Steve Fossen, founder of the legendary rock group Heart, was supposed to be cleaning up the butcher shop at an IGA, but he had quit.
His dad was mad when he found out.
“I’m making more money playing bass than I did at the meat market,” said Fossen, whose band Heart by Heart will be playing Aug. 26 at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds in Bremerton. That group also features Michael DeRosier, the original drummer for Heart.
When Fossen was 15, his dad “got sick of me talking about the bass all the time,” so he rented one for him in 1965. “He thought I’d probably mess around with it for a few days then it would sit in a corner and collect dust. Little did he know…”
As time went by, his dad would ask him, “When are you going to get a real job?” Fossen explained he works and gets paid. “Isn’t that what they do at a job?” His dad didn’t really accept that until he made it big, Fossen said.
Born in Seattle in 1949, Fossen played the trumpet and went to Ingraham High School. He liked groups like the Everly Brothers for their harmonies. He was also a fan of Elvis, Roy Orbison and Ray Charles. He was inspired to play bass by Paul McCartney with the Beatles during the British Invasion.
He started his first band in 1967 in his dad’s basement with longtime friend Roger Fischer. They said to each other, “Let’s make a band and not quit until we make it big.” It wasn’t easy finding the right combination. “We went through members like crazy because they wanted to do it as a hobby or as Weekend Warriors. But we had that determination and drive. You know those kind of people who are annoying to be around. That was us.”
In 1969 the band was called Whiteheart then settled on the name Heart. In 1972 they put an ad in the paper for a singer, drummer and guitar player. “Ann Wilson answered the ad and passed the audition.”
Once she and her sister Nancy came on board in 1974 that’s when the group reached superstar status. That band has sold 35 million records with six Top 10 albums and 20 singles in the Top 40. It’s rated 57th all-time on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. And the band made the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
Their top-selling songs include “Barracuda,” “Crazy on You,” and “Magic Man,” Fossen’s favorite, “although that’s like choosing a favorite child.” It was the first song recorded on their breakout album “Dreamboat Annie.” It was their first song played on the radio. “That’s when most of the world was introduced to Heart.” Fossen’s work on the song made the list of the Top 100 Insanely Memorial Bass performances.
The group had worldwide success until it broke up in 1982. Two members were voted out, then Fossen and DeRosier left when they were at “loggerheads” with the Wilson sisters. They wanted to go in a more mellow direction, while the drummer and bass players wanted to stick with the rock model they had been so successful with.
Over the next 26 years, Fossen tried a number of different things. He played with Stripes out of Tacoma which performed half original and half cover songs. They played in places like Osaka, Japan. He then joined with DeRosier and another musician to form a trio for a few years that did original songs.
He joined a band called Alias out of Toronto that did well touring in Canada and performing with REO Speedwagon, Dennis DeYoung of Styx and Donny Osmond. They performed on The Tonight Show, once with Johnny Carson and once with Jay Leno.
The Grunge scene then hit Seattle and Fossen would go to small venues downtown to listen to groups like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. “But that was hard on my liver, if you know what I mean,” he said.
Realizing he was at a “dead end,” Fossen went completely the opposite way and became a mountaineer. For the next 10 years, he climbed Mount Rainier and others in the state numerous times. “It’s the opposite of rock music. You do everything on your own and no one sees it.” He enjoyed “camping out in the wilderness and all that entails.”
His newest band was born in 2008 when he and DeRosier were asked to play some Heart songs in downtown Seattle. They selected Somar Macek to perform with them. That developed into a romance, and they formed a duo called Heart by Heart, “as they were in love singing next to each other.” They got married, and later were asked to play with country great Dwight Yoakum in Anchorage, AK. They thought a duo wouldn’t be enough for that gig so they added DeRosier and Randy Hansen, a Jimi Hendrix artist.
Yoakum ended up canceling the gig, but their band was formed, they put together a website, and they got a number of bookings on the East Coast.
Heart by Heart does have some originals, but their main goal during performances is to be as true as possible to the Heart originals.
“Classic radio has kept Heart alive,” he said. “It’s such a joy to watch people smiling, listening intently to our music. I’m so grateful people love our music after all these years.”
Bass philosophy: I like to do a bunch of stuff, but it needs to be something that’s gonna fit. There needs to be a balance. “I want to contribute but not distract.”
Favorite concert: Cotton Bowl in 1978, hanging out with Van Halen and Ted Nugent.
Favorite hikes: Mountain Loop Highway areas like Mount Pilchuck and the ice caves. “Every weather condition. Dangerous and fun.”
Embarrassing moment: Taking too long and getting locked in their private plane. Luckily, it had been a hot day so a window in the pilot’s cockpit was left open. Someone in their limo saw him waving just as they were about to leave. “The others got a kick out of that.”
Heart reunion: “The guys would be open to it.” The Wilsons actually had a falling out but reconciled in 2019. “A Reunion Tour would do a lot for the legacy of Heart.”