Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daily Dose #23 (06/19/11)


(Where a future international guitar hero makes an appearance)

In the spring of 1994, my friend and production partner Bob Acquaviva started to assemble painstakingly the aural physical reality of a blueprint that was in the design process for three years, and mostly contained in my twisted brain.

We had completed basic tracks in February over a seven day period, including minor fixes to guitar, bass and drum tracks, and all piano tracks (of which were overdubbed).

Now came the "build it from the ground up phase". We did have a pretty well conceptualized map, but what we didn't have was time and a budget.

So we attacked it piece-meal, whenever Bob's incredibly busy studio had a chunk of down time, which was rare.

Our regular guitarist, Pete Heitzman, had left the band to pursue his future with his partner Karen Savoca full time directly after basic tracking had been completed.

The band was in the middle of a recording. I love Pete dearly, but his timing, at least for the band's agenda, totally sucked. The record at least in terms of guitars in the arrangements, was designed around his amazing abilities. He left before I could realize what I had mapped out for him, the band, and most importantly the recording.

It wasn't the first personnel hiccup that we encountered, and it certainly wasn't going to be the last.

Pete had thrown down mightily to get us to the point we were at, so there was no acrimony or resentment. It was just really inconvenient at the time.

Mick Walker, Pete's eventual replacement, was a great fit, and having extra guitar overdubs to complete was a good way to get him slowly worked into the family.

Everything works out for the best, but at the time, Bob and I were trying to yank our Epic Rhythm and Blues version of "Citizen Kane" out of our asses and thin air, and we just lost a critical contributor. Pete was going to be missed.

One of the first tracks recorded in the fall of 1993 was a cover of Alvin "Shine" Robinson's "Down Home Girl", the six piece version of The Hugarians cutting it "live" in the studio.

Pete's rhythm playing on that track is the epitome of greasy art and dixie-fried, funky feel. "Down Home Girl" was a mainstay and support post that carried the flow and narrative of our live three-hour-sets- without-a-break show.

Although it continued to be right up until the end, it never would acheive the level of stanky-assed funk as it had with Pete.

The arrangement was designed to have a guitar work out and solo over a repetitive Bb groove at the end, with a fade, and Bob and I found ourselves without a guitar player to execute the showcase.

Bob suggested a sixteen year old kid that had been making some large local noise, Joey Bonamassa.

Joe was a Utica, NY homeboy, and was a child prodigy blues guitarist, known as "Smokin' Joe Bonamassa".

His father Lenny would take him to any and every show possible to get him stage time, exposure, and seasoning.

Not only did every local blues band got to experience the extraodinary guitar gifts of this child wunderkind, but artists of international stature straightened up their backs and took notice. BB King and Danny Gatton were early heavy hitters that were in Joe's corner, lending their full support.

He was destined for greatness and everybody around here knew it.

I had met Joe when were were recording The Bogeymen discs, albeit briefly. He was a very sweet and humble kid, and his Pops Lenny was obviously a proud and loving father. They were good peeps all around.

So there was a familiarity the day that Joe and Lenny walked into ACQROK to record the solo for "Down Home Girl"... my newly adopted Utica family just getting together to make a little noise.

Joe was only 16 or 17 years old when he walked in. Past puberty, but not quite an adult. He was tall, and still carrying baby fat.

He was like a big cuddly Baby Huey in giant Timberlane Frankenstein boots and glasses.

But put a guitar in his hands, and he immediately turns into an assassin.

Bob had set up an amp rig in the main room: A MATT amp and a vintage 12 X 2 Fender Bassman cabinet. Joe plugged in through the control room, sat in an Aeron Chair, and made a pass at the track.

Clearly, this kid just wasn't a blues guitarist at this point. He just quietly tore the track, and my head to shreds like it was nothing, and then quietly asked if the track was OK.

OK? Are you kidding me?

He wanted to take another shot at it, and did. No punches, no fixes. Wham, Bam, Thank You M'aam and done. This is the performance heard on "Down Home Girl".

The Fender Bassman cabinet had been destroyed during this take, so there was no point in continuing anyway.

I joked that once he started drinking heavily and getting laid, perhaps his playing would improve.

We sat around listening to some of the other completed work, and then Joe and Lenny took off. That was that.

During that spring and summer, Lenny brought Joe out to some Styleen's gigs to sit in, but by the time the master went to the pressing plant, Joe had been signed to EMI in a project band called "BLOODLINE", its members children of Berry Oakley, Robby Kreiger, Miles Davis, a veteran and well respected local keyboardist from Syracuse, Lou Secreti, and Joey.

It was a band with a gimmick, but they had some chart success and it was the start of an amazing professional career for Joe.

He now plays the Royal Albert Hall with Eric Clapton, tours the world tirelessly, owns his own record label, and plays in Black Country Communion, a side project with Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple fame, and Jason Bonham.

In other words, he was always the real deal, but it took some time for the whole world to figure it out. But the world has indeed, figured out just how talented Joe Bonamassa truly is.

Joe is still a very centered, and rooted rockstar. He still stays in touch with his homeboy peeps. When he played at the House Of Blues in New Orleans, I could always count on a call and comps from Joe.

The Universe was really paying off big time that day. Not only did we capture Joe in an early performance for posterity, but it created a feeling of good will and fellowship that continues through the years.

We are all very proud of that moment, and very proud of Joe's successes. He worked his butt off and earned everyone of them. Out of all that transpired before him locally, he was the one that finally busted out of the box.

Todd Fitzsimmons, a local blues guitarist of note himself, sent me a link to an ebay auction of The Shuffling Hungarians eponymously titled debut disc, starting bid yesterday was $14.99 US Dollars. Its running joke between some of my facebook pals that I have officially reached the status of a "Memorobilia" classification.

I can swear on my Mother's eyes that as the manufacturer of this disc, and the wizard of all things Hungaria in exile, that very few of these still exist. Bob and I have the last two copies left from the last production run.

If you want a shot of owning a piece of real Syracuse music history, and hear the intersection of the past and future that materialized in the form of a guitar solo weilded from the hands of a 16 year old kid about to conquer guitar world, now's your chance.

Here's the link:

The bid is up to 31 simoleans (21 schekels above it's original price of 10 beans outta the back of the trunk of the Ford LTD) You have approximately 1 day and 11 hours ....

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