This one isn’t really about my grandfather; but at least it’s not about me, either.
At some point late in his college career, my dad decided that the life of a corporate worker was preferable to the life of a professional musician.
He could have done either. But he knew about the grind of paying one’s dues as a professional musician. And he knew he could always be an engineer by day and a musician by night … but not the other way around.
So he took the more comfortable, lucrative, and mutually rewarding of the two paths.
I wonder if he had already come to that major life decision on Nov. 27, 1965 — during Thanksgiving break of his last year in college — when he found himself in a recording studio on Long Island.
Most likely, he was already walking away from one path and toward the other:
Today, my dad has no memory of the session:
I think I vaguely remember being in a famous jazz recording studio in Long Island, because I remember being surprised there was a famous jazz recording studio in Long Island, but I cannot remember whom I would have been there with.
Unfortunately, there’s no record to refresh his memory. Whatever he played wasn’t done for a record company, and thus didn’t come out.
Before packing in full-time music for the corporate world, my dad played a variety of recording sessions — all of which came to naught, commercially.
There was a demo tape of Christmas tunes done jazz-style in 1964, which landed my dad a meeting to play the tunes for Dave Brubeck. The great pianist was friendly and receptive enough, but his record company wasn’t interested in the music.
There were demos for songs my dad’s high school music teacher had written and hoped to sell.
And, most hilariously, there was a demo session for a young singer from Greenwich named Buzz Stillinger, who was apparently being groomed as a teen idol. (Buzz eventually did get to record a teenybop single called “My First Love;” my dad didn’t play on it, and from the sound of things, he’s not too put out about it.)
I would imagine that anyone who’s ever been a serious musician has dreamed about making a record.
Some people skip the hard work in their dreams, and go straight to driving a Lamborghini and having a mansion. But it must surely also be a popular dream to imagine a record jacket with your name on it.
My dad didn’t choose that path. I don’t know whether he regrets it or not.
Probably not; he’s managed to carve out a long-lasting and reasonably rewarding musical career without ever making a commercial recording under his own name.
I found out while researching this post that my dad does appear on one commercially released CD, though he’s not the leader. He plays stride-style piano on one tune of jazz singer Nancy Kelly’s CD “Swingin’ and Singin’,” released by Buffalo-area record label Amherst Records in 1997.
One tune on one regional CD. It’s not a lot, but it’s more than nothing. And it’s kinda cool to think that there’s some commercial record of his playing in somebody’s hands, somewhere.