Before I get on with my bio, I have to thank my parents, Nick and Julie D'Angelo, for actually letting their son pursue something like playing the drums. My parents withstood years of my playing in their basement, alone and with my teen-year bands. My father is no longer with us*, but I thank him for his patience in withstanding the drum assault, and taking me to gigs before I was old enough to drive. Love you so much, Dad. My mom, thankfully, is still with us and a special thank you to her as well. She kept us under pretty good control in the basement. Love you more than you know, Mom. I have to thank my older brother for being older than I am because I got to be a "sponge" for a lot of great music that he was into that I would have probably not heard otherwise.
I also have to thank, well, my overbite when I was young. My parents originally wanted me to play clarinet and follow in my brother Bob's footsteps. Fortunately for me, I had an overbite. This overbite prevented me from being able to play a reed instrument at the time and I was 'forced' to take up the drums. Orthodonture helped get rid of the overbite. No one has figured out how to stop me from playing drums yet, though.
1964 - early 1972
Ok, maybe not THAT young, but I was only 9 years old when I started taking drums in elementary school in Arbutus, Maryland. Good old Mrs. Tharin. I have no idea how old she actually was at the time, but being nine, I thought she must have been at least 80. She told us how she could bounce drumsticks off of a pillow. If I was the person I am now, I would have said Bull Shit lady, you can't bounce a drumstick off of a pillow! But then I was only nine, so I kept those thoughts so myself. I've also realized since then that her suggestion of practicing on a pillow is actually a very good exercise.
I continued to play drums when we moved to Fairfax Virginia, when I was in the sixth grade. That's when I actually got my first drum, a Ludwig Acrolite 5"x14" snare drum. A REAL drum! Wow. It came with a stand and a case. The only unfortunate problem with this drum is that I had to carry it to school (we walked). Being that the drum and case probably weighed more than I did at the time, it was quite a difficult proposition. My dear friend, Jim Miner came to my rescue a bunch of times, helping me carry the thing. He didn't have to, but he did, because we were friends (and he was bigger than me).
Of course, there were the times that I'm sure every musician has gone through. Those times being playing something for every relative that ever visited us while I was in intermediate and high school. Thanks to all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends of my parents who sat through me playing along with the record of "Light my Fire" and other songs of the 60's!
I kept playing through Intermediate School (7th and 8th grades) at Sidney Lanier in Fairfax. I experienced the wrath of Mr. Reid who many times scolded me for re-tuning the marching bass drum. I denied it, but yes, I did it. I was never the best in the percussion section. That honor went to Mark Vandenberg*. This is also the time that Jim Miner, Dave Besley and myself started our first "band". I remember a Silvertone guitar (from Sears) with the amp in the guitar case, and my snare drum (only), being the only "real" instruments in the band.
When I went to high school, I didn't pass muster to be able to join the concert band, so I was relegated to the percussion ensemble, basically the minor leagues of playing in school. Mr. Matt Hines was my instructor at that time. Mr. Hines didn't like me because I was "different" had "longer" hair and he probably thought I hung with the wrong crowd or something. I didn't like doing things the way he told us to do them. I was fortunate to hang around with one of the only African-American kids in Fairfax High at the time, a great player by the name of Dwayne Walker. Dwayne taught me how to be "funky". I haven't seen Dwayne since high school, but wherever you are Dwayne, you're one of the reasons I'm still playing today. Tenth grade rolled around and I still didn't make the concert band. I was in the "reserve" band which meant I didn't play at concerts or rehearse with the concert band, but I was going to be required to be in the marching band and appear at pep rallies and football games, etc. This is when my formal education on drums came to an end. I had purchased my first set of drums between the 9th and 10th grades and decided I had had enough of Mr. Hines' education. A lot of people probably thought I wouldn't continue playing, but since that was over 30 years ago, I think they've been proved wrong.
I made a number of appearances with several different bands every year at the high school talent show. I got to sit in for Mark Vandenberg several times when he wasn't able to make the appearance, with the most popular band in high school 'Country' . I was always honored. I should at this time mention that Mike Terpak, with whom I've actually had contact lately, played bass in 'Country'. And amazingly (if you knew the personalities involved), Greg Smallwood was also in that band playing keyboards. The highlight of my school appearances came when Mike Place and I performed a harmonica/drum duet in our senior year at the talent show. Mike could blow a harp like nobody's business and had the added touch of playing in a rocking chair on stage. I had my double-bass set (at the time being heavily influenced by Ginger Baker of Cream). I like to think we blew a lot of people away. Maybe we did, maybe we didn't, but I know the energy we created was something else. Mike and I played with Danny Whiteside at the senior's party that year. Keyboards, harmonica, and drums. I like to think we were at least adventurous. And yes, there is a 2"x2" photograph of me playing drums in one of our high school year books. Wow!
Of course, I had been playing with other people not in the school realm. My first real band was with Jim Miner, David Besley (currently of Those Guys, a successful band in Florida), Pat Markham, and Harvey Cantrell. We were already friends, growing up the in same neighborhood in Fairfax Virginia. We dubbed ourselves "The Fairview Gang" and still see each other to this day. We made our debut at the YMCA in Annandale in the summer of 1968. Our band name was "Limit Of Venetian Evil." Notice it spells LOVE. We thought that was pretty damned cool. Well, this WAS 1968, the year after the 'Summer of Love'. We were hippies, you know. We changed members off and on, mainly including the brothers Caudill, Mike and Chuck. Pat is in Manassas, VA now, Jim Miner is in Carey, NC, and both Caudill brothers call Florida home. I have just re-contacted Chuck after many years and we are now exchanging emails regularly. We played under the names "Revolution", obviously inspired by the Beatles song of the same name and as "Wildhacke", a name I never really could figure out (were we wildly hacking up the countryside or did someone in the band have a terrible hacking cough?!). We played I don't know how many times at Truro Church in Fairfax VA (back in the days when there were actually church dances, and they were cool to go to). Good old Reverend Davis! We made our first road trip as Wildhacke to play a fraternity party at Emory and Henry College in Farmville, VA, a second road trip to play for a bunch of race car drivers in Pennsylvania and two separate road trips to play in a rock "festival" in York Pennsylvania. This was the extent of our on-road experience. I have to also mention at least one field party that we played where another drummer, who was new in town, showed up and turned out to be one helluva drummer. The drummer's name was Matt Abts, who turned out to be the drummer for the power trio Gov't Mule! Matt also wound up marrying David Besley's sister, Tricia* making him David's brother-in-law. These things all wind up being counted in the "small world" category.
Senior year of high school and the next year brought about "Jasper". Jasper was Kelly Elder on vocals, Jim Miner on guitar, David Aliff on guitar, David Besley on bass guitar, and me on drums. Dave Aliff's father was cool enough to manage the band. We played local church dances, a couple of corporate functions and the talent show the year after I graduated Fairfax High School. A quite memorable gig was when we played at a local Catholic Church dance and played "My God" off of the Jethro Tull "Aqualung" album. The song was greeted by a shower of coins thrown from the audience. I don't think it's because they liked it. We also played a gig at Marymount College in Virginia. Kelly was a well-known vocalist at the time and was enticed away by the offer of another group. This was pretty much the end of Jasper, but we made one last appearance playing at the Fairfax High School prom in 1972.
Late 1972 - June 1976
I went through short stints at George Mason University and George Washington University. I wound up settling to go to school at the local community college because, well, I just couldn't stand going to school (jeez, at least I wound up getting an A.A.S.)! I got married two years after I graduated high school and my beautiful wife Linda always (to this day) has supported my playing (she actually attended a band practice at my house before we started dating. Um, this was because she was dating another member of the band at that time). Looks like I won out! Thank you honey for supporting me through all the fun and no fun caused by the various bands I've been in!!
There weren't any real bands of significance between 1974 and 1976, just a lot of jamming (at my parent's house since I couldn't play my drums in my newly acquired apartment).
June 1976 - September 1977
That all changed in June of 1976 when Mudlark was born. Actually, I was in the second version of Mudlark. Mark Vandenberg (drums) and Al Gagney (bass) preceded me for a couple of months, but then I began playing with them. Classic band. Greg Smallwood on keyboards and guitar. Jim Miner on rhythm guitar, Albert Suddueth* on bass guitar, the inimitable Kelly Elder on vocals, and, of course, me on drums. This band only lasted about a year and a half, but contributed so many good memories that it seems like it lasted 10 years. I guess I'll have to include Trip Carpenter and Mike Walker (sort of our management team) in the mix. They weren't players, but they certainly were part of the times. We originally practiced in Greg Smallwood's living room, which didn't last too long. We then moved to Albert's grandparent's house in Herndon VA. Their house was an original Herndon house, going way back. Let's just say it had an outhouse and grandma used to offer Linda her chamber pot if she had to take a pee. The front porch had a large 'dip' in it and in the winter, we practiced in a back room that had a broken window. This was one of the best times of our lives. We used to play "concerts" on Albert's front porch. People just driving by would stop and check out the band (this was allowed back then because there weren't enough people living in Herndon to complain about the noise). Bob Crerie, whom we had never met and who you will meet later, actually stopped by and saw the band for the first time at Albert's house, just because he was driving by and heard music! Parties, more parties, field parties, and several actual gigs made up Mudlark's existence. After practicing at Albert's place, Trip and Mike acquired a house in Manassas that was the house of a former cemetery caretaker. Yes, there was a cemetery right outside the house. Let's just say the term "party time" was in effect during those days. Highlights of the Mudlark experience from that period include the now famous Bumpass gig as well as the now infamous Field Party from Hell! Strangely enough we did get to play at least one 'respectable' gig. We played at the Naval Officer's Club in Bethesda for a graduating class of Merchant Marines. It was very cool because these guys really were into the brand of rock that we were playing at the time. We purchased a PA system THE DAY of the gig, one of the list of really intelligent things we managed to do during our short career. Naturally, since I was the only one at the time with a full time job, I had to sign for the loan. Out of the five people in the band, including myself, guess how many people wound up making payments on the PA? If you guess ONE (me), you are absolutely correct. When the band finally disbanded in 1977, I was paid back with an old dining room set from Trip Carpenter that included a dining room table, chairs, and china cabinet. That's right, even over a year later, there still was not enough money made for me to actually be paid in cash! Hopefully this doesn't sound like I'm ragging on anybody because these were some of the best times I ever had in my whole life.
October 1977 - December 1979
The first portion of this time period actually has too much to be included here. This where my decision NOT to be a full time rock and roller occurred. Trip and Mike, who were "managing" the band at this time, told us that we had a steady gig at a bar in Daytona Beach. I had just gotten a full time job at the beginning of October (one that I wound up having for over 20 years), so the decision was one of those true "crossroads" decisions in my life. I wanted more than anything to go "full time" with the band, but my genetic code imposed on me by my parents stopped me from making such a frivolous move. Bob Crerie had just joined the band and was freaking about the possibility as well. The easy thing about the other members of the band at the time was that they were unemployed. Not much risk there!
I can only recount the trip from the numerous stories I was told over the years since I was not there myself. The band arrived at a practice home in Colonial Beach Virginia. When they arrived there, it was raining extremely hard and when they entered the practice house, they found there was no electricity. Albert, being the innovative person he was, actually climbed the telephone pole next to the house and "bootlegged" power from the power lines to the house! I was always amazed that Albert actually survived this adventure. Meanwhile, Trip and Mike were making a trip to Chicago to pick up the new drummer and his equipment. They picked up the drummer and drove him back to Colonial Beach in a raging snow storm. Several days after arriving at Colonial Beach, the drummer up and left because basically all he wanted was a ride to the east coast. This is one of those trips that simultaneously wish I had made and am glad I didn't make! The band returned to the Northern Virginia area without ever fulfilling the dream of becoming a working band in Daytona Beach.
This was an interesting time in my playing life. I had just started a full time job and became "friends" with one of the guys at work. He was a bass player extraordinaire who was very into Jazz Fusion. This was a great opportunity for me to find out if I could "hang" with Jazz players. This is another Bob, who invited a guitar player named Steve over for a total of about 10 different jams. We played stuff in 11/8, rotating 8/8, 7/4, 5/4, just about everything but anything in a "normal" time signature. It was terrific. We made some amazing music and I learned a serious amount technically during this time period. We would have jammed for a longer time period, but Mark Vandenberg had just left a band with Greg Smallwood and they had an opening for a drummer (that would be me).
This year turned out to be quite interesting. We formed a band with Bob Crerie on guitar, Ron Shambaugh on bass guitar (the real "Rock Barbeque"), Greg Smallwood on guitar and our first female vocalist, Karen Cuzea. We played together for about 6 months or so, the highlight of this band was our appearance at the battle of the bands at "Louie's Rock City".
We entered the battle of the band with no expectations and had our eyes opened to the fact that it was fairly obvious that the winner of the battle was determined even before the first note was played. We played our first night and expected to go home. We didn't have to go home, we got to play a second time even though the people running the battle tried everything they could do to make sure we didn't make the cut.
It works something like this. You play and bring as many friends as you can. When you are done, one of Louie's employees goes out on the stage with a DB meter, and registers how loud the applause is for your band. Well, the first time he measured with the DB meter, it was off the scale. Then he looks at us and says "I was standing too close to the end of the stage". Hmmm. Ok, he takes a second reading. Another reading off the scale. This time he looks at one of the band members and tells him that he jumped on the stage while taking the reading, thereby disqualifying that reading as well. Hmmm, Hmmm. The third reading finally comes out in an acceptable area (obviously lower because people were getting sick of having to repeat their frenzied applause). Bob looks at the guy taking the reading and says "This thing is FIXED!". The Louie's employee did not take well to this accusation, probably because he knew it was true. Turns out another band playing that evening was supposed to make the next round, but we finished with a higher reading than them. We made the next round! Funny thing is, they made the next round as well. Special consideration, special arrangement, er, contest is fixed.
We played the next round but gee, we didn't win. I will never forget the spotlight being on Greg and realizing that, by the middle of the song, not one but TWO strings on his guitar had broken. Generally speaking, a six-string guitar modified into a four-string guitar lacks the quality of sound originally intended.\
This year ended with the dissolution of the group when Greg made a trip to the midwest. After he had spent several months out there, the band that almost would never end finally got it's start
Well, there were breaks in this time period, but Bob Crerie and I managed to play music together continuously for 20 years. Milton ducked in and out, first as a guitarist, then as the bass player. Greg was in the group for a couple of years then had to leave and go to Florida. Skeeter was in the band for quite a while playing bass, then went out "down on the farm" where he now lives with his wife Claudia. I LOVE those guys! Jimi joined the band in 1985 and was always the "new" member, even after 15 years. Bill Rose joined, left, rejoined, and left again. Let's say Jimi and Bill will always be friends although we've had our differences. Bob and Milton provided the bulk of the songwriting, with Bill adding a large chunk of great songs while he was with us (some we still played after he left the band). Jimi is a natural emcee, mixing his keyboards with "loving" the audience. I would have to write and write (which I will someday soon) about the adventures of this band, too many to recount in any type of short form. I experience so many ups and downs, happy times, not so happy times, and true comaraderie which I have not experienced anywhere else to such a degree. I used to look around our rehearsal space while we were having "band practice" and always wondered when and how it would come to an end. Well, after almost 20 years of making music together, it did come to an end as we had our last band practice on October 20th, 1999. We continued to jam with each other over the last couple of years and in 2003, celebrating my 50th birthday and my 30th wedding anniversary to Linda, the love of my life, we actually all (with the exception of Bill) got to share each other's company and play together again at Brady's in Manassas. For this jam we also had the fortune of having Tom Kissel and Mike Pinkerton join us, two people I had met before I (gee had I mentioned this?) moved to Louisiana. A truly special portion of the evening was being able to share the stage with Bob, Milton, and Jimi with the added pleasure of having my dear old friends Jim Miner and Pat Markham (of Fairview Gang fame) join us on stage. I looked to my right and saw my musical life from 1980-1999, I looked to my left and saw my musical life from 1967-1974. It was a truly magical night (you can check my "fun stuff" page for links to photos of the evening, taken by Jim).
TO BE CONTINUED.............
* No longer with us 'physically'. Each one will live forever spiritually and in the memories of those that knew them.