The ego reinforcement from playing live was addictive - and
we both liked the idea of playing gigs again for a living as
opposed to working in a hi-fi store or minature golf course. It was
different this time since it was our own music. Much more rewarding
to play your own music. Most of the guys we had been playing with
were jazz players and it did not seem to be working well to keep
them involved. Rick and I decided we should try to find a "rock"
guy. We heard about Tom and went to see him play."
Tom Broeske was playing with hard rock outfit the Slink Rand Group
at the time. It took John and Rick about half a song to realize
this was their bass player. They approached Tom, who was clearly
ready for a direction change from hard rock. They convinced him to
join the band, cut his hair and begin rehearsals - and Combo Audio
the power trio with a band identity began to take shape.
Tom was a popular addition to the band and Combo Audio began
playing gigs regularly in Champaign, Chicago, and around the
midwest rock circuit. While most of the music was guitar based,
they added occasional keyboards to the presentation. John's
obsession with electronics, effects on his guitar gave the band a
sound that some described as a cross between the Clash and Flock of
Seagulls. The band now began to record more tracks with Dana Walden
producing and form Secret Records. Signing a production deal with
Secret, Combo Audio released an early version of "Romanticide" b/w
"It's a Crime" as their first single. Within weeks, it was a top
single pick on Billboard getting great reviews and was added to
Combo Audio became a hot commodity. Soon major labels began to
inquire about the band and show up at gigs.
The band grasped the importance of video early on and were
interested in the creative opportunities video could bring. With
Secret Records, the band shot its first music video of
"Romanticide" in a commercial photo studio typically used for
shooting automobile ads. This early video was picked up by a Rock
America, a cable TV music channel that pre-dated MTV.
While Combo Audio's star was rising fast, there was a certain
discontent within the creative side of the band.
"The band could not have been experiencing faster success. We were
tagged with this techno-pop label which was probably accurate. But
I started writing and pushing more in an urban, hard edged funk
rock vein. I was listening to a lot of heavy funk grooves and since
we were a power trio and my guitar had to cover all the harmonic
bases - I wanted to be more aggressive and have a hard rock funk
groove take the place of some of the techno-pop sensibilities. I
think playing live all the time contributed to this. The harder
edge went over well with us and audiences. Tom was a brilliant bass
player. He was incredibly melodic and solid and everything he
played was exactly right with all the Combo Audio material we had
created up until that point. But, it was not where we were headed."
Angus Thomas was a renowned bass player from Chicago who had a
"must see" reputation as a "Jimi Hendrix" on bass. He played in a
number of Chicago based bands that played rock and funk. Angus was
always the draw; a stand out who overshadowed the rest of whatever
band members he was on stage with.
"Rick and I knew of Angus and we had seen him play. You could never
remember the band he was in or anyone in the band but him. But when
they came to town you had to go see them just to see Angus play. He
was an absolute monster onstage. He had all these effects on his
bass rig, which of course appealed to me. I never heard anyone get
sounds out of a bass guitar like that . It was like he was my bass
counterpart. He would establish this hard, mean funk groove and
then the next minute he was soloing like a lead guitar
Angus arrived in Champaign in 1982 to join his family who had moved
there. Looking for a gig, he showed up at a Combo Audio show.
"Angus showed up at one of our gigs at Mabel's. He had apparently
asked around who was the hottest band in town and someone told him
to come see us. I walked out of the dressing room during a break in
our show and he was standing there. I knew who he was, said hello
and told him how much I loved how he played. He looked straight at
me and said "you need me in your band." I told Rick about it later.
We just looked at each other and a light went on at the
possibility. . . "hey, wait a minute . . "
After one rehearsal with Angus, Rick and John knew this was what
they had been looking for and it would take Combo Audio to another
"Letting Tom go was one of the hardest things we ever had to do
personally and professionally. We loved him, loved his personality,
his playing, his voice. We knew it would upset a lot of Combo
Audio's audience. Some people thought we were crazy. Why would we
change something that was so successful and going so well? But we
had to do it. Rick and I just knew we had to go that direction with
Angus appeared as the new bass player for Combo Audio very
abruptly. One week Tom played, the next week Angus played. While it
did upset some of the band's fans, Angus soon won over the band's
audience and expanded it. The combination of Rick and Angus'
grooves and the harmonic colors John and Angus developed with their
effects laden sound led to a trademark Combo Audio sound of "three
guys who sound like five".
The band immediately went into the studio with Dana Walden and
recorded more material with Angus to submit to labels who were now
courting the band. Ken Adamany, who managed Cheap Trick, stepped in
and began to manage the band. With Angus aboard, the band quickly
evolved to its highest peak and began several years of nearly
non-stop touring in concert clubs, university shows and opening or
co-billing in large venues with peers like Talking Heads, U2, Billy
Idol, Duran Duran, The Tubes, and INXS.
After a courtship from nearly every major label, Combo Audio was
signed to EMI/America in late 1982. Their self titled EP "Combo
Audio" was recorded at Pierce Arrow Recorders in Evanston,
Illinois, just north of Chicago. Dana Walden produced with Ian
Taylor (Psychedelic Furs) engineering and mixing, with Paul
Klingberg as second engineer. Dana eventually had conflicts as he
was also producing and recording with his own band, Champaign and
dropped out of the Combo Audio project leaving Ian Taylor to finish
producing, mixing and engineering the record with the band at
Synchro Sound in Boston. a studio owned by The Cars.
"Combo Audio" with the single "Romanticide" was released in early
1983 after the band finished a trip to Los Angeles. "Romanticide"
became a top single pick again in Billboard and received wide
acclaim with regular support and airplay in New York, Boston,
Chicago, St.Louis and Los Angeles.
With EMI, the band also made a second "Romanticide" video which immediately
went into power rotation in a newly launched MTV.
By 1984 Combo Audio had a well received record with a hit single
out and had toured extensively to support it; albeit mostly locally
in the midwest. But, they hit some roadblocks that were
insurmountable. Though their success continued, the infrastructure
supporting the band began to fracture as conflicts began over who
controlled the band and its assets. It began to get ugly.
The band had a production deal in place with the Secret Records
entity, and had a record deal with EMI. Secret Records believed it
had rights to the EMI deal as well as John's pending publishing
contract that had been offered by Warner Chappell Music. The
relationship between band's management and Secret Records became
acrimonious, complaints were filed and litigation was threatened on
all sides. Understandably, as the potential deep pockets, EMI and
Warner Chappell ceased all further efforts on the band's behalf
until it had received notice that the conflicts between all parties
There was also stress between the band and EMI as the label
attempted to pressure the band into recording what they perceived
as more "commercial" material which the band absolutely
"EMI brought us this terrible techno-pop song called "Nasty Love"
which was one of the most banal, stupid and insipid things we had
ever heard. The label, however, was convinced it was a hit song and
told us they were worried that Toni Basil wanted to record it. They
wanted us to do it and and do it fast. It certainly did not
remotely resemble Combo Audio material and we were nauseated trying
to listen to it much less embarrassed to record it. Why should we
record this piece of crap ? We had some 50 songs in our pocket,
which we played to great success every week on the road among which
were at least 5 proven singles. Why not record those? EMI put the
pressure on, but we refused to do it. It was a turning point with
EMI. After that they perceived us as being difficult, particularly
Tensions between the band, management, the production company, the
labels and publishers grew. As the band continued to perform for
income, the stand off between the band and EMI became polarized.
Combo Audio insisted that EMI release more money to put the band in
the studio for another record. EMI insisted the band record and
send more material to be considered.
The resolution came in 1985, when the president and entire A&R
staff at EMI had either left the label or were exited, leaving the
band with no contacts or support within the label. As is often the
case, the new regime at EMI trimmed its roster including Combo
All three members re-located to Chicago by this time and continued
Weary of the grind and conflict, John left performing on the road
again and continued writing and recording new material with close
friend and engineer Paul Klingberg.
Angus took an opportunity to tour with Miles Davis as long time
friend and bassist Darryl Jones, (now of the Rolling Stones) left
to play with a Sting who had begun a solo career.
Rick pursued other interests such as painting and djembe
Angus and John revived Combo Audio with a live show one more time
in late 1986 with a different drummer, David Sycott. They added
keyboards, percussionist and back up singers to the line up for a
few well received shows. When Angus went off on tour with Miles
Davis and Peter Wolf, John hired a replacement for Angus and did a
few more shows with the larger line-up under the name Combo Audio
Beckoned by opportunities and warner climates; John re-located to
Los Angeles in early 1988 to work with Paul Klingberg at Ignited
Productions and studios based in Hollywood, and has remained in LA
Where are they now ?
click on a band member's name below :
During that latter part of John's Combo Audio days, he had what he
describes as a life changing experience when he heard his first
surround sound demonstration. That experience sent him on a path to
become one of the driving forces behind multichannel audio for the
next two decades. His work developing surround audio in the
professional and home theater consumer markets led to an
association with Dolby Laboratories; first as Director of Marketing
and later General Manager of Multichannel Audio & Music
Production and Hollywood Content Relations; an association which
continues to date as one of Dolby's technology strategists.
The original 5.1 surround music pioneer; John produced the first
5.1 music mixes for the introduction of Dolby Digital on Laserdisc.
He has since produced a number of critically acclaimed and best
selling surround music releases on DVD over the years for Warner
Music Group and Arista Records. His producer credits include
creating 5.1 titles for classic hit albums from Chicago, Deep
Purple, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Foreigner, whose 5.1 DVD
Audio release of "4" is one of the best selling DVD Audio surround
music releases of all time. He has also acted as a 5.1 surround
consulting producer for HBO (Britney Spears Live in Las Vegas),
Arista and BMG.
He continues creative life writing, recording, mixing and producing
projects in his studio in Santa Monica.
In 2005 John founded Jhana Music Group as a new, artist friendly
music label with a unique direct distribution concept as an outlet
his work and work he continues to do with artists from the U.S. and
Europe. Jhana Music Group, which is scheduled for launch in
John lives near Hollywood with his longtime significant other and
his daughter who an aspiring photographer, anthopologist, musician
Beyond Combo Audio, Rick became a finishing painter and artist in
Chicago. His work can be seen all over the city.
He also raised his son who, for a time, became a successful
Rick reports that one day he heard a djembe at a West African
drumming performance and it spoke to him. He took up the instrument
began performing and later teaching African drumming. He has
participated in or led drumming circles all over the globe. Rick is
a member of the African drumming ensemble Dahui in Chicago who
regular performs or leads workshops and drum circles.
Rick lives in Chicago with his significant other.
More information on Dahui and Rick's drumming workshops can be
Angus and John - 2007
In latter days and post Combo Audio, Angus toured Europe and the
U.S. extensively with Miles Davis, Peter Wolf and other artists.
Re-locating in Austria and Amsterdam for a time, Angus became a
staple in the European jazz club circuit. He continued performing
through the 90's and in Chicago with recording artist Nicholas
Tremulis. In the late 1990's Angus recorded and released a CD
called "The Overdog".
Angus moved to Los Angeles part time in the early 2000's to work
and play on television soundtracks like "King of Queens" and other
shows and commercials. He continues to perform and work in the
studio in LA when not in Europe performing or recording.
He currently resides in Amsterdam when not living inLos Angeles.
Tom Broeske - 2008
After his departure from Combo Audio, Tom went on to a number of
successful ventures in including forming Nix86 in the early 80's
which became immensely popular in the midwest circuits. Later, Tom
joined "Last Gentlemen" and would record and tour extensively
across the U.S., Europe and Canada.
Tom has played or currently plays with a number of artists and
projects including GinAtomics, the Spanics and others.
Tom lives near Madison Wisconsin with his wife and daughter and
regularly pays homage to his bass collection.
He has a great website where you can find out more what he is up to
Rocky's brief but brilliant tenure performing and recording with
Combo Audio was overwhelmed by his role as a member of 80's
pop/R&B phenomenon Champaign. Champaign had two big hits, "How
'bout us" and "Try Again". Rocky toured and recorded with Champaign
for several years as a writer, co-producer percussionist and
As Champaign's career dissolved, Rocky went on to write with
Champaign bandmate and partner, Michael Day. They created another
vehicle for their writing called Race.
After the brief stint writing and performing as part Race, Rocky
became a solo artist and returned to his roots, his love of
percussion instruments and writing. He began to perform and lead
percussion workshops and has performed with Rick from time to
Rocky also added "author" to his credits. In 2004, he wrote and
published "Rhythm and Beauty", a beautiful book on percussion and
percussion instruments from around the globe. Rhythm and Beauty was
very successful and is in hardcover and paperback multiple
printings. It is available on Amazon and in bookstore
In 2005 Rocky also wrote, recorded and released his first solo
album in years, "Everytown" with writing partner, collaborator and
keyboardist Neil Robinson and percussionist Chad Dunn.
John and Rocky have reunited and are working on Rocky's new album
which will be released via Jhana Music Group in 2008.
Rocky lives in Champaign, IL with his wife, choreographer Kate
Kuper and their nearly adult sons, Jake and Walker.
You can find out more about Rocky and his work, where to buy
"Everytown" and "Rhythm & Beauty at www.rockymaffit.com