Bill Syniar (Survivor, Tantrum)

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By Joe Gagliardo

After moving from the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago – yes, the very same hometown of rock legend Patti Smith – to the suburb of Northlake, Bill made some new friends who were musicians and he started playing bass on a guitar with the B and E strings removed!

Shortly thereafter, Bill purchased a Hofner Beatle bass and was off on his journey as a player.  First with a prog rock band entitled Mother Country, then he moved on to a Montreal based show band named Fancy Colors. Bill tells of having to fly to Montreal for the audition and is grateful he got the gig, because he only had enough money for a one-way ticket.

Ahhhhhhh to be young and confident!!!!! 

Returning to Chicago, his career kicked into high gear when his band Skylady, which he founded and also served as a songwriter – morphed into Tantrum.

There was nothing like them! Picture walking into a club in the late 70’s, and witnessing the visual impact of three energetic and strong female singers; Pam Bradley, Sandy Caulfield and Barb Erber, backed by a hard-rocking band, Bill, Phil Balsano (keyboards), Ray Sapko (guitar) and Vern Wennerstrom (drums).

Bill with Tantrum Bill with Tantrum

Bill with Tantrum

The band performed at major venues including the Arie Crown Theatre, Chicago Amphitheatre, Aragon Ballroom, Park West, ChicagoFest and toured extensively across the United States.

A concert and radio favorite, Tantrum produced three albums on the Ovation label: Tantrum, Rather Be Rockin’, and Breaking Away.

Tantrum live! Tantrum live!

Tantrum live!

Following Tantrum, Bill joined Alan Hewitt & 88; an ensemble which played original pop music composed Hewitt – who later worked with the Moody Blues as their touring keyboardist – and toured throughout the Midwest and made two appearances on the nationally syndicated, highly rated TV show, Star Search, during its premier season.

From 1988-1993 Bill toured with Survivor throughout the United States and parts of Europe, with numerous appearances on German television. He toured with both Dave Bickler, the original singer of Survivor, as
well as Jimi Jamison. Bill appears on the band’s Too Hot to Sleep and Greatest Hits LPs.

Bill and Davie Bickler also had a band, Radio City, which included former Trillion and Jinx guitar player Frank Barbalace.

Radio City Radio City

Radio City

In addition to live performances, Bill was busy playing numerous sessions, including with renowned guitarist Jennifer Batten – noted for her work with Michael Jackson and Jeff Bec,), Marc Scherer on his releases Battle Zone, White Cross, and High Gear; Kelly Keagy (Night Ranger) I’m Alive and Time Passes; Scott May (Ides of March)  Outside the Inside; Harry Nilsson’s Lost & Found;  and Jim Peterik (Survivor, Ides of March) Pride of Lions and World Stage discs.

As a songwriter, Bill has co-written several songs, often with Jim Peterik for various projects, including “Under the Spell” recorded by the Doobie Brothers. He co-wrote much of the music with Joe Vana for his Mecca 3 album, which was recorded in Nashville with David Hungate (Toto).  He currently writes the majority of Classical Blast’s original music.

Bill’s songwriting has given him a different perspective on his bass lines, prompting him to listen more intently to all the players, to provide support, but also to supply melodic fills in open spaces to keep the song moving forward.  Bill’s bass influences include Jack Bruce, Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, and Jaco Pastorius.

Currently Bill’s go-to basses include: a ’72 four string Fender Jazz bass, a ’91five string Fender Jazz bass, and a five string Sire Marcus Miller Bass.  He runs his bass through a Hartke 1×15 Combo Amp with a Hartke 2×10 extension cabinet.

These days, you can catch Bill with R-Gang, a band that specializes in Motown/Soul/R&B music, and which he has been co-leading since 1988.

Bill is also with Classical Blast, a band that features mashups of famed classical pieces with contemporary rock music, along with originals.  The band has released three albums, two of which can be found on the Toucan Cove label (Seattle), and have received regional acclaim and airplay.

His concert shows include Bach to Rock: A Musical Metamorphosis, Dark Side of the Yule, a holiday concert show; and Classical Blast in Kilts, a Celtic rock revue.

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They’ve performed an instrumental rock version of the National Anthem at Wrigley Field three times and opened for numerous national acts, including Joan Jett, Michael McDonald, The Orchestra/ELO, among others.

While Bill has many accomplishments, he is a gracious performer, and plays guitar and performs weekly for cancer patients, caregivers, and families as part of the Caring Arts Program.  The Caring Arts
Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing emotional
support to Chicago-area cancer patients and their families.  Its mission is to facilitate and encourage expression and healing through music, fine art, journaling, photography and other creative disciplines.

Learn more about Caring Arts Foundation at:

Check out these tracks and videos from Bill’s remarkable career:

Tantrum (album track montage)

Tantrum live at Haymaker’s Reunion (“Rock n Roll Waltz”) 2012

R-Gang on WGN-TV, 2010

Survivor “Didn’t Know it was Love” (music video, 1988), From Too Hot to Sleep

Survivor “Eye of the Tiger” on German TV, 1993

Classical Blast Live Stream at Arcada Theater (“Let’s Pretend” song written by Bill Syniar & Barbara Weigand), March 2020

Bill performing at Children’s Hospital for Caring Arts (2015)