Sunday, December 20, 2015

BORN TO BE BAD

It's About Pride

Hello New York and everywhere else, I'm Bird and you're in the Birdcage here at Hockeybird.com.

Sit back and relax as I tell a story that spans five decades. It all begins in Levittown, Long Island NY. Back in the 70's. NY radio was ending a heyday of broadcast excellence. Rock & Roll radio had a lot of choices to make. A little station in Hempstead NY became THE place to tune in if you really loved your music. The interviews, the Tuesday Night Radio Concerts, the bands they played and the shows that came to town were all a part of what made WLIR so good. Southern Rock played a huge part in what WLIR was doing at the time. I had become a big Lynyrd Skynyrd fan and WLIR turned me on to a whole new crop of bands like Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, Charlie Daniels, The Alman Bros., .38 Special and of course one of my faves, The Outlaws. Getting exposed to these bands lit the fuse to a passion for music that would take me on one hell of a journey.

In 1976 I was a freshman in high school at Levittown Division. I was brought up to the varsity wrestling team and it was the seniors who were playing Green Grass and High Tides in the locker room. By '78 I was able to buy and own everything the Outlaws had recorded along with Skynyrd and many other acts. My friend Troy Moore was a heck of an artist and he painted me a Levis denim jacket with the Outlaws 2nd LP logo. It became a prized possession and I wore it all the time and everywhere.

Then a tragic event changed everything.

I found out about the plane crash on the CB. Rene Costarella informed me that WLIR was reporting a plane carrying Lynyrd Skynyrd had crashed. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Corina Gaines had been killed. This rocked the southern music community. Charlie Daniels wrote a song called Reflections and the Henry Paul band had Grey Ghost. WLIR played the hell out of those songs. Then at the Nassau Coliseum Charlie headlined with Henry Paul opening. I had to be there. There was just one little problem. Dad had a family camping trip planned and I was not allowed to go. After leaving a note in the camper, Troy and I headed off to meet Charlie at a record store on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow. Larry Kleinman was the WLIR radio guy there and I had the only bottle opener for their Heini's. I got my southern flag autographed and then it was off to the show. We were hitch hiking and it was my dad who stopped. We ran.

Running into a backyard we were stopped by a fence. The homeowner came out to ask what we were doing. I explained and she offered us a ride. Once inside the parking area I thought we were safe but there was my dad looking for me. We hid. We hid by the ramp used to load in and that's where Henry Paul and his band came walking in. We said hi, I described my issue and  Henry offered to escort us into the show. My tickets were replaced with floor seats and inside we went. Now we spot my dad inside the coliseum still looking for me. The lights went down and the Henry Paul Band starts the show! My Future boss Denis McNamara introduces Charlie later and all in all quite an emotional night takes place. Of course, Dad kicked me out of the house an all my stuff was piled on the front lawn when I returned home. It took a few weeks for me to get back in and a year before my dad and I reconciled. However, my journey into the music biz had begun. All the while that jacket was with me.

The following year I would once again go to Nassau and Denis would intro the band. Only this time it was Molly Hatchet and the Florida Guitar Army, The OUTLAWS. What a night! We sat behind Freddy Salem and of course, my jacket was there. Over the years while hanging out with bands like the Ramones, Joan Jett, U2, Billy Idol and Mick Jones I'd get asked about my southern roots and the jacket. I'd explain that it's where my passion for music came from. Besides, once an Outlaw, always an Outlaw!


Now you all know the rest of the story.........how I got into the music biz and how I became a part of the WLIR story. If not the links to the history of Hockeybird or the WLIR links will fill you in.

Now we fast forward to 2012. Back in 2000 I had an email exchange with former Outlaws drummer Monte Yoho. I asked about the band playing again. Hughie was with Skynyrd and Henry was doing his Black Hawk thing and Monte said it didn't seem likely. But after a lot of lawyers and other crap Hughie leaves Skynyrd and an Outlaws album is in the works. I don't know much about this time but unfortunately, Hughie passes from a heart attack. Henry decides he must keep the music alive and an album comes out that just blows me away. It's About Pride is as good as anything I've heard in decades. The Outlaws are playing out and I may finally get my wish, to see them again and see them here in Florida where it all started. True, I had seen several shows in the 80s with various line ups but that was then. It took a few years for me to pull it off but when I heard about this reunion show I just couldn't miss it. The Henry Paul Band would reform for one weekend and open for the Outlaws in Clearwater, Florida. This had never happened in all the years these bands were touring.

 I bought seats and invited my buddy Tommy Gambaro who was with me back in Levittown during the 70s and 80s and he lives in St. Pete close to the venue. He had moved to FLA back in the 80s while I got down here in '04. He and I have been friends since we met and music is something we've both shared together over the years.

It's a four plus hour ride and I got stuck in traffic delaying me. We missed sound check and the before show meet and greet. We took our seats as history unfolded before our eyes and ears. The Henry Paul Band was every bit as good as they were back in '78. The Outlaws were ever better. Special thanks go out to Richard Laurenzano whom I met online. He remembered how WLIR supported these bands and we had become friends. He hooked us up and we were able to go up to the roof after the show and hang out with the guys. Henry couldn't have been more gracious and hospitable. Many of the bands original fans were there and he was quite busy and tired. But he took time with everyone as did the rest of the guys. Swapping stories and taking pictures, my buddy and I had a ball. And yes, that jacket from 1978 made the trip and is featured in the pics! Some of the guys got a kick out of it.
This nice lady got the set list. The Horsemen are the hard core fans at every show

Bird and Henry Paul

Bird and Monte Yoho

Bird and David Dix

Bird and Chris

Tommy and Monte exchanging stories on the roof


video

So I've come full circle. It's been said I was born in the wrong place. Either up north in Canada with my passion for hockey or down south with my passion for music and bands like The Outlaws. I'd say I was born in the right spot. Sure NY is up north but I'm now southern by the grace of God. I got to do both. I suppose it all happened because it was supposed to. Just the same, I'm honored to be a part of music history and damned proud of it. To be a part of this historic weekend is kinda icing on the cake.  The guys played a second show in Orlando but I didn't go. I had to get back to my family and job. But for one night I was part of the OUTLAWS family. Meeting the Horsemen and the various musicians was a real treat and worth the 500 plus miles of driving across the beautiful state of Florida. Maybe we'll do this again sometime, eh?

----}- Bird

3 comments:

Mark Wright said...

What a great story!
Thanks for sharing your experiences, & for your part in keeping the music alive.
Happy Trails,

Anonymous said...

Hearing about the Skynyrd plane crash on your CB radio is literally the most 70's thing that has ever happened to anyone.

Scott Peacock said...

I never thought of it that way! That's funny!

----}- Bird