Here is a tale of musical connections. The string starts in 1972 when I was an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 56 , Forest Hills , Queens. We spent the summer at Ten Mile River Scout Camps, in Narrowsburg NY. which is about 110 miles north of NY City, bordering the Delaware River. I was a gung-ho Boy Scout and Scout leader.
To the credit of the Scouts, they kept me out of harm’s way growing up in dicey hoods and got me out of the city every year. I made the rank of Eagle Scout, which is the highest honor in Scouting. The adults of Troop 56 leadership consisted of myself and one other, Mike Hanowitz. Our job was to supervise, and program outdoor activities for 40 or so boys in an 8 week sleep away camp. It was a challenge every day but we were pretty good at it.
So where was the musical connection? In our troop was a 13-year-old who played guitar every day , thinking he was destined to become a rock star. My personal thoughts were giving him credit for his dream, but also thinking it was a total longshot. He strummed his guitar constantly even when he was asked to do other activities. He was determined to play despite our desire to have him engage in the scouting program. After the summer of 72 , I lost track of him, sometimes wondering if ever got his wish.
In a parallel time frame a friend of mine become the east coast publicity director of Phonogram/Mercury records. They were primarily a jazz label with some second tier rock bands. Through my friend I met some bands, got free records and attended concerts. It was a good deal since music was such a big interest to me. I was introduced to an east coast band which had a very loyal following but not well-known called NRBQ which stood for New Rhythm and Blues Quintet. They were truly originals as they took forms of many genres of music and turned it into their own style. One critic described them as the ” best bar band in America. ” I was fortunate to hear them play several times and was introduced to the members. The main lead singers were Al Anderson whose music style was southern based and Joey Spampinato the bass player , a musical savant . However, everyone in the band had their own role , it was a true musical convergence.
Hope this is holding your interest for now, but I promise it will connect. Years later I was now living in the Boston area and following music in Bean town. With so many colleges, Boston was an incubator for rock music. Bands like J. Geils, Boston, Aerosmith, were just breaking out nationally. There were many local bands who were doing ok but never became national acts. One such band were the Incredible Casuals , who performed in on the Cape and Boston. As many rock bands go, members come and go and the Casuals were no exception. The local hip newspapers at the time were the Phoenix and the Real Paper and often featured local band acts. They spoke of the Casuals as a band to watch so I took up their call and watched them perform.
I liked their songs , so did the crowd and enjoyed the show. Near the end of their act, they announced the members of the band and where they were performing. Ok, here is the connection. In the band was Johnny Spampinto, the younger brother of Joey Spampinto of NRBQ. He was also the 13-year-old Boy Scout in my troop who swore he would become a rock musician. As the world turns, Johnny replaced Al Anderson of NRBQ when Al went to pursue other interests. You just never know which is the best way to live. I never did get to meet Johnny.