Flash Cadillac's Sam McFadin
Flash Cadillac singer dies at 49
By G. Brown
Wednesday, September 05, 2001 - Old-time rock 'n' roll lost one of its most faithful practitioners when Sam "Flash" McFadin, the voice and guitar of Colorado band Flash Cadillac, died Friday of a heart attack at his home in Colorado Springs. He was 49.
Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids formed in the spring of 1969, six University of Colorado students who became known as the consummate party band by focusing on pre-Beatles rock 'n' roll. When the original "Flash" returned to school in 1971, the other members decided to make a go of it as a real working band. The first step was to find a new "Flash."
McFadin, a Colorado Springs fan of the band, was the only person considered for the job.
"When I knew they were going to audition me, I went down in my basement, played Chuck Berry riffs behind my back and drank beer to see if I could still play - it was the only intensive training I got before I was out on the road," McFadin said in later years.
Fronted by McFadin, Flash Cadillac gained instant popularity within the music industry. Known for its enthusiastic performances of vintage '50s and '60s music, the group appeared on the TV music series "American Bandstand," earned acclaim in the movies "American Graffiti" and "Apocalypse Now," and won the highest weekly rating on television's "Happy Days."
In the late '70s, stymied by major labels, the band purchased a little ranch near Woodland Park, outside Colorado Springs. The ranch served initially as a rehearsal hall, but over the years, the facility was built into a top-shelf recording studio. McFadin helped run several businesses at once - Flash Cadillac on the road (performing with symphony orchestras and playing corporate shows), in the studio and doing commercial work.
McFadin, always a strong, nuanced singer - many considered his "Tossin' And Turnin'" to be better than the 1961 Bobby Lewis original - refused to let Flash Cadillac be categorized as a nostalgia act.
"There's a type of music Flash Cadillac plays - good time, high energy - that has existed throughout rock 'n' roll history," he once said. "Rather than being nostalgic about it, saying it's all coming around again, we just consider it to be all that we know how to do. There are people who keep this kind of music alive."
Flash Cadillac has lost other cylinders through the years. In March 1993, guitarist Lynn Phillips had a heart attack after a show and died. Keyboardist Kris Moe, the band's chief songwriter with McFadin, has been fighting a debilitating muscular disease.
With McFadin's passing, Flash Cadillac may be put up on cinder blocks.
"It's uncertain," said Scott O'Malley, who has managed Flash Cadillac since 1982. "At this point in time, I'm canceling all the fall dates. Nobody feels like talking about it for a while. But the doors must stay open. Everyone thinks it would be a shame to put everything in finality after 31 years."
McFadin is survived by his wife, Annie, and two teenage daughters, Molly and Katherine.
A memorial will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Shove Chapel, 1010 N. Nevada Ave. in Colorado Springs on the Colorado College campus.
Contributions may be sent to the Sam McFadin Family Memorial Fund, c/o Western National Bank, 102 N. Cascade, Colorado Springs, CO 80903 (Attn: Billie).
Sam McFadin, voice of rock's Flash Cadillac, dies
By Bill Reed/The Gazette
Good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll lost one of its most faithful performers Friday.
Sam McFadin, the heart and soul of '50s-style rock 'n' roll band Flash Cadillac, died early Friday morning of a heart attack at his home in Colorado Springs. He was 49.
"Sam was just a real gentleman and a real credit to traditional rock 'n' roll music," said fellow band member Warren Knight.
From its very first gig at Boulder's rowdy Tulagi's saloon on Feb. 7, 1969, Flash Cadillac has been known as the consummate party band. McFadin joined the band as lead guitarist and vocalist in 1971, soon rocketing to national stardom when they appeared in the film "American Graffiti" in 1973.
"American Bandstand," "Happy Days," "Apocalypse Now" -- when Hollywood needed to put a face on traditional rock 'n' roll, it called on Flash Cadillac. And Sam McFadin was the voice of the classics.
"It was his voice," said Scott O'Malley, who has represented the band since 1982. "Sam's voice cut through the band. He was one of the best rock 'n' roll singers I ever heard."
McFadin adamantly opposed being labeled a nostalgia act, said O'Malley. He kept his eye on new challenges.
In the past decade, Flash Cadillac pioneered what began as a radical concept: teaming Flash's pure rock sound with a symphony orchestra. The band first performed with the Colorado Springs Symphony in 1992. The sold-out performances were such a success that Flash took the concept on the road, performing with 150 symphony orchestras across the country.
"It is a terrible loss for Colorado Springs and for music generally," said Christopher Wilkins, former music director of the Colorado Springs Symphony, from Columbus, Ohio. "Colorado Springs has had a long-term love affair with Sam McFadin and Flash Cadillac; he was a huge presence."
Wilkins admired McFadin's character off stage and on.
"As a performer, he was electrifying, and it didn't matter what night you heard him -- the ballads always soared; the rock numbers were always in a groove," Wilkins said. "He was dedicated to high standards and to having fun. Sam wasn't interested in performing if it didn't have both components."
Humility and charity were two hallmarks of McFadin's life. He was known for helping out Colorado Springs' charities with benefit concerts. Flash Cadillac most recently performed last weekend in a benefit for the Youth Outreach Center of Colorado Springs.
The Widefield High School graduate was regarded as a great family man; his two teen-age daughters were with him at the band's most recent show.
But fans will remember McFadin as the heart of the party.
"A love of the good-time rock 'n' roll is what kept the party going all these years," O'Malley said.
McFadin is survived by his wife, Annie; daughters Molly and Katherine; parents George and Barbara Crongeyer; brothers George and Ralph Crongeyer; and sisters Jennifer and Elizabeth Crongeyer.
A public memorial service is planned.
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