UZI was formed on Chicago's south side in late 1986 by childhood friends and co-founders, singer, songwriter, bassist Nicholas Flynt and guitarist Keith Johnson.
A decade earlier their friendship was forged on a school playground by their equally unquenchable thirst for musical classics like KISS Alive!, Aerosmith's Rocks, and Van Halen’s 1978 self-titled release. They each bought guitars and formed a band and as the 70's gave way to the 80's, they became influenced by the metal rock wave ridden by bands like AC/DC, Judas Priest, and Motley Crue.
They recruited local monster drummer Dan Parker and soon after Kenny Shattuck was enlisted to take over the bass. Gary "Vail" Vaillancour was brought into the band as the 2nd guitarist and the original lineup was complete. Under the name "Dillinger" the band recorded early 16-track demos at Hair Bear Studios and played to packed venues on the south side.
With the help of their good friend Steven Sousanes the band was picked up by a local manager who persuaded the band to change it's name to UZI. Soon they were recording their debut tracks in the legendary Chicago Trax Studios with owner Al Ursini at the helm. The result of which was 3 songs: American Dream, Love I'm Looking For, and the premier rock ballad Away From My Heart.
Parker left and was replaced by drummer Paul Petrillo. Bassist Shattuck left and was replaced by Jeff Kors. The never-ending drama of rock n' roll bands led to the eventual departure of co-founder Keith Johnson, who was later replaced by guitarist Ben Taylor.
With the willing and dedicated team now in place, UZI began an assault of shows throughout Chicago and the surrounding Midwest. Soon their reputation for being a great, high-energy live act with quality songs was emerging. In what started out as a dare, at an all age performance at a roller rink in Indiana, the band performed their first show wearing masks.
The next week, the buzz among the attendees of the show was about "the band in the masks", a convincing statement whereas only days before the show, guitarist Ben Taylor threatened leaving the band over performing with a mask on. Thus the band continued to experiment with many props and effects to add to their already outstanding shows.
It was early 1990 and bassist Jimmy Nelson replaced Kors. That same year UZI won a respected "Best New Metal Band" award and the buzz became stronger than ever. The band was approached by several local producers and recorded material at CRC and Streeterville Studios that produced songs like “Mutha's Knockin'” and “Do What I Do” and was soon at the top of most requested local band playlists on WVVX.
With every subsequent release, the bands popularity was growing as they were booking shows throughout the Midwest. They began displaying a unique diversity between electric/acoustic performances and legendary shows at the Avalon, Thirsty Whale, Vic Theatre only cemented UZI's reputation as the band not to miss.
In the fall of 1990, UZI earned a trip to Los Angeles to perform at Concrete Management's "Foundations Forum" which was a metal music clinic and promotional event that was headlined by Judas Priest. UZI brought their high-energy metallic show and rocked the audience at the LAX Ramada Inn. During the trip the band ventured into Hollywood were they were impressed with the mobs on the thriving Sunset Strip music scene.
Upon returning to Chicago, a decision was made to relocate the band to L.A. Unwilling to make the move Paul Petrillo resigned his sticks to local slammer Andy "P Blaze" Blaszcak and Flynt took over guitar for Ben Taylor who left to start his own band.
Now as a four piece UZI went back into Chicago Trax to record three more songs with Ursini again producing songs “Madhouse”, “For The Money”, and “Love From The Gutter” displayed songwriting growth. The sound was heavier and darker and immediately embraced by their fans.
After a performing a run of capacity crowd farewell shows and a week before Thanksgiving UZI loaded up their gear and headed west for the City of Angels. The band was immediately welcomed in Hollywood as a quality act and only weeks after their arrival they were booked into the legendary Hollywood Sunset Strip Clubs: Grazzaris, Whisky a Go Go, Roxy, and Coconut Teaszer.
In early 1992, the band continued to rehearse and record in their North Hollywood house that was fitted with used carpet to dampen the volume. In early spring, six months into the move, acclimating to California proved to be too much for drummer Blaze and he headed back to The Windy City. The band auditioned local drummers and after growing discouraged with the results, flew out original drummer Dan Parker out to fill the position.
In the summer of 1992, a handful of shows were performed with satisfactory results though by fall as frustrations and musical changes were taking shape the group officially disbanded. UZI's official run had ended two thousand miles from where it all started.