Doug Fieger was best known as lead singer of the Knack and co-writer with guitarist Berton Averre of that group's summer of 1979 number one smash and perennial favorite "My Sharona." His colorful and storied career went beyond that hit recording and the band that spawned it to reveal an array of escapades in the music industry dating back to when he was a young teen, as well as a more serious side including production work and/or interactions with Was Not Was, Ringo Starr, Roy Orbison, and other artists.
Fieger was three or four when he saw his first movie, and from that moment the stage was his goal, his major influence being, strangely enough, Danny Kaye. At the age of 12 he acted professionally and began staging Edward Albee plays while a teenager. The idea for young Fieger was not necessarily to just be a singer or musician; it was to be an entertainer. He described his parents as "fairly flamboyant" -- his father was a very successful labor lawyer, his mother a union organizer who put together the first teacher's strike in the United States. His sister Beth Fieger-Falkenstein writes for TV and movies, the two episodes of Mad About You with Yoko Ono at the piano coming from her pen, while brother Geoffrey Fieger is a high-profile attorney and onetime candidate for governor of Michigan.
Around February 1964 he picked up the guitar at age 11 and began jamming with John Coury, though he was playing piano and trumpet before that. At 13 years of age he and Coury formed the group Sky, the band being managed by the owner of the Grande Ballroom in Detroit. They made a demo and mailed it to Pete Townshend, since Fieger had met him and got the contact from their manager. The Who guitarist received the demo tape, but it wasn't until the Knack were emerging in 1978 that Townshend acknowledged he listened to the songs on the tape many times, singing one of them to a stunned Fieger on the phone all those years later. With no word from Townshend at the time, however, it was a connection with the band Traffic that led to the group's recordings with Jimmy Miller, the legendary producer for the Rolling Stones. The teenagers in Sky made a list of producers and at top of the list were George Martin and Jimmy Miller. Miller was producing Traffic and had just started producing the single "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and the album Beggars Banquet for the Rolling Stones. The other names on the list of potential Sky producers included Shel Talmy and Pete Townshend.
Fieger went to a party at Sky's manager's house and Traffic were there. Dave Mason was also there at that time, though he would come and go in that band. Mason gave Fieger the address of Jimmy Miller since Sky had opened Traffic shows a number of times. Fieger wrote to Miller, "You can ask Stevie Winwood about us, and if you're ever in Detroit....," and Jimmy Miller answered the letter, calling Fieger by phone, expressing interest in wanting to see the Motown studios. And he did. The band took him to Motown studios and brought him back to the Fieger house, where they sat around Fieger's parents' ping-pong table in the basement, listening to the Sky repertoire. The next morning Miller signed the group to a recording contract.
After Fieger graduated from high school, Miller took Sky to London and they recorded their first album at Olympic Studios, next door to the Stones recording Sticky Fingers. Sky recorded their second album at Mick Jagger's house using the Stones' mobile truck, their old friends in the Who recording "Won't Get Fooled Again" with that truck earlier in the day. London was amazing for the young Doug Fieger, who went there after graduation. The band hung out with the likes of Jeff Beck, Chris Wood, one of their producers Gary Wright, Andy Johns, Bobby Keys, Jim Price, the Plastic Ono Band's Alan White, and many others. Sky moved to Los Angeles at the suggestion of Jimmy Miller and eventually broke up due to youth and management hassles.
In 1971 Fieger met Bruce Gary, the first drummer of the Knack, with Berton Averre hooking up with them in 1973 on guitar. Fieger decided to put a band together and play live, and a showcase gig for a management company led to the creation of the Knack. They began packing clubs, with notables like Ray Manzarek, Bruce Springsteen, Stephen Stills, Eddie Money, Tom Petty, and others showing up to jam with them in concert. Looking for an original song to replace Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," they created "My Sharona," and the rest is history.
In subsequent years Doug Fieger liked to build cars and race them, and produced other acts in his home analog recording studio ("the kind of equipment we would've made Sky records on"). The Knack reunited for a benefit for the late Shel Myer, the first person to book the band; decided they liked performing together after the benefit concert; and continued to write, record, and perform into the new millennium with the voice of Doug Fieger and his songs steering the ship -- although they never again achieved the popularity that had come with "My Sharona." In the mid-2000s Fieger began experiencing serious health problems, undergoing surgery for brain tumors in 2006 and additional surgery and chemotherapy for lung cancer diagnosed in 2007. Fieger continued his battles with cancer for several years before succumbing in February 2010 at his home in Woodland Hills, CA, at the age of 57. Among Fieger’s last recorded performances was a guest vocal spot on former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick’s 2010 release BK3; Fieger sang lead vocals on the power pop number “Dirty Girl.” ~ Joe Viglione