I walk into Mark Langlois’s garage on Linda Avenue, Swanton, Vermont. I step to the mic and the first chords of Satisfaction reverberate off the walls and Dave Yandow starts bashing on the drums….and that was it. I can’t remember the exact year maybe circa 1989. I knew right then I was hooked on rock and roll. That was my first live performance. A mere house party in my small town. I was finally singing live not dancing around my folk’s house singing along to Little Feat, Frampton or Jagger. The effect this moment had on me is ineffable. I wasn’t in the band but it was just a matter of time. Jody Gamache on bass, Mick Lykens on guitar and Dave Yandow on the skins. I think Dave’s brother Jason was the singer and I thank him for letting me sit in. They were the consummate garage band in every sense of the term. Brash, loud, rough and unrehearsed but they wanted to rock.
Eventually we started to practice the standards. Covering a range of bands like the Hollies, Stones, BTO, Led Zep, The Cult and Petty. Within a month we were playing backyards, basements, barns and flatbed trailers. We took the rehearsals to my Grandfather’s warehouse. He owned a shipping and receiving company with my uncle so neither space nor volume were issues. It didn’t take long for us to matriculate to the bar scene. Our favorite spot being Bayside Pavillion. A great little rustic roadhouse on St. Albans Bay, Lake Champlain. We packed the place every night we played. The innocent form of rock and roll was flowing through us. People gravitated to the “Warehouse Band” because we weren’t pretentious just good friends playing rock and roll. I cut my teeth, so to speak with this band. I owe a lot of my musical experiences to these three guys. I’m not sure how things came to an end but they were amicable. Our end can be chalked up to life getting in the way.
It wasn’t too long after I linked up with Eric Belrose aka Rik Bel. Bel was an accomplished drummer and brother to one of best pals Jeff Belrose. Eric was busy playing in popular bands like the Boppers and Champlain. We put together a rock and roll gig called The Voodoo Dolls with guitarist extraordinaire Nobby Reed. Nobby was the best in town. He still plays the best blues around the New England region. The Voodoo Dolls were a polished outfit. We took the live experience to the next level by assembling a formidable five piece with Bruce Costello on keys and John Hosenfuss on bass. Both were great players our sound didn’t take long to lock in as we covered more complex cuts ranging from Texas style blues rock to Brit-Pop rippers. I essentially was taught how to be a professional by these experienced vets. We played for about a year or so and covered the New York-New Hampshire-Vermont circuit a couple times with the help of Hans our booking agent. Bel and I eventually split to pursue a gig that challenged us to become songwriters and pen originals.
It didn’t take long for Bel and I to pull in Mick Lykens into the fold. Mick was an up-and-comer with all the chops. To this day he is one of my favorite guitarist because of his natural ability to feel his way through music. Mick can assimilate any musical environment from Eric Johnson to Warren Haynes he can cover it all. Mick became my first songwriter partner. This relationship remains in place today and if we didn’t live 700 miles apart we’d probably still share the stage. There was a buzz about this seminal project and we held auditions for a bass player and multi-instrumentalist. Keith Hubacher earned the bass job and fit in nicely with personality of the group. Keith currently plays bass for the Jersey Boys Production in Las Vegas. He recently shared the stage with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and is one of the top bass players on the west coast. James Thacker rounded out the band sharing guitar duties with Mick and playing some keys too. James is a very talented musician in his own right recording music all the time and making Nashville his home base. He has played with several blues greats including Eddie Kirkland, Lou Pride, Johnnie Marshall and Pinetop Perkins. Touring relentlessly for the last five years to Europe, Canada and all fifty states. Currently, he tours with Lou Pride and runs his own studio.
We covered a bunch of classics and even dipped into more alternative genres covering relevant bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Janes Addiction. We also sprinkled great songs by Humble Pie, The Black Crowes and SRV. Our sound was transforming into our own. We gave our band a name and The Spring Heeled Jacks were born. We signed with River Rat Records with the help of Mike Lemnah and Scott Mapes. We released The Pennydreadful Experience and hit the club circuit supporting national acts like Government Mule, The Jayhawks, Blue Rodeo and Edgar Winters.
The Spring Heeled Jacks received help from Deana Paquette. Deana was a very accomplished singer in the area and played a great sax. I learned how to train my voice from Deana. She was my biggest influence in the area and she sang on new material that never was released and played some cool gigs with us. We recorded with Andre Maquera at West Street Digital. Those tapes never saw the light of day unfortunately. Only bootleg versions of those sessions remain today. You can hear them by clicking the Spring Heeled Jacks link above. Phil Abair handled the keyboards in those sessions. The Jacks were destined to hit the bigtime but we’ll never know what could’ve been. When Keith and James left we attempted to keep the fire burning but the brotherhood never materialized.
So today I add another chapter in the rock and roll novel. Although I’ve released other CD’s since The Spring Heeled Jack my new release carries enough weight to share with my friends. Songwriting is a craft that requires continual honing. There is no set recipe or ingredients. It’s about expression and interpretation. I will say writing on your own is a process that is lonely. You spend many hours and days with your song. Sometimes it talks back to you and tells you where it wants to go and other times it remains a puzzle unwilling to be solved.
My current and completed project is called “Johnny On The Spot” and the name of the band is Steelesque. My songwriting partner is Josh Egan. Josh is one of most talented musicians I ever worked with and his friendship is highly valued. Josh is an awesome drummer and songwriter that understands songs need integrity. We are essentially a Pittsburgh based indie-rock band in a time warp, experimenting with blues fueled rip-roaring rock and roll that is rough and ready. Steelesque fervently pursues good sounds. The sound reflects inspiration from the mind blowing music of the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. Josh Egan brings a ferocious style to the sound and adds big layered vocal harmonies. I handle most all guitar, bass and lead vocal parts on this EP. Mick Lykens adding lead and slide guitar parts on more than half the record. Eric Bee (Austin, TX) guitar player lends guitar parts on the first single “Life Fast Wheel” and “I Got Mine”. Kevin Maurer plays sax, trumpet and trombone on “Hooker A”.
So through it all I’ve met so many cool people and had so much support from my family. In closing, I ask you to put Steelesque on your iPods and leave honest comments on iTunes. Your participation reinforces the creative process and stokes the fire. Make “Johnny On The Spot” your CD of the summer! Hey it’s only $5 bucks.
Sealed In Wax,
Robby Eldridge aka Ian Eldge