I have been asked what the inspiration was that moved me to pursue a career in music. And, thinking back, there were a number of influences. I would have to start back at some point when I was less than 10 years old. Beside having a construction company, my Dad was a singer/guitarist/bassist, and he played most weekends at clubs and social events. I have a (now) vague recollection of a performance he had one evening at the Moose Lodge #46 in the Bloomfield section of Pittsburgh.
That Lodge was no “hole in the wall” by a long shot! It was a large, two-story building that featured a lounge called the “Starlight Room”. The Moose (as we called it) could seat 400 people, and on the weekends they would feature entertainers (some straight from Vegas), with 2 shows a night! I know all of this because later in my life (high school) I had a job as a dishwasher there. So, with a full dinner and drinks for 400 people times 2 per night—I was left with bins of glasses and dishes stacked 3 feet high in a line that stretched the length of the (huge) kitchen, out the door and down the hall.
But I digress.
Dad was performing at the Starlight Room one night and he brought me (he was a member of the Moose). At some point he brought me up on stage to sing a song with him, since I knew his entire repertoire by heart (and I was in the choir at church).
Well… as I said earlier the memory is a little foggy after all these years but I remember the nervous excitement (terror?), being welcomed to the stage, the bright colored stage lights and an eager audience silhouetted beyond them. And, when our song was over, I remember the enthusiastic applause! It seemed to go on and on, because I do remember having the thought: This is what I want to do when I grow up!
So, Dad planted the seed. Rocket forward roughly a decade and I was fresh out of the U.S. Navy in 1970. I was working as a draftsman with the family (Dad and his brothers’) company—TedBro Construction. I could play a rhythm on a guitar (see the previous post “The Gretsch”), and I borrowed one from my cousin, Nick, who also worked with me at TedBro. Nick was pretty mean with a blues harmonica and he insisted that I had enough talent to perform in public. He was a confidence builder throughout my teenage years and early 20’s, and there will definitely be at least one (maybe more?) posts here dedicated entirely to him.
Nick and I hung out together nearly every day, playing at parties and parks—just about anywhere, really. And, folks seemed to love us! What a feeling! Nick played well, but I don’t think it was a passion for him. He would leave me to play solo while he would round up a couple of dates for us from the audience. For me, playing was a passion; it became almost an obsession—to become good enough to be worthy of the love the audience was giving us. I wanted to hear with my ears what I heard in my head.
I will continue this narrative in the next post—“The One World Festival” (Part 2)