10, 2014, I was presented with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at The
Steamtown Music Awards, which were a part of The Electric City Music
Conference. I was told I was being given the award because of my career in
music journalism, radio, and in presenting musical events. It was a very
humbling and flattering experience, and after being introduced with some very
kind words from Joe Caviston, one of the event’s organizers, and Michael Lello
of Highway 81 Revisited, and Lobo from 105 The River, I was asked to say a few
words. Thankfully, Joe had told me in advance that they hoped I might give a
little speech, and so I was able to prepare. And that, to me, was what made
this all very special, because it gave me the opportunity to thank some of the
people that helped get me there. Some of those people were in the audience. Some were not. Regardless, I thought I’d post an outline of my words
here on my blog. I kept it all to about five minutes, but I just wanted
everyone to know how much they are appreciated:
First, I’d like to thank everyone involved in The Electric City Music Conference for this award, especially Joe and Ken, who have worked very hard at making this event happen. When you’re out there writing your stories, or doing your radio show, or putting on an event, you never really know if anyone cares. But tonight, you’ve told me that you do care, and I truly appreciate that. And when you are being given a 'lifetime' achievement award, there were obviously a lot of people along that way that you’ve encountered in your life that helped get you there. And I’d like to take just a few minutes to thank them. And I guess I’ll start with where it all began …
My late grandfather, for really being the first one to turn me on the beauty of music. Listening to records with him in his "parlor" on his beautiful floor-style stereo - which was essentially a large piece furniture - had a great impact on my life. He was very serious about his music. He loved that stereo and he loved his records, and my grandfather and I did not watch much TV. We listened to music. All the time. Thank you, grandpa.
My parents. When I was a teenager, music was my life. And my parents were OK with that. Back in the ‘80s, long before we had an amphitheater at Montage and an arena in Wilkes-Barre, you had to go out of town to see your favorite bands. And if you weren’t old enough to drive, you needed someone to take you. In 1982, I asked my parents if they’d take me to see this band called The Who at the old JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. And they agreed to do it. They dropped me and a buddy of mine off in front of the stadium before the show, while they went to spend the day in the city, and when they picked me up a few hours later, I was not the same person. That day changed my life. It was my first concert, and it was the first time I truly experienced the power and the beauty of rock and roll. Over the next few years, until I got old enough to drive myself, my parents would shuttle my friends and I off to other shows in places like New York or Allentown. They always supported my love for music, and that's a big part of the reason I'm here tonight. Thank you, Mom and Dad.
In 1992, I expressed an interest in writing about music, or music journalism. The Times Leader gave me that opportunity, and once they did, I ran with and have run with it to this day. There were many people there that were instrumental in the success of my career, including Paul Gallagher, who hired me as a music correspondent, Mary Therese Biebel, who gave me my first full-time job in the newsroom, and Chris Ritchie, who gave me the opportunity to be a features writer. And, of course, Joe Butkiewicz, who was probably my greatest mentor in journalism. The years I worked for him were my favorite years at The Times Leader and The Weekender. Thank you, Times Leader and Weekender, and all of the people that I worked with there over the course of 18 years. I am thinking about all of you tonight.
Lyn Carey. Not only did she own the coolest rock club in town, but she also published her own music magazine called “Sound Check.” In 1993, she asked me to write for that magazine. I was still a very young writer at the time, and through that magazine, more readers and more musicians immediately became more familiar with my work. I only wrote for “Sound Check” for two years, but it had a very important impact on my career. Thank you, Lyn.
My friend Joe Ohrin, who is here tonight. Joe took me under his wing a bit back in the ‘80s at WRKC-Radio King’s College. He had his own show, and I often sat in with him. And even though we were just small college station in Wilkes-Barre, PA, we didn’t think any artist was too big for us to try and interview, and we landed some interviews with some of rock’s biggest bands. I learned that from Joe, and took that same approach with me to The Times Leader and The Weekender. Thank you, Joe.
My friend Jim Rosensteel, who has helped me archive many of my older interviews and concert reviews online. It’s nice to know that a concert review or an interview you did 20 years ago can still be read, and that wouldn’t be possible without Jim helping me with my websites. Thank you, Jim.
Jim Rising, for first giving me my own radio show 10 years ago on The Mountain, and Dave Stewart, who produced the show for many years. And to everyone at 105 The River. I’ve been there for a year now - it's one year this week - and I want to thank everyone there for making me feel so welcome and for helping keep local music on the radio. Thank you to Vince, who is here tonight, and to Lobo, who is also here. I am very proud to call 105 The River my home base for music.
Mitch Kornfeld and everyone at The Woodlands. For 10 years, The Woodlands was our home for “Concert For A Cause,” for which they pretty much let us take over the entire complex. Thank you for that, Mitch, and to Richie Kossuth, Gene Smith and everyone at Rock Street Music for helping make that event so special.
I want to thank KISS. KISS, with songs such as “Get All You Can Take” and “King Of The Mountain,” helped changed my life. In the ‘80s, when I was a teenager, KISS often wrote about the concept of individuality and self-worth. They helped guide me towards the attitude of not really giving a damn what anybody else thinks of you, and to just be yourself. Thank you, KISS. That
had an incredibly positive impact on my
life, not only as a journalist, but as a person. Thank you, also, to U2 and
Bruce Springsteen, for showing me that rock and roll could be thoughtful and
poignant, and thank you to Van Halen, for showing me that rock and roll could
be great without being thoughtful and poignant. And thank you to Elvis Presley
and The Beatles, for changing everything. None of us would be here tonight if
it were not for you.
Thank you to The Badlees and my friend Bret Alexander. In 1993, while at the newspaper, I received an album called “The Unfortunate Result of Spare Time.” That album changed the way I thought about everything when it came to local music. It was just as good as anything I’d ever heard before, and about a year and a half later, when the band dropped “River Songs,” I heard an album that was better than just about anything I’d ever heard before. And they were from right here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Writing about The Badlees at that time was probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever written about. It was magic. They were the best band I ever wrote about. And I remain a fan of their music, still, to this day, including their current projects. I also want to thank Breaking Benjamin. When I wrote the very first story about them about 14 years ago, they didn’t even have a band photo. We took one for them, on the roof of the Times leader. A few short years later, they were a platinum band. They showed me that it can happen, because it did happen. If you’re a young band out there, don’t forget it.
I want to thank every single band or artist that ever called me up at the newspaper or reached out to me in any way and asked that I might write about them. I want to thank every single band or artist that ever sent me a CD and asked me to consider playing it on the radio. And I want to thank every single band or artist that ever performed at one of the events I helped put together, whether it was ‘Concert For A Cause,’ or the old original music series that we did at The Waterfront or The Woodlands, or the current music series we now do at Mohegan Sun. You have all bettered my life with your music. It seems like whenever I write about a band, or play them on the radio, or work with them on an event, they thank me. I thank YOU. Thank YOU for thinking of me. This is our music scene, and we’re all in this together.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I thank my readers
and my listeners. Thank you for reading my stories, listening to my show, and
coming to the events that I’ve worked on. It means more to me than you
will ever know.
Again, I thank all of the wonderful people that have had such a great impact on my career in music. And, again, I want to thank the Electric City Music Conference for this award, and for the opportunity to thank everyone. There is a GREAT weekend of music conferences and live performances on tap here in Scranton, and I hope you can take it all in and enjoy it.
I leave you with a thought from AC/DC …
For those about to rock, I salute you.
Thank you. And God bless you.