Welcome

"Next time you hear an effective and affecting lyrics-first, narrative and nakedly personal songwriter like Billy Manas, just remember that this act of staying out of the way of the lyrics is a musical skill, not a literary one. Props where they are due." -John Burdick  Hudson Valley Almanac 

"Billy Manas has star power."  Woodstock Times


"Billy Manas is a very passionate guy who operates on many levels and all of this finds its way 
into his music." Poughkeepsie Journal

"You could say that Billy Manas gets straight to the point - his no-frills directness takes familiar songs and makes them his own - his locomotive acoustic guitar, exuberant harmonica, and road-worn voice are the touchstone of a seasoned troubadour."  Paul Higgins WKZE

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 11- The Origins of Frankenstein Dog (Part 3) 

I saw an ad for a full time job as an overnight desk clerk at The 87 Motel and I ran down to the Salvation Army to get a dress shirt and apply for the job. I loved the idea of working midnight to eight and having all day to focus on music.  I was thrilled when they told me I got the job.
The guy who was working the shift before me was named Jon and he had to be one of the strangest dudes I have ever met.  Odd mannerisms and facial expressions and persona.  He was twenty-five, he still lived with his parents and his entire identity was rooted in his supposed ADHD and his passion for the Asian culture and its people.
In those days, it was safe to say I was stoned almost every waking hour of everyday--from the second I opened my eyes until I went to sleep.  I was plugging away trying to write songs and I probably wrote one everyday at that point.
When I wasn't writing songs, I was floating around New Paltz, meeting other musicians, lots of girls, and staying friendly with the townsfolk.  One guy who I loved talking to everyday was Jack from Jack's Rhythms.  I met him as a senior in college when I was working at Hoffmann's Deli.  I remember buying a used copy of Dylan's Bootlegs Volume One for more money than I could probably spend and spending my nights at The 87 listening to it.  I was awestruck by the material on that collection.  Farewell Angelina, the Blood on the Tracks outtakes, and all the rest of it.  I wanted to learn all of it.
The nights I didn't work I'd be out on Main St busking and making out with whomever I was in love with that week and it just turned out to be one of those incredibly carefree summers.
Every other day I'd bring a cassette into Jack's and he's listen to it thoughtfully.
"Sounds like Dylan," he used to say.
I'd keep writing.
"Still sounds like Dylan."
And back again I'd go.
Jon, the weird dude from the 87, I learned, had prescriptions for Ritalin and Klonopin and this guy literally spent his entire work days nibbling on one and then another.  Up and down, up and down.  Noticing the state I was always in, he asked me one night if I could get him some ganga.  I gave him a joint and I could not believe my eyes when he unraveled a little bit of it and began to eat it.  He explained eating herb extended the life of the Ritalin.
Not long after this, I woke up one morning and wrote the song "Guilty of Yourself."  It, like most of what I wrote for the first five years, was a plea to--you guessed it--my college sweetheart.
I remember being really excited and going to Jack's with it.
I almost burst into tears of joy when he put it on his store stereo, looked up and said, "Yes!  Yes!  Now you have a sound!  Now you're onto something!"
Shortly after that, I came to work on two or three hours sleep and I could hardly keep my eyes open.  Jon took pity on me and gave me my first two Ritalin,
That night flew by and I spent most of it writing endless lyrics...some of the best stuff I've ever written. I felt like I discovered the keys to the universe.
The routine was to go home, sleep for three or four hours, wake up, write music to go with it and then record.
At this point, I met Dana the bass player, and it wasn't long before we got an apartment together next door to the bike shop.
That was the period I also wrote Jersey Turnpike, Smile Used To Be, Allison, Another World, Best Times, Paper, Dear Sister, All's Well in Denial and dozens more.  It was the beginning of the most meaningful and prolific periods of my creative life.
But as incredible as the writing was going, the band--Frankenstein Dog--was just that terrible.
I knew nothing about being a band leader and being as stoned as I was all the time did not help my lack of communication skills at all.  All I knew was I had a vision for these songs and it was not being met by the people I was playing with.
It was at that time that I ran into Fabrizio outside of Cabaloosa.  We were dorm mates when we both lived in Bouton Hall.  His roommate was actually Murali Coryell.
I excitedly told him, about everything I was doing and he said he wanted to hear, so the next day, he came over with acoustic Guild.  It was old and beat up but it had an incredible tone.
The musical chemistry between the two of us was obvious.  We would play inside, we'd play on Main St...we played constantly.  Now things were starting to become exciting.
One night, Fabrizio came over with this six foot tall, really skinny dude with moon boots and dreads down to his waist. I learned that his name was Chris Magistro and he just came off a tour supporting the Ramones with a band called La Vista Hotheads.  It was Garrett Uhlenbrock's band and it was one of the best in the area at the time.  He played the meanest fretless bass I had ever seen in my life.
I walked up to the 87 motel to work later that night with one thing on my mind: that guy is going to be my best friend.

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 10-The Origins Of Frankenstein Dog (Part 2) 

All I could hear in my head was this cacophony of  wild tin can conspiracy, his mouth moving defensively, as I thought to myself, "your what couldn't do who with what???"
Almost immediately that thought changed to "how could someone who was supposed to be my friend, knowing full well how that guitar was once again giving me the will to live after such a dangerous period of suicidal ideology--how could this person do a thing like this?
In retrospect, the answer is quite obvious.  I spent all of my twenties and most of my thirties laboring under the assumption that, not only was my well-being and comfort my highest priority but it should be yours too. If it wasn't, you were an asshole.
In this case there were added difficulties.  Me and Curley were not friends; nor had we been for years.  We were what young people today refer to as "frenemies." Quite honestly, at that point he would've had no problem selling me off to slavery if he thought no one would find out.  Yet I endured him because he attracted girls like flies to dog crap and I thought that would bode well for my case.  I was very dumb.
After two hours of my fantasizing all the different ways he could die a slow, painful death, it became clear to me what I needed to do. I scoured Tempe's free music paper and found something that could answer all my prayers.  A music store in Phoenix was advertising brand new acoustic guitars for $99.99.  My paycheck on that Friday was probably about $300 and my bills were most likely quite a bit more, but as far as I was concerned he could kick me out, I was getting the guitar.  And so I did.
At this point, there was two separate realities going on in my life.  There was my home life which was deplorable.  It basically consisted of me coming home exhausted and spent everyday to a stoned roommate who was systematically sleeping with every female in the complex coupled with my job at the gas station which was hot and grueling and frustrating.  And then there was the yin to my yang...music.
At night I'd come home, take a shower and head out to a club where they had an open mic so I could sing all my sad mournful songs that were comforting me at the time.  "You're a Big Girl Now", "Sarah", "To Ramona".  Every week I'd try to learn more and go back and sign up and play them.
I finally met a cute girl after a few months named Angie. We dated for a few weeks and I disappeared and stopped calling.  This wound up becoming a pattern for me.  I told myself the story that I would never care for anyone like the girl I just lost in New Paltz, nor did I want to.
Now many people like to argue this point, but for me--in my world--the coolest place to hang out in Tempe at the time was the "Coffee Plantation."  It attracted hundreds of ASU students, locals and tourists.  With the exception of Angie, I met every girl I was ever with in Tempe there--which, in that ten month period, numbered close to fifteen or sixteen.
Let's put this in context though: writing this now, it seems like a lot of promiscuity but I walked around convinced I was a loser because Curley managed to sleep with that many girls in about a month.
Regardless of this fact, I was a regular at the Coffee Plantation.  It's so funny, but as I reflect back, my brain tries to convince me that I went to Arizona, spent a few years working at a miserable gas station, then a year or two at a chain auto parts store and after struggling and pushing, I landed a job at the retail counter of the Coffee Plantation-what I considered, at the time, to be the coolest job in town.  In reality, this progression took about six months.  They were very intense times though and it probably accounts for why they live in my memory as years instead of weeks.
The owner of the Coffee Plantation, a mormon named Joe, took a liking to me and one day out of the clear blue mentioned to me that he heard I was an aspiring musician.  I said that I was and he asked if I wanted to play a whole show at the Coffee Plantation--$50 plus tips! I was very nervous when I stepped up there but as I played my Dylan songs--it was all I played--people were clapping, putting money in my jar, stopping and watching and I remember this drop dead beautiful girl who worked at the coffee counter-Christine--shouting out, "we love you Billy!!!"
So if there's any confusion about why I am still doing this today, there's the answer.
The funny thing was that Curley was employed as a busboy and just happened to be bussing that night.  With a plastic bus bucket filled with mugs, saucers and silverware, he got as close as he could get to the live mic and he lifted the bucket so the sound of all that loud crap crashing together could be amplified and overpower my singing.  For one night I got to see him walking around jealous of me instead of the other way around.  It was a victorious moment.
I became a regular performer there and it wasn't until I got into some trouble at that job that I stopped playing there.
Shortly thereafter I wound up moving out of the apartment with Curley and I shacked up, platonically, with a counter girl at The Coffee Plantation named Deb.  Or at least it was platonic at first--I'll save that for my novel.
I forgot who first suggested that I leave Arizona to go into business with my uncle in Silver Spring, MD but someone did and I inquired.  I had spent almost a year living really rough.  Bad food, almost always penniless, less than ideal living arrangements--I was ready for a change.  My uncle was an extremely successful businessman with a Maserati who had a very expensive house in a very expensive neighborhood.  The thinking was that if I partner up with him, my Maserati would be just around the corner.
I could not have been more mistaken.  He was one of these guys who thought it was fine to yell, scream, curse, berate, verbally abuse and judge anyone he felt like.  Then he'd call you a baby or a p&%#y if you did not follow him into his "better" mood twenty minutes later.  I knew it wasn't going to work.  He wanted me to start going on sales calls by myself, so he bought me a 1967 Chevy Pickup turquoise and creme colored and for liability and legal reasons, he had it titled and registered to me.
I escaped in the middle of the night one night and drove straight to New Paltz.  It was a depressing, scary and miserable drive that I really wasn't financially prepared for and if you were around when Frankenstein Dog first started you may remember a song called Jersey Turnpike which described in detail what it felt like.  The story I was telling myself was that I haven't been happy since I lost my one true love and until I  find a way to win her back, I'd never be happy again. During that drive I ran the greatest fantasy movie in my head.  I'd get back to New Paltz, I'd put together a band--in fact, I'd put together the hottest band in New Paltz.  She'd walk into Cabaloosa and see me---rock star that I was--we'd get back together and I'd live happily ever after.  This was really an actual plan that I developed a step by step strategy for.
I couch surfed for awhile when I got back and when that became entirely untenable I decided to sell the truck. The money got me into an apartment with three other dudes above the bike shop on Church Street, a small multitrack, a radio shack reverb unit, a microphone and headphones.  I managed to grub a bass and a keyboard for drums when I needed it.
My uncle, who still doesn't talk to me, could not believe I vaped in the middle of the night,  stole the truck, went up to New Paltz and then sold the truck; and the responsible adult inside of me can see how underhanded and foul that was.  I do have to admit though, that as evolved as I have become spiritually and morally, there is still a part of me that smiles when I think about it.
When I leave abusive situations, it's usually done with legend and drama.

To Be Continued

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 9-The Origins Of Frankenstein Dog (Part 1) 

If you've read my posts on social media up until a few days ago, you may have noticed that I have been reaching a peak in my life in all areas.  Lots of gigs, a beautiful new guitar, great family, super income, respectable credit score, an excellent review of my new record...just everything coming together.  
I'm not entirely sure if it's conscious or unconscious, but there always seem to be people who, observing how great things are going for you, will do anything in their power to provide some ballast to bring you down closer to the mud where they reside. In fact I'm even a little suspicious of the way some people act if they even notice that you are simply striving for a better life.  I wonder if it's just the contrast that scares them.
To be fair, I will also propound the theory that quite possibly, early in our childhoods we may actually set a foundation of how much loveliness and joy we are willing to accept.  It could be possible that we are fitted with some kind of hedonic thermostat that will kick off if the room of our experience gets a little too cold. Perhaps we choose to focus on whatever will bring us down when we feel our balloon is getting too close to the sky.  Your guess is as good as mine.
Regardless of what the phenomena actually is, I have been thinking about my formative years as a performer and the people I was surrounding myself with when this all started to go down.
When I first started attending SUNY New Paltz I had a great life affirming situation going on.  I lived in the "art" dorm with artists-people whose sole purpose was to create.  I loved it there.  Dorm mates Tom Lenz,,  Evan Day and Mark Albright were painting great stuff.  I couldn't paint but I had everything I needed to record anything I could imagine.  An electric guitar, a Tascam four track, every Boss stompbox that was important and a casio keyboard with drum pads.  At this time in my life I was turning against the two and a half minute hardcore song I knew for so many years and trying crazier and more esoteric things.
 My friend from home, Michael Bergeman, recorded a song in high school called "I'm Coming After You With An Axe" which was sheer genius. It was part of his teenage masterwork Seizures and Candybars. "Axe" was incredible because Bergeman dragged along all of his knowledge from performing in the Catholic church as a child and recorded a pipe organ piece with extraordinarily believable hymn-like monastic harmonies and canons singing repeatedly "I'm coming after you with an axe; coming after you..." It was the sort of thing that could get you in near hysterics as it just continues so true to form over and over--every so often a new vocal key would appear and you'd start laughing even harder.
One night at SUNY there was this girl I met at the cafeteria who came back to my room and decided to remove all of her clothes. I did not sleep with her, I just audio taped the whole debauchery and superimposed it over Bergeman's song.  She wasn't terribly thrilled when she found out and admittedly it was an awful thing to do to someone, but it made great art. 
One of my friends who heard it thought it was simply wonderful...and then slept with that very girl the next day. He was the kind of guy who slept with everyone he possibly could.  It wasn't too difficult for him.  He was this Irish cat who was well over six feet tall with dark curly hair and piercing blue eyes.  
If there was another human being on this earth who would've been worse for me to become best friends with and try to compete with, I couldn't find him.
So after the smoke cleared from the "Axe" incident, I decided to snub all of my high quality friends from Bouton and partner up with this bottom feeder at Lefevre Hall--the dorm best known for illicit sex, parties, bongs and the last stop for dozens of Long Island kids before starting their next semester at the community college after being sent back home. 
There we were; he with his collection of Bob Dylan CD's (which I absolutely despised with a passion) and his never ending string of different bed partners that he discussed in detail every chance he got, and me and all my home grown Long Island dysfunction.
The new semester started and I met a freshman girl whose name I will withhold because she has a very unique name and we are still Facebook buddies. But this girl was, what I thought at the time, the most incredible and beautiful being on the planet. I spent about six months--an eternity at the time-- doing anything and everything in my power to get her to date me.  I was living in the purgatory that is commonly referred to as the friend-zone, but eventually, as George Costanza once said, "I wore her down."
Now I am not going to make too much of this and I am going to attempt to be as clear and succinct as possible: for a young man with the upbringing I had--an upbringing that netted a low self-esteem, super egoist, sometimes egotistic and terribly insecure disaster, having my first long term relationship with a girl like this actually set in motion what could only be described as the perfect shit storm.
And when we broke up the week I was to graduate, I remember experiencing feelings I never have either before or since. I spent a week as a drunken, incomprehensible, suicidal, empty, cold sponge of nothingness that wasn't even too sure how to inhale or exhale at times. 
This room mate of mine was planning on a trip cross country in a puke green Volkswagen van and one night back on Long Island, in lieu of killing myself, I called him and asked if it was still possible for me to tag along. I needed to get away and see new things because there wasn't a single minute that elapsed in weeks where I wasn't completely consumed with thoughts of her and the very idea of seeing her with someone else sent tears streaming down my cheeks.
So there I was blindly hurtling toward the west coast with about $800 on me.  It was at this time that a serious transition began to take place.  All of those Dylan songs that I recently could not even stand listening to were describing this hell I was in more accurately than anything else I listened to in my entire life.
Yes, the Iggy Pop stuff was rebellious and the hardcore songs captured the essence of what it felt like to be outcast and angry, but this was something on a completely different level.  It was as if Dylan was there with me, experiencing the exact situation I was in  and explicating every shade of dark emotion it triggered to  the most minute detail. I didn't just start loving his music--I actually decided that my life's work was going to be spreading it everywhere I could.
Luckily Curley had a cheap Epiphone Acoustic with him that he could not play and by the time we hit a campground somewhere in New Mexico, I was teaching myself "All Along The Watchtower" and "Tangled Up in Blue".  I was still enveloped in this dark death like pallor but now, once or twice a day I smiled. I felt something happening inside of me but I wasn't too sure what it was.
It wasn't too long after that that we wound up in Tempe, AZ looking for an apartment.  Truthfully, I was just going along with what was happening.  Curley was making all the decisions and I was almost surgically attached to that Epiphone.  By the time we got into that apartment by A.S.U. I was penniless. Like "could I borrow fifty cents for a pack of Ramen" penniless. But it was ok because we had new neighbors in our complex and being summer in Arizona, everybody was at the pool. At this point, I knew about six Dylan songs and I would play them for the neighbors and always wind up with a meal for my trouble.
More than being fed, the Epiphone was also providing me with admission into people's lives.  I was getting new friends, I was learning about the area, getting crucial tips on where to find work and more meals to keep surviving.
Curley had a different trip going on.  Everyday for about forty five minutes he'd be in his room, whispering to his mother over the phone. Truthfully, I found it a little spooky, but every week he'd be down at the western union picking up a check .
One day I walked in the blazing sun up to the Chevron station to ask for a job.  I'm pretty sure it was a lead from a neighbor.  At this point, I was in arrears for a few hundred, so I had to start working.  My first couple of checks were already spoken for. The manager of the station promised that he'd call my references and get back to me.  I walked the two miles home in the 102 degree heat thinking about the air condition floor I slept on, my ex-girlfriend and if it'd be possible someday to get back together and the guitar I'd be playing soon.
I walked into the apartment and Curley wasn't there...and holy shit! ...neither was the Epiphone.  I sat there in a negative spin cycle for an hour, thinking about every possible terrible thing I could when the door finally opened.
I looked at Curley and he spat back, "I had to pawn the guitar.  My mom couldn't send me any money this week."

To Be Continued

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 8-Heroes 

Being the new kid on the block every other year can really shape a person's character. Generally I've noticed that the tendency is to either do everything and anything to fit in or do what I wound up doing-the exact and literal opposite of that.
There I was in 10th grade at Comsewogue High School on Long Island-I had the black combat boots because I couldn't afford the Doc Martens; I had the fake leather jacket because I couldn't afford a real one but I assure you, there was nothing second rate about my shaved head. This was rebellion at it's finest.  In the eighties on Long Island, it was day-glo and Frankie says Relax; and it was coiffed and sprayed hair helmets.  The fact that I had white-out painted obscure and inflammatory band names on my jacket (Agnostic Front, Crumbsuckers, Cro-mags)    left me open to all kinds of daily abuse.  The thing I hated most of all was the jocks calling me Agnostic Frog.  Every teenager secretly longs to look like a heart throb or Johnny Thunders or something...anything other than a frog. But that's what they called me.
At this point in time Agnostic Front's "Victim In Pain", D.R.I's  "Dealing With It" and Suicidal Tendencies' famed debut records were all just released and the greatest demos on earth were circulating. Cro-mags' "Age of Quarrel " and Crumbsuckers  "From The Crumbsucker Cave" were definitely two of the hottest.  
I was utterly obsessed with the New York Hardcore scene and every weekend I'd take the LIRR to Penn and make my way over to the Lower East Side to Bleeker Bob's for records and T-shirts and then CBGB for the Sunday Matinee.  I have so many strange and wonderful memories from that small piece of real estate at 315 Bowery.  Hanging out with Peter Steele who I swear was seven feet tall.  The time Vinnie Stigma pulled me out of the path of a fast moving car when I forgot that cars actually used that road. The Cro-mags record release party where they had a free buffet of vegetarian krishna food, getting my picture taken with Harley and then actually hanging with Harley's mom when she told me how Harley's first instrument was the drums
As a fifteen year old, there was always a 50/50 chance of getting tossed out of the club because at that age, I looked like I was about 12. I hated it but I could still hear the band outside so that was how I got to see Suicidal Tendencies, PTL Club and a few others. 
I got the idea to start a fanzine and because of that I got access to Vinnie Stigma's (Agnostic Front) home phone number and Gary Meskil's (Crumbsuckers) number. Gary's number was at the Buy Rite liquor store in Baldwin, NY where he was a manager at the tender age of eighteen.
The fanzine actually never wound up materializing but now I had the ability to talk to two of the top level dude's in the NY hardcore scene whenever I wanted.
Believe it or not, they were very patient as I told to them my woes of being picked on everyday, the troubles i  had keeping my band (Angry Youth) together at that age...just about anything.
I got my hands on another demo from a band that started doing matinee's.  They were called Krakdown from Huntington, Long Island.  The singer was a guy named Chris Notaro and his voice was otherworldly.  It contained all the anger, emotion, negativity and fearlessness I longed for.  Nobody and nothing else sounded like him. Krakdown didn't really have any real great songs but they had two cool ones and I listened to them over and over because of that voice.
One day when I was on the phone--as usual--with Gary Meskil, he was telling me that their singer Dave Brady was too strung out to really be any kind of effective front man for The Crumbsuckers anymore. He said Chris Notaro came over and sang all the songs perfectly and sounded great.  I couldn't believe that my favorite singer was about to start singing for one of my favorite bands.
"Give him a call," Gary suggested, "He's a really nice guy"
So I did.  After telling him my whole life story he offered to drive from Huntington to Port Jeff Station to pick me up and take me to a Crumbsucker rehearsal at Gary's house in Baldwin.  I couldn't believe it.  I got to spend the whole day with him.
Within months,  the SOD album "Speak English or Die" was released and all these record companies who were considering signing the cream of the crop in New York Hardcore bands, became a lot more aggressive.  Bands like the Crumbsuckers and The Cro-mags and Agnostic Front were being courted and fought over from competing companies and everyone who was able to headline a matinee was holding out for the best deal possible.
Simultaneously, I was not only talking to Notaro every other day, we were hanging out more and more.  You got to imagine, this guy was my hero.  When they played CBGB, you couldn't even get within 100 yards of the stage and there he was on Saturday night driving from Huntington in his brand new Monte SS to pick ME up and take me to the village where we would spend the night doing the most ridiculous things.  No drugs, no alcohol...just strange esoteric weirdness: Japanese restaurants, tea rooms, clove cigarettes, and wacky dive bars and then he'd be dropping me off around 4am...which was cool because we were both scheduled to work our respective jobs two or three hours later.
The Crumbsuckers were getting bigger and bigger.  Tours, interviews, you name it.  Then Notaro was invited to be on a panel on The Phil Donahue show with Jimmy Gestapo from Murphy's Law, Gestapo's Hollywood girlfriend and this dufus who wrote an awful article about the hardcore scene from The New Yorker.
I assumed that was it.  He was a great guy but after that notoriety I was most certainly going to take a backseat as he climbed his way up the ladder of celebrity.
But that Friday night the phone call came..."YOUNG BILL!!!! Are we going to the city????"
At this point, thirty years later, I haven't heard from Chris Notaro in over a decade but I will never forget how worthwhile he made me feel at a time when it seemed like so many were so invested in making me feel the exact opposite.
And no matter what anyone's opinion of the hardcore scene might've been, I thank God for the Vinnie Stigma's, the Gary Meskil's and most especially the Chris Notaro's who had so many other things they could've been doing when this irrational, emotional adolescent called them in the middle of the day to complain about his life.
Vinnie, Gary and Chris were as different from each other as three people could be; but collectively they all understood the responsibility of being somebodies hero.

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 7- I Ain't In It For My Health, Either 

A couple of years ago a lady from North Carolina updated her Facebook status referring to Pharrell Williams hit song.  The screenshot shows a time stamp of 8:33 am and says, "The Happy song makes me so HAPPY."  About a minute later she was dead in a mangled heap of metal and glass on the side of the interstate.  A poignant tale, but the main thing is she died happy.
On Friday I got up at five in the morning and went to work.  I worked until 5pm and drove to the Pilot truck stop to take a shower and change.  I was at The Baldwin Winery at 7 and played until 10 pm.  I got four hours sleep and woke up at 3 am to go to work on Saturday.  I left my day job at noon and played the winery again from 1pm-4pm, ran home took a shower and then drove to the Rondout Yacht Basin and played again from 7pm-9pm.  I got four hours of sleep and my alarm got me up at 3am.  I worked again til noon and played again at The Baldwin Winery from 1pm-4pm. I sat down Sunday evening to begin writing this when the dispatcher from my job called to tell me I had to be in at five am--ALL WEEK.  That doesn't really sound too God awful until you do the math and realize that you need to be up at 3am everyday if a shower and eating something are on your list of priorities.
This begs the question, why does a forty six year old man run himself into the ground?
Anyone who has ever played music and made money at it has to understand me in a visceral way when I say that I never turn down paying gigs.  As a matter of fact, I can't even remember turning down ones that didn't pay--unless, of course, it was to take a paying one.
It reminds me of that part in the Levon Helm autobiography when Robbie Robertson was trying to convince a very angered Levon that breaking up The Band was a smart move.  He had this litany of sound business arguments and when he finally brought up the point that the constant touring and road life wreaked havoc on their bodies, Levon spat back in disgust "I'm not in it for my health!"
This weekend as usual I was on the work schedule for 5am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday.  The opportunity came up yesterday to play Saturday and Sunday afternoon at The Baldwin Winery.  Couple that with a gig at Diego's in Kingston on Friday night and The Rondout Yacht Basin on Saturday night and I'm staring straight down the barrel at another really exciting weekend.
I'll be honest. I committed to Baldwin Winery before I had the shifts covered at work but that's part of my strategy.  They say if you want to conquer the island you need to burn your boat when you land.  So I burned the boat. And you can be rest assured, I will be there at 12:30 both days to set up.
I have no problem taking care of my body.  I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't eat meat, I don't take illicit drugs and I exercise every chance I get.  But I also have no problem going on three or four hours sleep for days and playing two hundred songs over the course of a weekend.  I ain't in it for my health, either. 

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 6-This Is The Life 

By the summer of 2010 I was in a lot of trouble and it was iffy whether or not I'd see the autumn of 2010. My "partying "-- which is usually the code word for "substance abuse issues"--went on for a decade or two longer than it should've and I was getting sicker and sicker.  
I'm not ashamed to say that I was hitting bottom. No girlfriend, no job, no real friends, no music--just a whole lot of nothing.  
I was living in Rosendale and I remember one Sunday morning sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette by the bakery in that strange indescribable vacuum when a couple in their their thirties pulled up with their pre-school aged children. I remember wistfully thinking how I shut myself off from ever having a life like that. I remember trying to convince myself that I wasn't missing anything but stress and drudgery and I remember not really believing it.  
Another week went by and my health plummeted. I called a taxi to go to the hospital and they told me an ambulance was coming to take me to Albany Med. The wall of denial that I cleverly wrapped myself in was beginning to crumble away. I needed emergency surgery as soon as possible.  
As I laid in the back of that ambulance for that hour, I thought about a lot of different things. The decisions I made all my life that resulted in where I was at that moment. I wondered if I was going to die.  
But then my thoughts shifted to that couple by the bakery.  I thought if they pulled me through, I'd get clean, I'd meet someone, I'd eventually learn to do something I could make money at. Maybe start a family.  
Yup. If I survive this, I thought, I would never look back.  
I did survive and I never looked back.  
After having a year clean I began dating Lea and I was so in love and just happy to be alive and clean.  At two years clean I went to truck driving school in the daytime and drove a cab at night.  Lea was pregnant with Gloria. At three years clean I was a new father and doing ok as a new truck driver.  At four years clean I got a truck driving job in Newburgh and no longer living in a truck-Lea was pregnant with River.  At five years clean, I earned more than 70% of the US population. And here with almost six years clean, I have designed a life that was at one time a dream I did not have the audacity to think about.
People from time to time ask me why I work 70 hours a week driving and then play as many gigs as I can. But if they knew where I came from and how far I have traveled, they would know.  Try to imagine what it feels like to go from near death to the ability to single-handedly support a family. The flood of emotions I feel from time to time when I stand back and look at everything is intense.
So when our house becomes a cacophony of baby cries, toddler whines, dogs barking, puppies running around chaotically, Lea's mom trying to discipline the puppy, Lea trying to discipline our three year old and a Disney movie playing in the background, I just close my eyes and think, "Ahhh...this is the life."

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 5-Magic 

My parents were very strange.  As children we moved about eight times and each time we had to change schools.  Add to it the organic changing of, say, elementary to middle school to high school and the exact number of schools I attended from 1st through 12th grade is twelve.  One school for every year.  The summer of 7th grade going into 8th grade was the stuff legends were made of.  We moved from West Palm Beach to, of all places, Farmingville, NY.  This is also known as Suffolk County on Long Island.
A week or two elapsed and I met three girls who had all grown up together.  Deanna with the brightest, reddest hair you ever saw, Michelle the brunette who was destined for serious rebellion and Caroline who--yes, you guessed it, was blonde.  Within days, Deanna and I were "going out".   The four of us would walk up and down the block, get ice cream, and every so often Deanna and I would make out and I would lie to her about everything--most especially about my first twelve years on earth.
One night my older brother was hanging out with his girlfriend and her friend Sherry.  Sherry made a pass at me and, to put it bluntly, it was the first time a girl that "developed" and three years older than me for God's sake, came within my reach. I still remember staying up all night long and replaying that grape Bubble Yum inflected kiss over and over again until birds started singing.
I broke up with Deanna the next day.
The relationship with Sherry introduced my not yet developed mind into the world of "almost sex" and I was sure this was going to inevitably lead to the loss of my virginity.
Not so.  Four or five days passed in this euphoric manner and that Saturday at the roller rink, Sherry informed me that the guy she's been holding out for --literally for weeks---finally asked her out.  She was sorry but it was high time she moved on.
I came home and felt my chest caving in.  I put the last song of AC/DC's Powerage album on about twenty-five times. Bon Scott screaming acapella, "Two faced woman with your two faced liiiiiiieeeessss!!!"  Of course at that age I had a very primitive idea of the way karma worked but it definitely laid some groundwork.
I got over it and it wasn't too long before Michelle and I began secretly "going out"  and once again, my sexual awakening got off the ground.
By the time the bus was rolling down the block to pick all of us up for the first day of school, none of the neighborhood girls were talking to me.  In fact, they all despised me.  Loathed me.
This entire drama played out over the course of two months but it felt as if it could've been twenty years.
This phenomena finally made sense to me when I was listening to NPR one night a few years back and they had a special on All Things Considered about humans and their perception of time. The theory they propounded was that when one is stuck in the endless hamster wheel of life, involved in the same schedule, the same routine, week after week--time flies by.  One week just feels like the next.
The commentator said that if you want to slow time down, fill your days with novel activities and lots of them.  I understood this because I flashed on that not so magical summer of 1982.  Then the information was filed away and I went about my business.
That is, until this past Thursday when I was heading up to do the volunteer work I do every Thursday and I began to think about the rehearsal I did with Chris Macchia and Roger LaRochelle.  I was trying to figure out how many weeks had gone by since that rehearsal.  How long had it been since I got John Burdick's awesome review or since the Frankenstein Dog show at Dutchess Airport?
I was dumbfounded when I realized this was all only a week ago..
I can not believe at the age of forty six I have constructed a life for myself that goes head to head with my pubescent sexual awakening!
When I listened to the that show on NPR, I listened to it in the context of having had experienced this magic once and somewhat accepting of adulthood and it's natural doldrums.  But through getting motivated, through goal setting and self improvement--through motivational mumbo jumbo, I have created something not just really cool--but magical.
So to all my friends who have not been able to resist making Anthony Robbins jokes and self-help innuendos, I say this:  I have accomplished some earth shattering feats over the last six months.  And don't get it twisted--I am certainly not  filled with haughty pride or conceit.  It is actually a very humble feeling, almost as if I, too, am an observer in utter amazement.
But beyond any of that, I have actually managed to slow time down.
Let's hear it for a summer that will feel thirty years long--and no girls hating me by the time the buses start rolling again.

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 4- Where Am I ? 

I don't have nearly enough distance from this past week to be able to speak about it intelligently; however, I have committed to not faltering on this blog, so allow me to try to speak about it with an entertaining lack of clarity. To present you with a tangible list, I spent about $30 in Facebook advertising and probably got the name Frankenstein Dog in front of about 3500 people;  I added about 20 likes to the Frankenstein Dog page; I played at The Dutchess County Airport, The Rondout Yacht Basin and The Baldwin Winery within a 26 hour period; I got the greatest album review of my entire life and I made about $190.  Truth be told, I also spent about $220.  I sang about 100 songs, I drove a truck for about sixty five hours, I spent an hour on an online class for Facebook music advertising and I learned three new songs for my winery gigs.
Yup.  I think that about covers it. I was actually laying here getting very drowsy and entertaining the idea of sleeping more than five hours when it dawned on me that I promised myself I would have a blog ready every Monday morning and I didn't even begin this one as of Sunday at 9pm.  No bother.  I have enough material in my reality that writer's block isn't even something I can fake.
A relative of mine who I believe is 71 years old (I don't have the energy for algebra right now), managed to comment on a video that my girlfriend Lea posted.  She didn't mention how cute the kids looked running around while I sang as 90% of the population who commented on this video did.  She wanted to make sure I knew that she didn't happen to see anybody in the audience.  At 46 years old, I'm still not quite sure what it is about family that compels them to seek out the most hideous things they can find and magnify it by a thousand, but this is what they do.
I asked this relative if she happened to see the greatest review I ever got in my life--of course she did not, but upon sending it to her, she asked if the author and I had a "bromance". I don't know what it is about family that compels them to seek out the most hideous things they can find and magnify it by a thou---am I being redundant? I do apologize.
I think it was Wayne Dyer who said that your friends are God's way of making up for your family. 
As much as this may sound as though I am striking out at a family member, that is not really my point --believe it or not. (Alright, maybe a little.) My point is that I woke up this morning not thinking about the dozens of handshakes and "you guys sounded greats" and the people at the airport who stopped what they were doing to come over and listen or the guys from the radio station who were admittedly in awe or the fact that I knew that Roger LaRochelle, Chris Macchia and myself killed it as a three piece; or even the dozens of people who tipped me at the Yacht Club later that evening.
Instead I woke up this morning thinking about the comment that there didn't seem to be anybody in the audience.
But this sort of thing is not unique to me.  A friend of mine put out an amazing, utterly incredible album not too long ago and just recently said to me--to paraphrase--some days he's got a huge ego and some days he questions every artistic move he has ever made.
This sort of vacillation is the gift that keeps on giving when you are cursed with the compulsion to create.  I know exactly where this guy is at.
But where am I?  
I'm not entirely sure. Ask me again tomorrow.

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 3- The Logic Behind "Back To Busking" 

A couple of years ago I fell victim to one of these Facebook posts that went something like this:

World renowned musician will record your songs at my home studio. Produced and mastered complete
$75 /song..


So four months worth of days off and $750 later, I wound up with what could best be described as a very expensive beverage coaster. It would have been ridiculous to put this dog turd next to two albums that were produced by Garrett Uhlenbrock--it would've hurt me and the world renowned musician. I decided to take the high road and chalk it up to an expensive lesson.
This was not easy, by the way,  because not only was the master downright awful but the raw tracks were all completely clipped and saturated with second rate reverb (ie:unsalvageable).  Add to this the fact that this paradigm of contemporary music reneged on the whole original deal when I was waiting for my master and you'll get the point.
"Mastering is a very expensive and arduous process..." I think his e-mail began, "I usually get $500 to do a full length."  I had to send him a screenshot of our original correspondence before he relented.
That brings me to this winter when I began my motivational work.  As you may remember if you read the first blog, the instructions were to make an immediate decision to do at least one action toward the achievement of my goal.  I decided that action would be to record the slickest gig getting CD ever.  My friend Megan-who actually is a world renowned musician--suggested I talk to Jazz great, Jamie Saft.  She explained that he had an incredible project studio in his house and if I really wanted the best demo on earth, this was the guy.
What made this one of the most incredible twists of fate ever was that not only was he one of the most innovative avant-garde pianists in the jazz world, he loved Bob Dylan as much or maybe even more than me.
The results of that demo can be heard on Soundcloud.  I was blissed out about the way he captured my solo acoustic style.
Try to imagine, for twenty years I would pass by radios playing "The Redemption Song" and I would constantly ask whoever was in earshot
"Why can't I get this sound?"  and the retorts would range from "it's the pre-amp" to "it's the mic" to "it's the mastering" to "you're not Bob Marley".
 But Saft knew how to do it.
For three weeks I listened to that three song demo and the wheels were turning.  I had to find the money to make my own version of one of my favorite Dylan records "Another Side of Bob Dylan." Not that I thought I had anything in the league of "Chimes of Freedom" or "To Ramona" but you get the point.
And just like everything I have set my mind to over these past six months, it came to fruition.  The box of CD's arrived in mid-April and I went through a three week period where I listened to it everyday.
I listened to it so much that I began to second guess it.  I have two really full sounding CD's and then this very thin one. I began to even think I may have made a mistake in judgement.  Maybe it should've been a Billy Manas record and not a Frankenstein Dog record, or maybe I should try to track other parts---and then I saw this interview with David Bowie that gave me a lump in my throat.  
     ​ "...if you feel safe in the area you're working in, you're not working in the right area.  Always go further into the water than you feel you're capable of being in.  Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don't feel as though your feet are able to touch the bottom, you're just about in the right place to do something exciting."

Truck Stop Troubadour Volume 2- Gaining Traction 

I had a string of days last week where I had to be up at 3 AM to go to work, so immediately after I posted my first blog, I went to sleep (passed out).  I woke up the next morning--yes, at 3 am--and noticed that one person had liked, and I'll assume read my blog.  It happened to be my ex-girlfriend Eileen which I have no shame in admitting.  I think amiable relations with exes illustrate sanity and, frankly, I can use all the illustrations I can get.
The first thing I did after I got out of the shower and dried off was to post a status on Facebook that essentially said "Hooray!  Somebody read my blog!  Now I just need to get 4999 more people to do the same."
Contrary to what many people might think, I wasn't being a passive aggressive martyr, I wasn't being sarcastic and I do not take psychotropic drugs. I was merely following the belief system of a man named Frederick Smith. 
Frederick Smith founded FedEx.
Smith took every penny of his inheritance and purchased jets, trucks, jet fuel, hired employees, bought advertising and started his business.  As the legend goes, he delivered about thirty packages on his first day (ten of which he sent to himself as tests) .
At the end of that day, it is said that he mused  "well that turned out perfect!  Now I just need to get about 10,000 more packages a day and we're onto something."
His friends and associates told him he was crazy. "A few more days like that first one and you will be completely bankrupt ," they warned.
Successful people have a tendency to block out warnings from friends and unless you've been in a coma for the last twenty five years, you know how this all turned out.  And while I am in no way a fan of wealthy people with inheritances becoming even more wealthy, there is something to take away from all of this beyond that fact.
A lot of us are hard wired from childhood to try things when we have the energy to do so.  We then step back, assess the results and upon the realization that it is not instantly and wildly successful, we throw up our hands and either try something else or--worse still--just give up altogether.
I posted one of my new songs from "Back To Busking" on Friday and I woke up this morning and had ten "likes".  Now you may be thinking "Ten likes?  That's terrific but I'd hold off a little longer on trying to get a mortgage on that waterfront colonial", but allow me to put this in perspective for you.
"Back To Busking" was a relatively inexpensive release due to the fact that it was a solo acoustic record.
Ten likes is huge.
I recorded two records that were produced by Garrett Uhlenbrock and one that was mastered by Don Grossinger--really slick productions and they wouldn't get a single listen.
And it isn't just me.  I have heard some great local stuff on MK's Locally Grown show on WDST and I would go to the Facebook page and find a lot of it was being neglected.  One like, maybe two.  Maybe the guy who owned the studio shared it on his page but no real voluntary engagement.

So is this new ray of sunshine due to my new blog?
Is it my new found belief in myself and what I am doing?
Is it my pit bull persistence?

Yes. I think it is.

Return to form

Join our mailing list for the latest news