One of the hottest tours of the summer was The Beach Boys/Brian Wilson reunion. On the list of legendary bands who are estranged from important former (living) members, Santana ranks high.  So what would it take to get the group’s original singer, Gregg Rolie, back into the fold for an album and/or tour?

Rolie tells CBS Local that it should be pretty simple: “It’s just a matter of putting it together and going and doing it. We’ve talked about it a number of times, but it never comes to fruition.  I would do it, I think it’s a great idea, people would love it.  It could be great!”

Rolie, a founding member of Santana, played on their first four albums. The first three, Santana (1969), Abraxas (1970) and III (1971) are classic rock albums in the truest sense of the world, yielding songs including “Waiting,” “Evil Ways,” “Soul Sacrifice,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Oye Como Va” and “No One To Depend On.” The fourth album, Caravanserai, saw the band go in a much jazzier direction, after which Rolie decided to leave the band.

“Playing the stuff that was on Caravanserai, I liked the exploration of it, but I didn’t want to make it the mainstay, and that’s what happened,” Rolie tells CBS Local. He adds that the focus of the band became improvisational instrumental jamming:  “The songs went away. I thought it was a mistake, I didn’t want to do it. It’s not my cup of tea. It was time to go.”

He left the group at the same time as guitarist Neal Schon; the two later formed Journey. But Schon wasn’t a founding member of Santana (his first album was III), and wasn’t inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of the group. Should he have gotten in with the rest of the band?  “That would have been fine with me,” Rolie says. “But (the induction) was really based upon the original creators of that music. It’s about making a mark in music, and Santana had done so before Neal joined.”  Journey, of course, has been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for years, but haven’t made the ballot.

The current version of Santana kick off their latest string of dates at the House Of Blues in Las Vegas on September 12.  Gregg Rolie just finished a few weeks touring as a member of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, followed by a brief tour fronting his own group.

— Brian Ives, CBS Local 


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