Fulsome Foursome

After MJ left as lead singer of LEFT HOOK, we decided to audition a replacement. We’re setting our sights fairly high since Gary and I can already sing, and we want someone who will come in and lift up the group, someone who’s as good on vocals as we are as instrumentalists, i.e. a real musician. Unfortunately it’s hard to find someone like that when you don’t have any gigs lined up.

We got a good handful of responses, and five actual candidates. I called each of them up to pre-screen them. It’s interesting since everyone can now point you to a performance they have on the internet. They were mostly were pretty good, but in the end we decided none of them really brought anything we don’t already have, or else they don’t fit in with the sound we’re going for. One in particular was in a band that just kinda sucked, to the point where the vocals didn’t really matter. Yet somehow they’re getting gigs!

After that exercise we decided to carrying on as a quartet, with Gary and I splitting the lead vocals as well as the harmonies. And so we join the ranks of bands without a frontman and with multiple lead vocalists. This list includes the Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Chicago, Supertramp, The Cars, They Might Be Giants, Fishbone, the Cheshire Cat, Run DMC and countless others.

We’ve added five songs in the last few weeks, and we’re finding it’s not hard to find songs that are doable and in our zone. Recent additions that I’m sining include You Can’t Get What You Want (‘Till You Know What You Want) by Joe Jackson and I Want a New Drug by Huey Lewis and the News, both really fun, uptempo numbers with a great sax part.

There are some songs from our old set we can’t do, but we probably have about twenty song right now. Not enough for three sets but maybe two. So the focus is on adding more material and getting the whole set tight. And it’s time to start looking for gigs once more. As the first step I’ve updated out poster. Soon we’ll be making a new demo. Rock on!


My rock band LEFT HOOK recently lost our lead singer. The issue was that he didn’t want to do alot of the material the rest of the group did. We’re trying to cover a pretty broad range of stuff, from the 60’s thru the 80’s and keep it generally on the uptempo and funky side, whereas MJ basically wanted to do obscure songs from the 60’s from band like Spooky Tooth. So rather than let him dictate the set list by veto, Gary and I have been taking on a larger share of the lead vocals, unit MJ had had enough.

So now we’re looking for a new lead vocalist. We’re pretty open about our expectations, but of course they need to be good and have broad taste and fit in personalitywise. Ideally they’d sing high, cuz Gary and I are both baritones. It’d be nice to be able to a song like Carry On Wayward Son in three-part harmony. Also a plus if they play an instrument like harp or congas too.

Meanwhile, we’re carrying on as a quartet. It’s sort of a win-win situation. If we take on a new singer it’s because they lift the band up to another level. As a quartet we’re still quite capable, and we can take some time to explore and refine our sound. We jettisoned about half our set, cuz neither Gary or I wanted to sing them. About half of these are actually great horn songs, but I can’t sing and play sax at the same time. Ah well. So we made up a list of new song to try. We all have no problem with working up a song just to see if it works for us and fits our sound/style/mood, so they probably won’t all be keepers.

This week we learned You Can’t Get What You Want (‘Till You Know What You Want) by Joe Jackson. This was a suggestion by Ken our bass player. I hadn’t listened to the song in ages, but it turns out it’s a killer track, and great for us. Right in my zone singing, great groove, horn part, everything. Definitely a keeper. Next week it’s I Want a New Drug by Huey Lewis and the News.

Left Hook Live – Fisherman’s Net March 25

My rock band the LEFT HOOK is back in action. Although we’re still working on climbing up the food chain of gigs, we’re back for a night at our favorite local bar, Fisherman’s Net in Pelham. We’ve added a bunch of new songs as usual, this time mainly upbeat 80’s pop rock for some danceable numbers. Happy to say the new material sounds really good and builds on our existing sound.

So that’s Saturday March 25 at Fisherman’s Net in Pelham. Hope to see you there!

Dem Tempos

I’ve had four gigs in three weeks. This last one was the LEFT HOOK at Victor’s in Hawthorne. It went well, definitely better than our gig a couple weeks ago. It was a good crowd too. A group of five younger dudes walked in around midnight, and we were sure they weren’t going to like our music, but they really dug it, particularly the Sam and Dave stuff.

One major change was an intense focus on tempos. We noticed that the songs have crept up over time, to the point where some of them were starting to lose their groove, and at the list gig few were counted off way to fast. So we went and listen the the original cut of every song we do and wrote down the tempo. Next rehearsal counted off each song to a metronome click and concentrated on not speeding up (or slowing down).

It was a total revelation! Everything was alot groovier and funkier, with more room for phrasing. It was like a whole new set. And it carried thru on the stand. One other thing we’re trying to do is string our songs together in groups of three or four within a set. So there was a bit of confusion sometime as to the countoff, but overall it worked. We’re gonna keep using the metronome until it becomes second nature, and that ought to raise or level of musicianship.

Now we’re back to pounding the pavement for some new gigs. Meanwhile we’re gonna learn a few 80’s tunes. So stay tuned.

LEFT HOOK Returns to Victors of Hawthorne

Fresh from our recent engagement at the Net, LEFT HOOK is back in playing form, and delivering some new funky soul material as well as all you’re favorites. Hope to see you there!

Music with a punch!
Westchester’s classic rock Funk & soul party band

Saturday October 22
8:30 PM
Victors Bar & Grill
500 Commerce St. Hawthorne

Victory Lap

Lots going on these days. Last night LEFT HOOK played at Victor’s in Hawthorne. I bought one new piece of gear for this show: a lightweight collapsible handtruck to help schlep the PA from the car to the hall. It really came in handy cuz Victors is up on a hill so you have to go up a big ramp and thru two or three rooms to get to the place where the band is playing.

I played Victors a couple years ago in my old band with Gus, and we didn’t have much of a turnout because there was an unexpected November snowstorm. Well last night we didn’t have much of a turnout either, a couple of friends of Jeannie and Gus, and whoever was there at the bar anyway. But band sounded great, and the people who were there really dug it, and the bar paid us well. Ken got a new 4×10 cabinet which has alot of presence. As fate would have it, on the way home there was an unexpected storm of hail and sleet, and this morning my car was covered in ice.

We didn’t add any new songs for this show, but this week we’ve got a bunch lined up to work in for the next gig. I’ll be singing some Bowie. Psyched about that.

You may have noticed that, recent hailstorms notwithstanding, winter is over and spring has arrived. Daylight and sunshine again. I’ve been kinda sick the last few weeks and have only just been feeling better again, so I haven’t had a chance to much yardwork yet. Today I was gonna do the first round of raking and trimming, but it was too cold and windy. I did get some grass seed down a few days ago before it started raining, in the spot where the stump used to be, so hopefully that’ll take.

Easter came early this year. Last weekend Martin’s came down on Saturday and we went to Jeannie’s parents on Sunday. The kids have been off from school all week. Nice to have a little family time. I gave Lizzy another driving lesson today. She drove to her old elementary school and back. Learning to deal with real streets, stop signs, turn signals, other cars, and pulling in and out of parking spots. So far doing very well, but still hasn’t gone above 20 mph.

I got my Mustang on the road a couple times. This spring it started right up, no need to charge the battery. I took it in for an oil change and a safety inspection, and my mechanic told me it’s got some leaks in the underside including the differential, so hopefully there’ll be a nice day net week where I can get that taken care of.

Gig Announcement: LEFT HOOK at Victors in Hawthorne

Hi everyone, okay our next gig is the first weekend of April. Hope to see you there. I don’t think we’ll be adding very many new tunes for this, but mainly tightening up what we got to take it to the next level.

If you google Victors you’ll see the first review says it’s an awful place, like some guy got in an altercation with one of the regulars and blamed it on the establishment. Who knows? I gotta tell you I’ve played gigs there before and it’s just fine. It’s a good size room with a great big bar and good veiws from most everywhere. They have live bands an open mics up there alot.

Music with a punch!
Westchester’s classic rock Funk & soul party band

Saturday April 2, 9 pm
Victors Bar & Grill
500 Commerce St. Hawthorne

Higher and Higher

The LEFT HOOK gig at Burke’s Saturday night was a pretty darn good time. It’s larger and nicer venue than we’ve been playing, and we had a good turnout, with a whole a bunch of people coming to help our drummer Gus celebrate his birthday, and a few of my friends, including Nick, who came all the way from Long Island and took a bunch of pictures of the band, which I’ll post sometime soon. Woo-hoo and thanks alot!

Gus is back to playing his regular drums, which helps the sound alot. Also, last week I finally got my Mark VII sax in for a final adjustment. It took Virgil only a few minutes of fiddling with the various bits of cork around the keys of the upper stack. Now it’s playing totally great. It literally has never sounded better! I have all the tone and growl that I really love, plus a great clarity in the low end, even playing very softly. So now I have two world-class tenor saxes in great working order, the beauty and the beast. I’ve been enjoying hanging out with Virgil, he’s got lots of stories and lots of knowledge on musical instruments. It almost makes me sad my horn is all fixed up now.

We added a bunch of new songs for this show, including The Letter by Joe Cocker, Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel, Beginnings by Chicago, and Cheap Sunglasses by ZZ Top. All went over really well. I think Beginnings in particular, which we used to end out first set, was a winner. We worked on that on for a while and made our own arrangement. I’m emulating a whole horn section on sax, and Mike and Gary are covering the vocal harmonies between them. We even have a percussion break toward the end.

The surprise hit was Cheap Sunglasses. This one was a bit of a late addition, after we’d tried out and discarded a bunch of other new songs for various reasons (vocals were to high, the groove too mellow, that kind of thing). We only rehearsed it twice. It’s a bit heavier than most of our material, but basically a boogie blues, and right in Gary’s zone on guitar. Ken and Gus and got a tight groove going on on the bass and drums. I sing lead on it, and it’s right in my zone vocally too, and I do an Abacab-like solo on the organ over the coda. Big crowd pleaser.

Since we’ve been working so much on new material, we only had a chance to run thru the whole set list once before the show. Overall it was still quite good, but there was the occasional tempo problem (mostly starting too fast) or missed or sloppy transition from one part to the next. Still, we know the songs well, and they’re great songs, and the energy and sound was always there. The vocals keep getting better and better too. I guess you can say the better we get the higher our standards get.

As usual, the second set was the tightest, had the best energy and the biggest crowd. There were a few time where Ken and Gus were really right together in the groove and it felt fantastic. One was Dance to the Music, which we really bombed in rehearsal. For the third set I used to joke that we should just do two or three long jam numbers like Dazed and Confused or Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. But now we finally have enough songs to have a full third set, and not just of the leftovers, but songs we know well. We even ended up doing a couple extra encores, including Foxy Lady, which someone shouted out as a request. Gary launched into it and Ken and Gus joined in, and sang. I think I remembered most of the lyrics. Good fun. And we even got paid more then we’ve been so far.