Sweet-N-Evil blitzed the music clubs in the tri-state area throughout the 1990’s. In the days of Grunge, we were giving a complete performance for both the eyes and ears. Led by bombastic singer Tracey Lepore, all those that were lucky enough to witness our onslaught, would never forget it.
Tracey and I began putting ideas together for the band in 1990. We knew we didn’t want to be “just another band”, we wanted to be bigger than that.With her charisma and stage presence, I knew that she was just the one to be able to pull it off.
We developed the concept of having a show with each song. In fact, when most bands just showed up at the club with their guitars, we were carrying around a five man crew/actors, tons of props, a bunch of lights, a follow spot, pyrotechnics and a sound man. Most nights it cost the band members money out of their pockets to pay the crew. Oh yeah, I almost forgot… we also carried around another member of Sweet-N-Evil; Alice, an 8-foot boa constrictor. She was quite the performer.
Tracey choreographed all the action. I built all the scenery, props and initially, all the explosives. We could do things in those days, you couldn’t even think about doing today. Since I was the only one that could actually put the band on stage; I also drove the truck and roadied. It was a small price to pay to make sure everything went off without a hitch.
Long before we put Sweet-N-Evil (Tracey came up with the name) together, we began writing songs. The first one we ever wrote was Empty Love, and that song would be our show closer for the entire run of the band. Although we went through numerous guitar players and drummers, Tracey and I were always the core. We believed in what we were doing.
Placed ads in the local music paper called The Aquarian Weekly, looking for a guitar player and drummer. After talking to a number of people, we met with a couple guys that answered the add together. The drummer’s name was Johnny K and the guitarist was Steve Lewis. Although we weren’t blown away by Steve, we really liked what Johnny brought to the game. We were anxious to get moving, so we took them both.
We rehearsed for months before doing our first show at Studio One in Newark, NJ on August 25, 1990. It was huge rock club that had some of the bigger name bands performing there. On August 26, after talking to Johnny; I fired Steve. He was a really great guy to work with, but he just wasn’t what we were looking for.
We subsequently auditioned dozens of guitar players. We knew exactly what we wanted, as well as exactly what we didn’t want. The guy we chose was called Jim Neil. He had recently graduated from Berkeley School of Music in Boston, so he knew what he was doing, but more importantly; he understood and fully embraced what we were planning.
As soon as Jim joined, we went straight into the studio to record our first demo. Things really began to happen after that. I was handling all the booking, and had us working 4-5 nights a week. The band was rally getting tight.
That was the best period of Sweet-N-Evil. Everyone was on the same page and focused on pushing the band in a forward direction. Jim took over the marketing and created a risque’ ad campaign that was very well “anticipated” each week in The Aquarian. Even if someone hadn’t seen us; they knew who we were, just from our ads.
In 1991, we decided that we would put on an Industry Showcase for the major record labels. On Halloween, we attacked every record company in New York City. Johnny and I were dressed in Grim reaper robes and we accompanied Tracey into each company, where she tried to work her way into an A&R rep’s office to hand them a small black coffin which contained our demo tape, a VHS video trailer and an invitation to S.I.R. Studios on West 52nd St. for the showcase. Jim and his girlfriend Cheryl drove the getaway car.
Record companies won’t even talk to you if you’re unsolicited, but we managed to get reps from Columbia, Arista and Polygram down to the showcase. Tracey even managed to get friendly with the rep from Columbia, but he told her that although he loved what we were doing, he didn’t believe he could sell us in the current “Grunge” climate.
Jim lasted for a few years, but ultimately, he moved on. I hated to see him go, but the show must go on… and it did.
The next guitar player to step on stage with us, came from a bit closer to home. He was Tracey’s brother, who went by the name of Sandy Michaels, and he was a true, flashy, ’80’s, guitar slinger. He brought a powerful burst of energy to the band, so we didn’t miss a beat, in fact; musically, the band was much stronger. While the band was most productive with Jim; this version of the band kicked into overdrive.
Opportunities came and went, but we kept pushing. Johnny left to get married, and we went through a couple drummers before settling in on a real heavy-hitter named Mark Celli. When his girlfriends weren’t trying to kill him or burn his house down he was a great drummer. At this point, the band got heavier.
Not to long after Mark joined, Sandy quit and we replaced him with Tommy Rich. Just as we had with Steve; we settled. Not that Tommy wasn’t a decent guitar player; he was, but he had no clue of what we were really about. His wife got pregnant, and that was the end of him.
At that point; I just couldn’t audition another guitar player and teach him the songs, so I decided to take a break. There’s not a day that I don’t miss it and not a day that I don’t think about how incredible it was. Tracey and I were always on the same page. We didn’t just go for a ride; we drove it, and drove it hard. We did it our way. We had fans, not just in the tri-state area, but all over the world.While we never got the break we were shooting for, we still gave 1000% every single night, and I wouldn’t trade one single minute of it.
It was the best time of my life!
Jeffrey “Salty” Saltzgiver