As one of the most prominent guitarists and session musicians in Sweden, Janne Schaffer has played with almost everyone at home, and quite a few important bands abroad. If he ever needs to send in his CV, it will contain names like ABBA, Bob Marley, and Jeff Porcaro. He also successfully pursued a career as a solo artist in the '70s, when he topped the charts and won some recognition abroad, but has had less success since the '80s. For a younger generation in Sweden, Schaffer is probably most well-known for being the guitar-playing zebra in Electric Banana Band, a platinum-selling band from a children's television show.
Schaffer was born in Stockholm just after the war. During the '60s, he was a member of a number of pop bands, including Noisemen, Chicks, and Ted and the Caracas, none of them becoming very well-known. But Schaffer was already a skilled guitarist and after being employed by a dance orchestra, he quit school. A dance orchestra meant endless touring and the young Schaffer had soon had enough and returned to school and Stockholm, where he formed the Sleepstones. A few of their songs charted, and as the real break didn't come, Schaffer left for Grapes of Wrath. It was now around 1970, his career as a session musician began, and very soon his reputation earned him the top jobs in Sweden. During the '70s, Schaffer played with famous artists like Ted Gärdestad, Cornelis Wresvijk, and Barbro Hörberg, as well as with international stars like Bob Marley, ABBA, and Johnny Nash.
In 1973, Schaffer released his self-titled solo debut. The album topped the charts, and playing keyboards on it was Björn J:son Lindh, whom Schaffer would work with a lot during most of the '70s and '80s. The second album, Janne Schaffer's Andra, also did well, in fact good enough for his third album, Katharsis, to be released to good reviews worldwide. This album was more fusion, where the first two had been instrumental guitar rock. In the late '70s, Schaffer played at a number of big jazz festivals. Tracks from one of these concerts are included on Montreux Summit, Vol. 1 and Montreux Summit, Vol. 2.
Earmeal from 1979 was recorded together with the brothers and father Porcaro from Toto, but the title was actually the name of a band Schaffer had formed a few years ago in Sweden, together with Lindh. A few years prior he had also written the music for a very popular children's show on Swedish television: Trazan och Banarne. When new episodes were to be filmed, the Electric Banana Band was created, including a good part of the Swedish studio elite led by Schaffer. The show was immensely popular and Schaffer's participation in the band well overshadowed his solo career, which in the '80s had lost speed. In his collaborations with Lindh, the music started to be more meditative and abandoned most of what was left of both jazz and rock, and also lost much of the audience.
Schaffer formed his own record company, Earmeal, in 1984, on which his following solo albums were released. But while these never reached the quality his earlier work had, his competence as a guitarist, and later as a producer, was still in demand. Through the '80s and '90s, he still participated on a great number of albums. Apart from this, Schaffer wrote film scores and worked together with classical composers. In 1997, he intended to gather the band Earmeal for a rock concert, but the arrangers suggested that the Electric Banana Band should reunite instead. The following tour was a big success, and a re-recording of old songs (and some new) sold platinum. ~ Lars Lovén