How It All Began…
I started dabbling with playing guitar when I was around 8 on an acoustic that my mom had given me. She got it with one of those multi-colored cloth woven 70's hippie-ish type guitar straps which at my young age, anything colorful to the eye was pretty cool. But I wasn't at all serious about playing guitar back then and never really gave it much thought. Outside of listening to the radio and what records I had and staring at the guitar sitting off in the corner, I really didn't think much about it. And what 8-year-old would? At 8 years old I did the types of things kids at 8 did. Like play outside until the street lights came on for god sakes!!? And I didn't know much, if anything about a guitar. I knew you made music with it. But I didn't know it's history, its anatomy, sheet music, music theory, chords, scales, how to tune it, song composition, none of that. That stuff wouldn’t even be a thought until much later on when I got serious. At this point all that I knew was to strum across the strings loud and hard holding this plastic thing called a guitar pick with my right hand, sometimes putting my left hand on the neck and strings to change the pitch. I did this every now and then when I was bored and wanted to fill the room with some rude obnoxious sound. Which, thinking about it all these years later, was probably fairly vile sounding to those within earshot of my tom-foolery. But it was fun and I enjoyed it! Good thing my mom, who I would imagine hearing all this ruckus was probably shaking her head in bewilderment during my sonic barrage of incomprehensible noise. Mom was a classically trained clarinetist who could see through my rough exterior to the diamond in the rough and left me alone to be a complete idiot in the moment! I love you Mommy!
But it wasn't until my mom and I moved in with my grandparents a few years later when I was 11, that the kid next door asked if I had heard the new KISS album. KISS? Who the hell is KISS? Up until then all I knew was The Beatles, The Monkees, Peter Frampton and Jesus Christ Superstar. I had no idea who or what KISS was. So, Darren (aka the kid next door) puts on the new KISS album Destroyer for me to check out. The album starts off with the car crash intro to “Detroit Rock City”. As it’s playing, I’m just sitting there listening and taking in the look of the band from the album’ cover with the costumes and the face makeup just totally mesmerized by all of this! But it wasn't until he switched albums and put on KISS Alive that I was truly hooked. The band’s energy live was even better than what I had just heard! And the enclosed booklet showing them playing in photos with things like Gene’s blood spitting and fire breathing, the explosions, the confetti storm, had me awe struck. But it was the photos of Ace, especially with the smoking guitar that stopped me right in my tracks! This was absolute genius to me. Right then and there I knew I wanted to play guitar and be in a rock band!
By the time I get to Junior High School, I’m doing my best to learn what I could from books and taking some lessons here and there. I’m also discovering other bands besides KISS; Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Styx, Journey, Boston, Foreigner, Cheap Trick, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Aerosmith among others and wanted to learn to play some of those band’s songs. So, I would sit down and play along to records or cassettes trying to figure out what they were playing. Now remember this was long before the internet and smart phones would be common place like they are today. There was no YouTube, very little accurate guitar tablature and certainly no online music lessons to take. In fact, computers which did exist back then, weren’t even really a thing like they are now! The technology, which was crude at the time, with the machines themselves being huge in size usually taking up a large air-conditioned room with a subfloor for the cabling, needed a large budget for running and maintenance costs that only large corporations and universities could afford. Nothing that was available had anywhere near the capability or was within the price range for consumers that we all take for granted today! So, to learn something you had to put in the hard work listening with your ear and going over the song until you got it down! Yeah kids don’t know how easy they have it today, nice right!
Fast forward a few years and now I’m in my 20’s. It’s the 80’s, MTV and Hard Rock/Hair Metal are in full swing! Up until now I’ve been mostly self-taught, but I’m starting to feel like I’m hitting a roadblock and need some help and guidance to progress as a player. So, I started looking around for a teacher and Jim Clark came recommended to me by a few people. Jim at the time had a band called Theater and was one of the best guitar players on the scene here in Connecticut. So, I call him up to head down to meet with him to see what he’s all about. Jim begins by showing me his playing and how he could help, and I was floored! All I could think about while watching and hearing him was there’s no way I’m not going to take music lessons from this guy! So, we start off my first lesson with Jim asking me to show him what I know and can do. I’m like what, are you serious? After what you just did, I can’t follow that! So, after my little concerto of tomfoolery, he starts me with some basic stuff to build from and it’s onward and upwards we go. I took lessons from Jim for about a year, but in that years’ worth of time, I learned a a great deal from him about music theory (chords, scales, intervals, and modes) which has helped me greatly even to this day!
Now I got some musical training, I can better understand what I’m doing, and my repertoire of songs to jam on is growing. The next thing I need to think about is getting in a band to start playing and have some fun! And my first real opportunity to put all this into action would come in 1989 playing for a young singer by the name of Debbie Burton. Debbie who had a great voice and was becoming known around town, had parents that were very much behind what she wanted to do musically. In fact, the whole family was talented and had been around the music business, so none of this came as any surprise to me. Our setlist consisted of cover songs from bands like Vixen and Heart. Music that fit her vocal style and let her shine. We only played a handful of shows, but the one that stands out for me was a battle of the bands we competed in at Staples High School in Westport where we did well.
Continuing on musically, the next band would be Glam Rock/Hard Rock band Rockdoll. The idea here was to look like rock and roll porcelain dolls. And what better role models to mold ourselves after than our biggest influence KISS! Makes perfect sense right! So donning flashy clothes with tons of makeup and hairspray like our heroes, we were quite the spectacle with absolute mayhem never very far away. Putting on a show that incorporated fog, flash pots, and confetti, we rocked stages in and around the Connecticut area playing originals with a few covers mixed in for fun!
After Rockdoll, I took some time to regroup my thoughts and guitar tech for a good friend of mine Jesse J. Highland (aka Bill Fuller). His band Shotgun Serenade was showcasing a lot opening for some pretty big bands and they needed some help at their shows. But then when you least expect it, along comes an opportunity! Once again teaming up with a couple of my old Rockdoll bandmates, I joined Smoke N' Fire. With this band I had a lot of fun and we played a quite a bit all over the place! We played the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut Tri-State area playing wherever promotors, clubs, and bars would have us on their stage. Just like with our former band, Smoke N' Fire put on a high energy show pulling out all the stops. Like other bands we recorded demos and were able to generate some interest being written about in some local papers and magazines. A couple of those songs are here along with the promo video we made called Alive in 95'.
Now as Monty Python would say, “and now for something completely different!” I’m gonna start going to church. Yup you did read that right! I have always been open and accepting of God and His Word and have always loved bands like Stryper and Whitecross. All of us in Rockdoll and Smoke N' Fire had all been around church and attended church services. This would be no different and seemed like a no-brainer to me. So, my family and I found a church we liked called Living Word Ministries, now renamed Vertical Church and started attending. At the beginning of most if not all church services there’s always music leading in and the music ministry here at Living Word was exceptional! I liked what they were doing and felt connected musically and wanted to get involved. There is nothing more humbling and honoring than leading people into Worship and being part of a Worship team with a ton of musicians, including multiple lead vocalists, and a multitude of choir singers. While playing with the music ministry I met Dan Malady who was the bass player at the church and together we formed Scarlet Embrace. We released an EP titled Kiss the Son and a full album titled Present Addiction. Danny and I would be invited to play a couple of church youth rallies in Michigan. I have awesome stories from those road trips I could tell! Did you hear the story about running out of gas in Canada? Hahaha remind me one day and I will!
With all this going on I also started playing with an 80’s metal cover band called Megahertz. We played songs from bands ranging from Black Sabbath, DIO, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Anthrax and just about everything in between. Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, we played everywhere! We got opportunities to open and share stages with bands we all grew up listening to like; Blue Oyster Cult, RATT, Warrant, Skid Row, George Lynch, Kevin Dubrow, LA Guns, Stephen Pearcy and a little unknown AC/DC tribute band called Thunderstruck. Thunderstruck's drummer and bassist were none other than Chris Slade from AC/DC, The Firm and Tom Jones and Tony Franklin who also played with Jimmy Page in The Firm and Blue Murder!
Bouncing right back after Megahertz would see me joining the power trio 3 Speed Overdrive. This band would have a broader musical style being less about metal and a more 70’s influenced style. We covered bands such as Journey, Foreigner, Billy Squire, Led Zeppelin, Eddie Money, and The Beatles to name a few. Playing locally around Connecticut doing the usual “kicking ass and taking names” kinda thing, we built quite a following and played some choice shows with some tribute bands along the way!
Having said that about opening for tribute bands but never having played in one myself, the next musical excursion would be a tribute band. A good friend of mine called and told me about a singer buddy of his that was looking for a guitar player for a Black Sabbath tribute. Originally, they needed a guitar player to replace a guy that had left. When I was supposed to come down to give it a whirl out didn’t happen, we stayed in touch with each other. With a love for Sabbath and DIO, one thing led to another and eventually The Spirit of DIO was born. Everything that RJD sang on and released with Rainbow, Sabbath and his solo albums was fair game, and we rocked it out for a good couple of years!
Trying to keep busy between bands and keep my fingers moving, I got the idea to rerecord a covers album of some of my favorite songs. After a lot of thought about what I could do justice with and sound good on, I chose; Tie Your Mother Down by Queen, Hit Me with Your Best Shot by Pat Benetar, Cold Gin by KISS, Fool for Your Loving by Whitesnake, To Be with You by Mr. Big, Hot Girls in Love by Loverboy, and a live version of We Rock by my former band The Spirit of DIO. Initially the idea started with looking for some prerecorded drum tracks to build on and was going to have some friends come in and lay their parts down. But as I was searching for drums, I stumbled on a karaoke site with not only the drums I needed, but all the layered instrument tracks as well. Eureka, the mother load! All I need to do now is replace the rhythm guitar tracks, record guitar solos, and mix the song. Songs to swing a brick by! was engineered, recorded, and mixed by myself at home and all on an iPad if you can believe that! How technology has advanced...
So now we’re at the present which brings me, and you the visitor, to the burning question. What’s next for George? And what a great question to not have an answer to! No one, not even Nostradamus can predict what the future holds. Just look at the worldwide health crisis with COVID-19 and the pandemic in 2020. Mind blowing to say the least! All I can say is, whatever opportunity arises, I hope it’s good, fun, and fulfilling. I’m anxious to get out there and start playing again! It’s never really thought of in this manner, but things really do come in seasons. The timing for the last couple of years has not been right. But we’re early in 2021 and things are looking up as the restrictions are changing. People want to get back to what was once normal and get on with their lives. We’ll see how things play out and whatever does change, this paragraph will be rewritten!