I am a New York born-and-bred musician. I arrived in upper Manhattan during a blizzard in January of 1957. My Dad was a working, traveling musician in those days, playing sax, clarinet, and flute with different post-big-band-era outfits, most notably Louis Prima, and his partner Keeley Smith.

Bill Teeley With Louis PrimaLouis was a real forerunner to rock-and-roll, though that wasn't my Dad's thing at all. My Dad was more about the harmony and sophistication of vocal groups like The Four Freshmen, and especially The Hi-Los, who I also love to this day. My Dad had his own vocal group as well, named The We Four, and they cut a couple of cool discs while he was working on the west coast. But he had to retire from music professionally by 1965, and quit 'the road' to come back to full-time life with my Mom, bro Bill and me in New York.

My Mom grew up in the Bronx, in the same neighborhood as seen in Scorcese's Raging Bull, where she remembers boxer Jake La Motta as a neighborhood fixture. My Dad had gone to music school at Berkeley in Boston, studying alongside Quincy Jones, as well as my mom's brother, Joe, another great family musician who hooked these two up.

In The Heights

I grew up in a small one-bedroom apartment in the Washington Heights section of upper Manhattan — a tiny place, but it had a spectacular view of the northern portion of New York City. I'd hang out those windows with Bill and gaze at The Cloisters in Fort Tyron Park, the Hudson River, complete with the 'Circle Line' floating by every few hours; behind the river were the New Jersey Palisades, the light tower in Alpine, NJ.


Directly north was the Riverdale section of the Bronx with its luxury buildings replete with giant swimming pools, while off to the east was visible the Fordham Road section of the Bronx, and below us from atop this hillside was the entire Inwood section of Manhattan. From this majestic vantage point Bill and I would hurl wet toilet paper bombs and spit on the unfortunate passers-by below our third floor window.

That neighborhood was typical of any of the New York borough neighborhoods for a city kid: games of stickball, hanging out on the 'stoop,' breaking windows, etc. Bill and I attended St. Elizabeth's parochial school on 187th Street and had good old-fashioned brainwashing at the hands of the nuns. 'Nun vs. boy' violence was waged daily under the guise of corporal punishment, and, almost surprisingly, there were never any fatalities.

The First Next Big Thing

I was seven years old in February of '64 when, thankfully, my grandmother announced to Mom, Bill and I, "The Beatles are coming … you have to watch The Beatles!" I don't know what made her so adamant, but clearly she was in sync with the moment, and she knew what we all had to do: 'watch The Beatles!"Beatlemania Within a matter of weeks, I, like a lot of other kids, had a guitar and was getting blisters and calluses on my novice fingers, and was playing along to those records as I began to teach myself by trial and error how to play the guitar. A couple of years into it, I sent away for a classical guitar book that went along with a PBS TV show hosted by Fredrick Noad, and got pretty good at that style as well … good enough to play a mean version of Classical Gas by the time I was eleven.

The Mothers of Detention

Nobody in the hierarchy of the Catholic school system would ever tell a kid like me about a place like New York's High School of the Performing Arts, which is where I would have gone in my alternate reality. Instead, I went to another Catholic school, this one in the Bronx. I went to Cardinal Spellman HS simply because there were girls there … none of this all-boys school bullshit which I was hearing about! My first high school band was called BMT [for our initials … sort of like ELP, we thought.] 1975My longtime collaborator, Russ Velasquez, came in the band later, but never got his own letter. I learned piano in the practice rooms of the school which had a tiny music department which was headed by Victor Tallarico, who also happened to be the Dad of fledgling rocker Steven Tyler. 'Uncle Vic' was a fantastic musician who encouraged me and Velazquez in our Zappa-inspired troupe, Chalice. Tallarico brought in his son's first LP to show to the class … and I remember that she had crossed-out with a marker a section of the liner notes which mentioned Steven's first drug bust! I was accepted to Mannes School of Music in 1975 based on my piano compositions (see "Three Pieces for Piano" in the ARCHIVES), but after the inevitable crossing of paths with the High School of Performing Arts musician crowd, a new band evolved out of it and I chose not to attend Mannes in favor of pushing ahead with the resulting prog-rock outfit, Jester (check out Love In My Dreams in the ARCHIVES).

Have a Good Day Job to Fall Back On

That's what my mother would say to me, but I never believed in it. My thought was that, without something to fall back on, it would force me to succeed to some degree in music. The band Jester never performed except one showcase performance for Sid Bernstein or somebody like that, and the group disbanded by 1977, at which point I got married to Gigi Hageman, the keyboard player and singer in the band — admittedly not so genius a decision at 20 years old, and, predictably, it lasted barely two years [we got remarried in 1984].

Beatlemania Marquee 1978

During that time we were both hired to the cast of the Broadway show Beatlemania. Gigi was the backstage keyboardist, and I would portray 'George' on the stage of the Winter Garden, and subsequently the Lunt Fontaine, and Palace theaters. I looked at this as my day job, that would give me the opportunity to put away a few dollars, which I didn't do, and think about my next music project.

New Wave Haircuts

Metromen At the end of its run, Beatlemania fizzled out dramatically, almost comically and by October of 1979 it shut its doors. Inspired by acts like Elvis Costello, The Police and Joe Jackson, I quickly put together a 'New Wave' band, really just a short haircut band, with old pal from Chalice, Russ Velazquez, Spellman alumn Robert Miller and brother Bill. The band The Metromen were a great power-pop quartet (see YouTube videos in the ARCHIVES). We recorded an album for Genya Ravan's indie label, but it never had a commercial release, and we managed to develop a strong New York club following by the time we broke up in 1982. Too bad … for I believe we would have broken through given another year together.

Second Time Around

Dick Clark was producing a Beatlemania-style Broadway show called 'Rock and Roll, the First 5000 Years,' and in the summer of 1982 I auditioned and was cast in the show as various rock luminaries like Lennon, Harrison, Hendrix, Jerry Lee Lewis, and a bunch of others. Madonna was one one the unknowns who auditioned and got hired, but at role-call on the first day of rehearsals she was a no-show: she had bailed out in favor of starting her first record … good choice, I'd say. I walked down Eighth Avenue after a performance, with Dick Clark, and as I remember, he was very short — and so was the run of the show: less than a couple of weeks.

The Big Deal

1983 Studio

I wrote and recorded some lo-fi four-track demos for a couple of dozen songs in 1982-83 (a couple are available in the ARCHIVES) that ended up getting me signed to the A&M label. Without a band to surround me for the project, I recorded the album as a one-man band, which, though typical today, was not how most records were done back then. More unorthodox was the idea with my co-producer Neil Kernon, to record the album out of a mobile recording truck parked outside of the Irving Plaza rock venue [currently the Fillmore] using various parts of the building for ambient recording and effect. The album was mixed in the Double Fantasy room at Hit Factory, and Tales of Glamour and Distress was released in the spring of '84, to favorable reviews. I never toured or promoted the album, with the exception of doing the standard promo video for MTV, for the song 'A Rocket and a Roman Candle:'

I was back to writing and recording for a second album by the end of 1984, but the record was not completed and never released due to a botched production job at the hands of a spurious producer whom I was paired with by the execs.

Square One

I parted ways with the record company in spring of '85 and started working with other artists and friends as a 'hired gun' for sessions and tours, which took the sting out of not being on a label. My old Beatlemania alumn pal Marshall Crenshaw was the first to knock on my door with a tour and even a movie cameo for his band in a Coppola film "Peggy Sue got Married." Coppola singled me out from the band to play the 'boyfriend ' of Helen Hunt for an improv scene which not surprisingly ended up on the cutting room floor. I should mention here that this was my second movie experience, as there was a movie version in 1981 of 'Beatlemania' — that one proved to be a real schlocky piece of junk and I don't even own a copy of it.

After touring with Marshall, I started working with Joe Jackson, and I came in midway through his 'Big World' tour in 1986, as guitarist Vinnie Zummo was having ear-related difficulties, and had to leave. Joe And MeAfter a two-week crash course rehearsal, we flew to Tokyo where his 'Live in Tokyo' vid was filmed. Watching it now, I can still see my jet-lag and stress about filming this show that I barely knew and thinking I would faint a couple of times, but all in all, it really rocked.

I continued working with Joe on into the early 90's on records and tours fort the 'Blaze of Glory' and 'Laughter and Lust' albums.

Jingle Jangle

Collaborating with other writers always seemed to me a better way to get a cover-able song that someone else might want to record. In 1985 I began to write frequently with Tommy James, and we ended up having The Monkees do one of our tunes. I had an Alice Cooper cover with 'This Maniac's in Love With You,' a collaboration as well … and Marshall Crenshaw and I finally sat down at a point when we were both living in Woodstock NY, and knocked out a couple of tunes for his 'Life's Too Short' record in 1991.

Jingle Days

Most of my focus and energy in the early 90's went into my two young children, Caitlin and Jackson, but I was really interested in getting more session work particularly in jingles which is where a lot of my peers were raking in big dollars. I had a couple of good long-running ads that helped pay the bills through those years, but it clearly was not my destiny to get rich in that biz as some of my friends had, so I continued to try to conjure my latest musical version of myself.

Wormboy

I tried a number of different style mutations during those years for my own solo artist project, but nothing really gelled as unique or different for me until 1996 when I began working on the WORM music. I went back to some old idea tapes from 20+ years earlier, and decided to build a whole group of new songs around these old jazz-fusion era themes. TT Album Cover 2I envisioned it as as band called WORM, and the album title was 'Pagan Holiday Favorites.' The project was done by 2000, and I had preliminary discussions with Steve Vai about it being released on his new indie label. While busy relocating myself and family to the more bucolic and affordable hills of Massachusetts, the climate at the label changed and the deal never happened. I shelved the project, and focused on performing and bill-paying, and spent the remainder of the zeroes traveling the world with the top touring Beatle-trib shows. I also did some scripting and directing of TV ads during this period as part of The Insanity Corporation. Some of the spots were pretty freakin' funny, but the world of ad execs was not for me.

These Days I Don't Worry about Tomorrow

Feeling somewhat disgruntled by the business of music, at the point which I shelved WORM, I stopped producing music actively, although I continued, as ever, cataloging themes and ideas for future songs and pieces.

I did however resume producing and experimenting with new music through 2009 and 2010, and made the decision that before any new music be completed and made available, I would finally remaster the WORM album and put that out first, so that it could hopefully have its day. I'm happy to say that day has come and it feels good to finally release it and look ahead to producing something fresh and different.

Dressing RoomAs I write this, I find myself playing on Broadway again in the production of 'Rain [a tribute to the Beatles]' at the Neil Simon Theater. New York has changed a lot since my early days here, but in many ways it's also exactly the same … just like me, I guess: very much the same, but just with a few more aches and wrinkles.

Onward and forward …