When Performing Is Its Own
by EILEEN N. MOON
IN 1988, according to the American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries, Whitney Houston earned $6 million. Jon Bon Jovi earned $15 million. Bruce Springsteen earned $34 million. Unlike his more famous New Jersey contemporaries. the singer and guitarist Pat Guadagno earned considerably less. But, like Ms. Houston, Mr. Bon Jovi , and Mr. Springsteen
|Mr. Guadagno counts himself among the lucky few who are able to work full time in field that is more a calling than career. "I’m real proud of what I do," he said. The 38 year old father of three puts five or six nights a week performing in bars and restaurants from Plainfield to Princeton, often doing two "gigs" in a night before heading home to Matawan.|
A rhythm guitarist and vocalist whose repertory spans decades of Blues.
rock, country, folk, pop and Folk music, Mr.Guadagno specializes surprising
listeners with unfamiliar songs he has carried home from the clubs of Nashville
and Martha's Vineyard. There Is no play list and no plan, save for his
commitment to keeping his audience entertained as they eat, drink and try to be
merry . One minute, it's Leo Kottke; the next it's 'Kermit the Frog. He never
calls it playing. He always calls it work But it's the kind of work he has
wanted to do for as long as he can remember. Being a bar musician is a life of
mirrors and smoke, of 2A.M. dinners and long drives home. It's a life that can
strain marriages and drain bank accounts. There is no sick leave, no vacation
pay. no health insurance, no pension plan. And the Income can be so uncertain
that, according to a Columbia University survey, 77 percent of people in
creative professions like music must work at other jobs But its disadvantages
dim in the limelight at the center of the applause.
"I know a lot of people who would love to be doing what I do," Mr. Guadagno said. The sound of clapping hands is something he has been hearing since he performed for the first time with a three-piece band for his Cub Scout pack when he was 10 o 11. "The applause in the gym was deafening," said. "I still remember how loud it was and what it felt like to have people clap for you."
His earliest fan was his mother; who convinced him that he was talented despite the string of piano teachers he had frustrated by his difficulties learning to read music but It was his older brother, Mike, who inspired him to pick up the guitar. He remembers hearing his brother's band for the first time at the Fair Haven Firemen's Fair in 1963 . Whenever his brother, who is now a district attorney, came home from college, Mr. Guadagno would ask him to teach him a few more chords, It took him a long time to learn the guitar, Mr. Guadagno said, but he had both an ear for music and the motivation to improve. "The first time I heard Jose Feliciano play," he said. "1 knew I wanted to play like that." So did a lot of other teen-agers growing tip along the Shore in the 1960's, Inspired by 'he example of British groups like the Beatles and the Dave Clark Five. Teen-age bands were playing at YMCA’s, shopping centers. beach clubs and high school dances. One of those bands was Bruce Springsteen's Castles. . "I used to follow the Castiles because I had seen Springsteen at a YMCA dance and I really admired him," Mr. Guadagno said. "Even back then I knew he had something. We started following him around and seeing what he did.
After 2 years at the Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, Mr. Guadagno transferred to Marlboro High School and formed his own band, the Glass Menagerie. While he was "good when he had to be" at school, music had already become the focus of his life. "After school, we'd go out and start playing," he said. "that was always what was on any mind."
Since then, he said. must of his work has come to him by word of mouth.
"I've never passed an 'audition in my life," he said. "Places hire me and I stay
there." A weekend gig with the Candle Brothers (composed of his high
school band mate Frank Sabo and Phil Rizzo. formerly of the Shore band Guildersleeve) at Casey Jones Restaurant in Long Branch led to a year's
engagement there. He has played Thursday nights for five years at Magoo's in
Matawan, and for three years at Danny's Italian Restaurant in Red sank. He has
played the Poet's Inn in old Bridge for the last five winters, He also performs
a few times each summer at the Garden State Arts Center reception center and the
Rare Duck in Martha's Vineyard and at showcases In Nashville, where a friend and
former band member, Daniel Petraitis. relocated..
" I love to get on the road." Mr. Guadagno said. "I like to go and play different places and get away from here .Wherever he plays, he still encounters people who think they can make him a star. "There's always someone coming in to hear you, saying I told so and so about you," Mr. Guadagno said This guy knows that guy; Someone's uncle is the record business. A few years ago. it began to be kind of funny. It's amusing to hear of the stories and see some of relationships. "Everyone wants to help you."
Mr. Guadagno's definition of success is a lot less starry eyed than in the days when every teenager with a guitar dreamed of being on the "Ed Sullivan Show."