I grew up in Brooklyn, New York with my parents and two brothers. As part of our education my Mom made sure that all of us learned how to play a musical instrument. I’m not really sure why, since neither of my parents played music. But my two older brothers play piano and I started first on the trumpet and later moved to the bass guitar.
At around the age of 15, I started to play in local rock bands. My first band was the The Chasers. It was formed with a few guys I had met in the neighborhood.
At that time I met a guy named Richie Bremen who became my first teacher. He in turn had a large group of friends who would hang out in his basement. There I met many of the hip and cool guys who were playing in local bands in our area. That’s when I first met Marv, Mike & Jay who played in a very successful High School band called the Madabouts. We all became friends and would spend a lot of time hanging out together though we hadn’t started playing together yet. Sometime when I was about 16 I started playing with a band called the Raves and played with the band for about a year or so. We had regular gigs in Greenwich Village in NYC at a club called the CafeWha. At about the age of 17, I got booted from the Raves and the Madabouts broke up their band. Most of the other guys are a year or so older than me. So we decided to get together and form a new band. Jay, Mike Marv and I got together with a lead guitarist named Victor one day to jam. After the Jam we knew we had something special here and decided to start a band. Jay came up with a great name Sweet Smoke of the Happy Plant Pipeful and that’s where it all started.
We got some material together and started working a little on the local circuit. Now this was 1967. I was in high school and the other guys were mostly in college. One night we secured an audition in Manhattan at the Club 54. It was a disco kind of place and got bands to play for free on Monday nights disguised as an audition. As I remember it, it was a disaster. But it was still early in the evening and I had connections at the Cafe Wha where I had played most of the year with the Raves. Monday was audition night there as well so I made a call to the manager and we were set for an audition later that night. I remember sending the equipment off to the club in Victor’s dad’s car while we took the subway down town.
The Gig of a Lifetime
This is where the saga of the band really started. The band played a great set of music, the crowd loved us and we were offered the gig of a lifetime. Three months of steady work, the first month in Puerto Rico and the remaining two months on the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. We played 6 nights a week, for about 6 hours a night. We played some originals, but mostly cover tunes. We had to use a pseudonym, The Ice Company. At the time, the clubs thought that Sweet Smoke was just a bit too provocative for a night club. All of our focus was on our music and having fun. To say that we played out the cliche of Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll, was an understatement. We actually defined the term, and we just had a ball.
It was sad when the gig ended. We had to go back to living with our parents in Brooklyn and we weren’t sure just what was going to happen next. But while in St Thomas, Mike started talking with me about going off to Europe later that year. So in September of 1968 Mike, Marty (Mikes long time buddy) and I bought one way tickets to South Hampton England and off we went to our new adventure.
Off to Europe
So this is when and how a group of American guys from Brooklyn started their adventure in Europe. The European part of the story is a long one and you can learn more about it here.
How am I? Great! I have been out of the music business for many years but I am still playing Bass. Mostly with some local friends or with my brothers or my Sweet Smoke buddies. I do miss playing music for a living but have no regrets about how my life has gone.
Thanks to all of you who have been our fans over the years. I do believe that we touched on some music that brought us all to a better state.