Be My Icon: A Bronx Tale

Saturday night, I boarded a six-hour red-eye flight across the country after working a hectic day at the restaurant just to see a concert. As I get older, this gets a little tougher each time. A few years ago, I flew into Los Angeles, saw Duran Duran at the Hollywood Bowl, slept for 3 hours in a hostel that smelled of Ramen noodle, and took a shuttle back to LAX. It took days for me to get back to normal after that. And yet, here I went again chasing a concert. It is one of the symptoms of extreme fandom and there is no known cure.

How did this all begin? For many of us reading this blog each day, it was obviously Duran Duran. The band lured us into a world of fantasy and possibility in the early 80s and a little (huge?) part of us have never left that behind. For me, before Duran Duran and MTV, there was my father. I grew up listening to him entertain at parties on guitar and the music of Dion & the Belmonts was always a huge part of those nights.

Like many New Yorkers, my parents left the Bronx for South Florida when the kids started to appear. But every summer, I flew back to stay with my grandparents and take in the old neighborhood. There was always amazing Italian food at the street fairs and incredible music would be coming out of every open window. I just loved walking to the Bronx Zoo and visiting the Botanical Gardens.

My dad would tell me stories about growing up in the Bronx and heading down into Greenwich Village to listen to Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. He told me about the time he shared the stage with a down-on-his-luck Dion in a little bar and how the best guitarist he ever heard was Leslie West of the Vagrants (later of Mountain) who shared a few stages with my dad’s own band The Ducaines. The Vietnam War ended my dad’s rock-n-roll dream but music stayed a huge part of our home as I grew up and he was a “rock star” in my eyes.

Living in Vegas, there is no shortage of shows to see but when I saw The Bronx Wanderers a few years ago, I felt like I had heard the soundtrack to my life. Led by Vinny Adinolfi and his incredibly gifted sons Vin A. and Nick, the show stretches from the Dion and Frankie Valli songs I heard my parents playing as a little kid all the way through today’s popular hits by the likes of Bruno Mars. From the Vietnam-era anthems by The Animals and CCR to iconic songs by Queen and Neil Diamond, the band pulls from every chapter of the rock-n-roll songbook. Every single song they play is important to the fabric of rock-n-roll and the show still gives me goosebumps after attending almost a dozen times.

When I saw the band was touring Florida, I mentioned to Vinny and his son Vin A. that I’d love to get my dad to a show. After retiring, my dad started playing gigs again and the Dion songs were still a big part of his set. They upped the ante and suggested my dad join them onstage for “Runaround Sue” to finish the show. And just like that, I was flying through the night in a tuna can with wings that Frontier Airlines has the audacity to call an airplane.

Attending soundcheck, my dad was able to take in all the work that goes into such a big production and the band graciously invited us backstage to talk about the show. It felt like an extended family and the atmosphere was unlike any I’ve seen in my years of working in the industry. As if they hadn’t done enough already, the band had us in the front row for the show and suggested my dad come up earlier to jam on a few other songs. The told him it would be in the key of A and like the proper musician he has always been, he said no problem.

The Vietnam tribute in the show always gets me and hearing it next to my dad was especially poignant. He volunteered as a Marine and ended up in the infamous Suicide Charlie outfit that faced some of the most hostile conditions of the Vietnam war. As we again find ourselves on the precipice of another useless war, I was screaming along with “Fortunate Son” searching for the emotional release that only rock-n-roll can provide.

As the show reached its climax, my dad confidently walked on stage and borrowed a guitar. Just like that, he was in the show as the band ripped through “Johnny B. Goode” and the older crowd came to their feet to dance. The energy in the room was better than a few Duran Duran shows I saw on the last tour so age is no excuse for not enjoying yourself!

After “Runaround Sue”, the band exited the stage and I ended up talking to the wonderful people in the audience who wanted to tell me how great my dad was. Well, I know. I grew up listening to him play and he raised me to appreciate music which is a gift that has guided my career and life. Hell, the musical journey led me to work for a music-themed restaurant where I met my English wife while debating Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet! Thank god he didn’t teach me to love plumbing.

We drove an hour through the cold, dark roads to his house in Beverly Hills, FL – which is NOTHING like the one in California (he has horses!). A few hours of sleep and we were back on the road to Tampa so I could make a 7am flight. Landing in Vegas at 9am, I went straight to work, taught a class, and came home to write this. I am exhausted. But as always, the miles and miles of travel to see a musical icon were worth the lack of sleep.

So, the next time Duran Duran plays Las Vegas (let’s be honest, it happens a lot), plan to arrive a day early and we can all go see The Bronx Wanderers together. If its 80s you crave, you’ll love Vin A. doing a mean Stray Cats cover but I promise you that you’ll know every song. And maybe my dad will be in town so I can introduce you to my first musical icon!

One thought on “Be My Icon: A Bronx Tale”

  1. What a beautiful blog! The Bronx Wanderers sound like not only a great band but a group of generous gentlemen also. Inviting your dad onstage, first row too-they did not have to do that but they created memories for forever.It’s nice when people do things like that for someone just because they can.

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