Sunday, October 07, 2007

True confessions - men who rocked my world

By Libby

When I first arrived in lovely downtown Noho after 18 bleak years in a really horrible marriage I was ready to bust loose and party. Musicians where my natural social group and with unusually good timing I got there at the very height of Noho's golden age. It was still an affordable place for struggling artist types to live then and we had an embarrassment of musical riches. On every single night of the week there were several local bands playing, besides the bigger names that were at The Iron Horse, and most of them were worth seeing. The choices were often agonizing and that was just downtown.

The greater Happy Valley was riddled with intimate venues that offered great music, often for free. And when the bars closed at 1:00am, the after hours parties ensued. I hosted more than one myself. Indeed my parties became legendary and I was soon dubbed the queen of the scene. My life was saturated with songwriters and I was a honorary Lost Boy. We had some fun, I'll tell you that.

So, I was thinking about these guys last night when I decided on a whim to look for them on YouTube. Not that I had much hope. The core group of The Lost Boys aren't much for computers and I had tried it a year ago without success, but damn if I didn't find some vids this time. So here's some men who rocked my world.

I've known Ed Vadas for 30 years. He's a dear friend and was also a neighbor for many years. He never got really famous but he's been making a living at playing music all his life and he's boosted a lot of new players into the big leagues by giving them a spot in his revolving back up band, The Heavyweights. I came to love all of them dearly. I don't know Susan Burkhart, who appears to be his latest protege, but I see his eye for talent has diminished any.

That particular vid doesn't really convey his personality since it was a day gig in a studio and he's sober. This show is more his natural habitat but the quality isn't that great and the gig is odd, being a fundraiser. Still it's worth a peep to see Lord Russ as emcee. Russ wasn't a Lost Boy although he is a friend, but that's a story for another day.

Back to the Lost Boys, Tom McClung and Jay Messer were charter members. They make their money on jazz but they can play anything. Really well.

I saw the dawn brighten Tom's kitchen windows many a time and Tom holds the distinction of the musician I came the closest to having sex with. All the years I hung with the music crowd I made it a rule not to get physically involved with the players. Lovers come and go, but friends are forever and I preferred to keep them as friends. But there was always this tension between Tom and me. We stepped around it for ages but once, shortly before he moved to Paris, I gave him a ride home from Vermont and he ended up spending the night at my place. It was close but after ignoring the attraction all those years, I think it was better we didn't ruin the tantalizing possibility with sticky reality. Now we can still wonder.

And finally there's Mark Herschler. My brother of the soul. Our relationship is so deep it would take pages to describe fully but for now I'll say we were so close that to this day there are hundreds of people in the Happy Valley who still think we're related by blood.

His solo is about 5 minutes into the vid and this one brought tears to my eyes. This video was made years before I met him, when he was just a kid playing the street corners of Europe with the Lost Wandering Blues Band. He was just starting out then. It felt like looking at an old family photo of an event you can't quite remember but cherish nonetheless.

He matured into a brilliant musician and astounding songwriter. I wish I had video of his more current work but I can't even get him to keep an email addy alive. You can however hear clips at the website. Listen to God Bless the Child here. That album was made during the height of the Lost Boy days and that's Tom McClung on the keyboard. And go to the second link for Drunken Boat here. That was always one of my favorites.

As for the other players in the video, the only one I know is the washtub bass player Danny Fitzgerald. Danny is the founder and ringmaster of the Lost Wandering Blues Band. He's been making a living at music all his life too, from street corners to palaces. Someday I'll tell you about the night I spent on their houseboat on the Seine.

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