Randy Cierley

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Randy Cierley -- who is often credited as Randy Sterling, and sometimes as Randy Steirling, Randy Stierling, and Randy Cerley -- grew up in Bakersfield, CA, and took up guitar and bass at an early age,…
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Randy Cierley -- who is often credited as Randy Sterling, and sometimes as Randy Steirling, Randy Stierling, and Randy Cerley -- grew up in Bakersfield, CA, and took up guitar and bass at an early age, just in time to catch the full second wave of rock & roll at the end of the '50s as a high school student. In high school, he played with Rick Lee & the Barons, backing the Paradons on their single "Diamonds and Pearls" in 1959. Soon after that he played on another single, "Lovers Island" by the Blue Jays, and after that he headed to Los Angeles with the intention of being a professional musician. He played hundreds of sessions over the next few years -- he wasn't always sure what the session was for or who the artist was whose voice would finally end up on it -- in 2004, he recalled a series of sessions with Gerry McGhee and Larry Taylor (later of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart's backing band) under the name the Blue Hills, of an album of "folk songs with a beat," but he never knew if it was released. He does remember playing on lots of sessions with Randy Sparks of the New Christy Minstrels, but it was when he went to work for Sonny & Cher and also for Cher as a solo artist that he hit his stride, playing on "All I Really Want to Do" and "I Got You Babe," among other songs for them.

Partly complicating a list of his credits was the fact that he changed his name to Randy Sterling during this period, because of people's difficulty spelling or pronouncing Randy Cierley -- but that was still how he got his checks, and he found any of four variations turning up on session records, when he was credited at all. Among the stranger sessions that he played in the mid-'60s was the one for the Kingston Trio album Somethin' Else, on which the folk trio tried, for the first and only time, for an electric rock sound. He recalled that set of sessions as "truly somethin' else," because the three folk musicians clearly weren't comfortable with the sound they were aiming for -- "John [Stewart] thought he was more of a rock and roller than he really was," he remarked of the sessions, which yielded songs that sounded like the folk trio being backed, variously, by the Byrds, the Standells, and the Sir Douglas Quintet, and did get Cierley a composing credit. It was out of those sessions that he went to work with the trio's manager, Frank Werber, arranging "You Were on My Mind" and co-producing the Sons of Champlin and the Association, among other acts.

He later engaged in an abortive attempt to cut an album as part of an official group with drummer Jim Keltner for Warner Bros. that got buried under studio politics, though he and Keltner ended up working together for a long time afterward on other people's sessions. He spent three years working as part of the road band behind Neil Diamond and ended up being one of the busiest session musicians in Los Angeles as a result, playing with Frank Zappa, J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne, Frank Sinatra, and Cal Tjader, among numerous others. After a few years of this, however, he decided to pull back and spent seven years as a photographer, ending up working in video and audio production for commercials. His plans to establish his own company came to an abrupt end, however, when a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed below the chest and confined to a wheelchair. In the wake of that disaster, he lost his wife and his family, He survived long enough to meet up with some other musicians and become part of a trio called Spare Change with David Morgan and Stacey Slaughter in the early '90s. He has continued to play -- and recorded four albums with Spare Change -- since then.