Straight from the Heart, playing at Bronco’s, Saturday, June 12, 1993. It was a big night for us. We were booked in “the club” in Binghamton, NY, we had both of our drummers playing that night, Chris Adams and Mike Ricciardi, and we had a photographer and someone taking video. From beginning to end, it was a great night of playing.
From the beginning, which began days beforehand, it was exciting. This was “it” as far as I had experienced in my music career. I had the perfect band, the best players in town, and the music we created was beyond compare. I bought a brand new, expensive pair of cowboy boots for the occasion.
Jeff Antonakos, the bass player, had just come home after a few years playing cruise ships and we clicked musically right from the start. I met him when Bob Story, “Country Bob,” found Jeff and asked him to play in the house band with us. A few nights playing together, playing completely off the cuff, and we knew there was something worth building on. Bob Story found Mike Ricciardi the same way, and Mike came on board a few months later. Jeff grew up with Todd Kapeghian, the lead guitar/steel player, called him up to play, and Straight From the Heart was born.
It didn’t come together quite so easily though. Mike had other engagements and commitments, so he had his friend, Chris Adams, play with us the nights he couldn’t be there. Thus, two drummers. Two very different drummers. Chris was more of a jazz, “groove” player, and Mike was balls-to-the-walls rock and roll.
The “flavor” was wild. Not only were the drummers very different, but Todd was quite accomplished in jazz/rock, and Jeff hailed from popular to jazz to funk. But, we all chose to play Country in Straight from the Heart, and it was country like you’d never heard before. Not old, twang-twang country, but hard-hitting New Country, as it was called back then. I chose songs from Wynonna and Bonnie Raitt to Patsy Cline and Alanah Miles while Jeff would cover everything from 38 Special to Brooks and Dunn. It was exciting, energetic music, to say the least.
Jeff had the task of booking the band, and he kept us busy every Friday and Saturday night for the 7 years we were together. Getting us into Bronco’s was a big deal as it was the newest, classiest place in the area at the time. Todd decided to run with it and talked with Chris and Mike about playing together this particular night, and it was a riot. The place was jammed packed and the dance floor was filled the entire night from the first song in the first set to the last song of the night. That’s the kind of night musicians keep playing for, and it was amazing.
I remember worrying about having both drummers playing. Would they drown out the rest of us? How would we all fit? Am I going to be able to hear? As soon as we started playing, my worries were over and I relaxed into it. Chris and Mike played in and out of each other. They traded fills, they played the rhythm and add in voicing. What they created sounded like it came from one person – with a few extra sets of arms and legs.
Not one of us remembered we had a photographer and videographer running around, trying to get the best shots of us. As a result, the photos and video were a wash-out, but good stuff for the scrap books. The photos were burned to a Kodak Photo CD in some strange format that I brushed off today and tried to tweak something out of them.
It’s particularly difficult to see these photos. Todd, the lead guitar player, died last year of a heart attack. Jeff, Todd and I were the heart of Straight from the Heart, and we were close friends, which made all the difference in the world in how we played together. We butted heads often, the three of us, and we played the best music together because of it. It’s a much quieter world without Todd. These photos also mark the beginning of the end of my last love. But, that’s a story for another time.
So, here’s the motley bunch all together:
Todd Kapeghian, Theresa Komor, Jeff Antonokas, Mike Ricciardi and Chris Adams. Straight from the Heart. Thanks for all the years of great music, you guys!