When Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters finally said yes to British progressive rock band Yes, Steve Capus, executive producer of “CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley,” said it was “my birthday and Christmas morning rolled into one.”
After Pelley wraps his broadcast Friday evening, Capus, 53, will head from the control room at the CBS Broadcast Center to see Yes at its induction ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He takes pride in having played a role in making the night happen.
As a bass-playing kid growing up in Philadelphia, Capus’ band was Yes. His first concert was at the Spectrum the year the group toured to support its 1978 release, “Tormato,” and he’s been to at least 30 more performances since. He’s dedicated enough to use the first few notes of “Long Distance Runaround” — the classic cut from the Yes album “Fragile” — as a ringtone on his iPhone.
But Capus started living the Yes fan’s dream in 2013. It began after his exit from NBC News, where he served as president and, before that, executive producer for anchor Brian Williams. Capus’ colleagues, well aware of his passion, attempted to get Yes to come to their boss’ farewell party held at Studio 8H at NBC’s Rockefeller Center headquarters in New York. The group was on tour and unable to make the trip, but members Chris Squire and Steve Howe appeared in a video tribute to Capus.
“They did an interview with Brian Williams and talked about my borderline obsessive relationship with the band,” Capus recalled. “A few weeks later I was at a Yes show talking to both of them and thanking them for having done the interview. My phone rang a couple days after that and they wanted to know if I would be interested in helping with this effort to get into the Hall of Fame.”
Capus enlisted a few other high-powered Yes fans, political consultants Tad Devine and John Brabender. Devine’s resume includes the election of Bolivian president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and the upstart campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Brabender had helped engineer the electoral success for Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
“All of us got together and said ‘this injustice needs to be fixed — we need history to be on the right side of how they view Yes and they need to get into the Hall of Fame,’” Capus said. “This was a bipartisan effort.
“There was a petition drive that was launched, and I ended up going to a number of concerts and we shot footage of shows and did some interviews with the band for a promotional tape,” he added. “We basically just tried to raise awareness that Yes wasn’t in the Hall of Fame and it seemed long overdue.”
Despite their social media campaigns, Yes continued to be overlooked by voters for a few more years. Capus understood that despite having multiple million-selling albums in the 1970s and ’80s — some with portentous titles such as “Tales From Topographic Oceans” — the band is not for everyone.
“I’m not sure there was a big appreciation among the voting members for progressive rock or some of these songs that lasted for an entire album side,” Capus said.
As the campaign went on, Capus was enjoying the benefits of being in the band’s inner circle, getting back stage access as he followed Yes on the road to several cities. He became friends with Squire — who died in 2015 — as they bonded over the famous bass lines of “Roundabout.”
Capus has a Chris Squire Limited Edition Rickenbacker bass that he plays weekends at the Guitar Bar, a well-known instrument store in Hoboken, N.J. It’s Yes music, of course.
“It’s the soundtrack of my life,” he said. “And if you know Yes music, that means you know it’s a complicated life.”