Music is my passion and nothing could ever put out the flame. At times, to survive, I had to do other things but through it all my passion remained planted in my sense of self.
My Parents had a band and played Country Music, my Father played Steel Guitar, my Mother Rhythm Guitar and was a singer. They would have band rehearsals in the kitchen. Every once in awhile they had me sing a song with them and they would say “isn’t he cute”. I was just a kid so I didn’t make much of it.
I grew up with 5 siblings. My 2 older Brothers played Jazz on their record players. My Peers were Rock-n-Rollers. My 2 younger brothers and sister added their favorite music to the mix. I never even thought about Genre, it was all one category, Music!
By the time I was a teenager I was compelled to take my passion for music beyond listening. I just had to get involved. I told my Father I wanted to play Drums. I had a kit set up in the basement within a week.
My Drum set and I were inseparable. I took some lessons and practiced faithfully. After a couple of months my Father came up to me and said my Drummer can’t make it to the gig so your playing Drums tomorrow night! I stood there in disbelief.
I didn’t have much time to think. When the time came I loaded my Drums into the station wagon and I was on my way to my first paying gig as a musician.
We got set up on stage and it was 1-2-3-4 go! The first song was surreal. Once I got over the initial fear I settled down and concentrated on the beats I had been practicing. Here I was, a gawky teenager in a whole new world and just like that, my music journey began.
My Father didn’t say much all night. He would call out a song title, count off and we would be in the middle of another song. At the end of the night we packed up said our goodbyes and headed home. “Good job tonight, just keep practicing and everything is going to be alright” he said. I felt like a million bucks!
There was always a Guitar around the house so after my Father taught me a few chords I would pick it up and figure out how to play some of my favorite songs. Eventually I started getting together with my friends who were also experimenting with music.
I reached the point where I had a functioning band. We started to get some offers to play. I told my Dad I was going to play with my own band and had to cut back on my schedule with him.
We started playing at High School Dances. Our friends would have house parties and have us play for them. As our older friends started going to college we began playing for Frat parties.
Out of the blue I ran into a cousins friend who knew of a band in need of a Singer Guitar player. They were working in local clubs. It was a great match and I got the gig.
Some of my responsibility was to learn all new songs, teach them to the rest of the band and be the lead singer. We were making good money and I got so involved in being a working musician that I decided to quit High School in my Senior year.
Then I Got A Letter From My Uncle, Uncle Sam that is! He told me where I had to be and when, Or Else!
After being processed in Fort Dix N.J. I headed to Fort Lewis, Washington for Basic Training. Not much time for music for the first 8-weeks.
As soon as Basic was over I got a job as a bass player with a local band in town.
It gave me a chance to add to my Army pay and keep the spirit of music alive at the same time.
I was in the Engineers of the 4th Infantry Division. We were told the whole division was being trained and would be shipped to Vietnam. The Signal Core needed personnel. Interested parties could transfer to the 124th Signal battalion. I figured dealing with Radio Relay Equipment would be a good way to learn more about electronics. I could use the experience to configure my Guitar amps and other musical equipment when I got out. I volunteered.
My Signal core training was in Fort Gordon Georgia. I completed the course, had a 2 week leave and was on my way to Viet Nam.
As soon as my feet hit the ground I was recruiting for prospects. From day one I talked about music to everyone I met. Without compromising my duties as a Soldier I managed to find a Drummer, a Bass player and 2 other Guitar players interested in putting a band together. It was pretty amazing how a passion for music overcomes all obstacles.
Over the course of the next couple of months the Drummer bought a Kit in Saigon, I bought a guitar and amp on R&R in Thailand, the Bass player had his parents send him a Bass from Pennsylvania and because our unit had a Radio repair shop one of the other guitar players ordered a Heath Kit guitar amp and put it together in the shop. Now we were ready and our first gig was at the EM club. We called ourselves the “Ivys” because the 4th division was the Ivy Division.
We were an instant hit. When we played “We Got To Get Out Of This Place” by the Animals the crowd went nuts! The crowd by the way consisted of all enlisted men, no officers, and the only thing to drink was beer. It was enough to let off steam and while everyone sang along and danced in the aisles we forgot about where we were for a while.
In a civic action program to help local Vietnamese Villagers by providing medicine and building materials we were included as the entertainment and played in 3 Montagnard villages.
We packed up the station wagon and headed to the gig.
Set Up The Stage, turned on the generators
And the whole village showed up, standing room only!
My tour of duty came to an end and it was time for the next group of Soldiers to take over. It was hard to believe we started off with tents sleeping on the ground and by the time we left Barracks with cement floors were being built. It was amazing. I was so grateful to serve my country as a Radio Relay operator AND be a Musician at the same time.
I was 21. I knew what I had to do. The first thing I did when I got out of the Army was to have a talk with the principal at my old High School. I wanted my diploma. He Said I could come back to School and finish my Senior year as long as I shaved off my mustache, a small price to pay to get back on track. I was the only Vietnam Vet in the Class and got a standing ovation at graduation.
During the time I was finishing school I got involved with a band organized by an entertainment agency.
The situation ran its’ course and about a year and a half later the band split up. This became a pattern for the next few years. I played Guitar, Bass, Drums and or was a Vocalist as needed in many situations.
In Massachusetts I was playing with a 10 piece show band backing up a Singer. The sax player and I became friends and he started training me on Key Signatures and scales. I had enough knowledge to accomplish quite a bit but this was on a whole new level. I was filling up notebooks with combinations of Music Theory from the view of a Horn player.
It was a different angle than I was used to and as a Guitar/Bass player was a tremendous influence. He was a college teacher with perfect pitch and it was an opportunity that gave me a huge advantage. I never looked at the Guitar the same way again.
We were close to Boston so I signed up for some lessons with an amazing Guitar teacher at Berkeley. Taking the Theory I was working on with the Sax player and applying it to the Guitar with the help of the Guitar teacher was what gave me the basis to develop my own style. To this day I still generate new ideas using the foundation created during that time.
I moved back to the Hartford, Ct. area and continued to play in cover bands while I kept learning from where ever I could.
In one of the bands I was in a Piano player and I started talking about chords and the conversation led into an adventure of learning chords from the perspective of a keyboard player. It was all tying together. The single note view from the horn player (Melody), the chord view from the piano player (Harmony). Add the fact I started out as a Drummer (Rhythm). The only thing left was Lyrics (the Theme).
By this time I had sung thousands of songs in my travels with cover bands. I loved writing words and I was always jotting something down. Combined with my lyric awareness I was starting to turn my scribbles into ideas for songs.
I continued to study the Guitar at the Hartford Conservatory. A Bandleader I worked with started a music school and I took on a position teaching Guitar. I had about 30 students. I also contacted an agency that specialized in club dating. The agency would accommodate the needs of their clients by selecting a combo from a roster of about 200 musicians, from soloists to orchestras.
There were 2 brothers each of which had their own band. I was the Singer/Guitar player for one of them. When the main band wasn’t booked I did solo work and played Guitar or Bass Guitar with other combinations of musicians.
I worked with many talented musicians during this time. The OJT experiences added knowledge about music, performing and collaboration that I couldn’t have learned in school.
This is a partial list of the wide variety of events I was involved in as a soloist and up to 12 piece bands:
Off Broadway Shows, Political Rallies including The Governor’s ball, The Hartford Symphony Orchestra pops concerts, Country Clubs, Weddings, Parades, Divorce Parties, Bar Mitzvahs, as a Soloist, with Trios and Quartets, Private Clubs, Outdoor Concerts, Holiday Functions and house parties. I also transcribed lead sheets and chord charts of new music to keep the agency updated. Some clients would request specific music and I would make sure it was ready for the event. Every major Hotel had an account with us.
I was doing more Songwriting as well and got my first song published and released on ABC Records. I was very interested in recording and spent quite a bit of time learning about it. I would save money, book time at a studio and record whenever I could.
My responsibilities at the agency were not in line with my pay, a situation not uncommon in the industry. An entertainer who needed a Musical Director for a Dinner Show approached me with an offer. It was for six nights a week. After dinner with a 90 minute break in between the band switched over to the lounge for dancing. The 3rd set would be a show featuring him and we would end with another set of dance music. The money was good so I accepted.
After a year or so the 7 to 2am 6 day a week plus 3 rehearsals grind was starting to wear me down. I was teaching as well and I wanted to spend more time with my family. I wanted to put more energy into writing music and there just weren’t enough hours in the day.
A friend of mine from Connecticut had moved to Nashville a while back. We were talking on the phone about the music I was writing and he convinced me to come down and shop my catalog. With our belongings stuffed in a truck, our station wagon hooked on the back and a 4 year old my wife and I were headed to Nashville!
Living in “Music City” was like nowhere else we had been. It takes time to establish yourself. Recording studios, Songwriters, Producers and clubs with live music were everywhere.
You could park your car on Music Row and shop your music all day going from one Record label to another on foot. Publishers were on every street corner.
Circumstance created another story. We were going to have another baby. Back home several major family issues were brewing. To make significant progress in Nashville required time and resources I didn’t have. We packed up and headed back again, this time to New York, where my wife was from.
With our second child on the way we were ready to end this roller coaster lifestyle and start creating a family friendly environment. Making the transition took some time. I had to find a way to stay involved in music and provide for my family.
After a string of temporary jobs and attempts to make our lives work we decided to start a business. We stuck with it through the growing pains of a new business and reached the point where we had enough control to accomplish what had to be done.
Our clients needs were met by scheduling our time in a way that allowed me time to write, study, teach and run the business. It was exactly what we needed.
Up to this point I had taken notes, written songs, created a file cabinet full of teaching materials and enough Guitar charts, and exercises to write a book. That's exactly what I did.
The first Version of my “Music Theory Book for Guitar” was written on an electric typewriter. I used a ruler and pen to make charts and graphs and made copies at the local stationary store. I used the pages to customize lessons for my students. Then computers took over and I had to learn how do it all over again.
At 55 I signed up for computer classes and found myself sitting next to students who were18 years old. I took Audio, Digital Music, Photoshop, Web Design, Audio Engineering and MIDI classes to get a working knowledge of what I had to do to upgrade my approach.
I got a couple of students together who played Bass and Drums and we put together a set of 8 of my original songs. We played at a couple of school functions and ended up on the cover of one of the schools brochures.
I also contributed to a student demonstration by doing a performance with some back up tracks I created in the studio.
One day I was going to class and noticed a huge banner on the front entrance and there I was promoting Digital Art Classes!
The next step was to work with an engineer to add digital recording to the mix. I worked with him for a few months and once I knew enough to make a decision I started to build a digital recording studio of my own. I had Instruments, microphones and tape recorders so it was a matter of adapting to a new format.
I combined all my experience, the knowledge I acquired and my notes from Professors, Teachers, Musicians and Technicians to start creating my system to teach Music Theory, Songwriting and Guitar playing.
Everything I’ve done has led to what I do now. I produce music instruction videos. Todays’ new songwriters and musicians still need the one thing that has never changed, an understanding of the fundamentals of music.
The fundamentals directly associate with songwriting and playing an instrument. I am a Guitar coach, but theses principles can be applied to any instrument.
A customized approach for each client starts with identifying what you know and finding your unique starting point. Then we can fill in the missing pieces to create a stronger foundation. Moving forward on solid ground is so much more effective.