Foresthill's Clausman gets Tesla-charged tribute

Auburn show gives band members chance to say "thanks"
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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***For more on the tribute, see April 3 Media Life column by Gus Thomson at this website*** Tesla band members said "thank you" Saturday night to Foresthill's Steve Clausman the best way they know how - with their music. Clausman, an Auburn entrepreneur, managed the group from 1983 to 1984, when members were still teenagers and they were called City Kidd. Tesla bassist Brian Wheat, guitarist Frank Hannon and singer Jeff Keith took the stage Saturday at Auburn's Pistol Pete's as part of a night-long tribute to Clausman, who died Dec. 30. Wheat and Hannon started their closing set with a bluesy "Clausie Stomp," segued into an emotional slide-guitar solo by Hannon on the traditional "Amazing Grace," and then returned to the hard-driving core of Tesla's sound with covers of George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone" and Rush's "Working Man." Wheat, Hannon and Keith shared onstage reminiscences in front of a crowd of about 300. Auburn's Fabulous Torpedos opened the evening and Foresthill's Barking at Flies - featuring tribute organizer and former Montrose singer Paul Holdgate - warmed up the audience before a stirring closing performance by Wheat, Keith, Hannon and backing musicians. Wheat said Clausman, who had an aftermarket auto parts business on Auburn's Canal Street at the time, drove the band to succeed, insisting on eight-hour practices and creating an work ethic that served Tesla well after it signed a record contract in 1985. The South Sacramento band would go on to major recording success with songs like "Signs" and multi-platinum albums "The Great Radio Controversy" and "Psychotic Supper." "He provided us with the tools we needed," Wheat said. "He had a really good heart and was very giving." Band members kept in touch with Clausman over the years. Wheat said there was rarely a day when the two weren't on the phone to each other. In one telling moment, Keith said that he'd still be hauling septic tanks - the job he had when he joined City Kidd - without Clausman's early push in the right direction. "This one goes out to Steve Clausman," Keith announced, as Hannon began the first chords of Led Zeppelin's "Thank You." The tribute also served as a fundraiser, with proceeds going to Foresthill's Music in Our Schools program. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at, or post a comment at