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His father, Jack Batdorf, was a musician and young John performed with him in clubs from around the age of five singing material like "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Hound Dog," a natural part of his upbringing which led to him being in bands all his life.
At the age of 15 his group, the Luv'd Ones, opened for the Young Rascals in Los Angeles. He met eventual music partner Mark Rodney in Las Vegas in the summer of 1970 while performing at a coffee house on the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) campus called The Kitchen. The duo, Batdorf & Rodney, got their deal auditioning live for Ahmet Ertegen at the Beverly Hills Hotel in December of 1970. Atlantic Records signed them the next day. There was never a tape demo; Batdorf & Rodney were signed on the strength of their ability to perform and write songs.
They recorded three albums starting with 1971's Off the Shelf on Atlantic followed by 1972's self-titled Batdorf & Rodney on Asylum. In 1973 Batdorf sang vocals on Dave Mason's It's Like You Never Left while the duo recorded Life Is You that same year while switching label affiliation to Arista. After that album had a minor hit with Jim Weatherly's "You Are a Song" the duo recorded a 45 version of the tune "Somewhere in the Night" produced by Clive Davis. It would be their highest charting single despite getting caught up in a political battle with a version by Helen Reddy. That war of the 45s hurt both Reddy and Batdorf & Rodney's releases, but the situation did open the door for Barry Manilow to have a hit with the same song. It also may have been the final straw as "Somewhere in the Night" failed to make it onto an album and the team of Batdorf & Rodney disbanded.
Batdorf joined Arista band Silver, which had a minor hit in 1976 with "Wham Bam." Simultaneously, the singer's vocals got a lot of session work with acts like Eric Andersen, Berlin, Rod Stewart, Donna Summer, David Lee Roth, Harry Connick, Jr., Michael McLean and many others. He also released a solo single, "Be My Baby," a cover of the Ronettes classic in 1982 on 20th Century Fox Records.
A staff songwriter in the '80s composing tunes for Kim Carnes, America,England Dan and others, as well as being a studio singer on tons of jingles, movies and TV shows, few people know that John Batdorf and Max Gronenthal are the backing vocalists on Mötley Crüe's 1985 sessions for Theatre of Pain. The band didn't want anyone to know that someone else sang the background vocals, but Batdorf and Gronenthal sang on every cut and were listed on the album credits in the "Special Thanks" section. And beyond Mötley Crüe, the main titles to TV shows like Tom and Jerry Kids, Garfield and Friends, Promised Land, and Doctor, Doctor feature the voice of Batdorf.
By 1996, Batdorf became the music composer for the CBS drama Promised Land starring Gerald McRaney. It lasted three seasons and when it was canceled, Batdorf went on to work on Touched by an Angel for four years as alternate composer. He wrote 90-percent of all the source music until it was canceled in 2003. In 1997 he formed Batdorf & McLean with the aforementioned Michael McLean, with whom he'd with earlier as arranger and vocalist, and they released an album, Don't You Know, one of four CDs the pair recorded.
In 2002 Batdorf composed the entire musical score to PAX TV's Book of Days film which aired in 2003. With James Lee Stanley he recorded All Wood and Stones, which offered a different perspective on the music of the Rolling Stones, and then his first solo E.P. In 2006 he released the solo album Home Again, which actually reunited him with Mark Rodney on some of the tracks and features many Batdorf & McLean compositions. John Batdorf, a man fortunate to be recorded by both Ahmet Ertegun and Clive Davis in the '70s, continues his soundtrack and session work along with writing and releasing more of his unique original compositions. ~ Joe Viglione, Rovi