The Chuck Issue

One of the responses to my mass e-mail about Styx was from my brother. He said;

"It could have been worse. Scott Santibanez could have been an REO Speedwagon fan. I must admit, though, that I'm still not completely recovered from your Chuck Mangione obsession."

This bit of information opened up the floor to some great comments such as;

"Chuck Mangione? And you were ashamed of Styx. Your little brother just ratted you out. We can get some mileage off of this on our next Kokolo trip."


"hahaha.....you're the true gangster of love, jt!"

I consider Gangster of Love to be an honorific. *note to the readership - if you think you'll likely click only one of my links, make sure it's the 'gangster of love' one in the previous sentence* I never said I was ashamed of Styx. It was Junior High School! The thing with Chuck Mangione started before that. Here's the story:

Once upon a time, my heart's greatest desire was to receive this album for Christmas. I think I'd been listening to Casey Kasem's top 40 countdown & became obsessed with "Tragedy." It's completely ridiculous to think about today, but the reason I liked the song so much was because it had this massive explosion noise during the chorus. Believe it or not, I think that explosion may have had a small influence on track number 2 from this album of mine.

I was an enthusiastic young baby trumpeter at the time, and I was seriously jonesing for some Bee Gees in my life. I believe that my folks thought it would be better if I had a trumpet album instead. Then again, it's entirely possible that they didn't want to be tortured by the robo-funk disco stylings of the Brothers Gibb (not to mention the explosions) in their peaceful home. This was the pre-Walkman era. There were no headphones in our house yet.

Not being Jazz Folk, they likely had no idea how to proceed. I'm pretty sure my Mom asked the Band Director at the school where she worked what album I should get for Christmas.

And so it came to pass that I became the proud owner of "An Evening of Magic, Live at the Hollywood Bowl."

For better or worse, I still own a copy of this album. It's a sprawling double LP package simply reeking of late 70's Major Label bloat. I haven't listened to it in a long time. Somewhat curiously, I haven't gotten rid of it either. I don't think I really need to listen to it as I can replay the most significant portions inside my head using my trusty brain pod. I'd never claim CM as an influence, but I learned a lot from this record. If nothing else, it exposed me to the sound and concept of shit-hot session cats, totally in the pocket & grooving together live. My memory of this LP is all about the band. Chuck is fine, but the band is where it's at.

Even as I type this, I've just spotted through the record for the first time in 10 years. I was looking for my favorite part, the bass solo on "Hide and Seek" - (It's on side 3.) I'm not sure what else Charles Meeks ever did, but he's totally killing it here.

Back when this was my first and only "trumpet" album, Chuck (who plays fluegelhorn) obviously influenced my development. When I started taking private lessons my teacher was clearly frustrated with my tone. He finally asked, "What records are you listening to?" I said, "I've got this Chuck Mangione album..." He nearly fell off his chair as he replied, "That's it! You sound like a damn fluegelhorn!" He then gave me a list of great trumpet players & advised me to start searching out their records.

I soon found this Miles Davis album. It was the first LP I ever purchased. I absolutely hated it at the time though it became important to me later. My teacher gave me some Clifford Brown tapes & I was on my way. The tapes looked exactly like the picture on the left.

A few years ago I was out in the Hamptons on a summer weekend. If you must know, we stayed in the most glamorous, mosquito-ridden Public Campground available. One night we had a few drinks in town before heading back to the tent. Strolling down the sidewalk, I took notice of a small man facing away from me. His shiny jacket featured the classic Chuck Mangione silhouette logo right between the shoulder blades. I thought to myself, "What fool would be caught dead wearing that silly jacket in this day and age?" Guess who? Chuck always was a self-promoter.

Recommended listening: The Bass Solo from "Hide and Seek"

The e-mail that started it all

(Originally written in the middle of the night on 11/16/2007)

After the briefest conversation with a coworker today, I now find myself inexplicably transported back to the murky headwaters of the early 1980's. After leaving the comfortable confines of rural Haymond Elementary School (my last class there may have had as many as 15 kids in it - encompassing 5th & 6th grade,) I started a new school year at Grafton Middle School in the big city. The 2000 census reports a population of 5489 for Grafton, West Virginia. I think it was actually a bit larger in the 80's, but not by much. As far as I was concerned the switch was a welcome entry into an eye opening new cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Soon after arriving at GMS, I made a great new friend named Scott S. We probably found each other due to the fact that we were both geeky smart musicians. Basically the kiss of death in the greater Grafton milieu. It never mattered to me that Scott was 100% Filipino in a 99% Caucasian town. Luckily my parents raised me in such a way that I never had a reason to consider skin tone relevant when dealing with other humans. In retrospect I'm sure my friendship with Scott was beyond strange for some Graftonians. Then again, we were each beyond strange in our own way so our friendship made sense.

Upon entering 7th Grade I hadn't been exposed to much music other than what my parents listened to. Believe me, the music could've been better. Then again it could've been worse too. There are more than a few of my parents' old records that I still enjoy today. As an example: if you say "Willie Nelson" or "Neil Diamond" I will most often reply with "Heck Yeah!"

Geeky as he was, Scott was a big city Grafton kid & he was into Styx. He believed in them with the truehearted fervor only an adolescent boy can sustain & was convinced that they were singlehandedly responsible for defending & saving the sacred craft of rock & roll against evil forces. It was never clear to me who the evil forces were, but I liked Scott & therefore I liked Styx as well. With great sadness I'm forced to report that I even owned a few of their solo albums after they broke up. In fact, I performed my first psuedo head banging maneuvers to Styx solo albums. The Horror!

If I'd only known Mick & Dave back then I might've been lucky enough to rock out to Rush or Triumph. All things considered, it turned out all right. When I was in 9th or 10th grade, a new girl moved to town from LA. She introduced me to The Police. Shortly after that, I started hanging out with a kid who's college age brother turned us on to Dead Kennedys, Black Flag & Fear. Around the same time I met an exchange student from Australia who brought Midnight Oil & Talking Heads to the party. After that I just kept going & never stopped exploring. Somewhat strangely, my exploration ultimately led me to several years in which I listened to nothing but Classical & Jazz but that's another story.

In some ways it's never gotten better than when I loved Styx more than anything.

Required listening: Blue Collar Man (Long Nights) from Pieces of Eight