BMHOF Class of 2003
IN HIS OWN WORDS
I was born in Buffalo New York July 18th, 1952. My parents were hard working blue collar factory people. My father worked for Wick Wire steel on River Road and my Mother worked for Hostess bakery on Fugeron Street. My Father and Uncles were very musical, Nick Sr. played keyboards, violin and accordion and my Uncles played drums, sax, keyboards, and organ.
While I was growing up there was always music in the house. My father listened to Mario Lanza, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Andy Williams. My mother’s tastes had a much bigger influence on me. She was listening to Johnny Mathis, the Platters, Jackie Wilson, Elvis Presley and Motown.
My older brother who played lead guitar was listening to the late fifties and early sixties music like, The Ventures, Dick Dale, the Trash men, Pee Wee Crayton, Santo and Johnnie, Chet Atkins, Duane Eddy, Sufaris, Jan and Dean, Elvis Presley and many others. Nick Jr. had a band that was playing local dances, weddings, fire halls, whatever gigs they could get. As I sat and listened to them rehearse in our basement I was starting to get the “bug” to play drums.
I didn’t have the money to buy drums, nor did my parents. I would put on my Brother’s records and mimic what I heard on an old metal chair in our attic. The backrest was my cymbal and the torn up seat was the snare. I would bang on this thing for hours mimicking what I heard on records and then sneak in our basement and try out my abilities on the drums from my brother’s band. I was about eleven years old at the time and starting to hear the beats. I would bring my sticks to school and day-dream about owning my own set of drums and being in a band one day.
When I was twelve years old, I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and I was hooked! The romance of becoming a drummer in a band became my single focus. That night, The Beatles played three songs and I was forever changed! I wanted to be the guy behind the drums backing up the band. Playing polkas with my Dad and Brother in the basement was now a foreign avenue that I was not going to take. I knew what I wanted to do and the dream began.
I started playing with my brothers band The Vibra-Tones at age twelve. We played everywhere from Fire Halls, weddings, dances, to the Cave and the Billboard, which was a local strip/burlesque house. We participated in numerous battles of the band contests, winning some and coming in second a few times. After doing this for a few years, the Vibra-Tones broke up when my brother went in the army. I was very passionate and knew what I wanted to do with my life, so I searched out other local players and looked for any opportunity to play.
In high school, we had various bands that played high school dances, college parties and local churches. Bands like the Mortle Synns, the Soul Seekers and numerous others. I was underage but managed to get fake I.D. to not only play The Mug, BaBu Room and Aliotta’s, but to go see the other players in town who would eventually became the influences on my career and playing style.
Players like Gary Mallaber, Sandy Konnikoff, Guy French, Richie Calandra, Larry Rizzito, Brad Gray, Tom Walsh, Phil Youakim, Jeff White, Pete Hogaland, Ted Reinhardt, Paul Varga, Eli Konnikoff, Jerry Panzika, Joe LaBarbra, Larry Swist, Billy McEwen, Tony Levin, Nick Pidanick Jr., Bobby Bainbridge, John Stone, Paul Angrisano, John Brady, Phil Dillon, Jimmy Ralston, Ernie Corallo, Freddie Rapillo, Andy Rapillo, Tommy Calandra, John Weitz, Ralph Parker, Doug Yeomans, Mike Campanga, Rick Strauss, Bob Diminiac, Dave Cosentino, Mike Caputi, Tyrone Davis, Doug Morgano, Jimmy Calieri, Steve Nathan, Ronnie Davis, Stan Scleste, Dick Kermode, Jimmy Beishline, Jimmy Polin, Kevin Delapenta, Dean Mooney, Joe Geranno, Larry Swist, Lou Carfa, Steve Sadoff, Nick Veltri, Tommy Barrano, Jim Hesse, Joe Hesee, Phil Dillon, Robbie Scheuer, Mike Scheuer, Gary Baker, Ethan Porter, Joe Azzarello, Tom Azzarello, The Ryan Brothers, Joey Scinta, Tony Galla, Mondo Galla, Spoon, Phil Derey, Jay Beckenstein, Debbie Ash, Dolly Durante, Paula Milligan, Mary Jane Barrano, Barbra St. Clair, Ike Smith, Donna Mcdaniel. Jerry Hudson, Phil Hudson, Tommy Coil, Lance Diamond, Rick James and many other players from local bands in the Buffalo/Rochester scene.
Other influences on my playing were James Jamerson, Steve Gadd, Harvey Mason, Ringo Starr, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Charlie Watts, Levon Helm, Dino Danelli, Clyde Stubblefield, Zigaboo Modestile, Richie Hayword, Chuck Rainey, Pops Popwell, Bernard Purdie, Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Jeff Pocaro, Joe Pocaro, Ralph Humphries, Mick Fleetwood, Bill Bruford, Don Henley, Jack Bruno, Robben Ford, Chris Parker, Laura Nyro, Tony Williams, John Guerin, Vinnie Colauita, Lee Ritenour, Larry Carlton, B.B.King, Earl Palmer, Myron Grombecker, Carmine Appice, Duck Dunn, Roger Hawkins, Mel Taylor, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, David Garibaldi, John Mayall, Paul Butterfield. The “Stax” players, The Muscle Shoals players, The “Philly Players”, The “Atlantic Session People”. The Meters, the Band, the British Blues Invasion, The British music of the sixties. Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and the early years of Motown.
We started hosting Monday night jams at Aliotta’s where many players sat in with my band “Cold Soup” which included, Jimmy Ralston, Mike Gambino, Danny Gambino, Larry Swist and John Waite. We opened up for acts like, Raven, Dr.John, B.B.King, N.R.B.Q. and others. Cold Soup also did local gigs at the Inferno, Uncle Sams and various other clubs.
The Jerry Hudson Group became the house band at the Executive. We shared the stage with many of the aforementioned local players. I began to pick up local studio work and commercials for Tommy Calandra. In addition, worked on many sessions out of “Act One” studios on Kenmore and Delaware and many sessions out of P.C.I. Studios in Rochester with Mick Gusuaski engineering.
I had just turned 18 and around this time we cut the first tracks for our band “Flash”, Buffalo’s first original rock band. Local bands I worked with in chronological order to the best of my memory. The Vibra-Tones, Little Richie and the Fabulous Mustangs, The Mob, The Misfits, The Mortle Synns, The Soul Seekers, Cold Soup, Flash, The Jerry Hudson Group, Jerry and the Hornets, Dolly and the Midnighters, Ash and Campanga, Emil Palmale. Ike Smith and Free Spirit, Larry Rizzuto Memorial Big Band, the Donna McDaniel Band. These bands opened for K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Leo Sayer, Billy Preston, the Platters, Herman’s Hermit’s, Raven, Natalie Cole. Lloyd Price, the Coasters, and others.
Out of town bands:
Frankie Gaye with Bill King Musical Director, Ned Doheny Band with Ernie Corallo, David Garland, Colin Cameron, Rosemary Butler, (Toured Japan with Ned) King Harvest, Mike Love, toured The U.S. with King Harvest and Mike Love. Tina Turner (Rehearsal Band). Paul Williams, Toured and recorded in the U.S. with Paul. David Hines recorded David’s first album. Anne Bertoucchi, Billy Choffi, Eliot Randal, the Freeze, Peter Relick Orchestra, Scratch with Steve Nathan, Ralph Parker, Gary Baker, Sheila Smith. The Coda band with Screaming Scott, Jocko Marcellino, Glen Jordon, David Woodford (Sha-Na-Na). Sam Clayton (Little Feat) Joe and Tom Azzarello. Tightrope and numerous Top 40 bands. The Funmen with Coco Montoya (John Mayall’s guitarist), Chuck Kavorras, Duff McCagen from (Gun’s and Rose’s). Freebo from Bonnie Raitt’s band. Recording in Muscle Shoals with Gary Baker and Will Jennings.
Various people around the country sat in with these bands, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, Bernard Purdie, Alabama, Foghat and others.
Fred Casserta, Fred Saia, Joie Alliota, Richard Kimball.
Worked with Producers:
Jeff Barry, Mitchell Froom, Kenny Nolan, Will McFarland, Ronnie Montrose, Art Munson, David Shire, Gene Jacobs and Mike Lustan and Gary Pfil. (Boston).
John Rowland: (Buffalo Philharmonic),
Louie Marino: (Buffalo jazz great and teacher).
Chuck Flores: (Los Angeles jazz great and teacher).
Murray Spivack: (Taught Bellson and Krupa).
Dick Wilson: (Jazz artist, clinician, teacher).
Dave Garibaldi: (Tower of Power).
Pearl Drums, Sonor Drums, Veri-Sonic Drumsticks, L.T. Lug-locks, Gig Rug, Beat Bug and my own invention, the “Richie Ring”
After coming off the road with Paul Williams in 1983 I felt it was time to get involved in another aspect of the music industry. A friend of mine from Yamaha, recommended me to Guitar Center in Sherman Oaks. In July of 1983 I took a job in the drum shop for a minimum wage draw against the commission structure. After working as a sales-associate, I was promoted to Drum Department Manager within six weeks. Although I wasn’t playing music full time, I was around drums and Musicians everyday, my drum hero’s became my customers and good friends. After a short period of time I was promoted to Assistant Manager. At this time I went to work in our Santa Ana location as a Manager in Training. I received my first Store Manager promotion in San-Diego, November 1984.
I managed our San-Diego location for ten months and was then promoted to Manager of our Sherman-Oaks CA, store. I stayed there three years and upon this time, Guitar Center decided to open up more stores nationally. In 1988 I moved to Minneapolis to manage our first location in the Twin Cities. I stayed one year and was promoted to Store Manager of our first Texas store (Dallas) in 1989. In 1990 I was promoted to District Manager of our Chicago, Minnesota/Texas region and stayed on this Mission until February 1994. At that time I was promoted to Vice-President/ Regional Manager of Southern California. In 1996 I was promoted to Senior Vice-President of Stores and oversaw all Guitar Centers in the U.S.A.
In 1997 I was diagnosed with Hepatitis “C”. I worked for another year as Senior VP, but then became too ill to work at all. I took the year of 2000 off to try different medications to help my illness. In 2001 I went back to work as Vice President/ General Manager of our flagship, Hollywood location. After 11 months, I moved into the role of Vice President/District Manager of our Mid-Atlantic region which included Buffalo and Rochester. I currently hold the position of Vice President/District Manager of the New York-New Jersey District. Over the course of my twenty years with the company I was fortunate enough to become the most decorated person in the company, winning our first "Founders" award and three "Presidents" awards. I also had the opportunity to head up our Grand Opening team and was instrumental in the development of our training programs, pricing policies and store layout. It has been a journey of many different hats. I was also part of the original nine employees that took GC public in 1996.
Today, I enjoy that my profession has come full circle and I now get the opportunity to take care of my buddies that I grew up with for all of their instrument needs. It has allowed me to guide the careers of Managers, Vice-Presidents and Senior Vice-Presidents. I taught them mainly how to make Rock Stars feel like regular people and the regular people feel like Rock Stars.
Lastly, I’ll never forget where I came from and will never get rid of that “Bug” that I got at twelve years old to play drums. I have told many stories all over the country about the Buffalo music scene, the great players and culture that I was so fortunate to play a small part in.
Back - 2003