Contact and Booking
"So, just who is this Frank guy, anyway?"
“Little Butch” or how Farnk got his Groove on.
Well, to the best of my recollection, somewhere early in December of 1954, my Mom and Dad got inebriated and had sex, again, for the third time in their married life. The first two times produced my two sisters Glory and Ria. The three of us are 7 years apart (7) not a very lucky number.
My 1st sister, Glory was born from an act of love shortly after my parents wedding. My 2nd sister, Ria was born 7 years later out of an act of passion. Probably induced by alcohol. And I, I was born out of an act of madness exactly 7 years later on August, 13th, 1954 at “high noon”. Yes, it was a Friday the 13th. And yes, there probably was some kind of intoxicant present.
Growing up in my house was like growing up in an asylum. There was me, my 2 sisters, my Mom and Dad, my Grandmother (Mama), my Aunt Tessie and my Uncle Joe. All Italian and in the same 4 bedroom dwelling. If you don’t already know it, Italians yell, holler, scream, whatever you want to call it but we don’t just talk. Even saying “I Love You” or “Goodnight” was a sonic event that often brought complaints from neighbors.
My Father (Elvy) short for Elvidio and My Uncle Mike (Mickey) were my first musical influences. Dad was a ‘closet’ musical genius. It seemed like every other week he’d bring home a unusual musical instrument, lock himself in the attic with a bottle of scotch, teach himself to play it and then in turn teach each of his children to play it.
Now, my Uncle Mike, he was cool. He was a great Jazz drummer. The 1st individual ever to get a drum scholarship to The Julliard School of Music in New York. He smoked and drank and spoke in the jargon of the 40's and 50's hipster musicians and incessantly preached dedication to the instrument and the music you choose to play. “Take it seriously or don’t take it at all”, he’d say as he sat and practiced on his rubber pad 2 hours a day. One hour before dinner and one hour after dinner. He’d time his work out sessions to the news on T.V. He taught me the significance of cultivating my own personal style, pointing out that everyone that I was impressed with musically, didn’t sound like anyone else that played that particular instrument.
My two sisters were my next big musical influences. Glory was at the right age to acquaint me to Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Buddy Holly. Albeit they were all guitar players, I was by then playing drums from the tender age of 4, but the rhythm and this new music made me insatiable. Lets face it. The only thing on T.V. and the AM Radio was ‘How much is that Doggie in the Window’ and my parents listened to ‘Dean Martin’, ‘Lou Monte’, ‘Louis Prima & Keely Smith’ and ‘Spike Jones’ records. Talk about your culture shock.
Then “it” happened. February 1964 we were all sitting in front of our enormous 12" black and white Motorola T.V. as we always did on Sunday night to watch “The Ed Sullivan” Show to see ‘Topo Gigio’ the little homosexual ‘Italian’ mouse or those guys that twirled dinner plates on sticks to the strains of ‘The Sabre’ dance, when all of a sudden ‘Ed’ says the words “The Beatles” and everyone in the whole “F’ in’“ world lost their minds for the next 10 years.
The next day I lifted my sister Ria’s guitar and locked myself in the attic with a bottle of chocolate milk. The rest, as they say is history. I started performing professionally at 9. It was at a local beer tavern that my Dad and uncle Joe used to take me to. I’d sing a song, they gave me a soda. I’d sing another song, they gave me pretzels. I’d sing another song, they started throwing nickels. Now we’re talkin’. Cash!!!! By the time I was 13 I was doing private parties, C.Y.O. dances and Junior high school graduations with my two best friends George Fignar and Carl Brokaw. Carl was taking guitar lessons. He’d come home and teach me and then I’d go to George’s house and teach him. Bingo!!!!!, instant band. At 15, I got a break to play in a real college bar, The Kingsman Pub at the very south end of Main Street in Bridgeport. Any further south and you were knee deep in Long Island Sound. I stayed there for the next 4 years and put together the house band “Razzmus” featuring guitarist and childhood friend, long time partner, Ed Jones.
After that was a long string of “Disco” bands that included the locally very popular “Griffin” Band., complete with platform shoes, Afro hairdos and midriff shirts that swished when you walked. So, to escape that scene I ran away to Florida and for a 2 week Cruise aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines S.S. Norway with The 5th Dimension and then ended up in the biggest ‘Disco’ drag scene that you could imagine. I played with Disco Tex and his Sexolettes (Monty Rock III)”You should be dancing”, making $1000.oo per week and wearing chiffon and makeup. That gig lasted about 8 weeks and I had to go, so I worked my way north with two 50's bands at the same time. The Marvalettes (Please Mr. Postman) and the Marcels (Blue moon). I stayed on for 6 months until I decided to become a “road dog” and do the Hotel circuit for the next six years on and off.
During this time my beautiful daughter ‘Jessica’ was born, so, I became the original house-husband and stayed in Connecticut playing with my sister Ria in our own Brother/Sister act “Riality” with Hammond B-3 great, Tony Alessie. “Donnie and Marie” had nothin’ on us. I also credit my sister Ria for ‘inventing’ the Band Mailing list long before the advent of e-mail and websites. I credit Tony with teaching me patience, tolerance and to be my own teacher. “Riality” lasted about 6 years all told.
After my divorce I spent two years in one of the original “Tribute” bands. A Celebration of The Eagles called “Desperado” with another lifelong crony and local music legend, singer and keyboardist, Jay Stollman. Also in this line-up were renowned guitarists Jimmy (The Snake) Keys and Al (Fairfield Guitar) Ferrante’. This band had everything. Three lead guitarists, six lead vocalists, a full light show, five roadies, a professional sound system with crew and more overhead than anything I’ve ever heard of. We went broke.
After that nightmare and convalescing from my 1st back surgery, I went back on the road with a number of different bands including the national ‘60's act, “Tommy and the Rivieras” and had the great honor of playing opening act for the likes of B.B. King, Chuck Berry, The “Original” Coasters, The Platters, Nigel Olsen (Elton John Band) and Three Dog Night just to name a few. Some great players in that band too. The late Mike Turner, a wonderful musician, playing guitar, keyboards and also sang like a bird. He tought me how to murder a U-Haul trailer with my bare hands. And my “Brother” Joe Macri, the best ‘Motown’ drummer I’ve ever known and one hell of a true friend. If not for Joe, I would have gone mad. We traveled the entire country sometimes as headliners at 2500 seat concert halls and sometimes in the sleazy lounges of some over-rated hotel chain. We referred to this period as The 1985 Limp Across America tour. This 6 month gig turned into another 4 years on and off. Oh, yeah, and the time our manager left us stranded in East Bum F#!@k Alabama for three weeks and then fired us, leave us to fend for ourselves. We pigeonholed this period as The 1987/88 Dis-ass-tour. We worked our way home in two months and had the finest string of gigs in the whole excursion. We actually made money this time.
In 1988 I decided to come home and stay home for good and I’ve been here ever since. That’s when I started teaching my method of guitar. I don’t teach how to play. I teach how to learn to play. That year I also devised The Sniffles. The line-up was Me, Danny Aldrich, Tim “T-Bone” Stone, Dominic Zullo, Glen Masso and the late Kenny...(you can call him Elvis)... Jones. The “Sniffles” were manifested out of the dregs of Jay Stollman’s Scratch and “Sniff ” Orchestra. The Sniffles enjoyed five happy years together and made one outstanding unreleased album, “Brave New World” and some of the best music I’ve ever played with some of the finest musicians I’ve ever played with. We all remain the best of friends and some of us still play together on occasion, notwithstanding no plans of a “Sniffles” reunion have been discussed.
When The Sniffles ceased, I tried a number of unconventional potpourris of the 1st Y.R.B. Bands. These encompassed such local titans as, Bobby “B. P.” Peters, Scott Spray, Jon Truelson, Keith (John) Richards, Kenny (You can call him Elvis) Jones, Glenn Masso, Gary Ciucci, Bob Marston, Tim “T-Bone” Stone and “Friday” Salamon. Just to name a few. Y. R. B. worked pretty regularly for a band that revised participants from week to week. That lasted about a year and a half until I resolved to go into Public Access Television and produced and featured in The Shark Pool T.V. Show. Hence the genesis of “The Shark Pool Orchestra” featuring Jordan West, excellent vocalist, guitarist and percussionist. Jon Truelson on keys and vocals, Keith (John) Richards on bass guitar the unbelievable Mike Jones on trumpet and the incredible Joe Meo on saxophone. What a friggin’ group!!! Leave it to me to build a 10 piece horn band in Connecticut where 4 piece combos were finding it hard to obtain work. The T.V. Show was intended to exhibit as much of the regional talent that I could, because Connecticut is such a wasteland for musicians and entertainers trying to earn a living at their appointed vocation. Being the coward that I am, I concocted a few guises to do the speaking for me. Some of you may recall “Mike Bondolini”, the street-smart wise-guy that was consistently pointing out the injustices musicians and entertainers had to endure or “Guido Alfredo Linguini Fellini”, the world renowned “Italian” Movie Director who interpreted the movie reviews. “The Shark Pool Orchestra”did very well during this time. We played many weddings, private parties and both of the Indian Casinos, Mohegan Sun & Foxwoods. We also enjoyed four engagements for now Bridgeport Mayor, John Fabrizi, aboard the Barnum Sails The Sound Fund-Raiser Cruise and an appearance on The Blackrock Castle’s Float in The Barnum Festival Parade. I did this for five years until “illness” forced me to stop both the show and the band.
After a two year hiatus from performing, during which time I opened my short lived music store
Y. R. B. Music, while recuperating from a 2nd back surgery, I determined that my lot in life was not to sell guitars, it was to play guitars. I started doing “guest” spots with a lot of the local groups until I got re-inspired to start my own band again. Now the dilemma. Who do I call ????? I elected to use “Bandleader rule #1“ Always engage musicians that you believe play their instruments, not ‘as good as’, but better than you play yours.
My 1st choice, on guitar, Ed Jones. The most versatile guitarist I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and he’s also a terrific singer. Eddie comprehends me so well that he knows what I’m going to play or sing before I do.
Next, Bass guitar. Solid, Aggressive, Perceptive, Instinctive, Conscientious, Comical, team player, outstanding vocalist and Punctual. Who else ???? Dominic Zullo. ‘Nuff said.
Keyboards??? Hmmmmm? Well, this guy does this very well and that guy does that very well and these guys do them very well. Who does it all and more?????? Bob Marston. Bobby knows at least 16 bars of every song ever recorded and plays it better than note for note. His vocal chords have literally been touched by the angels.
Drums. No debate. Kenny (You can call him Elvis) Jones. Unconditionally the best. Unfortunately, Kenny was taken from us three weeks before rehearsal started. God rest his soul. So, where do we go from here. One of Kenny’s favorite drummers. Young, exuberant, ambitious, Brian Jones. Who else?????
Now let see, I sing, Ed, Dom and Bob sing. Who can top that and front the band???? He’s been with Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy for 15 years until his unfortunate illness. He’s an “Original” Blues Brother. And he’s available right now. Yep. The Mound of Sound, The Gang of One. Howard Eldridge. Now that’s a band.
That brings us pretty much up to date. I enjoy the luxury of being able to also play with lots of my good friends, Jordan West and The Shebang with Keith Richards, Ronnie Ciccia’s “To The Max” Band with Tim “T-Bone” Stone & Joe Herman and last but not least, an awesome vocalist, Greg Sherrod and The Greg Sherrod Band.
To Be Continued.....................
Frank E. Sambiase
Frank Sambiase has been playing guitar and performing music for most of his life. In that time he's toured the country, played with a diverse variety of performers and composed or added to many songs. In the early 1990's Frank produced, wrote and starred in his television program "The Shark Pool". Highlights of the program run included original musical performances, innovative comedy and appearances by many local and national musical figures, in addition to multiple holiday-themed specials.
Currently, Frank is very busy; when not working on his solo album, Frank can be found on a stage near you. When not performing with his own YRB Band, he also makes appearances with other area musicians. See here or the 'Dates' page for more information.