In the studio 2008
I had attachments to the piano ever since I was very young. There always seemed to be a piano in the house although no one I knew but my Grandmother played. Although my Aunts Patsy and especially Hilda played decently well my Dad on the other hand struggled with the same two or three tunes that he could never remember the cords to, and never could play a song without embarrassing pauses and obvious mistakes. He did try to teach me the notes and a couple of scales but that was as far as it went. I started going to an accordion teacher in Los Angeles where my brother Greg and I began our instructions. I moved on to piano eventually but would never become proficient in my reading skills. My inability to learn to read put me on a path to improvisation where my fascination with music was really taking shape.At the age of around sixteen, I formed a band along with my brother and a few friends called “Snuffy and the Revenuers” and got the band to play a short composition of mine employing a ragtime genre. This went perfect with our gig at the local Shakey’s pizza parlor who always kept a piano on a very small stage as part of their Saturday entertainment. This was a very fun time for many and I still have very old friends who bring this period up in conversation every time we meet. There was a short period where I sang lead for my Aunt Camille’s husband Ray in his Salsa band “The New Latin Breed”; an extremely popular band at the time. Ray came to me one day when I was about nineteen or twenty and said his lead singer had suddenly quit the band and he needed someone to fill in. He was desperate since he had obligations to fill so he came to the house with a tape of the entire repertoire which I had to memorize in a matter of several days. Before I knew it I was singing in East L.A. to packed clubs on Saturday nights. Under age no less. On top of that I was singing it almost all in Spanish. You have to understand that to this day I still do not speak that language. Long before this though, I knew I loved writing songs and was always busy trying to emulate the styles I had been hearing on the radio and from the many 45 rpm records that my aunt Camille who lived with us collected. My bands were doing Top 40 while behind the scenes I was constantly experimenting with writing my own songs. I did this up until age 30 while maintaining regular jobs to live by.I had been associated with a couple of bands which despite our efforts turned out to be mediocre. With the band Freedom Eagle, the efforts were monumental. We met Cliff Lettieri, our manager through my musical partner Angelo Circo. Cliff worked at Capital Records in a department unrelated to the music portion of the company but with his energy and explosive personality was sure he could get us some exposure through whatever little influence he thought he might posses. Soon he got us a recording session in studio A, where the Beatles and other famous artists recorded and he got it for the studio C price. We recorded three or four of my songs and I remember the euphoria we experienced listening the playback on the studio’s amazing speaker system. My next band, first called “The Little Orley Band” and later renamed “Jin Rikki” was a real mismatch in musical styles and personalities. Also managed by Cliff Lettieri who gave it everything he had, it was still just another failure. My frustration and my realization that I was just not able to produce the one song that would make people stand up and notice led me to take a new look at my life. Finally burnt out and demoralized, I quit music and put my energies into my job at Rockwell.
Ten years later when I discovered the new keyboards with onboard recording and playback of musical arrangements I began to see that I could get fully back into music without having to form a band or put up with all the work that rehearsing or settling for the limited sounds that a band could produce. With the Roland XP-50 digital workstation, I could invent, arrange, perform and produce my own musical ideas.
I have a small studio in my house now, with thousands invested in sound recording equipment. My days of hopeful recognition now diminished I can happily take my time writing and recording songs that are created, performed and recorded myself. No more troubles with band members, who cannot make it on time, are too drunk or stoned or have girlfriends who draw away their attention to the band. In my world I am the sole producer, talent and audience for that matter. The only one who’s critique matters. Besides, we cannot all be Stars. Someone has to sit on the curb and clap as the parade goes by. My anonymity has afforded me the freedom to create without restriction. Most of the times I remind people that, “Yes, I said I was a song writer…. I never said I was any good at it”.
Although I do miss playing with other musicians, I feel a greater accomplishment completing a whole musical production on my own. I do feel the need to use other musicians on occasion. Access to a good guitar player is always an advantage and a good balance to an otherwise purely digital production.Unfortunately, the truth is that my studio can only be used to develop the songs since I realized that as an engineer I really suck and so producing a quality recording that is good enough to be used for airplay say, is pretty much out of the question. For the finished product I have to go into a professional studio to get that supreme sound and a recording that is well balanced and that will play equally well on any device. Luckily writing and creating music is not necessarily age restrictive accept maybe for my singing which has deteriated somewhat through time. And there again, a studio can correct any vocal aberrations with processing and pitch correction. At 65 years old, I am ready to go into the studio again. I need to enhance the site with more finished recordings. As long as I can still do it and as long as I still have the money I would like to keep adding new material. So… Let’s just say it’s not over ‘till the skinny redheaded kid sings.
All songs are produced written and performed by myself except where indicated in the notes of the Lyrics Pages. Much of the material was written or conceived, here in Orange, California or at our home in Grant, Alabama just outside of Huntsville “Rocket City”, where Juliet and I lived from about 2000 to 2005.
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