Laurence Gordon Laing was born into a large family with older triplet brothers and a sister on January 26, 1948, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Corky began playing drums and cover tunes in high school. In college, he played original tunes with a trio called Energy. The band was to be produced by Felix Pappalardi. The year was 1968 and Pappalardi was involved with producing the future super band Cream, so Energy toured Canada and most of New England. They found themselves in New York City in 1969. Corky left the trio to form Mountain with Felix Pappalardi, Leslie West and Steve Knight.
Mountain became the prototype hard rock trio, coming along to further blaze the trail forged by the disbanded Cream, a band that Pappalardi played a great part in shaping. Debuting at the Filmore West in 1969 right before playing the Woodstock Festival, they stomped and bellowed and blew the doors off the hall for two and a half turbulent, productive years. They released four bombastic albums.
It was not a smooth ride. Felix and Leslie West had their differences in terms of positioning, and Corky had to be the Henry Kissinger of the band; the diplomatic mediator. Some great songs emerged from their chaotic collaborations, however, “Mississippi Queen”, “Nantucket Sleighride”, “The Animal Trainer and the Toad”, “Stormy Monday”, and “For Yasgur’s Farm”.
The band was unapologetically crude, abnormally loud and outstandingly adventurous, making them popular with both hard rock and progressive fans. Laing was involved with much of the song writing. “We took melodies I wrote and roughed them up a little, made them more dramatic and Leslie would add these great licks. I would put in the fills and Felix would come in and direct it musically, making the songs bigger and broader,” offers Laing.
Regarding the band’s best-known hit “Mississippi Queen,” Laing says, “I was really influenced by The Band, so that the feel was my impression of ‘Cripple Creek’. It’s the same backbeat but Leslie took it pretty far. He just came in and ripped it up.”
Mountain called it quits in 1972. “There was a lot of self-abuse. It was the old ladies, it was drugs, and it was greed and ego. Everything the Russians hated about America, we were living it!” says Laing. “When Felix wanted to announce a breakup, I never understood why we couldn’t have just gone our different ways for a while instead. That made no sense to me. We’d worked really hard to build all of that up.”
Laing stayed involved with West. “Philosophically, we went in different directions, but musically we were on the same page.” The duo went to Island Studios in London to record, originally with the intention of forming a band along with Paul Rodgers (Free), Mick Ralphs and Overend Watts (Mott the Hoople). Things were going well until West invited ex-Cream bassist Jack Bruce to come in for a jam. “The next time I talked to Leslie,” Laing says, “he told me that his dream was to be in a band with Jack Bruce. I thought we already had a good band going, especially with Paul singing, but Leslie said that Jack would sing, too, and off it went.” Bruce broke up his own jazz band and the musical conglomerate, clumsily named West, Bruce and Laing was born. Ralphs and Rodgers would then go on to form Bad Company. “Our sound was a lot rougher than Mountain’s. ‘Like Why Dontcha’ I wrote in just twenty minutes and we jammed fiercely on it. We were flowing with ideas and actually stayed together longer than Mountain had,” says Laing. After two studio albums and a 1974 live record, however, this band also passed into the ether.
Laing and West also played together on two Leslie West solo albums, The Leslie West Band and The Great Fatsby, touring behind both of them. Then there was the Mountain reunion, initiated by Felix Pappalardi in 1974. Laing joined up, although he could not be present when a live album was recorded in 1975.
Laing moved on to various projects, including a 1977 solo album, Makin’ It on the Street. Laing also played guitar and sang. “Eric Clapton came down and played and was also joined by Dickie Betts, Pete Carr and Clyde King. It was a great experience,” says Laing. Half of the album was co-written with novelist Frank Conroy. There was a “Lost Album”, recorded around 1978 with Ian Hunter. They called their short-lived band Pompeii. We played with people like Mike Ronson, Lee Michaels, Steve Hunter, Paul Butterfield and we had Todd Rungren producing.
Their record label put the album on the back burner and there it continued to gather dust until King Biscuit released it in 1998.
After selling millions of albums world wide over the past four decades, Corky Laing is busier than ever. He is touring at times with Leslie West as Mountain and writing new music with his own band, Cork. When he is off the road, Laing writes music for other formats and media. You may hear his songs in movies or at the top of country charts by The Wilkinsons. He presently resides in Toronto, Canada.