Here is a new wrinkle in my blog journey!
Some stories that I tell I am not going to remember certain details. So… I reach out to past and present friends, family and band mates! It will be fun to have those that may remember, help fill in the blanks for me or fix my timeline… Such as in this story!
It was probably around 1982 when Cheater broke into the Ohio Market. The biggest radio station in the land, WMMS in Cleveland, was playing “Ten Cent Love Affair,” our first hit! It opened the doors for us to be able to perform at Agora theaters. The Agoras were (or still are. I don’t know for sure.) a chain in different cities throughout Ohio. They were concert halls that held about 3000 people. Our first opportunities were to open for national bands. I don’t remember which bands because we did this a few times. One of them was Head East! Shout-out to fellow Rochestarian and bro Tony Gross, guitar player extraordinaire of the band (There will be more stories with Tony!) but I don’t think it was them on this show.
This performance was in Youngstown Ohio. I was pretty excited, to say the least, the chance to play for that many people who have never heard us before but knew our song was a dream! We had some club dates in the area a few days before (as always…) I was feeling fine and ready to shine.
Somebody in the band (maybe Don Mancuso) had given me the nickname “iron throat” because I could sing night after night for so many shows in a row without totally blowing out my voice. Something I am very proud of to this day. The premise of this show was that if we held our own and the Agora managers liked us, we would be back the next time as a headliner!
The night before our Agora appearance we arrived at our hotel in Youngstown in the wee hours of the morning after a club performance the night before. I was feeling fine when I went to sleep.
When I awoke the morning before the show something wasn’t right. I couldn’t TALK! I had never experienced anything like this before. I was losing it! No amount of drugs in the world was going to help me. (Ah, drugs… future stories dear reader…) My manager got on the phone to my doctor in Rochester, Dr. Sorrentino. The best doc you could have! Thank god for him my whole life!
After explaining what was going on and my symptoms, Doc knew I had Bronchitis (first time and last time, thank god.) It settled in my chest overnight while I was sleeping. He called a pharmacy near our hotel and I got a prescription for… whatever they give you for bronchitis. He said this was going to last a few days at least, and I might as well accept the fact that I can’t sing for a while. As well as some other instructions that I’m sure I ignored.
Can’t be! Not today of all days! I convinced the band and my manager that we should do the show and I will do the best I can. It really didn’t take much convincing… we all knew we couldn’t blow it off.
As the day went on I started to be able to squeak out a talking voice. A little anyways. The worst part was the fever. I was so freakin’ hot! Coughing my brains out was not pleasant either.
For dinner before the show we went to a Chinese restaurant. I ordered the hottest thing on the menu hoping it would burn out the stuff in my throat and chest. (That was some brilliant reasoning in those days.) I convinced myself it worked, so it did! (Not really.) On with the show!
We took the stage and the band kicked ass! (as always) The boys were in top form, killing the songs, the sound on stage was awesome, the theater was packed and they were loving it.
How was I you ask? I sucked! I was so bad. I was squeaking out inaudible sounds that I didn’t even recognize. Noises were coming out of my throat. Not words… not notes… NOISES!
But! Here’s the kicker!
I was doing my best David Lee Roth impression! I was jumping all over the stage! Doing splits! Sliding across the front of the stage. Whipping my mic stand around and pointing it into the crowd. Stuff I never did before! In the forty-five minutes we were up there, I don’t think I actually sang anything but I was certainly working up the audience! Thank god Cheater was such a good band because it was all on them. I was no help… I sucked!
I collapsed backstage after the show. I also removed the Chinese food from my stomach…not voluntarily. I plopped on a raggedy old couch. (There was always a raggedy old couch backstage everywhere. It must have been written somewhere that every dressing room had to have a raggedy old couch. I don’t even want to think about what was on them!) I know I had a really high fever. I didn’t move until it was time to go.
We were anxiously waiting to find out what the opinion of the theater managers was going to be. We hoped we at least pulled it off enough to return. Maybe not as a headliner, as we had hoped, but at least another chance to open for somebody.
Believe it or not they loved us! They booked us the following month as a headliner! Wow! We pulled it off!
We had club shows for the next few nights. I spent my time mostly sleeping in the dressing rooms (on a raggedy old couch) while the band was playing whatever songs they came up with.
It took a while to get “back in the game” as they say. I finally did.
A month later we returned to the Youngstown Agora Theater to a packed house! It was a great night. The band was awesome (as always) and I could sing again! We had a great following in Ohio now! After the show, my manager told me what the theater owners said. It went something like this;
He said, “I walked in the room and they all applauded!”
They added, “This is one of the better bands in the country as far as we are concerned. We thought you were great the last time you were here, but tonight you were amazing!
The best decision you guys made was getting that NEW SINGER! Your old singer put on a good show but he couldn’t sing a note!”
When he told them I was the same guy and that I was sick the last time we were here, they didn’t believe him. We didn’t care. As long as they kept booking us.