I started playing guitar when I was about eleven years old. My Dad thought that I was beginning to hang around with the wrong crowd, so he encouraged me to take up an instrument. I chose the guitar out of my other possible choices of accordion or piano. Apparently drums was a definite no no. Once I began taking lessons, I never had to be told to practice. This become my teaching philosophy when I began to teach others to play. If they had to be motivated to practice, then chances were good they weren't interested enough in the instrument to become accomplished with it. I took lessons at Benson's Studio of Music, owned and operated by the late Bernie Benson. My guitar teacher was Sam Messina. He was an excellent teacher and I become his protégé'. I was always slated to do the toughest songs at recitals. I would take lessons on a Saturday morning, and when he was through with the balance of his pupils, he would stop over at the house for coffee and we would sit around strumming. One day I walked in to take my lesson, and there was a substitute. He said Sam was no longer teaching. Totally in shock I called Sam up and he told me that he was at a point with me where I was beginning to teach him things. It was time for me to move on to someone else. So, I gave this new teacher a shot. It didn't work out. Though I could have learned much from this man, the fact that he was insistent on the placement of my thumb turned me off to his teaching and I ended my lessons at that point.
Prior to my first real band experience I was jamming with a young sax player while still in high school. He wasn't very good but at least it was someone to jam with. Then one day an old friend of mine from my elementary school days, Dave Key, called me up and when he found out I played guitar he told me he played drums and had a couple guitar playing brothers that lived on his street and wanted me to stop down and jam. One was to be a bass player but hadn't got his bass yet and the other was a rhythm player. As I didn't have a car, they picked me up at my house and I was introduced to John and Bob Wysocky. Well the first jam hit iff quite well, even woth Bob playing a strat instead of a bass. Once he got the bass though, it sounded even better. Well to make a long story short, the band got better and we played Edison Tech assemblies and the Edison tech Follies. I was friends with all the upper class at Tech. My parents and the Wysocky parents fully supported the band, carting us around to places like Hornell to perform. I remember getting all kinds of letters from the a few girls from Hornell ( what a trip) and actually dated one for some time.I still remember her name, Faith. I can't remember how, why or when we stopped performing together. I do know that Dave tried out for another band. Interestingly enough John got back in touch with me and shared the picture of us back then. He also told me Dave had passed away of cancer. John , Bob and I still remain in touch with each other.
The Last Rites:
I believe my next encounter with music happened later in High School when a classmate of mine, Karl LaPorta mentioned he played the Piano and that his Dad was a Piano teacher. I can't remember how we got the band together but we wound up with Tom Romeo and Joe Balcerak on bass guitar and Karl's cousin Gary LaPorta on lead vocals. We first started out in a garage. Things didn't work and and Tom and Joe were replaced by Carlos falcon and Joe Altobelli. Karl's other cousin Pat Matroniano and Steve Czubara were the band's roadies. We began practicing at Gary's house and soon his Dad (Henry) and Karl's Dad (Joe) gained a huge interest in the band. We named ourselves "The Last Rites" and wore monk's robes as a gimmick (http://sweet-lou.com/last.htm) . The robes didn't last too long. The era was around the Hullabaloo time and we performed at the Rochester Hullabaloo club. We played high schools, including Edison Tech, parties, and functions. We became the U of R's top requested band and played Frat parties (Beer blasts) just about every weekend. Henry and Joe were the bands managers, and my Dad kept our van in good shape for all those out of town gigs. We also played RIT frat parties, Bristol Mountain Ski Lodge and we were voted Rochester's top band in Action Magazine. The band was so good, Wilmer Alexander of Wilmer and the Dukes stopped by and told us he had gone to all the frat house and we were the best band he heard. He asked to sit in and he did "Soul Man" with us and at almost one AM in the morning, everyone came alive again. These were such good times of friendships, music, girlfriends and being a part of something very good. As always time makes problems I eventually left the band at about the same time my parents bought their home in Gates. I was working full time and I thought my life was heading in a different direction. I got married and moved to Greece, Karl got married, and I lost touch with all of them until Karl bought a house next to my parents. At some point in time we were destined to get together again, later in this story you will find that out.
Fever was originally founded in 1973. The first Fever group consisted of three neighborhood guys from Gates, NY, (Randy Wolf - drums, Mark Malvaso - rhythm guitar, and Charlie Tripani - lead guitar). Mark and Charlie left Fever around 1976. Mark was off to college and Charlie wanted to go off on a cross country road trip to explore the US. John & Randy, not wanting to disappoint the many Fever followers and to continue the group’s success, began to look for new members.
My part in it all began when Randy, who worked alongside my neighbor Ted, mentioned he had a band and needed a lead guitarist. Ted piped up and said, "hey my neighbor plays guitar, I heard him". Randy called me up one night and I told him I would audition for them in Chili. When the audition night came, I really didn't like driving all the way back out to Chili from Victor so I begged off and told him I decided I wasn't interested. A couple of weeks later John, Randy and their respective girlfriends knocked on my door and said something like this; "well, you won't come to our place to audition, so here we are". At that point I was in one of my guitar / band retirement phases. I had had a few of those up to that time in my life. I really wasn't interested in getting back in the biz. I was working full time in downtown Rochester as a instrumentation designer but the seed was planted at that point. After playing the intro and guitar sections to Johnny B. Goode, and enjoying a round of coffee and conversation, I passed the audition with flying colors and was now a member of the group. Practice began out in the Chili and Gates areas of Rochester. This was a bitch since my family was living in Victor, NY, about 50 miles away. Fever at this point was a three person band with John on bass and lead vocals, Randy on drums, and me on lead guitar. We needed a fourth to round out the group. One day I showed up a bit late for practice. Playing an orange Gretsch guitar, Fever welcomed Neil Ross! Neil became the fourth Fever member adding his huge knowledge of unique chords and rhythm and harmonies to the band. Unbelievably, no one can quite remember how Danny Liposhak came along. But I believe since I knew him at Edison Tech, I invited him to our last rehearsal before our first big gig. He performed for that gig and never missed a beat, or should we say a note on his sax. Danny added so much to the band rounding out our unique sound. He was a quiet person, but when he donned that sax, it was all pure sound not to mention his joking around brought people to their knees.
Fever performed at bars such the Ugly Mug in Chili, Dudley DoRite's in Rochester, and The Landing in Fairport, and in the Geneva, Bristol, and Conesus areas. Performing out in Farmington one night at the Barn, I saved Johnny's life by catching him before he fell backward off a railing three floors down to the concrete parking lot. Sitting on the railing outside, he leaner too far back and couldn't catch his balance. I instinctively grabbed him and pulled him forward. I guessed that I didn't want to play the rest of the evening without him. Everyone in the band got along very well and I think over time we just drifted apart and the band broke up as most bands do. As I remember, Neil was first to leave as he became a police officer in Buffalo NY and had to go out of town to train. We couldn't find anyone to replace him with the same charisma and so the band drifted apart. I went on to perform in what was to become Rochester's top group in 1979, VEGAS. All Fever members are looking forward to our October reunions; we hope that you can join us too. I still have contact with Neil, John, Danny and Randy.
The original Vegas had 5 members in it and became Rochester's number one band for over three years. The original members besides myself were Lex Byers, vocals, Rich Fiordeliso - keyboards, Chris Defazio - bass, and Nick Russo- drums. This group had waiting lines outside the clubs to watch us perform. We performed 3 sets each night. The first two sets were devoted to current music, and the last set was devoted to a special 60's performer. Our tribute sets included The Rascals, Three Dog Night, Jay and the Americans, and of course, the Beatles. Along with the featured set, we played classics from Grand Funk, Gene Pitney, the Righteous Brothers, the list goes on and on. We also performed a 50's show towards the end of Rich's and my tenure. This show was funny in all respects. Never quite polishing the songs as we should have, we spent more time doing slapstick humor with alias names and delinquent behavior. What made us popular was not just the music, but our charisma both onstage and off. We never held ourselves higher than the audience. We were always a part of the audience even while we were performing. Vegas was formed by a Kodak contract employee who continually hounded me to play guitar for him. Currently on a musical "break" from Fever, I was quite satisfied just living my life as a non musician with my family. But this guy wouldn't let up. I won't mention his name here because I do not want to say anything bad about anyone. Life is too short for that. However after weeks and weeks of his harping I finally called his bluff. He had already recruited Rich on organ, even though this guy said he played organ. That was a lie, and I guess I should have realized what he was then. He actually put all the members of Vegas together minus Lex. He was to be the singer. He bought all this new fancy equipment. But when came the day of our first practice. He COULDN'T sing! But damn, the music sounded great. We even impressed the wives that came down for the practice. To make a long story short, we, as the real musicians, had to let this guy go. It wasn't an easy job... for no one really likes to hurt someone else (yeah right!) . He had done a lot of work in bringing us together, but with him as a singer, we weren't going anywhere but the basement. He was canned, and Lex, a singer who Rich had gigged with many times before, was brought down. And so..... it went from there. After our debut, within two weeks, you couldn't even get into the club. We had all the works, spotlight, roadies, light show, etc. The band was number one in Rochester for three years straight. Rich and I left Vegas in 1982. It had come to the point where Lex, Chris and Nick wanted to go on the road, and Rich and I didn't. We both worked at Kodak and were bringing home a good paycheck. By that time I was pretty well burned out. Playing six nights a week, going through a separation and working fifty hours a week in the Engineering dept at Eastman Kodak finally took it's toll. Rich and I resigned from the group. This was akin to a divorce of type. Rich and I spent many moments together reflecting back on the toll the band took on us, and where we stood now we no longer were a part of Vegas. Things had changed immensely for me at this point. I was separated, close to losing my job, and very close to a nervous breakdown. But Rich and I never lost touch with each other. We had become close friends as we still continue to be. We still perform together as he and nick are members in Three's Company.
Park Avenue was a group that got together right after I left Vegas. The group was me on lead Guitar and vocals, Joe Polizzi on vocals, Joe Pelliccia on bass and vocals, Kevin Knapp on keys guitar and vocals, and Mike Giugno on percussion and vocals. The band created a practice tape on 5/24/87 which sowed what a lick ass group this was. You can listen to the practice session here complete with talking, etc cover Story.mp3
Park Avenue was a group that Kevin Knapp and I put together during the time period between the original Vegas and Lex Byers & Vegas.The group consisted of myself on Guitar and vocals, Kevin Knapp on the Hammond and Keys, Guitar and vocals, Frank Holderfeld on Drums, Shelly Knapp on vocals, and Joe Coleman on Bass and vocals. I left the group due to internal conflicts. The band had a lot of potential with four vocalists and excellent musicianship. Kevin and I got back together again after a short while and put together R*Gang around 1988 which became a very popular and requested band.
Lex Byers and Vegas:
In the mid 1980's timeframe, Lex was putting together a new Vegas. I had redeemed myself at Kodak and after becoming one of the top CAD operators in the Facilities engineering group and eventually moving out into Data Communications Engineering, I felt I could perform with them again as long as it didn't get to be back to the six nights a week grind. Rich and I both rejoined the group, which then at it's creation offered besides myself on guitar, Rich Fiordeliso on keyboards, Randy Wolf on percussion, Mack Kendrick on Bass, Steve Kotzin on Trombone, Rick Austin on Sax, and Lex Byers of course on vocals. This was the group that made the studio tape of which I will eventually put on this site. The group made some changes down the line, replacing Randy with John Pascarella on drums and vocals, Mack, with Gary Terwilliger on Bass, Doc Davis replacing Steve Kotzin on Trombone, and adding Jimmy Squirrel on trumpet to round the group out to an eight piece, dynamic sounding music extravaganza. This cranked for a couple of years and then a couple of things happened., Lex became the vocalist in a blues group called the Coupe Devilles. This seemed to create some mixed feelings within Vegas. We lost Jimmy and replaced him with a beginner. We Lost John. When it got back to playing five nights a week I then tendered my resignation, giving the group ample time to replace me. Since he replaced me with Tom and John C. from his Coup Devilles, he fired Rich. Nice jester on his part huh? But as Chris would say, that's the Biz. Basically, the Coupes beof my friends fcame Vegas and Vegas became the Coupes, performing with either name for a while. Now, Vegas is just a fleeting memory. Enjoy the clips, it was a great sounding band. Unfortunately Mack has passed. RIP Mack.
My last Rochester band before I relocated to Virginia. To read the whole story click on http://sweet-lou.com/favorite.htm
The Wise Guys:
The band was originally formed as a classic rock band with myself on guitar, Tom Arbisi on Bass, Ken ( Last Name) on keyboards and Kim Beamer on drums. Then one day I walked onto practice and Kim had added two more guitarists, and two female vocalists and now we were doing Country. Good bye. Kim tried hard to get me back. Wasn't interested.
Myself, Tom Arbisi, and Joe Hasselvander on drums. Power trio played a few gigs. Didn't last long.
Glass Onion Band:
Spent twenty years off and on from about 2002 to 2007 with Tom Arbisi on bass and lead vocals , Tom Ansink and other various people on drums, Eddie Collins on the Hammond C3, keyboards, and mouth harp. The band was great! Eddy added so much to us. But then he relocated to Florida for a job ( been there done that) and Jarli Brors took his place on guitar. Billy Rupprect was iin the band at the end of my stay with the band just before I relocated back to Rochester. Glass Onion eventually went acoustic with me as a sub, www.glassonionbandva.net
I performed with Cover Up for about six months. Had some good times. Decided it wasn't worth the effort of driving 140 miles round trip to make fifty dollars. We played some great tunes, had a super guitarist and we really rocked the place. Sadly to say the other guitarist who was the band leader passed away a few years after I left Virginia. The drummer, bassist, sound man also passed away.
Coming back to Rochester in 2014 after not playing guitar for a few
months I started a band with Len Colantoni. We named it The Bad Grampas. However
it conflicted with another band I was trying to get in to "The Pop Show Band"
with my long time friend Nick Russo. Neither band worked out and the Grampas
continued without me for quite a few years during which time I was the
bassist for Happy Daze.
I am currently the guitarist in "Three Hits and a Miss" with Nick Russo, Rich Fiordeliso and Brenda Weber "
Sadly to say I am the only living member of the Virginia band "Cover Up"
My friends from that band sadly have passed away as well as a couple friends
here in Rochester. Covid has pretty much killed the entertainment business. Some
good news, Most of the original members and road crew of the LAST RITES get
together once in a while for a lunch at Rockys. All members except Joe were
This page was last updated on 04/10/2024