My dad had his first kid while he was in college. It still boggles my mind – when I was in college, the guys I hung out with were strategizing keggers and trying to figure out how to dump their girlfriends.
But my dad was always ahead of his time. As a teenager, he had a record deal and a black and white photo spread in 16 Magazine. He opened for acts like ? and the Mysterians and once played with Percy Sledge when his back up missed a gig because of a car accident. His band, The Jagged Edge, claimed that name well before the R&B group (who my dad will half-heartedly joke about suing for the rest of his life).
Eventually, my grandparents made my father quit the band. The Jagged Edge broke up as a result – but my dad continued to maintain his love for guitar. Whenever we’d take car rides, he would play cassettes of the singles he’d written and produced after the Edge’s dissolution in 1967 – songs called “High as a Kite” and “Hot Pants.” When I was ten or so, NYU’s radio station featured The Jagged Edge on their Plastic Tales from the Marshmallow Dimension program – we sat in the car for six hours straight listening to that show. He plays air guitar with unmatched fervor and he’d never show up to a family function without an acoustic in the trunk of his car.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what someone is passionate about – try asking around sometime. Ask people what they want to spend their life doing, and you’d be surprised by how many blank stares you get in return. Some people honestly don’t know. But I draw inspiration from the people you don’t have to ask, the people whose passion drips from their pores. My dad has tried his hand at many occupations – a florist, a SQL programmer, a cab driver – but much like being a father; “musician” is a role he couldn’t shed if he tried. For Father’s Day, I “interviewed” him. I wanted to show him that his passion for music is as worthy of celebration as his passion for our family.
Me: How did The Jagged Edge assemble?
Dad: Arthur and I met each other on the school bus. We discovered we both played and made a date to get together. We flipped a coin to see who would play lead and who would play rhythm. We would work out songs from the radio and teach them to each other. Artie and Harley knew each other from Art’s parent’s sleep away camp, so they were the Jaguars before me. I forget how El came into the picture, or how we got a drummer. Ronnie Sherman was our Pete Best, who was replaced by Kenny Bennet.
Me: At the time, when there was a glimmer of success in sight, what scared you the most?
Dad: Nothing. We knew we had magic and our combination was very powerful. It was like surfing a tidal wave. There was huge talent in everyone.
Me: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be a dad for the first time? How did Yia-Yia and Papou react to that news?
Dad: That was frightening because it changed everything. I was an early dad, so it set me apart. Yia-Yia and Papou were not pleased.
Me: Name five artists that are currently in your rotation.
Dad: Django Reinhardt, Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Robillard and Phil Schapp’s radio show every week.
Me: Off-topic, but why did you name me Stephanie?
Dad: It was Mom’s idea and I liked it.
Me: What is your favorite familial role – son, dad, brother, or husband?
Dad: I can’t say. I love being all of them and am exceedingly lucky to still have all the roles. As time goes by I Mandelbrot myself in the burnishment of being a son and dad, the parallels need many years to develop but they move me extraordinarily.
Me: Do you feel regretful that none of us picked up or committed to music like you did?
Dad: No (Me: LOL)
Me: What is/was your proudest moment as a father?
Dad: My proudest moments are when I realize that you and Alexis have committed yourselves to lives as artists, something I did not have the conviction to do. Looking back, I rationalize that I would not have been able to support you all the way I have if I were a musician. Yesterday I saw a guy on 42nd Street playing a Fender with a beat box… he was great, and I gave him a 20 because it was all I had, but I flashed on my own parallel universe thinking that this is the endgame for someone who is an entertainer, that you are always under the pressure of performing at the whim of someone else. But then, as a high-level geek resource, so am I. Without someone with deep enough pockets and a business that needs me, I’m a performer too.
Me: What do you think about when you play at family get-togethers?
Dad: Playing for people is the only thing that makes sense because music must be shared, otherwise, the longing and vista it evokes is wasted, so making the old ones happy with their music is the first joy, but it is an unintended consequence because, selfishly, the tunes I play are so absorbing harmonically and melodically that they are all music lessons for me. Gershwin (Our Love is Here To Stay or Embraceable You) and Berlin (I’ll Be Loving You Always) and Arlin (I’ve Got a Right to Sing the Blues) are so spectacular, that I would rather play them for someone now, rather than fart around in the pentatonic box.
Me: How do you feel about my asking you these questions to be immortalized via the internet, forever and ever?
Dad: You are my rising star. I am in absolute awe of you and love you to death.
Love you too, bro! Happy Father’s Day.