Steve was destined to play music. His father told him, “Son, I always wanted to play the accordion. Our family was so poor that no matter how often I begged my dad to learn to play, he always yelled, No!”. So at the tender young age of 6, Steve was given a handmade Italian child’s accordion with 12 bass on the left hand and keys on the right. The most confusing thing about the accordion was you had to play bass notes and chords with the left hand and at the same time play the melody on the right all this while opening and closing the bellow to provide air for all the reeds. His dad and his accordion teacher, Joe Pezzolo, wanted him to practice and practice because Steve wasn’t half bad. But Steve wanted to play with the other kids outside; games like baseball, basketball and tag.
Whenever his parents had a party, Steve would get dragged out in front of the adults and told to play “Beer Barrel Polka” and “Little Brown Jug”. He would begrudgingly play all the songs he knew in a sort of hostile manner. And to make matters worse, the adults always wanted to hear one more. One day, an adult even gave Steve a dollar bill for playing. The wheels in Steve’s brain started turning. Was it possible to play an accordion and get paid for it? He changed his tune and eagerly would play for the adults as the money he was given became important for buying toys.
Then it was the ‘60’s and guitar music was becoming very prominent. Steve bought his first rock album, “In a Gadda Da Vida”, and he wore it out listening to the brilliant keyboard parts. He tried to play these leads on the accordion in front of kids his age thinking this would be impressive, but the young women of the day were attracted to guitar players and singers. So Steve got himself a bright red guitar from Montgomery Ward with a whammy bar (that put the whole guitar instantly out of tune) and began learning new songs. “La Bamba” was one of those songs. He also learned to play some Elvis tunes. Again adults would have parties and Steve would be asked to play. But after a few accordion songs, he would put the accordion down and strap on the bright red guitar. He played and sang a few songs that were all based on a G major tuned guitar* (see note below). The adults liked that new music also. But as Steve began to study music more seriously he found there were so many long haired hippie type musicians that could play so much better than he could, and they tuned their guitars in a whole different way. So Steve got himself a Mel Bay guitar book and tuned the guitar the correct way and began to learn chords.
This process was way more difficult than barring the chords, and with many calloused fingers later, Steve could play an acoustic guitar emulating Neil Young’s style as well as imitating his voice. Once again he was the hit at parties. Steve’s first band was playing guitar in a 4 piece polka band that became very popular for the Bay Area European crowd. They were booked at the infamous Rathskellers restaurant in San Francisco. Furthermore they played all the Croatian weddings and popular holidays. But Steve needed more music of the times, so he formed a rock group and began rehearsing in the basement of his Pacifica home.
Eventually Steve married but continued to play music with friends before the kids went to sleep. He worked and practiced daily. Once again the band, Music Affair, became good enough to play for fire department weddings and functions. Later that band merged with another, and the San Francisco Bay Area band, Oasis, was born. Steve would learn to play the keyboards in the band. His first real keyboard was the infamous Korg M1. (note: This band, Oasis, was formed and named long before the other Oasis was formed.) Again more parties and weddings. Steve would switch from playing rock guitar, then switching to play keyboards and then to the accordion for a rousing polka. Every year for 10 years the band would play at the July 4th, Grgich Hills wine celebration. Eventually Steve and his family moved out of the South Bay to live in beautiful Marin in the North Bay. It was a struggle to find time to practice and especially to drive in busy traffic to San Bruno to rehearse; Steve’s priority was his lovely wife and 3 wonderful kids who all needed dad’s attention. So Steve decided quit playing music… (More to come in Part 2)
Note: a G major tuned guitar is one that has all the strings tuned to the G chord and then chord changes are made by moving a bar (or one finger across all the strings on the same fret) up and down the neck. As a side note, Mick used to do this too in his Davenport, IA home. Great minds… or lazy ones!)