I was born in Dover, NJ and I'm 37. I've been living in Florida for 20-something years now. I started playing guitar when I was nine years old. That's how I got started with the Gregg Allman Band. I started as a guitar roadie. They heard me play guitar and they hired me in the band on guitar for about three years, but I switched to bass before we did the I'm No Angel album.
Are you the only single guy in the band? I know everybody else is married.
Yeah, I just went through a divorce as a matter of fact from my third wife. I've had three wives. I have two kids. Two wonderful kids. A daughter and a son. My daughter is from my second wife and my son is from my third one. I get to see them quite often. They still all live around here.
How did you get involved in the music business?
Actually I had an older brother who was a drummer. He was kind of like the black sheep in the family. He started playing drums much to the chagrin of my Marine Corps father. He grew his hair and caught a lot of problems with that. I thought that was kind of cool. But then I said I wanted to take guitar lessons. My folks bought me a guitar and brought me the lessons and after three years of lessons I got really bored with lessons. Then I quit playing for a while. We moved down to Florida and I started buying records because I had my first stereo. I actually built my first stereo. I got a degree in electronics. Back then I used to mess around with electronics and built my own stereo and started buying albums. I thought "Man I can play that stuff". So I pulled my guitar out of the closet and started doing it. I taught myself. I just decided that's what I wanted to do. So right out of high school I started playing in bars cause down here the drinking age was 18 then and so right out of high school I just started playing in bars. It didn't change to 21 until I turned 21 so I kinda missed that whole thing which was kinda convenient.
Who were some of your musical influences?
When I first started playing I was a heavy metal maniac. I was a big KISS fan and Thin Lizzy and Robert Trower was one of my favorites. Stuff like that. I started really appreciating jazz. Jazz fusion. I'm a big Chick Koria fan and I love Marcus Miller who plays bass. He usually plays bass and produces David Sanborn. He is just phenomenal. I played in a country band for a year and a half too. Played guitar in a country band with Jeff Cook from the group Alabama. That was interesting. I didn't like all of it but I liked a lot of it. But I much prefer rock and roll. It's a lot more fun to play. You get to blow the carbon in the end.
So you played with Gregg Allman in the Marshall Tucker band?
Yeah we did the Allman Brothers reunion. I did three albums with Gregg. We did I'm No Angel, Just Before The Bullets Fly, and then there was a compilation of four CDs and cassettes and I got two gold records from that. I didn't do any recordings with Marshall Tucker. I just toured with them for a while. There was a band called Captain Beyond in the 70's. Kind of a cult group then. They called me up. They needed a bass player so I went to the audition and I passed the audition. I ended up not taking the gig. I guess something else came up.
Wo what other bands have you played in?
Famous bands? We toured with Stevie Ray Vaughn for nine months. I got to jam with him. I got to stand onstage. Crosby, Stills, And Nash. Carlos Santana. A bunch of people.
So how did you meet Bill and the guys?
I was playing down here in Sarasota with a guy named John Cristia and we used to have jam nights. Every I think it was Tuesday or something like that. And we'd invite people to come in and Bill used to come in and play with us. Jam with us. And he would do like Satriani stuff that nobody else around here could actually handle. But we had a really good drummer who plays for Charlie Daniels now. I believe it's Pat McDonald and he's really fantastic and they gave me a tape of stuff to learn and so I learned the bass parts. We used to have a ball. A lot of fun to come in and just rip it up. That's how I got to know him cause I didn't know him before that. He was just such a nice guy and everything. He remembered that I could play that kind of difficult stuff and when the thing came up with Firehouse he said I was the first one that he thought of. Luckily I wasn't doing anything else. I mean I was playing locally but I wasn't doing anything big at the time. In fact I had started going to college for computers and he gave me the call said "we're making a change here. Would you like to come down?" I said yeah then we did the album.
So you got to play on the new CD?
How do you like being in Firehouse so far?
I love it. I mean these guys are just fantastic. They're wonderful people to begin with. They're just real great guys and the music is fantastic. I love the music. I mean you can't go wrong with that combination. They're just really a bunch of sweethearts. They've taken me. They've been very nice and I love playing with them. It's just great.
I understand you're also a good singer.
Yeah I do a lot of the background stuff. The high stuff that Perry used to do. In fact when I was singing in that country band I did 90 percent of the lead vocals. I've been singing for quite a while. They needed somebody who could handle all that high stuff. Fortunately I'm able to do that.
Are there any other instruments that you can play outside of guitar and bass?
I can play a little bit of drums. A smattering of keyboards. Messing around. If I had a drumkit I'd be on it everyday because I love drums. Drumkits are kind of big. I'd love to get a set of drums. I've actually gotten behind - with other bands I've gotten behind the drumkit and played a song. But I'm no proficient drummer. It's just kind of fun.
You've already been touring with Firehouse?
Yeah we've already done a bunch of shows.
Are there any wild road stories?
I've got tons of road stories. None with Firehouse yet. I've got a few with Gregg Allman. Some I don't think I'd be able to repeat. Some of those kind. I could go on for days with that. I could write a book called "Road Stories". It's funny. But these guys in Firehouse, they don't trash hotel rooms or do crazy stuff like that.
Nah they're a little too calm.
Yeah they're a little too down to earth for that.
Are you going to participate in any future songwriting?
Any songwriting? Yeah Bill sat and really talked to me about doing that here. Writing together. We really haven't had the opportunity to actually sit down and actually do it yet. So we just practice and then go out on the road. But yeah he definitely wants me to submit ideas and I'd love to myself. Been a while. I co-wrote a song on the second Gregg Allman album and it's about the only thing I had gotten out there in public and everything but that wasn't my style of writing to begin with anyway. I'm more of a rocker.
And they're kind of more country right?
The Allman Brothers? They're more southern rock. That type of stuff.
Kind of a combination of both?
A little bit. A little bit yeah. Which is great. You have blues and stuff. It's just not the kind of stuff that I would write. Even though I did play in a country band some years ago. I played guitar in a country band. I played with Jeff from the group Alabama. It was called JT And The Chosen Few. I used to do a lot of singing in that band. I did about 90 percent of the singing. Vince Gill, Garth Brooks.
I understand that you are quite adept at fixing electrical appliances and that you're Microsoft certified.
That's right. I'm a Microsoft certified professional. I have my A+ certification in computers. I also have a degree in electronics. So all the guys keep bringing me their CD players and their amplifiers and stuff for me to fix all the time. Bobby our road manager/stage manager just brought me his laptop for me to fix. I went to college for that.
What are your favorite songs off the new CD?
My favorite? I love "Take It Off". And I really like the feel of "Loving You Is Paradise". We've been doing some of them live and stuff. And I've listened to it more and I'm really liking "Call Of The Night". I really like that one a lot. We use "Jumpin'" to open the set. That's working out real well. We've been revamping the set list.
We can expect a new set list?
Yeah a different set list. They've had the same set for a year and a a half I think. Every time we go back and play, we play the same shows. So we're trying to change it around.
What are some of the songs you enjoy playing live?
Actually all of them. Honestly all of them. I enjoy all of them. We've changed the set around recently to where - you know they have all these great power ballads and we put them toward the middle of the show. We hit them hard and then we bring them down with a power ballad and we go back and hit them real hard again with "Overnight Sensation" and it's almost like the concert just started again. It turns out really neat. You want to leave them wanting more. You don't want to leave them wanting less.
When can we expect a new tour?
We're working on this summer thing. I don't have any exact logistics for you right now. We're getting ready to leave in March. They'll be showing up on the website. After that I don't know.
Can you tell us about Friday's show at the Citrus Festival?
Luckily it looks as though we'll be just before the rain. The weather says that it won't rain until after midnight. We go on at eight so I think we're going to beat the rain. It should be a really good show. We got the new set we just worked up. We've got new songs in the set. CJ is singing his butt off. You can hear it. Really kicking ass. Mike's flying out from Virginia to do the rehearsals. So we've got a good three or four days of rehearsals.
Are you guys touring alone or as part of a package tour?
I think that's the idea. We have been touring alone the past few gigs. There were a couple before that where we opened up for Lynyrd Skynyrd and stuff like that. They weren't package tours. They were just billed as a rock and roll weekend thing. As far as doing package tours I think that's what Bill was talking about doing. Either hooking up with Poison or Warrant or both or Ratt. Whoever's going out and doing a package thing and they usually call it an eighties thing even though Firehouse came out in '91. They call it 80's bands. They do beter than one band on their own because that genre of music - there's all those bands that did that and that had the one hit or whatever isn't going to sell as well as three or four bands that had a whole bunch of hits together in that genre. People are going to be more willing to go see a bigger package than one band itself. That would be good and we could have more fun.
Any other comments?
The band's been great. Keep supporting us. We thank everybody. I personally thank everybody for me because I was kind of scared when I first came into the band and expected a lot of negativity. Perry was in the band for a long time but everybody has been very, very nice.
I know sometimes you have that problem when you're filling someone else's shoes.
Yeah that can pose a problem.