The Long Road to Today
THE NEWEST ACT
John is now playing in a duo with backing tracks for drums and bass with his new bandmate, Al Dettlings. The new act is ATLANTIC BLU and specifics about the act can be found at www.atlanticblu.com The music scene in St Augustine has welcomed ATLANTIC BLU to many of the local night spots. The band's website has a calendar of performances. Original writing is already underway with a CD scheduled to come out in January.
THE NEW CHALLENGE
About a year ago I started to receive requests from Southern Europe and Australia for copies of a 45 RPM record my band recorded in 1969. It turns out that record achieved a large level of contemporary airplay and became a collectors item. The band is the Crystal Revelation and the song is "Life" written by my bandmate John Lake. It can be heard at:
It is part of a "garage rock" revival for music from the 60s. After contacting promoters in Italy I was invited to form a garage rock band, record a CD of garage rock covers and originals and come do a few summer concerts in Northern Italy. If anyone wants to nominate some covers or originals let me know.
THE 20 YEARS BEFORE
In 1996 John got together with his good old friend Bruce Wands and started a “truly” acoustic duo that played at a beach clam bar in Point Lookout NY at Teds Fishing Station (thanks Caran, Alan, Ted and Sue) called “Baysiders”. At the same time John and Bruce finished the Brujon Project CD which was released in 1998. Bruce and John played there several times each summer performing beach favorites by Jimmy Buffett, Bob Marley and others. They added musicians as they went forward. Many great musicians including Tommy Gordon (banjo, harmonica and all around music nut), Paul Partain (a Stevie Ray Vaughn disciple and could play it note for note), Steve Luksha (an incredibly talented viola player who could play any style of bass), Frank Albino (the greatest guitar player that ever lived), Chris Albino (Frank’s nephew and incredible drummer), Andy Shapiro (great vocalist and largely responsible for John’s current vocal skills), James Stalzer (guitar player who could play any piece and replicate any sound), Mark Connolly (keyboard player for the Crystal Revelation who John grew up with) and many others who graced the stages. Along the way the band was named, of course, the “Baysiders Jam Band” owing to its relaxed rehearsal schedule. The name was later shortened to just “Baysiders”. Baysiders played an array of popular rock music including U2, Van Morrison, Rolling Stones, Beatles and others.
In 2005 John moved from Long Island to St Augustine Florida. (Baysiders continued to play all over Long Island). After living in north Florida and listening to the vast array of live music in this musical region of the country, John decided to start a Southern and Classic rock band. John recruited Joe Colee on lead guitar, Bob Crawford on bass, Ray Bercoff on drums and John on rhythm and lead singer forming the band Highwater. The band played at several clubs and became very popular. More recently John and Joe still play in Highwater and have brought in Vinny Fiacco on drums and “Big” Jim Rhoden on bass. The band is still playing in and around St Augustine. Watch for dates that we are playing. To be on the mailing list please send a message in the contact form on the Contact page.
John started playing guitar with his close fried John Lake in 1962. Together they learned to play the popular songs of the day by the Beach Boys, the Kingsmen and other bands. Together they formed a four piece act named the “Norsmen”. (Since the painter misspelled the name on the bass drum head, the name stayed that way.) The Norsmen did their first gig while John was in seventh grade playing for a high school dance. Suddenly the Beatles swept into the picture and their music became very popular. The whole music scene began to explode. The Norsmen, playing in Rochester, NY, quickly became a very popular act in the club scene. The presence of the Eastman School of Music the area gave rise to a number of new acts. Competition was fearce among many acts and the environment very conducive to constant performances.
The Norsmen stayed together until 1966 when John’s family relocated to Rockland County, NY, a suburb of New York City. There he joined a five piece act in which he played guitar. The format was two lead singers, male and female, bass, guitar and drums. The group, named “The Infinity of Sound” quickly became a popular club act performing the music of the Fifth Dimension, Young Rascals, Jefferson Airplane, The Association and other popular sounds of the day. John established a strong relationship with the drummer Ray Shostak. The Infinity of Sound performed steadily for two years.
In 1968, John began his attendance at Syracuse University where he reestablished his relationship with John Lake forming a power trio with Lake and Shostak, who also attended Syracuse. The power trio, named the “Crystal Ship”, performed the music of Cream, Hendrix, Stones, Steppenwolf and other hard rock favorites of the day. In 1969, the band added a keyboard player and renamed the “Crystal Revelation”. As a four piece act, the band started doing four part harmonies and adding in more vocal and dance oriented material including the BeeGees, Steve Miller Band and others.
While at Syracuse, the Crystal Revelation spent the academic year playing college functions throughout upstate New York and summers touring the then-thriving resort circuit in the Catskill Mountains playing venues including the Concord, Grossingers, the Fairmount and many others. In 1970 the group made its first record, a 45, with John O’Brien’s song “For Me” achieving a great amount of airplay in the Syracuse and Rochester radio markets. John also formed his own record label, Fine Records, and publishing company, White Way Music (ASCAP). The record propelled the Crystal Revelation into a position of one of the most popular acts in the Syracuse and Rochester live music markets.
In 1972, the Crystal Revelation broke up and John decided to start a serious effort as a singer songwriter. He performed frequently in the coffee house circuit in and around upstate New York. Besides his own writing, he also performed songs by Simon and Garfunkle, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot and other popular folk music writers of the time. Over a four year period, while attending graduate school and receiving his Ph.D., he wrote over thirty songs in the folk genre. During 1973 and 1974 John shared a house with Bruce Wands who was also in graduate school and playing in his hard rock act “Holy Smoke”.
In 1976, John moved to Long Island where he began to put together another solo act. In late 1977, he had a chance meeting with Bruce in New York City, where Bruce was then living. Having never actually played together, they decide to jam one afternoon. The result was very intriguing. Bruce’s percussive bass style along with John’s strong folk and rhythm guitar style mixed very well together. In addition, their vocals fit well together. They decide to start an acoustic rock duo together and named it after Bruce’s previous act Holy Smoke. Bruce and John played together for three years playing over 100 dates per year throughout the New Jersey and Long Island areas.
Holy Smoke proved to be one of the most innovative acts around combining a strong acoustic rock repertoire with lighting, a full stage backdrop and a magician who performed during the act’s breaks. Quickly becoming a favorite in the Hampton’s summer scene, Holy Smoke played in many popular spots including the Mad Mad Hatter, St. James Hotel, Artful Dodger, Neptune Club and other popular nightspots in the Hampton’s summer scene. Holy Smoke shared bills with many acts including Twisted Sister and the Moonshine Mountain Boys. During the rest of the year Holy Smoke was a favorite at many clubs throughout Long Island.
In 1981, John established himself as a solo act continuing to perform over 100 dates a year. Bruce frequently sat in on John’s solo performances. In 1982, John released his first full length album entitled “Innocence”. Bruce was the Associate Producer on the album, played bass, sang background vocals and produced the cover art. Several songs on the album had significant airplay in the Hamptons area including “Lover” and “Rock in the Sun”. Sufficient units were sold to pay for the project’s production costs.
From 1985 until 1993 John took a break from his music career to concentrate on the business he founded and had two children, Nicky and Katie. In 1994, John resurrected his solo act playing clubs in Nassau County, NY and began writing again in earnest. After playing a whole new repertoire of pop-rock music and performing as a solo act for two years, John and Bruce, who continued their close friendship, decided to put together a CD of all original material. Rehearsal and recording began in 1996 and culminated with the release of the Brujon Project. For more see above.