Five Firsts: Michael Eck

NAME: Michael Eck
BAND AFFILIATION: Ramblin Jug Stompers, Lost Radio Rounders
INSTRUMENT: I own guitars, mandolins, ukuleles, jugs and a bunch of other stuff. Whether I actually play them is open to debate.

1. THE FIRST ALBUM I EVER BOUGHT WAS … Well, I had records before I bought them – mostly plastic bags of old jukebox 45s from L.J. Mullen Pharmacy that my mother bought for me and my two older brothers. I also pilfered stuff from her album collection, and I remember having the Dewey Martin and the Medicine Ball album from a garage sale. But the first album I ever bought with my own money was Peter Frampton’s “Frampton,” from the Woolworth’s at Delaware Plaza, which, believe it or not, had a pretty awesome record section in the days before Record Town opened. Korvette’s – at Northway Mall – also had an amazing music department. My vinyl copy of Television’s “Marquee Moon” still proudly sports its Korvettes sticker. Then you had Just a Song at 20 Mall, and the one on Central Ave, and World’s Records…but I digress. The first single I bought, if you want to believe, by the way, was Barry Manilow’s “Daybreak,” but that’s an altogether different question, isn’t it?

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2. THE FIRST CONCERT THAT I EVER SAW WAS … Amazing, that’s what it was. Aerosmith, March 1978, Palace Theatre. I was 13. Steven Tyler was so f-ed up that he couldn’t even get the words to “Last Child” straight, but the scarves looked cool. This was the “Draw The Line” tour, where the band wanted to get back to their roots by playing smaller halls. Tickets were doled out on a lottery system, and me and my schoolmate John Eidberger sat in the second to last row of the stone bleachers at the back of the balcony. Joe Perry and Brad Whitford kicked the show off with the screeching middle riff of “Kings and Queens,” even though they didn’t play the whole song. I couldn’t hear for days after. I still can’t hear. My next three shows were Be Bop Deluxe (Palace), Fleetwood Mac (SPAC, on the “Rumours” tour) and Patti Smith (Palace). That Patti Smith show – that was the one that changed everything. It was supposed to be my third show, but she had to switch the date, so it fell the day after Fleetwood. She pissed herself, rubbed herself with the American flag, kicked some asshole in the face and played a guitar solo that consisted off pulling all the strings of her Fender Duo-Sonic. Good lord, it was great. But I digress…

3. THE FIRST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT I EVER OWNED OR PLAYED WAS … Truly, it was a “Mexican Rhythm Kit” that I begged for for Christmas when I was 11. I also wrote my first song on it – a most-likely-racist little suburban ditty called “Jungle Fever” that consisted of the words “Whoa-oh-oh Jungle Fever” repeated over and over. My first guitar was much cooler – a 1966 Mosrite Ventures Model purchased at a yard sale in East Greenbush for $20. Johnny Ramone and Kurt Cobain would have been jealous. I couldn’t afford the extra $20 for the ’65 Fender P-Bass that was right next to it. I had that guitar signed by all of the Ventures in 1981 at J.B. Scott’s. We gave them a ride to the hotel, and they sang “Happy Birthday” to my friend Harold, who completely missed the beauty of the best-selling instrumental band in the world singing to him. But I digress…

4. THE FIRST SONG THAT I EVER PERFORMED IN PUBLIC WAS … “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by the Clash. The band was called Deaf Zone, but later we became the Plague. You’d think I could leave it at that, but no. It was a battle of the bands at Bethlehem Central High School, and the rest of our setlist included “Clampdown” by the Clash, “Operation” by the Circle Jerks, “Anarchy in the U.K.” by the Sex Pistols, “Nazi Punks F-Off” by Dead Kennedys and a bunch of originals written by bored teenagers. Not that I remember. And yeah, I wore a cowboy hat with an American flag pin on it; and a plaid suitcoat; and a beard. We didn’t have any songs to do if we won the contest, so we just figured – in a sort of what-would-Flipper-do kind of way – that we would play “Louie, Louie” for an hour. We didn’t win. But I digress…

5. THE FIRST BAND I WAS EVER IN WAS … was a trio called Neon Knights with Sean Roche and Bob DeAngelis from Christian Brothers Academy. We all went there even though we lived in Bethlehem. Bob hit his drums so hard that little pieces of drumsticks and blood would land all over me. I had to push my knee against his bass drum to keep it from creeping across the floor. You should have seen the bruise. One time the blood seeped through my pants, but it taught me about locking the bass and drums together. We played only songs by Black Sabbath, the Rolling Stones and AC/DC. Eventually, it became this ten-piece behemoth with two drummers, a keyboardist and too many guitarists, but Lenny, the singer, could do a pretty good Bon Scott. I wanted to do some MC5, but it wasn’t to be. But then, as you know, I digress.

Michael Eck leaves his various bandmates behind for the evening on Sunday, when he brings his maximum solo acoustic sound to Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs in celebration of his brand new CD, “In My Shoes.”


11 Responses to “Five Firsts: Michael Eck”

  1. LiLi says:

    I think this is the most interesting Five Firsts I’ve read.

    The show is sure to be great — hope it’s a sold-out crowd!

  2. Matt Mac Haffie says:

    I first met Mike Eck at a mid-80s WCDB meeting of the on-air staff. I didn’t like him. This is because everyone said you should meet Mike he knows more about music than you. Luckily at the time he didn’t. So I warmed up to him. It’s Chris Wienk that knows everything about music and thinks very little of ‘CDB, but I digress.

    Mike in keeping with his early tradition of records for free, never went wanting for Patti Smith promo copies in my record company tenure. He did however shoot himself in the foot, at Quintessence, at an informal job interview with Capitol Records, but I digress.

    The first time I heard Performance Place on WAMC sound like a nationally syndicated show was when Mike took over as host. Not only because it shielded us from ever having to hear Allen host and invariably exclaim “when I was in a band,” but because they could not build a machine that could do a better job hosting a show. The last time that Performance Place sounded like a nationally syndicated show was the last show Mike ever did. Mind you he could have written it an original theme song, but I digress.

    I can’t recall the first show Mike and I saw together, but I have seen too many of his performances to count. In the case of some of his early NYC solo shows, I may have been the only one. We have seen the Neighborhoods so many times that, at their last Albany show, Sir Dave inquired of me from the stage as to Mike’s whereabouts. Intoning my name is using the microphone for evil, but I digress.

    But then, as you know, Mike knows a lot more about music than I.

  3. Sara says:

    That was great, Matt.

  4. Jeanne says:

    Really interesting, Matt and Michael.

  5. Andrzej (Andre) Pilarczyk says:

    Michael Eck is not only exceptionally knowledgeable about music – he also embodies with his ongoing passion for the art form what a true and dedicated musician is. He lives and breathes the subject everyday and in true fashion as an artist he understands it’s an ever evolving journey. He hasn’t sat still all these years.

    I am proud to know him. Every time that I have the chance to speak with Mike, I walk away afterward having learned something and also admiring him for his commitment to music in general. Even as an accomplished musician, he still strives to better himself – like recently taking lessons with one of the foremost mandolin players-teachers in the world.

    We cannot forget how much Mike has done and continues to do for the regional music community – both artists and the public. How many can remember the years that he lead or co-lead with magnificent regional singer-songwriter Rosanne Raneri the various songwriter’s circles in both Borders – Albany and Saratoga – giving a forum for musicians and the public to share and join in.

    Taking all this into account, there is a solid reason that Caffe Lena in Saratoga has asked Michael to moderate and introduce the artists/concerts that specifically celebrate all five decades of that venerated folk institution’s 50th Anniversary.

  6. Marty Earplug says:

    Oh what I would give for my copy of the Plague cassette back. Bag LAAADY !

  7. Jo says:

    First time I ever saw Mike was at Duck Soup in Rennessaler, playing with…what was that band… Chiefs of the Future? I mainly remeber 1) there was this large barefoot bearded guy playing some killer guitar and 2) some other guy in the band announcing into the microphone “Mike Eck has dirty feet!”
    As to what year this was, god knows.

  8. Alan G. says:

    I still very much value that RAMONES guitar pick that Mike gave me, which he had obtained at one of those JB Scott’s appearances. Priceless.

  9. MotherJudge says:

    Michael Eck is a treasure. A good friend, a great bandmate, an inspiration, damn good dad, mad cuddly, and a prolific songwriter. But I digress…

  10. hojohifive says:

    Michael Eck owes me an afternoon at the chinese buffet. But I digest…

  11. Bowtie says:

    My most memorable encounter with Mike’s encyclopedic knowledge of music was when the Ramblin Jug Stompers played on the aforementioned Performance Place and Alan C. asked a question about the roots of jug band music. Mike lit off on a 3 minute treatise on field hollers, Memphis, Gus Cannon , ragtime v. the blues, frying pans, Victor Records and raccoon skins…and then he started to digress.

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