Last Friday, we learned that Bradley Delp, lead singer of Boston, had passed away. The news came as a shock to everybody, including Tom Scholz, Delp’s partner in the classic ’70s band. In his first public comments since Delp’s death, Scholz has reached out to Rolling Stone to talk about his friend and collaborator. In an extensive Q&A, Scholz reminisces about his first audition with Bradley and explains why Delp was such a great rock vocalist.
How did you first meet Brad?
I met Brad, soft spoken and unassuming, when he auditioned in a recording studio outside of Boston one night to sing several songs I had written. Back then in the early ’70s recording a song demo meant coming up with a significant amount of money, several weeks of my day-job savings, to buy a few hours of 8 track time.
How soon after hearing him sing did you want him in your band?
Having endured countless sessions with other singers, most with undeserved egos, I had only the faintest glimmer of hope that he might be good enough to squeak by as a suitable vocalist.
What qualities did his voice have that made him such a perfect vocalist for your music?
He didn’t warm up; he just listened to the prerecorded instrument track once. Then he started to sing. I don’t know if it took two seconds or three, but before he finished singing the first line I knew that some guardian angel had just delivered to me one of the best vocalists ever to step up to a microphone! Then he kept going and I realized he wasn’t just one of the best, he was amazing! High notes I hadn’t heard before followed by harmonies, and overdubbed exact duplicate layered tracks, all with ease, all with emotion and yet all technically precise.
Before we left that night he had rewritten the lyrics and the melody, sung all the vocal parts and with the magic of his voice turned my stark guitar riff into a song! From that moment on I only hoped I could write and record music worthy of his attention and interpretation.
There were soulful notes that pulled you into the song, stratospheric screams and angelic high notes, and after hitting these record-breaking notes he’d go back and sing a harmony part above it! He didn’t rehearse any of these parts, he could jump back and forth between harmony parts, double tracking parts and then go back and do it again exactly the same with one tiny change, adjusting all the other singing parts to fit with bionic accuracy.
An album as huge as Boston’s debut would probably make give many singers swelled heads, but Brad always seemed very humble. How did he avoid the trappings of fame?
You’d think anyone with this super human talent would be an insufferable egomaniac. But Brad was just the opposite, and amazingly he remained honestly humble in spite of the incredible star pressure that followed Boston’s success.
How would you describe Brad to someone who had never met him?
Brad and I banged our heads against the wall trying to get a break with record companies for five years. During that time he and I did a lot of basement recording; we received absolutely zero recognition locally and complete rejection submitting our demos to national record labels. I think this experience put our future success in perspective as we both realized that after so many years of insult, we were just very lucky to be able to record and play music above ground! Unlike many other individuals eventually involved with Boston, Brad’s down-to-earth personality never wavered; it was his natural demeanor.
What was your working relationship like with Brad? Would you bounce ideas off him?
When someone asked me what Brad was like, the first words that always came to mind were “nice guy.” Oddly, his incredible performing abilities seem barely worth mentioning compared to his attributes as a human being. He was soft spoken yet very quick and funny. Although I rarely remember seeing him in the throws of a good belly laugh, he could keep the people around him in stitches effortlessly, and did so on a daily basis. When he wasn’t making someone laugh, or giving his time to a fan, he was a tireless worker, both in the studio and on stage.
How did your relationship evolve over the years?
He and I had a very strong personal connection because of our moral beliefs, yet we were drastically different kinds of people. While I am rebellious and easily provoked to an unyielding defense, Brad was passive and studiously non-confrontational.
Somehow over the years I think we both grew not only to accept this in each other, but to respect it; I think this is part of the reason we were able to work together for so much of our lives. In an odd parallel we were also opposites in the studio. Once Brad laid down a vocal track he became instantly committed to it and would dig in if challenged, whereas I would want to change everything and never be sure. We were usually at odds on how vocal arrangements should go, which in early years caused heated debates. Later we both developed such respect for each other’s abilities that the collaboration, so important to the eventual outcome of Boston’s music, became much easier. It was largely my music, but it was Brad who brought it to life, and this struggle we both had to endure was part of what made it so many people’s favorite.
When was the last time you saw him?
I last saw Brad at rehearsal last month where we prepared several old and new songs for our upcoming summer shows. These are my fondest memories, playing music with my friend and the greatest singer in rock and roll.