Ursa Major

Ursa Major were an American hard-rock band from New York that released a self-titled album on RCA Victor in 1972. Guitarist/singer Dick Wagner hailed from psych-rockers The Frost and later became an in-demand sessionist and backing player for Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed, and Alice Cooper. Bassist Greg Arama was an early member of the Amboy Dukes.

A then little-known Billy Joel was briefly involved with Ursa Major but fled the area over a preexisting contractual dispute.

Members: Dick Wagner (vocals, guitar), Ricky Mangone (drums), Billy Joel (keyboards, 1972), Greg Arama (bass, vocals, 1972-73)

In 1972, Ursa Major released its singular self-titled album on RCA Victor. It features seven Wagner originals, including the smoldering menace of “Sinner,” the forceful belter “Stage Door Queen,” the frosty/folksy epic “Back to the Land” (with uncredited Mellotron) and the slide/fuzz-flanked acoustic ballad “In My Darkest Hour.” The lyrical “Liberty and Justice” was issued as a single. Wagner’s thick, simmering riffs are bombarded in various passages by the colossal rolls of drummer Ricky Mangone. Musically, Ursa Major is comparable to aspects of 1970–73 Led Zeppelin and later disciples Moxy and Lone Star.

The album was recorded at Record Plant (East) and produced by Bob Ezrin. The cover depicts the astral-backed outline of a bear, dot-connected by the Ursa Major star formation. In Ecuador, the album was issued under the Spanish spelling Osa Mayor.

Ursa Major issued one further single, the non-album “Let the Music Play,” in 1973 before disbanding. Wagner played guitar for several Ezrin-produced acts, including most of Alice Cooper’s 1972–83 releases. Other notable credits include Hall & Oates (Along the Red Ledge), Ruth Copeland (Take Me to Baltimore), and Peter Gabriel‘s debut solo album.


  • Ursa Major (1972)

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