After Craig graduated high school, he went to Everett Community College (ECC) to study business, with the intention of completing his education at the University of Washington (UW). While he was not a music major, Craig participated in all of ECC’s music programs, including the school’s jazz band. He adored music and grew up as a jazz drummer. He later switched to rock. He explained, “The minute you see The Beatles you think, I want to do that; girls scream!”
Craig graduated from ECC with his associate’s degree and was accepted into the Michael G. Foster School of Business at UW. As an incoming junior, he had some extra time before he had to sign up for fall classes. When some guys he had met while playing jazz competitions invited him to join their band for a summer tour, he agreed. Craig traveled across the country, playing big band music at not-so-big venues. Craig called it the “Holiday Inn Circuit.”
“I just fell in love with it,” said Craig, “I was having the time of my life.”
Meanwhile, the letters from UW urging Craig to register for classes kept coming. He knew he had to have “the talk” with his parents. “I was thinking they would, of course, encourage me to get to the University of Washington immediately. But surprisingly, they didn’t,” recalled Craig. Instead, Craig’s parents asked him what he wanted to do. He felt extremely conflicted.
Craig’s mother, evoking his middle name to emphasize the seriousness of her forthcoming question, said to him, “Craig Steven, let’s pretend you’re a 40-year-old successful musician. Will you look back and wonder what would have been had you gotten your degree?” Craig said no, and that he always planned to get his degree. He wasn’t worried about that. His mom then asked, “Okay, you’re a 40-year-old successful businessman, the only thing you ever wanted to be. Will you look back and wonder what would have been had you stayed on as a musician?” Yes, I would, replied Craig. She responded, “Well, there’s your answer.”
Craig stayed on the road. He and a few of his bandmates would eventually form a new band, and over the next few years different bands would come and go. In 1977, Craig took a position as a professional drummer with a band named Soup. The band moved to Los Angeles and Craig followed.
Being a musician in L.A. was great for Craig. His band played at clubs around the city five to six nights a week. The extra time Craig had from not being on the road allowed him to become a recording musician, where he could produce his own music and work on other people’s projects and albums. He recorded for the likes of Donna Summers, Bobbie Gentry and The Monkees. He was able to earn a decent living, doing what he loved.
It was 1982 when Craig decided he was done playing six nights a week. He wanted to focus solely on studio work. He also wanted to build his own recording studio. At the encouragement of his sister, who had recently joined him in L.A., Craig took a “real job” working in the mail room at First Interstate Services, the data processing arm of First Interstate Bank.
Craig speaks extremely fondly of his time at First Interstate. “It was a fascinating place to be,” said Craig. “It was like being part of a tech start-up due to their trailblazing ATM technology. That job taught me more and I experienced more. I am forever grateful to First Interstate, and I’m a big, big fan of banking.”
The world of audio and video began merging into the digital domain, leading Craig to begin producing music for longform video, and then video. It was production arts that eventually led Craig into marketing. He took a position as a marketing director for an organization that taught business practices to 501(c)(3) nonprofits. He loved it. He worked four, 10-hour days, allowing him to continue playing and recording music.
In 1991, First Interstate offered Ellen a transfer to Portland. Craig and his wife had made a commitment that they would go to the Northwest if they could. That’s where they wanted to raise their children. They packed their bags, their one-year-old baby boy Christian and studio equipment and moved to Portland. Craig continued making and playing music, though his interest in playing one-off gigs was waning. He decided to commit to a church and play in the worship team, which he continues to do today.
At the request of his employer in California, Craig had agreed to stay on for one year while they found a replacement. It was a convenient arrangement that allowed Craig to stay in Portland while exploring new opportunities. He was fortunate to connect with an ad agency that needed a new managing partner to build up the firm. Craig accepted the challenge and did just that, tripling the agency’s billing and growing its staff.
At a chance meeting, Craig met a gentleman by the name of Ken Koopman. Ken was a public relations professional, which happened to perfectly complement the services offered by Craig’s agency. The two began hiring one another. Craig pitched the idea of bringing Ken on to his agency, but the partners wouldn’t have it. So, in 1994, Craig and Ken decided to go on their own, forming Koopman Ostbo. It could have been Ostbo Koopman, but Craig didn’t want to be “OK.” Today, Koopman Ostbo is a successful Certified B Corporation that has carved out a niche serving the natural foods industry. Craig’s past and present clients include familiar Oregon companies such as Kettle Chips, Rogue Creamery and Bob’s Red Mill.
In 2007, one of Craig’s best friends, Steve Gray, with whom he coached his children’s sports teams, approached him about joining the board of directors of a bank he had formed three years prior. He felt the bank needed someone with marketing experience. Craig had a lot of respect for Steve. “He’s an amazing man,” said Craig, “which is why it was hard for me to say no.” He ended up joining the board of Pacific West Bank just in time for the financial crisis and Great Recession.
“It was a pretty interesting time, but I’m thankful for it,” said Craig. “When things are really difficult, you begin to understand the character of those you serve with. The board members all stepped up and committed themselves to the survival of the bank. As a bank director, I think I speak for all of us in how much we believe in community banking, in local banking, in Oregon banking and the importance of decision-making being right there in front of you when you really need it.”
As if running a business, serving as a bank director, playing with his churches’ worship team and coaching his two kids’ various sport teams was not enough, Craig had the energy to involve himself in yet one more thing.
The leaders of the church where Craig played had a band called Power of 10, a 10-piece horn band. Craig mentioned in passing that if there was ever a time their drummer couldn’t play, he’d love to fill-in. That opportunity came sooner than he thought, and he found himself in the drummer’s seat. The band was so impressed they asked Craig to join permanently. He was a bit perplexed. “What about your other drummer?” he asked. Turns out the drummer wanted to be the lead singer. It was a win-win.
It was a few years later when Steve Kuepker, Power of 10’s bass player, asked Craig if he wanted to do a small gig in Carver, Oregon. Craig responded, “With who, and where’s Carver?” Steve explained that Carver was a small place with a couple of taverns, and that they would be meeting up with a couple of guys. Craig asked, “Well, are we going to rehearse?” Steve said, “No, we’ll just show up.”
Craig decided to go for it. The two showed up at the gig where they met two men, Frank Murray and Tim Baltus. The four sat at a table and had about an hour to decide which songs to play. Whatever they decided, it ended up working out pretty well. After their first set, a man in the tavern came up to them and said, “Oh my God, you are the best band I’ve ever seen! How long have you been together?” Craig looked down at his watch and said, “Um, 45 minutes.” The man laughed. Craig responded, “No, really, 45 minutes.”
The group thought maybe it would be a good idea if they stuck together. They called their new band the Cat Jugglers, though that name wouldn’t last for long. You see, Frank happened to look a whole lot like Tom Petty. Tim, who had a tribute band called the Rolling Tones, encouraged them to be his opening act as Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. They added Jack Codron, Rolling Tones’ keyboard player to the mix, and went for it. They were a big hit.
Petty Fever was born.
The band has won multiple awards, including the Las Vegas FAME Awards 2017 “Outstanding Tribute Band,” the 2018 “Outstanding International Tribute Band” presented at Hard Rock Café Live in Las Vegas, and the 2013 and 2014 Los Angeles Music Awards “Tribute Band of The Year” presented at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood.
“We enjoy each other, we enjoy the music, and we are very fortunate that we have a great following of people who love this music,” said Craig. When asked what it’s like playing Tom Petty’s music, Craig responded, “I would say most musicians have songs that mean something to them or that they like playing. When you get into a tribute band, your job is to interpret the music the way in which it was intended, and in doing so, you suddenly realize the genius of Tom Petty’s songwriting and his production. That’s what made me a huge fan.”
One of the bittersweet aspects of Tom Petty’s passing in 2017 has been an increased demand for Petty Fever. “There are also a lot of people that want to re-live their Tom Petty moments,” Craig said. “They scream out for the song that made the difference in their life.”
What does the future hold for Petty Fever? When the group celebrated their 10-year anniversary, they toasted to the next 10 years, joking that they’ll be “rockers with walkers.” Said Craig, “So long as it’s about them [the fans], we will never tire of this. It will never get old because every show is different. That’s the secret. Keep making it about the fans and honoring Tom Petty, and we’ll be together for forever.”
Some of you may be wondering. . . Did Craig ever go back to school? The answer is yes. In 2015, he graduated, alongside his daughter Emily, from Linfield College.
For more information about Petty Fever and to see a schedule of upcoming shows, visit www.pettyfever.com.