THANK YOU PROUD MARY!
In the summer before my junior year in High School. I transferred from Canandaigua Academy, In Canandaigua, NY to Midlakes High School, located in Clifton Springs, Phelps NY. School had not started yet but football practice did!
The band I was in at the time was “Chapter III.” Named so, because it was the third version of my first band “Chain Reaction.” By now the keyboard player, Blayne Peirce and I had played together through two bands. We would later be in “Cheater.” That is many years from now though.
(in the picture above left to right: Tony Zingerella, Blayne Pierce, Jeff, Mike Varney, Bill Ertel)
Chapter III had been used to playing every Friday and Saturday night at clubs and parties for a while now and the money was good! The problem was that the only thing I loved as much as music was football. I wasn’t a great player by any measure, but I was a good athlete. I didn’t ever embarrass myself and actually would shine once in a while.
My thoughts for life after high school were to go to college with a double major. Music and sports. (rock and jock…) My big dream was to be a part of an NFL coaching staff and eventually an offensive coordinator someday. I never really thought of singing as a career but I loved music. I wanted to learn to read music. I loved writing songs and I thought I could be so much better if I could read! … but as I said, The big dream? … Sports.
Blayne and I were the closest in the band and he was my best friend by then. We were about the same age and still in high school, as I said. The rest of the guys, as I have told you in earlier stories, were in their late twenties to mid-thirties, I believe. I told Blayne, before rehearsal one night, that I was going to tell the band I wanted to take some time off to play football. I wouldn’t have time to rehearse and I wouldn’t be able to perform until after football season.
I think he was sort of OK with it but he warned me that the rest of the band is going to flip out. This was no little matter!
I told the band my plan and Blayne was absolutely correct!
The part of them that thought, “Gee, Jeff should do what he wants while he’s still in school!”
Didn’t hold up to the, “Are you crazy, this is a job! You are taking money out of our pockets!” (I can dig that now…)
After a bitter battle of words that night I left thinking they will settle down after a little while and all will be well.
WRONG! They fired me!
What? I was blown away!
Blayne told me later there was a vote and I got voted out. They would start auditioning singers right away.
I was done! Wow! I was band-less. I barely remembered NOT being in one.
Luckily, between practices and games, football took up all my time for the next few weeks. I didn’t think a lot about it.
Shortly before the season ended I received an interesting phone call from my Grandfather (John Cosco). Everybody in the Rochester, NY area knew my Grandpa. He was a bar owner and bartender back when bartenders were the real thing. They were masters at their craft. A good bartender was always in demand. Especially one who was as sociable and likeable as my Grandfather. He was occasionally on a local television show at the time, “The Eddie Meath Show.” John Cosco (grandpa) was a man about town with a wealth of information about the area. He was royalty!
Grandpa told me on the phone that he was at Marvin’s Country Club in Macedon, NY a couple of nights before. Marvin’s was a well-known golf course, restaurant and party house. It was also known for always having a great house band in the lounge every weekend. Grandpa said, “I was talking to the owners Ed and Mary Marvin. They are looking for a new house band. I told them they should hire my grandson’s band.”
They said they wanted you to come on a Sunday afternoon to play. That’s when they were auditioning.
I didn’t know what to say! I didn’t have a band anymore! My grandfather had put in a word for me though… I could not tell him that… So I said, “Ok, grandpa, that’s great. You’re the best!”
This was a big deal in those days! It would mean working every Friday and Saturday night forever! No booking hassles and moving equipment! Plus, we could play an occasional wedding or party there. That would be a possibility of three shows every weekend! After an agonizing few days I decided on a plan.
Blayne had kept me up to date on the band. Chapter III had not found a new singer yet but they were close. I asked the band for a meeting and they obliged. I presented them my idea.
We would audition for the Marvin’s gig. The deal is, If we get the gig, I’m back in the band… It would be worth it! Even though we have to wait a few more weeks until football is over. (Marvin’s didn’t need us to start for a couple more weeks anyway. The timing was perfect.) If we don’t get the gig? I’m still out!
After some discussion they agreed.
If we get the gig, “welcome back”, if we don’t, “adiós!”
On the following Sunday we had arranged to play for Ed and Mary Marvin. There was only a few people there. Ed and Mary sat at the bar and waited. It was certainly a lounge! Complete with black fake leather booths, candles on each table, carpeting throughout, even the stage was carpeted. The dance floor in front of the stage however was tile covered. We set up on the dance floor.
When we were a few songs into the performance I could see polite smiles and nods coming from both Ed and Mary. They clapped after each song but it was obvious we were not blowing them away at all. As we were coming to our last song or two, I suddenly remembered something my Grandfather also had told me when he called me, “Be sure to play “Proud Mary” (Credence Clearwater Revival). Mary Marvin loves that song!”
How could I forget that! What an idiot.
I turned to the guys for the last song and called, “Proud Mary.”
It was pretty much a standard for bands that played our style of music. The band had to be thinking Why the hell play that! Everybody does that. We played Proud Mary. Ed and Mary hooted, hollered and clapped for joy!
…We got the Gig.
Chapter III played EVERY Friday and Saturday night at Marvin’s Country Club for the next three years.
I have many great memories of that time. I believe that is when I actually started learning to be a “front man.” Barry Manilow songs were our big calling! The style of music didn’t matter though. I knew that I wanted to sing in a rock band in the future. Performing is performing. I incorporated much of what I had learned then in my later years .
Thank you Grandpa. I love you and miss you and Grandma.
…Also thank you Credence Clearwater Revival!