Jeff Keith (1958–)
Vocalist Jeff Keith is best known for his work as lead singer of the popular American “hair metal” band Tesla, which he joined in 1982. Although Keith spent most of his life in northern California and the small town of Idabel in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, he was born in Arkansas in Texarkana (Miller County). Keith has performed on numerous tours with artists such as Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, Poison, Van Halen, David Lee Roth, and Led Zeppelin. He is also known for his support of Toys for Tots, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Nor Cal Clean and Sober Living through his annual Ride for Reason concerts.
Jeffrey Lynn Keith was born on October 12, 1958, in Texarkana. When Keith was two years old, his family moved to Georgetown, California, where his musician father played at the Georgetown Hotel. Then, Keith moved to Idabel, Oklahoma, with his mother, Anita, and sister Joey. He later moved to Douglasville, Georgia, where he graduated from Robert S. Alexander High School. He rejoined his father, now living in Sacramento, California, and formed a band called Troubleshooter with his brother and bassist Pete Pedri. In 1982, Keith joined a band called City Kidd with guitarist Frank Hannon and bassist Brian Wheat. Drummer Troy Luccketta and guitarist Tommy Skeoch joined in 1984.
By the mid-1980s, City Kidd was seeking a record deal in Los Angeles, California. Reportedly, the band was halfway through recording its first album, Mechanical Resonance, when its management at Geffen Records suggested changing the name of the band to “Tesla,” after famous inventor Nikola Tesla. Keith and his bandmates liked the name. Keith said in an interview with the Dallas Observer that “at first, we thought the name sounded weird, but it sounds normal today. The logo was inspired by Tesla’s tower and his idea of providing free electricity. The companies didn’t like that. JP Morgan and Edison had him shut down. Tesla died penniless, but he had a passion for inventions like we have a passion for music. We write songs from the heart. We’ve always stayed true to ourselves. We’ve remained a blue-collar rock and roll band….We are regular guys and I think that is appealing to our fans.”
Tesla released its first album, Mechanical Resonance, in 1986. The album contained some of the band’s most well-known tracks such as “Ez Come Ez Go,” “Comin’ Atcha Live,” “Rock Me to the Top,” and “Modern Day Cowboy.” Tesla released its second album, The Great Radio Controversy, in 1989, sporting another hit single called “Love Song.” Another three albums followed for Geffen Records, including 1990’s Five Man Acoustical Jam—a live album featuring acoustic versions of hits, as well as a number of covers (most notably a version of “Signs,” a 1971 hit by the Five Man Electrical Band)—before the band recorded Replugged Live for BMG and Castle Communications in 2001. In 1996, Tesla broke up following a concert in Reno, Nevada, during which Keith lost his voice. Keith formed another band with Skeoch called Bar 7 (first called Sofa King). By 2000, Tesla had reunited. In 2001, Keith organized his first Ride for Reason charity event to benefit local charities.
Tesla’s seventh album, Standing Room Only, was released by Sanctuary Records in 2002. In 2004, the band released Into the Now. That year, Keith and the original line-up performed a reunion show at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, and he decided to get clean and sober. In 2007, Tesla created its own label, Tesla Electric. The band released five albums under Tesla Electric, beginning with Reel to Reel (two volumes) in 2007 to 2014’s Simplicity.
Keith began working on a solo country album with Kent Goodson and Pat Boone of Nashville, to be titled Jeff Keith and Country Music Friends.
For additional information:
“Jeff Keith.” Tesla. https://teslatheband.com/band/member/jeff-keith/ (accessed April 23, 2019).
Jurkowski, Vickie. “Hard-Rocking, Health-Minded Tesla Busy as Ever.” Daily Southtown, February 10, 2017. https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/lifestyles/ct-sta-tesla-concert-st-0217-20170208-story.html (accessed April 23, 2019).
Smyers, Darryl. “Tesla’s Jeff Keith: ‘Management Told Us Everything about Nikola Tesla.’” Dallas Observer, July 15, 2014. Online at https://www.dallasobserver.com/music/teslas-jeff-keith-management-told-us-everything-about-nikola-tesla-7061043 (accessed April 23, 2019).
“Tesla.” Allmusic.com. https://www.allmusic.com/artist/tesla-mn0000029808/(accessed April 23, 2019).
Cody Lynn Berry
Last Updated: 04/23/2019