Early in 1971, I worked part time in my parents' restaurant while I was trying to assemble a decent band. I injured my right hand working in the kitchen and was unable to play the piano for quite some time. I did pick up part time work doing sound reinforcement with a local sound company. This enabled me to meet many big name artists such as Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton with Blind Faith, members of The Fifth Dimension, Ian Anderson and the rest of Jethro Tull, many of the members of Chicago, Leslie West and Mountain, Three Dog Night, Johnny and Edgar Winters and their band members, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers Band, Sly and The Family Stone, The Brooklyn Bridge, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and many others. I was learning a lot about sound.

 

It was around this time that I met a college student who was an excellent singer-songwriter named Dane Donohue. He was working in a duo with an old schoolmate of mine. I ended up doing the sound for this duo. Lots of special effects went into their show. The duo broke up in early in 1971 when Dane was offered the lead role in a production of "Jesus Christ - Superstar" that was planning to tour. I remember feeling pretty left out at this point. My hand was still not 100% so playing music was not an option. Just for something to do, I went to one of the rehearsals. I looked over to see the owner of the sound company I had worked for, doing the sound for the show. I immediately went up to him and asked him if I could join as an audio tech for his company. He worked it out with the owners of the production and I was in.

 

 

Jesus Christ - Superstar created a lot of controversy which ultimately resulted in great album sales. Many local versions were staged on college campuses around the country. Oddly enough, the opera was never designed to be performed live. The vocal parts were considered too demanding to be done several times a week. However, this did not stop our production from going on the road. We became The National Rock Opera Company and although we started out being a "bootleg" production (not having permission from the publishers to use the material), we finally received a court's permission to perform the opera. This tour took me through 26 states and over 120 performances in less than 6 months. I started out being an audio technician but I quickly learned the lighting as well. I also had equipment that was being rented to the tour each week.

 My nickname on the tour was "Zorba". I mention this only because almost no one ever knew my real name. Everyone was shocked to learn my name wasn't "Zorba" when the program came out. In 1998, over 25 years later, I was performing at a nearby ski resort. A musician from the tour recognized me and said "Hey Zorba...what's the buzz?". Some things never change. I added this paragraph just in case someone from the tour comes across my website and doesn't recognize my real name.

Early in the tour, the cast and musicians recorded our version of "Jesus Christ - Superstar" at Jack Clement's Recording Studios in Nashville. We needed a product that could be sold at the shows. The entire 80 minute, 2 album recording was done in one, 12-hour night! Three of the musicians in the band for Superstar were also musicians in The 1967 Northland Battle Of The Bands. The organist (whose band placed 5th), the bassist (who almost got his 1st Place band disqualified) and the drummer, (whose band came in 3rd).

Merv Shiner and Tony Moon were the producers. Once the recording was done, a deal was struck between Shiner, Moon and the owners of the National Rock Opera Company to use portions of this recording for a single album version called "Outstanding Songs From Jesus Christ Superstar" by...get this..."The Brown County Chorale" and "Country Music Ensemble", two totally fictitious groups! They took the original recordings of about half of the songs and created a new, country music album.

Our touring schedule was a grind. We averaged 5 shows a week with most of them being one-nighters. This makes people irritable at best. Most tours have their share of people leaving and others coming in. Ours was no exception.
 
Oct 27, 1971 Wednesday
Wilkesbarre, P.A.
Comoford Theatre
Holiday Inn
1 Show 8:30
 
Woke up around 12:30. Went to lobby, talked with Dane. Ate breakfast with Burkey and Jenny. Jeanette came and we ate with her and Elstuns. Great to see Jeanette. Went to theatre and found Chase & Green working with Daryl (Jesus) and Dave B. (Pilate). Dane was with me. They stopped after we came. Tried not to look suspicious. Band got set up and we had technical rehearsal. Andy S. said he wanted to hear so he asked me to play drums. When Mary's tune came up, Andy S. was on bass, I was on drums, Larry on flute, Burkey & Bennett. Ann got pissed off and said she wasn't doing the show. Chase called Joyce up and started rehearsing with her. Things were looking pretty good. Great!! (In fact.) We left and I had dinner with Gil & Larry & Dane. Ann is quitting for good! Joyce did fantastic show and Jeanette was marvelous. At end, she was crying when she did "Take My Mother Home" Curtain call was terrific. Lynch came on stage and hugged Jeanette. Bad foresight on Chase's part for letting Jeanette do spiritual. After show, I gave Jeanette my sympathies and told Joyce she did well. (Much better than Ann.) Tore down and went to Dane's room where I found Pat, Dane, Dave and Gil. Found out Chase was leaving show. He told cast in dressing rooms downstairs. Fantastic, I hope. I came back to room and got cleaned up and went to bed.
 
Tours also bring people closer together. Although I was only an audio technician by job description, it didn't take long for people to find out that I was also a pretty good musician. Being a pianist came in handy from time to time.
 
November 5, 1971 Friday
 
Woke up at 12:00 noon. Went to rehearsal and listen to Garth. (Bad) News people came in, took pictures, interviewed Green. Rehearsal ended around 4:00. Tore down and loaded truck. Went to bar and sat with Steve and Jeanette & Connie. Went to Jeanette's room and help Connie and Rita & Sherry work out vocal parts to parts of J.C.S.S.. Ordered pizza. Played piano from 6 'til 11 that nite. Went with Tyrone and Connie to bar. Got back and crashed.
 
Like any tour, there are always memorable experiences. Oddly enough, one of the biggest for me came during a break from the tour. Dane Donohue and I had been working on some of his original songs. He had an opportunity to get a two-day break from the tour when we were near Nashville. He had made arrangements to meet with Merv Shiner (one of our Superstar LP producers) in Nashville to discuss some of his material. He also made arrangements with the tour manager to let me go along. We were "wined and dined" by Merv at one of Nashville's top steak and seafood restaurants. Tony Moon (the other producer of our Superstar LP), Alex Zanetis, another producer, and some others also attended this dinner. Later that night, back at our hotel room at the Vanderbuilt Holiday Inn, Dane and I were working on a song when someone knocked on the door. It was an assistant engineer from Jack Clement's Recording Studios. He wanted to know if we wanted to go there and lay down some tracks...that night! It was after midnight and we were still a little tipsy from the evening's dinner but that did not stop us from saying "HELL YEAH!". We were there until around 5 am. We recorded in the studio that Ray Stevens used to record songs like "Ahab, The Arab", "Guitar-zan" and his most famous "Everything Is Beautiful". I actually recorded on the piano that Ray Stevens used to write and record many of his songs. What an experience. The assistant studio engineer was Dave Maloy who became a well-known producer in Nashville. To this day, I don't know if Dave had permission to allow us in the studio or if he just snuck us in with no one knowing. He was 19 years old at the time.
 
December 6, 1971 Monday
 
Woke up at 8:30 and left on special bus at 9:00. Got to airport and talked to Larry about being 4 hours late to tech call. He didn't like the idea. Dane & I going to Nashville to T.C.B.. I went anyhow and Dane said to call George when we get to Nashville. We get to Nashville, call Merv and he picks us up at airport. Drove to his office, to Jack Clement's and then to Alex Zanetis' office where we listened to his new musical. Then Alex goes out to dinner with us and afterwards Dane and I got to room. Dave Maloy comes and we go to Clement's to record. Unbelievable. Gettin' about 5:00 am. Crash.
 
By the end of the tour, which went from July thru December of 1971, I had grown in so many ways both personally and professionally. The experience was one I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Briefly after the tour, I worked with Dane in a duo. A local agent, whose family fame came from the Marzetti Salad Dressing Company, booked us. We were called "The Smith Brothers". (Remember the cough drops?) Later, Dane went on to a solo career, recording an album for Columbia Records. The album is now with Sony. He had many well-known artists appear on this recording with him such as Stevie Nicks, Steve Gadd, Larry Carlton, Don Henley, John David Souther, Tim Schmit, Steve Lukater, Ernie Watts, Mike Porcaro and many others. It is a great album that is now having success overseas in Europe and Japan.