How Did This Thing Start With You Rene?

The 45 rpm recording by The sparkletones,"Black Slacks."When I was barely more than an infant my borther Billy showed me how to work the family stereo.I would play that tune all day and as long into the night as I could get away with it.It made me feel good and happy.And I would be dancing around.It still makes me feel that way.My brother would get mean and take it off and play "little Toot" which scared me to death making mr think my father "big toot" would die,and he did when I was five years old.He was everything to me.He would take me to work with him at his shop,he repaired and ditributed one arm bandits (slot machines)and had lods of pinball machines in the back and I could play them as much as I wanted.So when he took me to kindergarden to start school I was horrified."let me out of here!"When I told my Mother I wanted to play she said,"first learn to play the piano,then you can choose to play anything you want!"Broke as we were and young as I was I was off to my lessons saturday mornings at 7:30 AM with an excellent french instructor,Pierre Leswear.So I learned to read music before I learned to read,that's a bit weird eh?He got me into composition too,asking me as part of my lesson to compose melodies and chords that came into my head and we would duet upon them.I would get the melodies listening to the birds sing on our backporch and play them on the piano and write them down.This became the foundation of my life,I was just a child and this was all I knew.I related everything in life from a musical perspective.He gave so much to me,when I arrived for lesson we would always hug and kiss me.And he was a homosexual yet this was not,ahh that he was molesting me.Nothing was ever out of order in that respect,he did not fondle me or anything like that....just a warm hug and a kiss on the forehead.(In Erie,Pa it was in the winter often time 10 below zero and I had to walk to the conservatory)He would always have hot chocolate waiting.(homemade-ummm)I loved him too,he was a wonderfully adept teacher and quite zany like Hennie Youngman.His lesson plan though was very old world and strict.I had to practice at least two hours a night or risk being beaten up by my brother,I really did not mind,I loved to play.And as I said it became the foundation of who I am.My mother I don't think knew how seriously I was taking all of this.And when she found out it frightened her,but she went along with it.Pierre had passed away and I got into rock and roll.Band practice was a constant priority in my life.And original material right from the start,"If we are really gonna make it big we need our own songs to do that."It was really cool,at first we would write them all together.We asked to rehearse in our elementary school auditorium to get a feel for a real stage,the priciple said yes but what we didn't know was that she was going to bring the entire school in to watch us rehearse.(Longfellow Elementary School-1968)So we were doing our thing setting up and in come all of the kids and the teachers.Romours and guests at our basement rehearsals had gotten us a large interest yet we had never thought of doing a live show let alone to a full house,we just wanted to play and pretend we had an audience.We were all nine years old facing a full house!But we were very well rehearsed and so it was when we overcame our fears 1-2-3-4 and we hauled off into it,to our first riot I might add.We turned the place inside out!Wow!What a rush!My first public performance a huge success!We were requested to come back on class day to perform for the parents and students upon our graduation from sixth grade.Our name was "Mankind" and at The Class Day Show my drummer,Mike Snow and guitarist,Tim Schwenk came up with the idea to have two go-go dancers,Sharon Gallup and Shelia Steel and so now we sounded good and looked even better.We were the pride and joy of my elementary school.On the Class Day show we were super polished and were paid by the school district two dollars apiece.Again we brought the house down!My first professional engagement!We thought that we were and were treated as briefly, as a contender to The Beatles and James Brown.My Mother was in the audience and as I looked at her she was crying.I was rocking the stage with holes in the thighs of my pants,the same pants I had to wear everyday to school.They were always clean yet they wore out in the thighs.When my dad died his insurance paid off our home,we lived in a lovely home yet it left her as poor as owlshit.She tried to patch them and do everything in her power,and all of the kids knew I had holes in my pants but somehow they understood,they did not tease me about it and I didn't care..I had the world by the ass,I sang,I danced around and fell down on my knees to plead.A short ugly fat kid with holes in his pants having a ball!The audience went crazy and as I looked at my assistant principle she mouthed "bow" and so I took my first professional bow to a standing ovation.The applause roars over your head!She had taken me aside during regular class and explained that to me.And taught me how to do it properly,after you bow you raise your head up with a smile and stand as straight and tall as you can.In delivering a performance as such my human shortcomings are going to be overlooked.The fact that I was short fat and ugly and had holes in my pants were overcome by the fact that I am a showman.And the band,we had rehearsed two years almost every night for this moment.We had started in fourth grade.After dinner and homework it was band practice.The rules were very strong,not only could you not miss band practice you also could not be late for it.All of our parents supported this,if we ran behind they would drive us there.I never ran behind for any reason,I was always first to arrive.Yet if I did not show my mom my completed homework from school I would not be going.This inspired me to do my homework.As quickly as I could,as soon as I got home from school I would get that done.My real ambition in life was to become a physician.So I studied as hard as I rehearsed with the band.After school they had The Three Stooges and I had to watch that.Then I did my homework and went to band practice.My Mother came to the point were she would say "If you don't hurry up you'll be late for practice..She also scenced the urgency of this matter.She did not want me to be late.This was everything to me yet she had a thing going in which she wanted me to finish college and get a normal degree."I wish for you to present yourself as an educated man,and then you can rock out!I was so fortunate to be accepted into the Upward Bound Program at Gannon University plus a fully paid scholarship to their open university.On my summer vacations from high school I would attend the university full time and live on campus in the dorm.I was very inspired to present my academic best at this very fine school.When I returned to high school in the fall I was light years ahead.I was a very serious student.I am an educated person,very well educated.Yet remember that is a matter of reading textbooks and attending lectures,You could get very lost in real world applications.The best way to do it is to get started when you are young with what you want to do and learn everything about it from the bottom level up.You ought to be able to do every job in your business better than the people you hire to do it.That is a very old fashioned notion I understand yet still so true.Somehow..amazingly I am still on course.I did not have my records produced,I produced them.And all that is was at the end of the day was the melodies that the birds sang to me in the morning when I was a child.I studied them and wrote them down.I operate in my life totally by the grace of God.In some crazy kind of way it is all going to work out,don't ask me how because I don't know.I dedicated myself to my work and my work is also my pleasure.And I ended up much more popular as a singer than all of the other things I do.Yet the other things are very deep.The level of the skill is amazing.All of it is very tight and precise.Professional.Proof positive.

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