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GONZO WEEKLY #151: Jon meets Corky

Corky Laing is one hell of a living legend, best known as the drummer for American hard rockers Mountain since soon after the band’s breakthrough performance at the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969.  A native of Montreal, Quebec, Laing was the youngest in a family of five children. His eldest sister Carol was followed by triplet brothers, Jeffrey, Leslie, and Stephen, and then by Corky. According to Corky, his brothers called him "Gorky" because they could not pronounce his given name "Gordon". "Gorky" eventually morphed into Corky, a moniker which has remained with him throughout his career.

Getting his break playing drums for vocal group The Ink Spots in 1961, he later played in a group called Energy, who were produced by Cream collaborator and Laing's future band mate Felix Pappalardi. Laing left Energy in 1969 to replace drummer N.D. Smart in hard rock outfit and heavy metal forerunner Mountain, who, with Laing at the drum kit, released three albums and the classic song "Mississippi Queen" between 1970 and 1971. After the band's first breakup the following year, Laing and Mountain band mate Leslie West went on to form blues-rockpower trio West, Bruce and Laing with former Cream bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce. West, Bruce and Laing produced two studio albums and a live release before Mountain reformed in 1974 and released two more albums, Avalanche and the live Twin Peaks, only to break up again shortly after. The band would once again reconvene in 1985 upon the release of Go For Your Life, and Laing has continued with them to this day, most recently working on the band's 2007 Bob Dylan cover album Masters of War.

In late 1977, he recorded an album with John Cale (former Velvet Underground member), Ian Hunter (from Mott the Hoople) and Mick Ronson. This album wasn't released.

In addition to Mountain, he has recorded as the group Cork, with Spin Doctors guitarist/vocalist Eric Schenkman and Noel Redding, formerly bass guitarist of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. In late 1975, he played congas on several tracks on Bo Diddley's all-star album The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll.

In 2003, Laing and Leslie West authored Nantucket Sleigh ride and Other Mountain on-the-Road Stories, a chronicle of their time with Mountain in its heyday and their careers in the years following.

Laing lives in Toronto's historic Liberty Village and was interviewed for the 2006 documentary film Liberty Village - Somewhere in Heaven. He contributed the music for the film from recordings of his band Cork.

In 2007, Laing recorded Stick It!, the audio version of his memoirs with Cory Bruyea in Oakville, Ontario.

Corky has an interest in education and was present at the KoSA Music Camp in Vermont for the summer 2012.

I have interviewed Corky on a number of occasions since working on the re-issued version of his auto-biography, and publicising his extraordinary rock opera. It was co-authoured by two professors of philosophy from Finland, and covers the morally thorny subject of bio-ethics. This heavyweight meeting of rock and roll and hard core philosophy is I believe without parallel, and is a fascinating new departure for one of the nicest heavy rockers I know.

As always it was a pleasure to talk to Corky and our conversation covered some fairly heavy subjects, including Corky’s poignant account of what happened when band mate Leslie West had his leg amputated; something which resonates particularly with me because I, too, am diabetic, and I, too, have burgeoning problems with my lower limbs…

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