“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
-- Mark Twain
Tommy n’ Vince
Like all high school kids, at least of that time period, I had to have some kind of day job in order to earn spendin’ cash….which was all fine n’ dandy, ‘cept that my day job happened to be at night. Since ’67 when I’d turned 15 and moved up into a sophomore slot at Alameda High School, I was already giggin’ 3 – 4 nights a week, mostly with Bing Sue’s “Highway Taxes,” playin' all the current "Hit Songs" at ‘bout 4 or 5 of the local military bases’ Enlisted Men’s clubs.
At the same time, I was also playin’ in another band that had Lou Sarrica on bass n’ vocals, Dennis Jackson on lead vocals, a cat named Paul Russell on drums, and yours truly playin’ gitbox n’ tryin’ to sing, though this group o’ dudes didn’t ever really play that many gigs…so, it was all about the Bing Sue thang for me. Was earnin’ $10 - $15 per show. BFD you say? Hey, might not sound like much in today’s “coin o’ de realm”, but ya gotta remember gas was at ‘bout $.37 per gallon….so, you do the math in re what those paydays were worth in inflation dollars…hmm? Was still livin’ at home with my folks, havin’ fun n’ makin’ ‘enuff money to keep me flush in new record albums, music supplies like guitar strings n’ picks, and, most importantly, pot…but I wanted to get into something musically that was just a wee bit less “Top 40”, if y’all catch my drift here….
…and then, one fine day in ‘68, Mrs. Palazzotto showed up at my mom’s front door...
At the time I was low on musical talent, but I did have one strong suit: zits. Mrs. Palazzotto sold pre-Mary Kay types of skin cleansers and scrubber-dubbers, and sooooo….my mom invited her in to work on me. Conversation dawdled along from one subject to the next. Mrs. P saw my mom’s baby grand piano over in the corner and asked: “Who plays that?” To which my mom responded that she did, but that I was learning to play the guitar. Mrs.P: “No kiddin'? Well, my son plays the drums….like doggone Buddy Rich.” My mom: “Well, we should get the boys together then, right?” And, thus, began my association with Vince Palazzotto: “drummer deluxe” for Cookin’ Mama.
“I don't know about anyone else; but, if someone doesn't do something about this song, I'm gonna throw up.”
-- Vince Palazzotto
One day, soon after my initial skin treatments, I went to go see Vince play with his band at Alameda’s Lincoln Park Rec Center…which was a tiny box with 2 bathrooms, but could hold up to ‘bout 75 kids….75, that is, if ya pre-slathered ‘em all up with a smack o’ lard and packed ‘em in tight. Band wasn’t much to write home ‘bout, but Vince….ohhh, Vinnie! Now that was a drummer cut from a rarer cloth. Took me ‘bout 47 seconds of the first tune to realize two things: that he was the real deal, and that I wanted this guy to be the engine that drove my train.
Vince wasn’t a straight-A student kinda guy. Vince was a drummer. And he spent every second of his spare time practicing all of the Buddy Rich “school of drums” rudiments. He could read drum charts like you wouldn’t believe, and his hours n’ hours behind the cans paid off in spades for him…and, by association, for me as well. I was gonna be the guitar player in the band with Vince on drums, and while we were considering asking Lou to join up as our bass player….something happened that swung the pendulum in a wee bit different direction: I heard Larry McSeaton play the guitar.