Born and raised in Buffalo, New York.
How did your music career begin?
I worked at my father’s bike store on Elmwood Avenue in my early teens. One night, walking home, I heard Spoon playing blues in a bar on the strip. I watched through the window until they finished. I was hooked.
Who influenced you early on?
My first teacher was Joe (Groove) Madison. Count Rabbit , Tommy Calandra and my Dad were also huge influences in my early years. I was blessed with many great teachers, and that really says a lot about how accessible and humble most musicians are in Buffalo. Those people were well established and respected performers; some were icons and towers of knowledge. They took the time to help a nobody, wanna-be little kid. Not just me, but lots of us. I always think about that when somebody needs some answers or help I might be able to provide. The most important lesson I learned was that if you aspire to be great, you must continue to learn throughout your career.
Was your family musically inclined?
My sister sings opera and performs in musicals and teaches vocals. My dad sang opera, but he never pursued it as a career. He was my first vocal coach. He’s also the one that turned me onto Muddy Waters and bought me my first guitar. Al Jolson was on my mom’s side on the family.
The “Magic Show” began to form at Max’s Shot Club on East Delavan, after my weekly Tudor Lounge gig with the Designated Hitters ended in 2007. Max’s was home to me since the mid-90’s. I just felt like being somewhere I was happy, and jamming with whoever wandered in. One night, Mike Bellman came by to play, and he has been my main guitar player ever since. Back then, it was Mike, my son Lordan on bass, Ray Szpillman on keys, and Russ Hatcher on drums. Things have changed. After Max’s, I called Steve Czapla. Steve had been my main studio keyboard player since the early 90’s. Then we found John Q. (drums), and I went on to do Club Diablo on Fridays for a year. That was, and is, Magic Show. Our bass players rotate at this point, but they are some of the best in the business.
Who do you admire most in the business?
The ones who schooled me.
What was your first instrument?
A funky old trumpet.
I like playing intimate, historic, mid-sized venues. I love people, and when you play those sorts of places on a weekly basis, your form friendships with people.
Any awards along the way?
I never believed that manifesting art had anything to do with competition. As far as awards, I have some, and I’m grateful that people thought I deserved them. For me they are a byproduct and not goal.
What direction are you heading in? What’s next?
I’ve played hundreds of venues throughout WNY over the years, and had a wonderful time of it. I would enjoy performing more concerts and doing more broadcasts at this point in my career, especially with the new recordings coming out soon.
Doing any traveling? On the road playing?
I was on the road for many years. These days I enjoy being home, and Buffalo is home.
What about recording?
I am mostly writing and recording now. On an average day, I’m in the studio 10-12 hours.
What do you like to play most? What kind of music? Any originals?
I love to play the blues. Even if you play blues standards, they can be original. Muddy covered Johnson’s tunes and Dixon’s tunes, etc. The Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin covered Wolf and Muddy tunes. If you really study and respect the blues masters, you can eventually understand enough about an existing song to do something original with it. The challenge is to keep the energy intact, and actually harness it in new ways.
Everyone in Magic Show writes. With the accumulated knowledge, and incredibly diverse tastes, there are some powerful, credible original works being recorded at this point in time.
Are you logging any studio hours?
I’m a studio person, always have been. Now that my studio, Action Recording is operational again, I find it hard to leave, even to go shopping or to the post office. I’ve played so often throughout the years that a lot of people think of me as mostly a live performer. The truth is I am mostly a studio musician.
Where are you playing these days? Any shows?
My work in the studio takes priority. Perhaps, when I finalize Magic Show’s first CD over the coming weeks, there will be some more shows booked. We do have one upcoming show this Wednesday at the Pan American Grill and Brewery at the Hotel Lafayette starting at 7pm – See Facebook (event). See band on Facebook.
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