I have been lucky enough to play with some amazing musicians in my life. One of them is Mike Gladstone. Mike is a world class guitarist. He has a style and an energy to everything he plays that is infectious. He can play anything. His ear is impeccable. He picks out the nuances of solos and grooves that a lot of musicians wouldn’t hear. We first played together in my band “Jeff Cosco and Times Square“. It was during that time that Mike set me on an adventure that I never expected!
It was in the early 1990’s I believe. Jeff Cosco and Times Square had just finished the night at a local venue in Rochester, NY called Schnozz’z. The owner of the establishment was Dave Cultrera. Dave would later become one of my closest friends and business partner. Dave left this world too soon and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him. I have some of the greatest memories of my life with Dave. (more stories…)
At this time though, I was just getting to know him. Dave and I were talking in the kitchen of the club. He mentioned that he was thinking about trying some acoustic acts one night a week. Just then a voice behind me said, “Oh, Jeff and I are an acoustic act!”
It was Mike Gladstone… What in the world was he talking about? We don’t have an acoustic act! I looked at him surprised, but I played along. Dave said, that would be great and he asked if we wanted to try Wednesday nights and see how it goes. Mike said, “Sure!”
When Dave was gone I said, “Mike! Are we really going to try to pull this off?”
He replied, “Sure, we can do it!”
It was booked…every Wednesday…
Putting a new band or act together is very involved, if you want to do it right. There are many decisions that need to be made. First of all, if you are going to play cover music, (other artist’s music besides your own) you have to decide what music genre you want it to be. Then you need to find the right people that are into the same idea that you have. They also have to be able to play it convincingly. Then there are hours and hours of rehearsals to learn the material and to get the sound of the band together. You need to successfully create a blend from the band member’s individual personalities. (easy peasy…!) Then you move on to preparing the stage production. How do you want to look? How will the stage be laid out? You then put together the correct order of songs to create the mood for the performance. This needs to be run over and over and over again until you can do it blindfolded… You’re not done!… Now you have to promote it! You have to get people interested in wanting to hear you perform. You have to get venues to want to book you. Promotion, promotion, promotion! THEN! If you are lucky enough… and all the stars align correctly… All that hard work MIGHT pay off!
Mike and I did none of this…. We totally winged it! This was just going to be something to do one night a week, a fun jam after all. My thoughts, at the time were, I wasn’t a good guitarist but I could lay down some chords. I could sing of course and then let Mike carry the show! (Hee hee)
As we were putting a song list together we naturally went with songs that we were both familiar with. The problem was, the songs weren’t really what you would consider traditional acoustic music. Not to mention the fact that there were already acts in the area that were awesome at this.
We decided to try giving it our own flavor. (probably out of necessity.) Mike is an aggressive player with a lot of energy. I am not the most laid back performer either and I sing pretty loud and am used to belting out songs that I can get emotional with. Would this work acoustically?
We threw a poster together (HUGE promotion!) to see if we could draw some attention to the upcoming show. We opened our vast creative minds and came up with the name, “Jeff and Mike!”
Any musician will tell you that some of the best work they have done has been on the spur of the moment. Spontaneity is a great motivator. I believe it is because the creative part of you rises up! It’s uninhibited by some rehearsed structure… Also, if you don’t want to stink up the place, you better come up with the goods.
Our first night was a great surprise. We didn’t embarrass ourselves! People seem to enjoy it. It was a strange experience to not have a whole band behind you. That is what I had been used to for years. It also turns out that Mike was a MONSTER acoustic guitar player!
As far as me belting it out emotionally and strong, there was no problem. It worked in this format also!
We were definitely on to something here with this high energy, acoustic rock thing! Maybe we should work on it? …Nah… we were just jamming. We got bigger fish to fry!
Earlier I spoke of being lucky enough to perform with some great musicians. My Cousin, Mike Cosco is another one. Mike’s voice is one of the strongest and purest voices I’ve ever heard. He effortlessly hits notes that would challenge most singers and has a unique tenor to his voice that is so appealing. He is older than me so I always looked up to him. I also always wanted to do something musically together with him but there was never an opportunity. Two singers don’t often find a chance to work together. Mike had a popular solo act for years! A great guitar player and singer can do that!
I ran into Mike Cosco, and told him what Mike Gladstone and I were doing on Wednesday nights. I asked him if he would come and sit in with us on a few songs. He said he would.
Almost from the moment Mike Cosco sat in with us, I realized the three of us were a perfect match. Mike Cosco was so much better on guitar than I could ever be, and that was huge! The two Mikes complimented each other amazingly well.
I don’t think there was ever actually a conscious decision made by any of us. It was just a natural feeling that Mike Cosco should do the Wednesdays with us. So that’s what we did.
Jeff Cosco and Times Square had ended and it left time for me to decide what my next step would be. It was the same for Mike Gladstone. This Wednesday thing was just a time filler. Mike Cosco had a schedule of solo dates and Mike Gladstone was working on new projects. We could easily get together on a Wednesday for S* and giggles (and a few extra bucks).
We started getting asked to play some other shows and venues as if we were a “real” act. We said sure why not! When we can.
We decided rehearsing would be a good idea. It opened us up to a whole bunch of songs that we never would think to attempt without a full band. That is how I felt at least, I started digging it. With all three of us able to sing I could just imagine the diversity we would have if we actually worked on it. With this “acoustic rock” thing we had going, we could do anything!
That was one hell of an assumption to make though. Everybody has something else going. Would they be interested in pursuing this?
As it turned out, yes! Who knew?
After a few rehearsals, we needed a name! We once again put our brilliant minds together… Three of them this time… we came up with “Cosco, Gladstone, Cosco!”
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young became one of our main staples as well as anything we could put harmony on. The classic rock stuff was rejuvenated to us in this format. Mike and Mike were amazing together on the guitars. We already knew that Mike Gladstone was a great guitar player, but he was blowing us away with what he could do on an acoustic! The three of us were also enjoying switching off singing leads and harmonies.
After only a few shows, we were playing a venue in East Rochester, New York (Mike Cosco’s, as well as my home town), When a guy walked in the door that we all new… Brother Wease!
Brother Wease is another whole story to tell. When it came to radio morning shows in Rochester, NY, he was (and still is as far as I’m concerned) The king! No one could touch him. The Howard Stern show came to a competing radio station… Wease kicked his ass without breaking a sweat. Nobody in the country could do that!
We sat around having a few with Wease and he said, “Hey, you guys should come on the show, play some songs and mess around, you know?” We took him up on that offer, of course, and it turned into a weekly appearance on his show!
The ease of only needing a couple acoustic guitars made it possible for us to do anything! By now we were really enjoying what we had. It was a ton of fun on the radio and that made for a ton of people in the venues. Then it happened…
A most amazing thing to me to this day! Right in sync with us suddenly getting such great exposure, a new trend was starting around the country… A trend called… “Unplugged.” National rock bands were touring and recording new and old rock hits on acoustic based instruments!
We were actually ahead of the curve! We were already doing that!
That spur of the moment idea that Mike Gladstone had, before anybody was doing it, toured colleges, state fairs and a ton of venues everywhere for the next 9 years. Longer than anything I have ever been involved with!
There are moments in a musician’s career that stand out. Moments you will never forget. When something you do sounds so good that you are amazed, you feel blessed to be a part of it and you are reminded why you do what you do for a living. One of those moments was when Mike and Mike and I first sang in three-part harmony together. There was no explanation for it and we decided never to try to figure it out. It might ruin it! I have worked with many great singers before and since then but nothing sounded like that! Still to this day when the three of us get together, I get goosebumps. It is just something about how our voices blend. Something special.