Last night the family and I caught an amazing rock act. Mark my words, these guys are going places. Actually, they're already there.
The show took me back to my grammar school days in Down Neck Newark, when I was the singer for a kid band. It started out as a four-piece -- me, a couple of guitar players, and an older kid who was the drummer. We struggled for a while, but then one of the guitar players found a music teacher who showed him the basics of bar chords. I'll never forget the day he came back to our basement rehearsal from his lesson out on Route 22 and showed us all what he had just been taught. From that point on, we were off and running.
We never learned too many songs, but we had just enough of a repertoire to put on a nice set for a friend's birthday party or a children's dance at the boys' club or the veterans' post. I remember one year, opening for Santa at the American Legion -- it was awesome.
I can't remember too much of the set list. The boys would open up behind me with an instrumental, and then we'd launch into "Secret Agent Man," "Little Red Riding Hood," "As Tears Go By," and other hits of the day.
After a while, another kid with a guitar showed up, and now we were a five-piece. We got business cards, and wore a uniform. White shirt, black pants, and these glittery vests that we went out and bought somewhere up on Market Street. I'm pretty sure they were blue, but they could have been red. We had a business card -- we were called The Breakaways -- and we were ready for show biz.
Our sound didn't really have a bottom, and at some point we were going to need a bass guitar. The other guys were looking at me to play that role, but at some point, I think my parents got a little nervous about the band going professional. There was some talk of us playing in some local bars, and I recall my folks not being too keen on that idea. I'm not sure exactly how it happened -- now that I'm a dad, I know a little of the art of creating diversions -- but at some point the Breakaways petered out, at least for me.
Which in a lot of ways is too bad. I was learning some guitar from the other guys, and if I picked up the bass at that point, I'd probably still be playing it today. I appreciate that my parents were trying to keep me on a straight path in a neighborhood and city filled with danger, and I'd never fault them for their decision to derail my lead singer career. But sometimes, like last night, I wonder what would have happened if they had let us go further.
Anyway, here's to all the kid rockers, and to the Breakaways -- John de Grazia from the Prudential Apartments, John Gonzalo from the other end of Cortland Street, Gary DiBiasi from Hyatt Court (the drummer), and Tom Crappse from Lentz Avenue. I have no clue where any of them are today, but maybe now Google will bring them my way. And man, what I'd give for a picture.