In the beginning there was two bands, Chapter III, a lounge band playing that ever so loveable genre of music that everyone in the 25 years old and up crowd wanted in the 70’s. A mixture of ballads, country, top 40 and lots of songs with extra cheese, playing at Marvins Country Club in Macedon, NY. …and Monarch a rock band that had lots of friends and could rock with the best of them, playing at The Farm Restaurant. These bands played 3.4 miles away from each other every weekend but never knew each other.
Monarch was a bunch of guys in their teens playing for a crowd in their teens. Chapter III, with the exception of Keyboard player Blayne Pierce and I, were in their twenties and thirties playing for the “older” crowd. The two bands had nothing in common so they never crossed paths.
Chapter III came to an end when Blayne went off to college. I had no interest in keeping it going without Blayne and I also was ready to make the move I had been waiting for since I graduated from school. I wanted to rock!
What I was writing and what I was listening to was what we would now call “classic rock”, but it was new then and I wanted in! Those rock guys could wail and I was sick of “Feelings…nothing more than feelings…” OY!
I moved back to East Rochester, NY, with the sole intention of putting together a rock band. I got a job at Burger King as I drove into town. (…close!)
The guitarist from Chapter III, and longtime friend, Bill Ertel, had decided to pursue musicians interested in continuing what we were doing. He ran an ad in the local penny saver thingy. I didn’t rule it out. If he was able to find some good musicians. I liked playing with Bill. It’s was not, of course, what I really wanted to do musically.
Monarch was coming to an end because their guitar player, Chris Mawdesley, was going off to college. (Sound familiar?) The bass player, Kevin McKee and the drummer Chris Brake, decided to look for something else. They answered an ad in the local penny saver thingy.
They answered Bill Ertels ad.
When I first jammed with Kevin and Chris it became blatantly apparent that these guys had some awesome skills. We started jamming on songs we were all familiar with and hit it off great. I was diggin’ it because Kevin and Chris were taking Bill and I in the direction I wanted to go! Rock!
With the addition of keyboardist Tom Dailey, a local guy from Naples NY, we came out of the garage as “Jeff Cosco Highway.”
Using my name was strictly for name recognition. We knew The Finger Lakes area in New York State was going to be our main market in the beginning and people would know me.
Highway was an immediate crowd drawer at Pappy’s Campus Cave, a now defunct venue on Canandaigua Lake. We rocked a little with some Bob Seger, The Eagles and dance music. I had written a couple of songs that were in the show that caught on pretty good in our microcosm test ground. I remember our big hit song was “You Gotta Feel Right, To Do Right.” I don’t know what the hell that meant but hey, I was a kid and you could dance your ass off to it!
Pappy’s and another now defunct venue in Canandaigua, New York, The Ale House (Now called Jose and Willie’s the last I knew), became our main stomping grounds. We could count on a large crazy and enthusastic crowd at every show.
We had a sound system! We had a sound man! We had a crew! We had a light show! Those were all firsts for me. I had never had monitors before! For those who don’t know, monitors are the speakers facing the band so that we can hear ourselves. We are standing behind the speakers that the audience is listening to, therefore we need our own speakers.
Jerry Mazac was Monarch’s sound man and he came along with us. Jerry was also a guitar player. He is a great guy and was so much help in those days! His apprentice was a young kid named Rick Triest. Rick is now one of my longest friends. We worked together for the next 35 years or so, as he became the sound man for Cheater and very highly sought after.
With Chris, Kevin and I on the same page to become a rock band it was inevitable. The more we rocked though, the less Bill Ertel was interested and we parted ways. I love Bill. We played for many years together and he was always a great guy and a great friend. Rock just wasn’t his thing.
Keyboardist Tom Daily also left as we migrated more to other areas. He wasn’t a traveling man.
It was down to Chris Kevin and I with Jerry Mazac filling in occasionally on guitar.
For Chris Brake, Kevin McKee and I, music became our life. We now wanted to make that next step. Get the right guys, write and record. For me, it was time to try to become big enough to support myself doing what I loved. Thus the journey began for national attention.
My job at Burger King proved to be very helpful. I was a manager now and I hired the guys so that we could make some money while we worked on putting the next band together.
The first version of that new band played one show! We played a Victor High School Dance in Victor NY. We didn’t have a name but we had enough songs!
Chris Mawdesley was home on college brake. He and the other guys introduced me to Greg McPike. Great guy, great gear and a great keyboardist. The show was awesome! I was now working on stretching my vocal chords to be able to cover what we were doing. I wasn’t bad but I had a long way to go.
It was only one time though. Greg couldn’t commit to music full time and Chris was going back to school…… or was he?
We all talked about what we wanted to do and how we were going to go about it. We needed a guitar player and a keyboardist. That much we knew. What we were writing and what we wanted to cover, called for it.
I started getting the impression from Chris Mawdesley that he would stick around and not go back to college yet. I believe he saw the potential but it would be a huge decision for him. There would have to be a major commitment on everybody’s part to dedicate themselves to this band. I knew so far, everyone was, but we needed a damn keyboard player to pull it all together. We were having no luck.
I knew the right guy …I told the band I knew the right guy …but I also knew there was no chance. I finally decided, what the hell! I’ll give it a shot!
I called Blayne.
Blayne Pierce had been away for some time now. He was at Chapel Hill University in North Carolina and was living in the Raleigh/Durham area. We talked for a while about what was going on with him. He was playing in a rock band in his area and finishing up school. I don’t remember how much he had left. I know he was on break just like Chris Mawdesley was. So I threw it out there. I told him I have some great guys to put a serious band together with, we just need a keyboard player that writes, sings and plays his ass off. Does that sound like anybody you know?
He started thinking out loud to me, “Well it sounds great, I could probably come up and check it out.”
Cool! I asked him when he thought he could get free.
He said, “Well I’ve got some stuff to finish up here, and I would have to do few other things. I could probably be on the road late tonight….”
I was blown away! Very rarely in life do things work out the way you want them to… This was exactly what I had hoped for. I couldn’t believe it happened.
Right from the start of rehearsals we knew we had the makings of something special. As most bands did in those days, we had to find the right cover songs (songs by other popular bands) that would complement the songs we were writing. The formula was, play popular music to draw the crowd and then slip in your original music. This made you unique and hopefully would give you a chance to do something with your own music down the road.
So …We worked hard …we lived broke …we laughed a lot and we became tight as a band and as friends.
Blayne Pierce, Chris Mawdesley, Kevin Mckee, Chris Brake and myself weren’t quite aware of it yet but …
Cheater was born.