A Mercifully Brief Memoir
There is a small steel town in eastern Pennsylvania called Bethlehem. It was founded on Christmas Eve in 1735 by a colony of Moravian missionaries and it was a perfect place to be raised.
Were there ever better parents than these? Two older brothers and a beautiful older sister always laughing and interested. And all those happy relatives cooking, hunting, working and farting.
There were baseballs all over the place and maple trees. The neighborhood smelled of cabbage. Tiny grocery stores on every other corner with barber shops, bakeries, bars and shoemakers in between. Double homes and row houses filled with the working class. Schools that had to be reached by foot.
There was a tiny Baptist church sitting humbly in a very Catholic town. There was an altar call, a baptism, a revival and countless rededications; Fannie J. Crosby hymns and Billy Graham Crusades.
There were real big snows, cool summer evenings and leaves burning in the gutters. High black Converse the old man couldn't believe cost $8.95. There were used cars and new bikes; laundry drying in the wind; sauerkraut on sausage, hard-boiled eggs floating in beet juice and milk at the door in the morning. There were Poconos and Wildwoods.
There was a piano, a trombone and a guitar. Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and The Kingston Trio; Shelly Berman, Bob Newhart and Jonathan Winters. There were transistor radios, and eventually there was The Beatles.
There were too many cigarettes and a hole in the ground.
Lots of faithful and funny friends. Lots of faithful and funny friends.
. . . . .
There was a soccer ball, a net and a remarkable streak resulting in an offer and 3 years in Philly. John Prine and Loudon Wainwright III showed up at the Main Point. Remarkable! Add them to Dylan and Simon.
There was a weekend trip to State College that lasted for a year followed by the worst 5 years ever in That Big City (you know, The Big One) and a desperate and final flight to Guitartown.
There was a hammer and nails, bologna and cheese, bourbon and water. A marriage in Pittsburgh, an apartment on The Row and a baby on the way.
And there was this little white box of reel-to-reel tape with songs on it. What a weird and wonderful journey.
. . . . .
And there is always her. And there is always her. And Him...
This is the life I’ve been living...
Education (very little) and Jobs (too many.)
K - 6 Lafayette Elementary School
7 - 9 Northeast Junior High School (Go Hornets!)
10 - 12 Liberty High School (Go Hurricanes!)
College: Drexel University (Go Dragons)!
Degree: B.S in Biblical Studies - Lancaster (PA) Bible College (Go Chargers)!
Work Experience (Stuff I've Done for Money)
1966 - 1967: Calvary Baptist Church (Bethlehem, PA) - I cut the grass at my church and they paid me $5.00 per cut. Length of service: 2 summers.
1967: Arby's Roast Beef (Bethlehem, PA) - This chain of fast-food restaurants opened a store in my hometown back in the mid 1960's and one of my Mom's cousins was the manager. He hired me to work at the counter. I gave some of my friends free food. Length of service: 3 hours.
1965 - 1966: Bethlehem Area School District (Bethlehem, PA) - They did a good deed for us young rascals in Bethlehem - they basically hired anyone who wanted a job during the summer to cut grass, trim hedges and rake leaves at all the schools in town for minimum wage. Length of service: 3 summers.
1971: Norman Cooper Record Distributor (Philadelphia, PA) - When I went off to college at Drexel I was in a program in which you went to school for 6 months and then they got you a job 'in your field' for 6 months. They called it a work-study program. I got assigned to this place that was a small, independent record distributor in West Philly. Length of service: Two 6-month terms.
1973: Radio Shack (State College, PA) - I moved to State College after I quit going to Drexel. I had a little money with me but soon enough I was forced to get a job. That happened pretty quickly when I answered a newspaper ad announcing the opening of a new Radio Shack in the Bellefonte Mall. This really nice guy named Bruce interviewed and hired me within 30 minutes. Length of service: 3 months.
1973: Record Bar (State College, PA) - Right down the mall hall there was an opening at a music store called The Record Bar. I'd go in there on my breaks from the Radio Shack and I got to know the folks pretty well. Getting the job was not that hard although I had to tell Bruce I was leaving. I worked at Record Bar about 6 months as a general clerk and eventually became assistant manager. Being assistant manager meant you didn't have to vacuum the floor at night. Length of service: 7 months.
1973: Hanover Foods (Hanover, PA) - My job at Hanover Foods was the second shortest gig I ever had - 12 hours. It was a food processing and packaging plant in the middle of God-Knows-Where, PA that operated 24 hours a day. With 2 ¨ö years of college I was pretty much the Albert Einstein of the Hanover facility so I was immediately placed on the french fry packer/sealer - a very sophisticated machine. Length of service: 1 shift.
1974 - 1977: The Walk-Up King (New York, NY) - I moved to Manhattan in January of 1974 to become the next Bob Dylan. I even got a place in the East Villlage with all the addicts, pimps and poets. I needed work to pay rent, buy groceries and have some cash in my pockets when I'd get held up or pan-handled. I was young, strong and not afraid of physical labor so I got a job with a moving and storage company called The Walk-Up King. Length of service: On and off for 4 years much of which transpired during the Son of Sam murder spree.
1975 - 1976: TeleSession (New York, NY) - TeleSession was a newly-formed marketing firm that was focused primarily in the medical field. I was hired as a TeleSession Account Manager. Eight hours a day I sat in a little cubicle with a stack of phone numbers and called doctors. Length of service: On and off for 1 year.
1975: A New American Theater (ANAT) (New York, NY) - A small group of wonderful actors, directors, playwrights and singers was assembled by my friend, John Shearin, for the purpose of exploring innovative theatrical productions. We hit our stride for several weeks in 1975 when we were housed as guest artists at The North Carolina School for the Arts. Length of service: 6 months.
1978: Angelo's Italian Restaurant (Nashville, TN) - My first job in Nashville was at Angelo's where I was a bus boy and then a waiter. I met a lifetime friend there: J. Remington Wilde. I also saw our dishwasher get stabbed and told one of the owners to kiss my ass. Very nice experience all-around. Length of service: 4 months.
1978: The Advent Theater (Nashville, TN) - An Actor's Equity theater housed in a beautiful edifice formerly The Advent Episcopal Church. This is the congregation that was once served by Tennessee Williams' grandfather, or so I've been told. I was hired to act and sing in a musical entitled 'Diamond Studs' in the spring of 1978 and after our run was over the Director of the theater, Wes Brustad, hired me as his assistant. I also performed again as Christopher Wren in a production of 'Mousetrap.' Length of service: Almost 2 years. No pension.
1979: Haury & Smith (Nashville, TN) - I had learned to user a hammer along the way and became a very reliable framer. Spent much of the summer of 1979 framing about 12 homes in a development called River Rest. Hot as hell. Length of service: 9 months.
1980: George's Re-Modeling Service (Nashville, TN) - My pal George, the head carpenter at the Advent Theater, got some private re-modeling work and asked me to help him with a job on 16th Avenue preparing an old house for its new owners Eddie Rabbitt and Jim Malloy. They were moving their music publishing company and recording studio into this space. Length of service: 6 months.
1980: Tennessee Performing Arts Center (Nashville, TN) - Another close pal from the Advent Theater, Brian Lasczko, landed a big job with TPAC as production manager or something like that. He hired me as superintendent of the stage shop. I built the ticket urns for all the theaters at TPAC and I think they're still being utilized. Length of service: 9 months.
1981 - 1984: Debdave/Briarpatch Publishing (Nashville, TN) - My very first publishing deal. The 6 months working for George resulted in being signed as a songwriter by Even Stevens, Jim and David Malloy and Eddie Rabbitt. By far my most productive years as a writer. Length of service: 4 years.
1985 - 1995 : Writer's Group/EMI (Nashville, TN) - A long stretch for a songwriter and I had to beg to get released. The Writer's Group was founded by my friend, James Stroud, a dear guy and a world-class drummer and producer. That initial staff included Paul Overstreet, Dan Tyler, J. Fred Knobloch and me. Length of service: 10 years.
1992 - 1998: The RCA Records Label/RLG (Nashville, TN) - In a shocking turn of events Joe Galante hired me as VP of Operations at RCA/Nashville. Upon his return from New York he retained my services as Sr. VP of A & R. Length of service: 6 years.
1997 - 2001: Rondor/Almo-Irving Music (Nashville, TN) - My dear pal David Conrad allowed me to strap on a financial 'parachute' enabling me to remove myself from the demands of the record business by becoming a full-time songwriter once again. (Bless you, David!)
2001 - 2005: Balmur Corus Music (Nashville, TN/Toronto, ON) - A music publishing firm originally funded by Anne Murray and subsequently purchased by Corus Entertainment. I was hired to revamp and refresh the business. I began my tenure on September 4, 2001 (a Tuesday) and flew to Calgary, Alberta to attend the Canadian Country Music Awards on Friday. A week after I started I was on my way to the Calgary airport to return to Nashville when the world came to an end. Four days later eleven of us hired a bus and two drivers and arrived safely back in Nashville 44 hours later. What a long, strange trip it was. Length of service: 4 years.
2005 (on-going): Working on a non-fiction collection entitled How To Get Out of the Music Business. Credentials to write this: 35 years...
2005 - present: Woodmont Christian Church (Nashville, TN) - Director, Young Adult Ministries & Mission/Outreach