Roger Fisher pauses while jamming in the garden at his Monroe home. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Roger Fisher pauses while jamming in the garden at his Monroe home. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Monroe resident Roger Fisher reflects on his time with Heart

He was a co-founder of the Seattle group that rose to worldwide fame in the 1970s. He left the band when his romance with Nancy Wilson went south.

You may not know his name, but you probably know his guitar intro.

Roger Fisher, the original guitarist of the band Heart, wrote the riff for the song “Barracuda.”

That “Barracuda” riff, which was voted Best Guitar Riff of All Time by Ultimate Classic Rock magazine in 2017, is a favorite to play in sports broadcasts and political campaigns.

Fisher, who has lived in Monroe since 2008, was with the band Heart from 1967 to 1979, playing lead and rhythm guitar, steel guitar and mandolin.

Now 71, Fisher founded the Seattle rock band with bassist Steve Fossen — but it went by the names The Army, White Heart and Hocus Pocus before members settled on just Heart in 1973.

“We discovered that ‘Heart’ was a good name for a band because it can have different meanings,” said Fossen, also 71, who met Fisher at Kenmore Junior High School. “You could think of it as the heart of music, heart and soul, beat of a heart — there are all kinds of ways to interpret the name.”

It became a female-fronted band — rare at the time — when Ann Wilson joined in 1972, followed by her sister Nancy in 1974.

Heart’s original lineup is Roger Fisher (guitar), Steve Fossen (bass), Ann Wilson (lead vocals and flute), Nancy Wilson (rhythm guitar, backing and occasional lead vocals), Michael Derosier (drums) and Howard Leese (guitar and keyboards).

Fisher was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with these core members of Heart, in 2013.

“Me and Derosier would go down to sound checks every day and just shred until they shut us up,” said Fisher, whose brother Mike was the band manager. “They were still setting up the PA system, and we could set up our amps and drums and just play. One of those times, we were jamming away, and my brother comes running up to the stage and says, ‘What is that?!’ He said, ‘That could be a really good song. You should write a song to that.’”

So they did. The song they wrote is “Barracuda.”

Heart, influenced by hard rock and heavy metal, rose to fame following the release of their debut album, “Dreamboat Annie,” in 1975. The band has sold more than 35 million records, charted 20 Top 40 singles and seven Top 10 albums on Billboard and earned four Grammy nominations.

Heart’s top singles include “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda,” “What About Love,” “Never,” and “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You,” along with No. 1 hits “These Dreams” and “Alone.”

In addition to helping to write “Barracuda,” Fisher also gets credit for the Heart songs “Dream Of The Archer,” “Crazy On You,” “Go On Cry,” “Love Alive,” “Bebe Le Strange,” “Little Queen,” “Sing Child Sing,” “Sylvan Song,” “Mistral Wind” and “Say Hello.”

Heart fans will know this story: An infuriated Ann Wilson wrote the lyrics to the hit song “Barracuda” after a reporter suggested that she and Nancy weren’t actually sisters but lesbian lovers.

Of course, that was ridiculous. The Fisher brothers and Wilson sisters had found romance, with Mike dating Ann and Roger dating Nancy.

“It was love at first sight,” Roger Fisher said. “I don’t know how this stuff happens. It’s like there are angels pulling strings. The Fisher brothers got together with the Wilson sisters — and it was just fantastic while it worked. It was a really powerful combination.”

After the release of the “Dog & Butterfly” album, Roger Fisher and Nancy Wilson split up. In 1979, Fisher was voted out of the band.

“That was painful,” he said. “But it was also a huge relief for me, because I was still in love with Nanc.”

After Heart, Fisher joined other bands: Alias, The Clever Bastards, Roger Fisher and The Human Tribe and Born to Fly. He’s still in the last two.

Fisher formed the band Alias in 1990 with vocalist Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi, of the Canadian rock band Sheriff, as well as fellow ex-Heart members Fossen on bass and Derosier on drums.

Alias had a few hits, most notably the song “More Than Words Can Say,” which in 2005 was featured in a Subway sandwich commercial.

The band performed twice on “The Tonight Show” — once with Johnny Carson and once with Jay Leno. The group disbanded in 1990 while touring to promote their album.

Both the bands Roger Fisher and the Human Tribe and Born to Fly are made up of Fisher (guitar, mandolin and vocals), Carol Ann Wood (vocals and guitar), Brian Thompson (vocals and guitar), Marty Hoyle (vocals and piano), Jimmy Cliff (vocals and bass) and Burke Thomas (drums).

Throughout his career, Fisher has toured the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, Uzbekistan, Russia and the Czech Republic, performing for as many as 300,000 fans at a single show. In addition to the guitar, he sings and plays the electric sitar, mandolin and djembe.

“Solo shows are great because they’re challenging,” said Fisher, who picked up the guitar at 15 while growing up in Brier. “There’s no more difficult thing than playing by yourself with the audience hearing every note. The pressure is really on and I need that — otherwise, I’m so lazy, I’ll let myself rot.”

He’ll never forget when Heart opened for Rod Stewart at the Montreal Forum on Oct. 24, 1975. Heart wasn’t originally scheduled to open for Stewart; the band was only called in after the original opener bailed. The radio play of “Magic Man” led them to offer the spot to Heart.

“We go out on the stage, and the audience just goes nuts,” Fisher said, adding that Heart didn’t expect Canadians to be familiar with their music. “That had never happened before. They went crazy because they loved the music already. We were stars to them because we were on the radio.”

Another unforgettable time for Fisher is a performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 18, 2013. The original members of Heart reunited for the first time in 34 years to play “Crazy on You.” The band was inducted by a fellow Seattleite, the late Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave.

“We ran through the song like we had been playing it for years,” he said. “It was so good.”

Now, Fisher likes to perform at the Edmonds Center for the Arts. A lot of times it’s a Valentine’s Day show because his birthday is Feb. 14.

Fisher will play some of his Heart favorites, but it’s not his focus. He continues to release new material, produced by his brother Mike, who inspired the popular Heart song “Magic Man.”

Meanwhile, Heart co-founder Fossen has formed the band Heart by Heart. The band, which also features original Heart drummer Derosier, who lives near Maltby, is a favorite at the Historic Everett Theatre and the Tulalip Resort Casino. They play all of Heart’s radio hits.

Heart by Heart started as a duo — Fossen and Somar Macek, of Lake Stevens, in 2008. They married eight years later.

Today the band, which has been touring the U.S. since 2014, is made up of Fossen (bass), Derosier (drums), Macek (vocals), Lizzy Daymont (guitar, keyboard and vocals) and Chad Quist (guitar).

“You want to hear the songs played like they were — as you remember them,” Fossen said. “That’s been our goal. We try to recreate the songs so that you can get a nostalgic feeling when you hear them. We’re more than a tribute, because we actually have members that were in Heart.”

With his brother Mike’s help, Fisher has recorded three albums for the rock band Roger Fisher and the Human Tribe and one album with the Americana band Born to Fly. That record, “Reach For The Sky,” will be released this year.

The One Vision Project encompasses all of Mike and Roger’s work, including songs, videos, books, games and live performances. When finished, the project will feature four albums: “All Told,” “Forest Rain,” “Evolution” and “Big Game,” one of which has already been released. The Fisher brothers also have designed guitars, speaker systems, jewelry, clothes, cologne, whiskey and tea.

In addition, the Fishers are writing a dual-autobiography — with the working title “Bros” — in which they promise to share never-before-told stories from their time with Heart. Like when Roger Fisher was voted out of the band.

“It’s really a complex story involving behind-the-scenes things that nobody knows about,” he said. “Even things we’re just finding out about now. You’ll have to read our book.”

Roger Fisher talks about his One Vision Project in his home studio. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Roger Fisher talks about his One Vision Project in his home studio. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Roger Fisher discography

Heart

1976: “Dreamboat Annie”

1977: “Little Queen”

1977: “Magazine”

1978: “Dog & Butterfly”

1979: “Bebe Le Strange”

1980: “Greatest Hits / Live”

Alias

1990: “Alias”

Roger Fisher and the Human Tribe

2016: “All Told”

2018: “Heart of the Blues”

Born to Fly

2021: “Reach For The Sky”

Washington North Coast Magazine

This article is featured in the fall issue of Washington North Coast Magazine, a supplement of The Daily Herald. Explore Snohomish and Island counties with each quarterly magazine. Each issue is $3.99. Subscribe to receive all four editions for $14 per year. Call 425-339-3200 or go to www.washingtonnorthcoast.com for more information.

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