1973 and 1974 was my freshman and sophomore year at Canandaigua Academy in Canandaigua, NY. The high school was so cool that they had a dance every other Friday night…with a band!! It is almost unheard of these days and it wasn’t that common in those days either. Like I said though. CDGA Academy was so cool!
I was a goofy kid with plans of college in the future but not really any specific direction. My only interests were sports and music but there was no future in those fields. You had to be really talented!
I did not know that in less than a few weeks, not only would I have a career choice but I was about to experience the two biggest influences that guided me.
They would set me on my path in life.
On this particular Friday I went to the dance to have a good time, flirt with some girls and just generally let lose like we all did in those days.
When the band started up, something was different than other dances though. The band sounded amazing! I thought for sure that the school hired some national band somehow.
I immediately was drawn to the front of the stage to check it out. The front man, lead singer, was so freakin’ cool. He had this smile and this voice and this “presence” about him that just demanded your attention. The band was so funky and tight. They had the whole place jumping like I had never seen before!
…and that singer! He owned the place, I swear I had a man crush on the dude. …No one could be that cool! …I wanted to be that cool! He sang his ass off and even played the hell out of a saxophone! No one could be that talented!
I turned to somebody and asked, “Who is this band!?”
The response? …Mother Freedom… Damn! Even the name was cool!
I spent the evening mesmerized. I even danced! Well, if you call jumping around like a fool dancing…then I was dancing! Mostly though I starred. I watched everything they were doing. I listened to everything they were playing. I knew I was in the presence of greatness. I knew that if I was ever in a band, I would want to be just like that singer!
(For those of you who knew Mother Freedom. You are smiling. For those of you who didn’t. At that time they were the funkiest, most soulful and best performing band you could find. Western New York was lucky to have these guys and still do. All these guys went on to do amazing things and still are.)
I quickly found out the singers name and never forgot it. Jimmy Richmond. (He was so smooth, so cool…. He was so cool he married the Principles daughter! (Love ya Judy…)
Two weeks went by and it was Friday night, dance night again, but with a different band of course. Once again though, the night took on a whole new vibe as soon as this band started playing. Once again I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Once again there was this singer… (sound familiar…) The singer had a monster voice. I am talking about a killer vocalist that seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t do with his throat. I knew enough about singing at this point that what this guy was doing was unbelievable. His range…his power…his energy…that voice!
Once again I was blown away. I loved the band, the sound, the power. They were a true rock band in its purest form.
There was a major difference between this band and Mother Freedom. Nobody was going crazy… Everybody seemed kind of laid back instead of partying.
…and I knew why.
You see this band was a concert act …This band was a rock show …This band you listened to and rocked! This band was not a “dance” band.
This band was “Black Sheep!” …and that singer? Lou Gramm
I loved everything about them because I wasn’t just a dance music fan, I liked to rock too! There was no better rock band in the area than these guys.
Why was a rock band playing a “dance?” Who cared…not me! This had to be the best rock band I had ever seen. People enjoyed it in a different way than if they were a party, dance band. They listened!
(Lou Gramm of Black Sheep later became a legend. He joined the band Foreigner, probably not very long after this performance, and the rest is Rock and Roll history!)
So, there it was. My new thought was, if I was ever in a band…I would want to be just like Lou Gramm! To sing with that power and that range…and I want to be a performer, front man, show man, singer just like Jimmy Richmond!
Wait!… What’s this “if I ever was in a band” s*!” …I wanna be in a band!
…setting the bar a little high don’t you think?
By some complete coincidence or maybe it was some kind of destiny thing, later in life, much to my amazement, these two experiences with these guys and these bands would not only be my influence but would also become a huge part of my life.
I was fortunate enough to be in Cheater and other bands with Black Sheep’s Guitarist, Don Mancuso (The amazing) and Black Sheep’s drummer Ronny Rocco (also amazing).
The best part of course, is that these guys became my brothers.
I also was fortunate enough to be friends with Lou Gramm and get to perform with him on numerous occasions. Something I will never forget.
Mother Freedom! I performed in many bands and performances with some of the guys from Mother freedom. My heart breaks when I think of the wonderful human being and most gifted musician Ralph Ortiz! He left us way to soon…
Oh! That really cool guy Jimmy Richmond? He became and is one of my closest and dearest friends. We’ve been in many bands together, we have written together we have recorded together and been partners. Hell, we have traveled to every major city in the country together! …I love Jimmy. He is also my Daughter’s Godfather!
Who’da thunk! …Who would have believed that this is what life held in store for me. The irony is amazing to me. They say everything circles around.
This was one crazy circle… I am a lucky man!
or is it…
This was one lucky circle…I am a crazy man!