The History as of 6/22/2000 -- as told by George Vahamonde

Everyone comes from somewhere. No one comes from NYC. Or so I thought, until I asked Tori where she was from. She asked me to be specific. She asked if I needed to know the location of the hospital, or the first home that she may or may not recall. She was born at NYU Hospital, and was taken from there to the Upper West Side.

Gould was born in Louisville, Kentucky, Annie in Brooklyn, NY, and Tim in Manhasset, NY. I was born in Flushing, NY, which is technically New York City. However, if you are from that particular borough, or one of the other three outer boroughs, you most likely refer to only Manhattan as The City.

Be that as it may, everyone has their story. A fine storyteller, or as most cynics will suggest, a historian will take us on a journey through time and space. Many times, we are intrigued with provocative tales of passion, oppression, or deliverance. Other times, we are dropped off two stops too soon in a downpour with no umbrella. We are suspended amongst a multitude of wonderment where we must draw our own conclusions. We in turn pass along this information with a dash of subjectivity to keep things interesting. These dashes of subjectivity grow exponentially, and only take us farther from the truth.

Preface aside. I am sitting out on the front porch on the longest day of the year. The temperature is typical of the season. Strong gusts have blown all day indicative of the surge of energy prior to a lightning storm. I find the aforesaid statement to be a metaphor of the Bossa Nova Beatniks current status.

I met Gould during the winter of 1985. A friend of Gould's met a newly found friend of a friend of mine. I received a telephone call to fill-in for two gigs in the city. Coincidently, I was replacing a cat that I had gone to school with just several years prior.

I had a great time playing with The Rhythm Bandits. However, due to my existing commitments, I was unable to join the band full time.

A year of two later, I received an invitation to a party at Gould’s house. Tom wanted to introduce me to the O’Rourke brothers who were apparently in the market for a drummer. The party was very cool and well attended. I met Gould’s drummer Sandy, and the O’Rourke’s new drummer, Artie. Shortly thereafter, Sandy left the band that was called the T.Gould and the Earthmen. Gould called to offer me the drum spot. I accepted.

Gould played the bass. I played drums. We worked out a bunch of material as well as a bunch of musicians; Mark Varon, Drew Zing, Gary Hood, Ron Rahilly, Alex Quinlan, Joe Quinlan and Joe Henderson. It was a bit of a revolving door, but the breeze it created was very cool.

From a live performance stand point, we had a blast. The variety of musicians brought a tremendous level of excitement. Our only objective was to have fun and play our music. We played a number gigs at various clubs throughout the New York City area. Our favorite spot was the Nightingale Bar on Second Ave in NYC. Gould's old friend Tom Hosier was the manager who had the ability to fill his club with very talented and entertaining bands.

Gould and I had discussed our next step. We decided that performing on a regular basis should generate some level of interest. We needed a cool place to play. Naturally, we decided to ask Tom Hosier for assistance. Hosier generously provided us with the Monday night early spot at the Nightingale. We committed to perform there for an entire year.

Our opening line-up consisted of Joe Henderson on guitar, Gould on bass and vocals and me on drums. Many fine musicians sat-in with us or signed-on for a short period of time. Also, many fine bands would follow us on Mondays after their weekends of traveling throughout the tri-state area. We had the pleasure of sharing nights with Blues Traveler, The Spin Doctors, God Street Wine, Michael Powers and Zen Mambo. We also established wonderful friendships. Jerry Dugger and Jono Manson from the Worms were two new friends who found themselves involved in our efforts. Jerry and Jono played together for years. They immediately brought a strong groove to our music and a familiarity to the folks who would frequent the Nightingale.

Both of these gentlemen were highly in-demand musicians. Jono would work six nights a week and then spend his one day off playing with us. Eventually, Jono decided to move on. He has since moved out to the southwest US where he continues to enlighten and thrill people with his talents. His recording of "Miss Fabulous" was used in the movie "Kingpin" and Jono himself was in Kevin Costner's film, "The Postman". Fortunately, we were able to capture a smokin' Jono track on our first CD, Eleven Eleven. Jerry was also very busy working with several blues projects and forming and fronting his own bands, Slapmeat Johnson and the Titans (that recorded a soulful version of Gould's "Behave Yourself" on their "October Son" CD), and later Jerry Dugger and the Black Pearls. Tours of the US and Europe have taken him from us on a full time basis. However, Jerry still lives in NY. Jerry has contributed to all of our prior recordings. He will be joining us on our future projects as long as he is available.

After the departure of Jono and Jerry, we learned of the break-up of the Wren Boys. The Wren Boys were Eddie and Rob O'Rourke and graphic artist Artie on Drums.

We hooked-up with Rob who played bass. We were hoping that he would enjoy our project and convince brother Eddie to join. After several weeks of rehearsal and "negotiations", Eddie arrived with his guitar.

Immediately, this line-up established a brand new and exciting identity. The years of Tom and I playing together along with the O'Rourke brothers' telepathic communications brought a tremendous euphoria and inspiration. We had to capture this sound on disk.

We had called ourselves the Flyboys (even before the Fly Girls of Kenan Ivory Wayans’ In Living Color), then the San Diego Flyboys so as not to confuse us with the Flyboys who were actually from San Diego. Then, one fateful night, Bob O’Rourke introduced our song "These Troubled Times" as the BossaNovaBeatnikSound of Tom Gould.

Our first CD project was a conglomeration of Gould songs and O’Rourke songs. This line-up seemed magical. At times, no other communication was necessary but the sounds of our instruments. There was one particular rehearsal on July 3, 1991 where we played for approximately four hours. Obviously a four-hour rehearsal is not unusual. However, our initial warm-up jam turned into four hours of newly created songs complete with bridges and lyrics that none of us had either written or preconceived in anyway whatsoever. Tape had not been rolling that night, as it was on so many other occasions. That moment in time never captured was the essence of the project. As the recording process neared completion, the band fell apart.

Since Gould was funding the project, all was not lost. He scrambled to replace six O’Rourke songs with other suitable Gould songs. Since he had to find material from his own tunes, the completion of the record was relatively easy as far as song selection was concerned, however quite difficult for loss on many levels. The excitement of our first CD was dulled, though only momentarily. Eleven Eleven marked the beginning of the Bossa Nova Beatniks adventure.

As the wounds healed shortly after the completion of the record, Gould realized that there is no place like home, and sought to assemble an ensemble to groove on sultry front porch swing and smooth Caribbean and Afro-Cuban rhythms very much like he had done at Carnegie Recital Hall some time ago with Roy Lechich, Cynthia Post, Catherine Romano, Randy Schweller, Donald Brown, and since departed percussionist Carl Bryant.

Gould went to a party at Felice Diamond's house where he met George ‘Ding Ding’ Meier. He was playing congas. They jammed together for hours. He and Gould had so much fun that they decided to have a go of it. As they evolved, Ding Ding assembled an impressive rack-o-percussion, which included bongos, temple blocks, bells, tom-toms and a various assortment of other percussive instruments. Ding Ding’s impressive rack was aesthetically beautiful.............beautiful to behold in both sight and sound. The new band also consisted of Surfer John Wagner (Ditch Plains).

Being the loyal chap that he is, Gould called me to let me know how much fun they were having supporting the Eleven Eleven record. Moreover, he offered me a position in the band. We hadn’t been on the best of terms since the departure of Bob and Eddie, but we realized that we understood each other.

I went to a rehearsal and played Gould’s bongos. I expressed to him that I didn’t hear bongos on every song. But, congas as well as bongos would be a solid place to start. I went down to the Long Island Drum Center and picked-up a pair of blonde babies.

We were very happy doing our acoustic bongo Beatnik thing that emphasized song and groove. Gould was playing acoustic guitar. Ding Ding played the rack; Jerry Dugger and Surfer John shared bass duties. I was playing congas. Our second CD Heart To Beat was well underway with the personnel intact for the most part. We also brought in a cast of friends like Danny Wilensky, Roy Lechich -, Paul Gebhardt, Buford O'Sullivan from the Scofflaws and the Lovely Wonderfuls (aka The Sugar Magnolias), Terry Day, Kathy Kavanagh, Annie Mark, Joan Pollack. In the mean time the ‘moon unit’ was performing at many outdoor festivals in and around the Huntington, NY area as well as hooking up to a cool Sunday afternoon gig on The Wharf out in Sag Harbor. Somewhere in the middle of all this we picked-up Spider Nick Martielli on tenor sax. Nick brought a sharp mind and an unrelenting work ethic.

Eventually, Nick left to pursue his love of SKA music. He put together Spider Nick and The Maddogs who have enjoyed success throughout Long Island and the northeast.

When it came time to support Heart To Beat, which was mixed and mastered by Katherine Miller, I ended up playing bass (after much pleading from Tom). We found another conguero, Ray Jensen. Ray brought a unique perspective and very solid hands.

We considered Heart To Beat to be a more cohesive effort than its predecessor Eleven Eleven which we felt was more a collection of songs than a piece of work unto itself. In Heart To Beat, we seemed to all have the same mind set-- chillin' and kicking back with your toes in the sand. Apparently, listeners thought so also. We enjoyed success outside of our area with air play and chart positions in Cincinnati, Maine and Pennsylvania. Another pleasant surprise was an introduction to Europe where Mark Zermati of Skydog Internatinal and Kind of Groove Records in Paris offered us the opportunity to hit the European market. He licensed and remastered the Heart To Beat disk much to our liking. He also prepared new artwork. Heart To Beat the import was born. While preparing the import, Mark asked Gould for several more songs. This afforded us the opportunity to give Tim Stapleton his first recording experience. Tim and Tom laid down some organic heart felt live acoustic tracks that cannot be found elsewhere.

The advance money from our import afforded us new equipment, namely the Roland VS-880. Gould and I started on preliminary tracks for our third CD. Initially, we faced several challenges. Gould was learning how to operate the new machine and we were laying down bass and drum tracks with hardly an idea of the direction of the songs. Numerous tracks where collected and assembled and "Frankensteined" into the finished product. Much to our delight, many people were impressed with the quality of our production as well as the now characteristic Beatnik sound. The CD cover was a photo of a wooden sign that read "Danger Bongo Crossing". No, it does not refer to the drums. It refers to a vicious African deer. The CD cover is not a paste-up but and actual photograph taken in Kenya while Gould was on safari.

During most of the recording process and early gig support for Bongo Crossing I was working on another project, Folk Fiction. Thera, Steve and company performed a post-punk gothic theatre show complete with costume changes and interpretive dance- quite the wild ride.

While I was busy with Folk Fiction, Tom was again busy keeping the sound alive. Brian Hosey, Roy Lechich, Annie O’Hara, Paul McGinniss, Reggie Padilla, Justin Williams, Brian Starke and Tim Stapleton were contributing quite nicely, but as is the case many times, musicians needed to move from project to project. Practically everyone moved on to other projects. Tim, Tom, Annie O'Hara, and Paul Mcginniss became the stage Beatniks for the better part of a year until Paul and Annie drifted off to another project. Tim had become a staple. The introduction of Tori Mierlak helped to set the band on its most recent course. The door was again revolving. When it finally stopped, I was back playing bass, Tim was on congas, Tom was still playing acoustic guitar and Tori iced the cake with her smooth sensual vocal style.

Not that we were convoluting, but we needed to go outside the Beatniks just for the sake of change. In 1995 Tom and I became involved with Heather Matarazzo, who wanted to perform at her high school's talent and variety shows. Her schedule didn’t afford her enough time to put together a group of her fellow students, so she asked Tom for assistance. At the 1999 Talent

Show, ‘Crash Course’ consisted of Tom on bass, Mike Bifulco on guitar, Heather on guitar and vocals and me on drums. This particular line-up inspired the creation of yet another record.

Once again, we descended into the basement to record our little side project. The Bossa Nova Beatniks in a rock ‘n’ roll adventure. We recorded Gould songs and several collaborative tunes. We made a conscious decision to do a stripped down rock trio record. In retrospect, we slipped a little outside of our realm. However, this little slip led us to the realization that the Beatniks sound is most easily achieved with a foundation consisting of Gould on bass and me on drums. This revelation mandated calls to Tim and Tori to round out the arrangements. Got Them Ray Guns is a departure from our usual sound. Electric guitars and snare drums resound. Also added to the mix were fine performances by Jerry Dugger, Sparlha Swaby and Roy Lechich.

We have finally realized that the recording process is the culmination of our latest efforts. The live performances that follow our new releases are an indication of what is to come.

The summer of 2000 finds us supporting Got Them Ray Guns with a live show that foreshadows our upcoming fifth record that we expect to be available November 2001.

Mike has gone back to playing guitar for the Bluebeats. However, the ‘moon unit’ of Tori, Tim, Tom and George continued.

Stay tuned for updates.

Update Number 1. 2/20/01.

We have produced our fifth record.

While we were putting together our summer 2000 road trip, we felt that a trip to Scranton, Pa was in order. We were trying to put together a live radio broadcast concert with George Graham at WVIA as we had a while back. By the time I followed-up with George, all of the summer time slots had been filled. So, George suggested that we do a recorded-live performance for a future broadcast as he had time slots available that suited our schedule. We were not certain as to what to expect. Tom and I only knew that our previous live broadcast performance was especially exhilarating. Nonetheless, We were thrilled to get back to WVIA.

Tori, Tim, Tom and I hopped into my truck on a beautiful summer evening for our trip to Pa. We encountered no traffic on I-80. We also enjoyed a beautiful respite from the interstate driving on a local road through the Delaware Water Gap. After a brief refreshment stop, we continued on our way.

We arrived a few minutes before George's evening radio program's scheduled end. By the time we loaded-in our equipment, George as available to provide us with his full attention. We chatted as we set-up in a large storage room complete with Fry Babies and wonderful electronic stuff just outside the control room. The acoustics of the room were similar to that of a large club or dance hall. We were ready to play.

We warmed-up. George set-up the mics, sound levels and equalization. A wonderful vibe transcended upon us. As we are playing, every one of us felt as if we were not playing, but listening to our music as if it was already recorded. We thoroughly immersed and enjoyed ourselves that evening. Our performance provided us with the boost of confidence that made our trip to the heartland so much fun.

George Graham invited us to come back when he was going to mix the tracks. As luck would have it, John Stewart (Kingston Trio) was playing up in Piermont, NY at the Turning Point. Gould and I decided that we could see John Stewart perform at least one set of his beautiful, clever and thought provoking songs, and then head down to Scranton for the mix.

Originally, the trip was just for fun; a night of traveling, good friends and good music. As it turns-out, we were blown away by the sounds that George captured. We drove away from WVIA with a cassette of the final mixes and the fifth CD under our belt.

This CD marks the first time that every performer is still involved in the project. We are able to reproduce the sounds of this disk in a live situation. The disk is called "The Moon Unit". This new disk is available only on our web site.

Update Number 2. 1/22/05.

In 2001, Gould decided to stop walking through the modern world blindfolded and enrolled in law school. Rumor has it that law school is a lot of work. Gould's friends are quick to point out that he was already living a very full life. Something had to give. Gigging was sacrificed for the new adventure. Believe it or not, the space created by discontinuing the gigging was an even match for the work load of law school. While the live performances stopped, the music did not. In the next 4 years the Bossa Nova Beatniks released 3 CD's. First was an anthology disc which chronicled recordings from the Beatniks' pre-history to the present spanning 18 years. That was called "Flyboy & the Rhythm Bandits." The second CD of the law school years was a disc of Jerry Dugger singing all the leads on a collection of Gould songs. It was called "New York Skyline." The third and most recent CD was the first release of all new material since "Danger Bongo Crossing" called "Moonlit Bossa." It was during the making of this album that Tori moved on to pursue a career in music therapy. As good fortune would have it Annie O'Hara was once again available and stepped in to sing leads and play bass. Gould graduates from law school in 2005. What happens after that? W K? One thing for sure, it will include new music.

Clearly, this website is rarely updated. To keep up to date on the continuing adventures of the Bossa Nova Beatniks,
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To be continued...