Michael Fonfara was born August 11, 1946, near
Niagara Falls, in Ontario, Canada. As a young child, Michael was
into piano lessons once his parents recognized that he was replicating
the musical sounds he heard coming from the radio. It soon became
a labour of love which he fervently practised with an undaunted compulsion.
Michael excelled far beyond his peers in classical piano at the Toronto
Conservatory of Music and won dozens of coveted music awards, thus
beginning his lifelong passion for the keyboards.
Fonfara blossomed into a much sought after player and
eventually into a world-class arranger/producer of many of today’s artists,
with over 35 years of experience in live music, radio and television productions.
His knowledge of quality studio sound effects and musical soundtracks is
vast. Moreover, he is an enthusiastic, results-oriented team player
with sound business judgment. Although his credentials are too numerous
to list them all here, it is licit to at least mention his career
In 1963 Michael joined Jon/Lee and the Checkmates,
who performed at the Grand Opening of Toronto’s City Hall to an
audience of over 60 000 people. Two years later they were selected to play
at Maple Leaf Gardens as the opening act for The Rolling Stones.
Stardom had truly arrived for Michael as he received offer
after offer to tour with some of rock’s most interesting icons. In
the mid 1960s, top US blues band The Electric Flag, offered
Michael a chance to join their recording project called, “Long Time
Coming”, after seeing him perform. Their subsequent national
tour was a grueling endeavor of hectic one night performances all across
Upon completion of his contractual obligations with The
Electric Flag, Michael joined another top recording act signed to ELEKTRA
called Rhinoceros in 1967. Their smash hit entitled “Apricot
Brandy” was co-written by Michael on the Album “Rhinoceros 1968”.
Their fame allowed Rhinoceros to play on many stages with such great late
rock icons as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Michael
stayed with this combo for approximately five years and recorded three
complete albums during that time frame.
The years of constant touring took its toll on Michael
and the other band members, who longed for the creative seclusion of the
recording studio. As luck would have it, Paul Rothchild, the
producer of Janis Joplin, Paul Butterfield, and Jim Morrison and The Doors,
was looking to formulate another top recording group. Right from
the start, Rothchild recognized not only Michael’s classical keyboard training,
but also his spontaneous musical ingenuity. Rothchild thus selected
Michael and three other players from the disbanded Rhinoceros group to
form a new band called Blackstone in 1972. Fonfara was elated
to be in the studio again as they recorded their legendary LP called “On
the Line”. This successful venture with Blackstone opened the
door to other coveted recording sessions with the likes of The
Everly Brothers, Loving Spoonful’s John Sebastian, Ry Cooder,
and Buddy Emmons.
In 1974, the subsequent release of another chart topper
LP called “Stories We Could Tell”, caught Lou Reed’s attention.
The eventual Lou Reed and Michael union was a strategic career move for
Michael as together they recorded seven LP’s in the ensuing years.
The albums, “The Bells” and “Take No Prisoners”, were produced
by Michael as well as co-writing and production credits on “Growing
up In Public”.
Perhaps Michael’s greatest ability is his incredible talent
as a musical arranger and producer. Michael has added immeasurably
to hundreds of recording sessions. To name just a few - Rough
Trade, Tycoon, Foreigner, The Lincolns, B.B.
King, Booker T & the M.G’s, Joe Mavety, Peter
Sabourin, Scott MacKinnon, Rodeo Drive, Blue Willow,
Bag, Kim Remus, The Greivous Angels, and the list
goes on and on.
Since 1990 to the present day, Michael is the touring
keyboard player for The Downchild Blues Band. Furthermore,
he has acted as musical arranger and producer for three of their LPs and
can be seen at various locations across North America. Suffice it
to say, Michael has quickly become one of the busiest and most versatile
keyboardists and arranger/producers in North America today.