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There are many who say that Arte Tedesco is a Pennsylvania legend. Alone with his acoustic guitar, he was seen on stages at the many music festivals through the '70's, including the One World Festival at Pitt Stadium, a two-day event in 1971 where he performed in a lineup that included Taj Mahal, Savoy Brown, The Chambers Brothers and Billy Preston. In the mid-'70’s Arte was a modern version of a troubadour; traveling and living off the land by singing his songs and telling his stories.
He was “discovered” in Ruidoso, New Mexico by a film crew who were there to shoot scenes for Casey’s Shadow (a Columbia Pictures movie starring Walter Matthau). He was hired to entertain the cast and crew on the set (on long breaks between takes) with his songs and stories.
They brought him to Hollywood where he regularly performed at the Troubadour in Santa Monica. He was courted by A&M records, and recorded a demo at their studios with David Anderle (Producer- Frank Zappa, The Doors, etc.), though no contract came to be.
Arte hung out and played music and darts with Davy Jones (The Monkees). He cruised around Hollywood (in his black ’58 Fleetwood) with .38 Special when they were in town. Some afternoons would find him jamming with Doug Dillard (The Dillards) if they weren’t shooting pool at the local pool hall.
For half of the 3 years he lived in Hollywood he was housemates with Frank Bueno and John Toll. Frank was personal assistant to Ray Stark (RayStar Productions—probably the most successful producer in town at the time). John was and is a great cinematographer—one of only two in history to win back to back Academy Awards—Legends of the Fall, followed by Braveheart). They had parties almost every week, and guests would include Bernie Leadon (The Eagles), Three Dog Night, David Carradine (Kung Fu, Bound For Glory, etc.) and an eclectic assortment of friends.
The end of 1976 found him in Miami, Florida. He had gone there to record an album with Michael Laskow (Producer—Neil Young, Firefall; Melanie). The recording was financed by folks who turned out to be smugglers which was unfortunate because the album was never finished. One of the partners was called to Columbia to settle a business dispute—the Columbians were holding his brother as collateral. He went there (taking the master with him), and he never came back.
It was during this time that Arte was doing a lot of flying (mostly single-engine aircraft) with his dear friend, Crazy Andy (Andrew Bodnar), who was a pilot. They had met some years earlier when they were cab drivers for competing companies in Pittsburgh. This is worth mentioning because in November of 1977 they were flying south from New Bedford, MA toward Florida, when due to a carburetor malfunction they ran out of fuel 5,000 feet up.
It was around 4 o’clock in the morning and they were gliding silently down into a ground fog over a swamp roughly 13 miles north of Charleston, SC. They managed to survive what Crazy Andy called the “forced landing” even though one of the wings was torn off. Marines from Camp Lejeune arrived in a helicopter and rescued them as the chopper hovered overhead, dangling a rope ladder. Later when asked what he was thinking about as the plane was coming down, Arte said, “I was filled with a warm feeling and an understanding that I haven’t yet done what I was put here to do. I knew I would survive!”
During the '80's Tedesco was the lead singer and songwriter for The Haywire Band. Haywire had a regional hit single, Dangerous Man, on the air in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland with a video appearing nationally on the USA Network and The Odyssey Video Network with over 150 independent TV stations across the country.
Performing concerts with Kenny Loggins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Williams, Jr., The Outlaws, Charlie Daniels and many others, Haywire delivered a blistering sample of what could only be called “Urban Guerilla Country Rock” that thrilled audiences from Greenwich Village to Daytona Beach! Fans would howl as the band rocked, and Arte (with his guitar hanging from his neck) would carry lead guitarist Slim Varhola on his shoulders, scampering up and down the aisles with a wireless microphone, at times with Campus Security in hot pursuit yelling, “Hey! You can’t do that! Put him down! Our insurance…!)
The Haywire Band was wildly popular due to Arte’s songs, and the amazing musicianship of Howard (Hutch) Hockenberger and James (Slim) Varhola. Besides having a voice like Elvin Bishop, Hutch Hockenberger played an electric fiddle that Charlie Daniels once stood in awe of. Then he could then put down the fiddle and pick up his sax, playing lines that took the music into another realm.
“Slim Varhola made his mark with soulfully clean guitar lines, and, it was a fact that the precision solos Slim played in harmony with Hutch on sax or fiddle gave Haywire its very distinctive sound. Drummer, Steve Juffe, and Pete LaCava on bass were the thumping heartbeat that drove the band.
In the late 1980’s Arte started another band, Arte and the Igniters. Again, Arte had great players to work with, including Phil Brontz on sax, Russ Ketterer as lead guitarist, Kevin McMahon on keys, Mike Evans on bass and Erik Storer was the drummer.
At the time, he was managed by Sandy Neiman who also managed Clarence Clemons of East Street Band fame. This relationship resulted in a memorable concert featuring both artists. Michael Keaton joined them onstage for a tongue-in-cheek rendition of Springsteen’s “Fire”, to the audience’s delight.
By the '90's Arte had moved to Orlando, where he has been producing music for documentaries and commercials through his video production company, Monkey Fist Productions. He recorded his 4th album, “Florida Dream” in December 2010 which he co-produced with John Blanche (Engineer-worked with the Bee Gees, Eagles and many others). He is currently working on his 5th album with the new Arte Tedesco Band, which features David Granati as lead guitarist, Joey Granati on bass and keyboards and Greg McIltrot as the percussionist. Arte currently splits his time between Pittsburgh and Orlando.