“You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.” – True Grit
If it seems sometimes as if I am being a bit too over-sentimental about my life and career (past and present), I would say its probably because I spent so many years taking too much for granted.
One of the big changes I promised myself during my ‘Road Construction’ phase a couple of years is that I would take nothing for granted any longer, especially my music career. I blamed a lot of my issues at that time on the fact that I took way too much for granted for way to long. I spent many many years cursing my music career, often feeling that I just wasn’t good looking or charismatic enough to ever be able to make anything of myself, without playing behind someone else and remaining in the background.
But an interesting thing began to happen. One night I was setting up for a gig with Mike and someone sat down at the bar and said, very matter-of-factly “Oh my God, you’re Snitz, from the Quack Quack! You’re a big part of music history around here!”
I smiled and said a few words, but it didn’t hit me until later that he wasn’t being facetious or ironic. Apparently he seriously thought I was up there with the past greats of the Asbury Park music scene- the Lance Larsons, the Billy Hectors, the Steve Schraegers (and yes of course, the John Cavallos).
After that I started talking and writing more and more about my past career, and started noticing the reactions. I was far out of my comfort zone in doing this, and expected to feel like I was being pompous, self-important, and open to criticism for being so.
But thats not what happened. To this day, more often than not, when I talk about my career to people who seem interested, or write about it, the reactions are surprisingly positive.
I am still feeling way out of my comfort zone discussing my career and accomplishments (and probably always will be), but I am OK with it. At worst it just comes with the job of being around for so long, thru so many episodes of the Asbury Park area music scene: from the honky-tonk mob infested 60s and 70s, to the lean years of the 1980s, to the days of renewal of the last 15 years or so, the fact remains that I have been right in the middle of nearly every milestone of this areas great music scene.
I started my career as an ambitious, energetic little metal head, with David Mains around 1972. In 1973 I played my first steady gig at the Wonder Bar, with a band called Sticks And Bones. The Stone Pony was just opening.
Over the next few years I played more gigs than many local musicians play in a lifetime- Mrs Jays, the Stone Pony, Bob Davis’ (now the Lake House), Leggetts and on and on. Then it was on to the New Brunswick scene, where I play every major venue and Rutgers frat house and pub there was. I started booking the Clearwater Festival at Sandy Hook and later Asbury Park and played there several times a year, with many bands.
And then of course Chik-A-Boom, and Mike And Al-Vis, and between both acts I’ve played nearly every area venue over the last 20+ years.
Then what I have called ‘Road Construction’ happened. I was trying to help out a good friend and music collaborator (and to this day possibly the greatest influence on my career since those early days in my folks house on 7th Ave listening to Otis Redding, Eric Clapton, etc), when things spiraled way out of control, and when the dust had settled, one of us was without a career at all, and the other left to sweep up the mess and start fresh. Enough has been said about that, and the story is in my CD Road Construction, maybe not in as many words but certainly in substance.
And through rediscovered video clips (thanks to the generosity of great friends like Billy and Steve), recovered photos from Mark and Joan Lipman, Sal Tortomasi and many others), not to mention to memories of friends I have reconnected with, my career has been documented, verified, and by going backwards I have moved forwards more than ever.
Appearing onstage with the greatest of the great singer-songwriters such as Laura Crisci, Jenny Woods, Michael Brett etc etc. Collaberations with such great talents as Zara Phillips, Carol Barbieri and Cook Smith. Even radio appearances, which I actually refused to do for many years, thinking I just wasn’t interesting enough for anyone to want to interview me.
Earlier this year I was asked to perform some shows for the Smithsonian’s “Where Music Lives” series, in front of school kids, who were mostly the same age I was when I first played those Wonder Bar gigs. Just a few short years ago I would have laughed at that idea!
And also this year I performed at the Bitter End with Andrew James Hughes, whose collaberations with me go back nearly a decade by now, and are available on i-Tunes and other online sites.
So if I seem a little excited at times about the performers I’ve played with, the places I’ve played and the stories I’ve had to tell, thanks to all of you for bearing with me. If I hadn’t taken so much for granted for so long I would probably be content to just be able to sit back and just rest my weary legs, but I did take too much for granted.
I have more to write, more to post, and certainly much more music in me. Recently I have had to ‘re-shuffle the deck’ so to speak, as some music projects are now ending, and possibly others are on the horizon.
If my health holds out and if anyone is there to listen, two things I am also not taking for granted.
This is a video of me performing “When You Walk In The Room” with JP Gotrock, over a quarter of a century ago. Don Erdman is singing lead, Vini Lopez and I are singing the other two parts, the late David Shearn is on keys and the great Vinnie Roslin is playing bass.
Over a quarter of a century later I performed it at the Lake House in Loch Arbour with Carol Barbieri, and it still brings goosebumps to me. If it brings goosebumps to anyone else then it doesn’t matter whether its at the Lake House, the Stone Pony, or even Madison Square Garden- you can be sure I will never take this music career for granted again.
– Al-Vis 7/22/2011