I grew up a mid-west boy. I decided after my parents let me stay up to watch A Hard Day’s Night on the Late Show, on a school night. From that moment, I knew what I wanted to do.
Unfortunately, my mom said I needed to play a “real” instrument, rather than a guitar. Turns out; I had lips perfectly suited for the trombone. I can’t stress enough how much I hated playing – or trying to play – the trombone.
I had zero interest in it, to the point that when I would leave for school carrying the stupid thing; I would carry it behind the garage, and throw it in the window. In the orchestra they have 1st, chair, 2nd chair, etc.. Well, my chair was in the parking lot.
My Mom finally gave in and let me start taking guitar lessons at the local music store. Now we’re talking! But I had no interest in learning Michael Row Your Boat Ashore; so that didn’t go much better than the trombone.
At that point I decided I really wanted to play the bass guitar. I would walk out of my lesson into the store and just stand there drooling over this beautiful blue bass guitar.
Somehow, we came across a guy named Bill Bahmflek who taught guitar/bass. Each week he’d get the latest top 40 hit records, figure out the chords and type them up. I’d get to the lesson and pick one of those songs to learn. Now we’re talking! I’m rockin’ right outta the gate!
He taught me to play be ear. While I learned scales and everything else over the years; the greatest thing he taught me was to listen.
After a year of his lessons, I joined my first band. It was a group of junior high kids and the band was called Nysa…
like Styx was a river; Nysa was a valley. I rehearsed a lot with those guys, played a few gigs and then left with one of the guitar players, named Vic, to start our own group.
We got a drummer named Mo, and the three of us were the core for a few years; adding a few people every now and then. At 16, I was playing in a bowling alley bar every Friday and Saturday night after we added a singer/guitar player.
Vic left to join the Navy and I hooked up with a guitar player named Dave, and drummer named Rick, in a band we named Swift Kick. When Vic was back around, he’d join up. That band was doing pretty well. We played most every weekend and were pretty busy.
By this point; I had quit college and was working for my Dad selling auto parts. One day after work, he asked me,”What are you going to do with your life?” It was pretty obvious that being an auto parts man was not in my future.
When I told him I wanted to pursue music his response, among other things was, “You can’t do it here, You’re going to have to move to LA or New York where the business is.”
Now why didn’t I think of that?
Four months later, I loaded up a U-Haul with my guitars amps and a bed and headed towards NYC. I though I’d just get a newspaper and find an apartment. Who know that in NYC; that’s virtually impossible. I had and Aunt and Uncle in Jersey, that took pity on me and let me move in until I got my shit together. I’ll be forever thankful to them for that. I was with them for 2 months, until I found a job and a band.
The band was named Quest. We rehearsed for a couple months, played two shows and broke up. The singer in that band was Ray Gillen, who would spend time in Black Sabbath and ultimately Badlands. The keyboard player was Greg Munier; who would end up on the first Saraya album. The problem with Quest was; these two guy’s ego’s couldn’t exist in the same room. Done.
I was now looking for a new band. A few weeks later the drummer of Quest called me asking if I was interested in joining a new band he was starting. He had met a female singer and was going to build a band around her. I went down to Tony’s basement, met her and jammed, and I joined up.
Now’s when the Sweet-N-Evil story really starts. The singer was Tracey Lepore.
We called the band Legend and got to work. We had management and worked a good deal. I was with Legend for about two years; but I have no recall of why I left. Tracey remembers it one way; which I know is mot what happened… but I have no idea.
I ended up in a band in NYC with another female singer named Ellen Harris. That would be my first all original group. No covers.
While all of this was going on; there was one band on the New Jersey scene named Phantom’s Opera. They were so far and above every other group that I would see them every chance I got.
One day I was reading the local music paper and I saw an ad that said: “Area’s top heavy metal band seeks bass player.” Just for the heck of it, I called to see who it was. The guy on the other end of the phone said, :It’s Phantom’s Opera”.
I about jumped through the phone! “Stop looking. I’m your guy. I see you guys all the time. I know your set list!!!!”
I set up an audition, and after a few months I was in the band. I replaced Alec Such who would later be in Bon Jovi. They also changed the name to The Opera. Prior to Sweet-N-Evil; it was the best time of my life. We were working five nights a week. Playing music was now my job.
A little Bon Jovi sidebar. A few months before The Opera I got a call from a keyboard player friend. He was in another big band on the circuit called White Tiger. The guys from White Tiger – minus the bass player – were going to meet up with a guy in NYC who they be the band for. I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to play with the White Tiger guys, so I drove into NYC twice, to play with a guy named Jon Bongiovi.
Turns’ out the White Tiger guys weren’t interested in doing it, and I had gotten into The Opera, so I was content. I called Jon just to touch base a month or so later and said that he’d decided to just use studio guys on his demo. We said good-bye and that was that.
The age change killed The Opera. I then joined a Who tribute band called Dr. Jimmy and The Who Show – way too many drugs for me, so I didn’t last long with them. I then got back with guys from The Opera in a band called Young and Rich.
After that I started a group with the guitar player from The Opera, the drummer from Legend, a keyboard player and another chick singer named Lori Parkhurst. called The Quoir. We kept pretty busy, but I was always on the lookout for something special. I was tired of playing other people’s music.
I saw an ad in the Village Voice for a band in NYC. I don’t remember what grabbed me, but something did, as a few days later I was in a loft on 39th Street auditioning with a singer and drummer from Nebraska. They had come to NYC in an old school bus, chasing the music. After a few months, all that was left of the group were these two guys. I liked the singer’s song writing; I joined up.
Ultimately, I brought Nic, the guitar player from The Opera, Young and Rich and The Quior to join.
That band, called Dreams In Color, had so many contacts; I have no idea how it never happened. I stuck with the singer for about 4 years, because I believed in the songs.
Now here’s where Tracey comes back into my life.
When any of my friends would have a party they’d call me up and ask me to put something together to play. I’d call up any musicians I knew and we’d have a big group to just jam all night long. The drummer I would always call first was Tony from the Legend days. We got to talking and I mentioned that Dreams In Color was looking for a couple girl singers.
He was still in touch with Tracey and suggested I give her a call, as she had recently quit the band she was in. I called her and we made arrangements for her to come to a rehearsal at S.I.R. Studios later in the week.
She came to the audition but it really wasn’t her thing. She’s a lead singer period. Backing up somebody else; especially somebody she can sing rings around, was never going to work.
I was never a drug guy. The whole “Sex, Drugs and Rock-N-Roll” thing was only partially right for me. I had absolutely no use for drugs; but I tried to make up for it by excelling with the other two.
The keyboard player in Dreams In Color was a coke dealer, so rehearsals were constantly being interrupted for him to make deals. I finally told the singer that he’d have to choose; either me – who’d stuck with him for years, or the drug dealer. He chose the coke.
I played one last show at The Limelight; and I quit.
We didn’t know it at the time, but that was the start of Sweet-N-Evil. It was almost exactly two years later that we played our first show.