Steve's first introduction to music came when, at age 7, while living in Tallahassee, Florida, his mother enrolled him in piano lessons. She had apparently mistaken his intrigue (at watching her sight-read from sheet music when she played the piano) for an interest in doing so himself... which it was not. He hated the lessons, played hooky almost as much as he attended, learned only one song (which he also hated) called "The Volga Boatman," and lasted only through his first and only recital. So the effort lasted only a couple of months before he was 'dis-enrolled.' And it was presumed that he'd never play the piano again.
When the family moved to Australia in 1965 - with Steve then barely 8 years old - his father took up the guitar. Informally tutored by a colleague from the university where he was working, he was wrestling his way through the basic chords when Steve took an interest and started learning how to play the guitar himself, right alongside his father. By the end of their three-year residency in Australia, Steve had become a fairly proficient little folk guitarist - at least for an 11 year old - and was a regular fixture in his father's weekly 'guitar parties.'
In 1968, the family moved back to the United States - to the island of Key Biscayne, just across the bay from mainland Miami, Florida - and two things of musical significance happened almost right away: (1) Steve's father bought his mother an upright piano for Christmas, and (2) Steve 'discovered' Elton John. Realizing that what Elton was basically doing was playing 'guitar chords' on the piano - singing the lead melodies, and backing himself up with exquisitely syncopated rhythmic keys - Steve resolved himself to copying Elton's style. And thus began the long, slow and torturous process of trying to figure out how to translate guitar chords onto a piano keyboard.
As Steve's 7th-grade school year began in 1969, his mother once again insisted that he learn another instrument. And so, in the last days of that summer, he was brought to the junior high school's music room, introduced to Mr. Hill, the band teacher, and told to pick some kind of horn to play in the orchestra. Resistance was futile. So, solely because it looked unique and interesting, Steve chose the trombone. And throughout junior high, senior high, and the semester-and-a-half that he lasted in college, Steve played the trombone in the band... marching band, in the case of the latter two. And though he never touched the horn again once he left college, during those years, he loved the band. In fact, towards the end of high school, it was the only class he could tolerate at all.
It was in his 11th-grade year, in 1974, that he wrote his first song. It was on the guitar, and it was almost by accident. A month or so later, he stumbled on another 'original' tune... and then another one. And by halfway through his senior year in high school, in early 1975, when he wrote his first piano piece, he actually found the temerity to consider himself a songwriter. And from there, the music just began pouring out of him. He couldn't wait to write his next new song. He'd be the first to admit, now, that what he was creating so prodigiously at the time was 'the purest corn-studded crap,' but with each new effort, the quality improved.
By the time Steve joined the Air Force in March of 1977 - almost two years after graduating from high school - he had a repertoire of progressively more polished original music that now exceeded twenty songs.
Two years after that, in March of 1979, Steve entered his first Talent Competition, and received a bit of a rude awakening. Though the judges praised his performance on the keyboard, they were brutally frank about his vocals, and he did not place high in the final rankings. Over the next year then, he focused exclusively on his singing... on doing something to improve upon his 'emotionless' and slackjawed vocal delivery. And he did get better.
In early 1980, he entered the Base-Level Talent Competition again, this time playing an up-tempo Billy Joel-esque piece that he'd just written, called Chalk It Up To Experience. And this time he was a hit. He came away with high marks from the judges, and a First Place trophy to boot. From there he was sent on to the Command-Level Talent Show at McGuire Air Force Base, in New Jersey. He'd also been 'added' to an ad hoc 'band' comprised of other individual category winners - another pianist/guitarist, a bassist and a drummer - that called themselves "Puget Sound." And from both categories (solo and group), he came away with two more trophies: first place for his solo act, and second place for the band. Which, in turn, made him eligible to move on and compete at the highest level; the Worldwide Talent Show. Unfortunately...
That particular year, the organizers of the Command-Level competition had decided that, on the way to Worldwide, the winners would have to do a sort of 'mini-tour' of shows played at other bases in the same command. They would be essentially performing their way toward the final competition, which was being held out at Travis Air Force Base, near San Francisco, California. The problem for Steve was that part of the mini-show's 'script' called for him to join a line-up of the other performers for a big dance number. And Steve didn't - and still doesn't - dance. Period. So, once the issue proved to be non-negotiable, Steve simply chose to quit. He said goodbye, and flew back home to McChord Air Force Base without having had the chance to compete at the Worldwide level.
A month later, one of the other members of "Puget Sound" - the other pianist/guitarist, named Ed, who'd also qualified to go on to Worldwide, but had stayed with the Command-Level mini-tour all the way to the end - showed up back at McChord prematurely. Even though he'd competed all the way to the top and won a slot on that year's Tops in Blue tour, he'd elected to decline it anyway, and returned home empty-handed. And as soon as he and Steve got back together again, they decided to 'take their own act on the road.' They worked up a repertoire of popular contemporary songs, and, after a lot of hard thought on the subject, cleverly named themselves "Steve & Ed." They began booking gigs at the local Airmen's Club, and they spent the rest of 1980 playing regularly there, at first monthly, but then, as their popularity grew, performing weekly, and even more often at other area Open Mikes.
As New Years, 1981, rolled around, and Steve was preparing for his discharge from the Air Force, he met someone who would cause his life to veer in a whole new direction. While playing the piano in the empty Airmen's Club ballroom, someone passing by overheard him, and stepped in to listen. And during Steve's next break, he introduced himself. He said he was recording a demo tape at a multi-track studio in nearby Tacoma, and needed a keyboard player to flesh out the arrangement. Steve's 'style' suited his own, he said, and would he be interested in doing a little studio work? Steve readily agreed, and within a week, found himself in his first-ever professional recording studio, laying down tracks on two songs that his 'host' had written. The sessions went well, and when Steve's parts were finished, he approached the studio's owner about recording his own demo tape. It was expensive (at least on his military pay), but he decided to throw caution to the wind and do it anyway.
When Steve left the Air Force in March of 1981, he had a six-track recording of seven of his own original songs, his own voice layered over multiple times on up to four-part harmonies. And his plan was to spend the three-month 'grace period' that the Air Force allowed (for discharged servicemen to return to the fold as if they'd never left) trolling the Miami area for potential recording contracts. If he got a nibble, he'd stay out and pursue it. If he didn't, he'd take that as a sign, step back into his uniform, and continue with the military. Amazingly though, after two-and-a-half months of shopping his demo tape around, he did get a nibble. In fact, he reeled in a big one.
After a lengthy interview - and an expensive review of the contract by an entertainment lawyer - a major Miami production house signed him up. He was 'assigned' to an established producer named Cory Wade, who had gold records on his wall from the albums he'd recorded with Rick James, the King of Disco. But at that particular moment, Cory was busy working on the debut album of another New Guy named Aaron, and Steve would have to wait. It didn't take long though, before Cory hit on a cost-saving strategy that would theoretically work for everybody. Since Aaron could sing, but couldn't write or play any instruments, and since Steve could write and play several instruments, but had a weak lead voice, he decided to have Steve play the piano on Aaron's album (for free), then have Aaron sing the lead vocals on Steve's album (for free). Both parties agreed, and Steve went into the studio right away.
For most of a month then, Steve rehearsed and performed the primary keyboard parts on Aaron's debut album, cleverly titled (by Cory) 'Makin' It Happen.' It was recorded at Sunshine Studios - the one created, owned, operated, and regularly visited by Harry Wayne Casey, of 'K.C. and the Sunshine Band' - and Steve got to play all his parts on a 9' Bosendorfer grand piano, one of the greater pleasures of his life. But once his contributions were done, it seemed as if he'd been cast aside. It was nearly impossible to reach anyone by phone, and on those rare occasions when he was able to link up with Cory, he seemed hedgy and evasive about what Steve needed to be doing to prepare for his own album. It felt, to Steve, as if there was no legitimate intention to actually do anything further with him. And after another two months of fading interest and less and less direct contact, Steve finally decided to exercise his contract's option, and dropped out of the deal.
A year-and-a-half later, Steve was back in the Air Force again, this time stationed at Robins Air Force Base, outside Macon, Georgia. And three months after that, in June of '83, he was once again playing the piano in the Rec Center's empty ballroom, when someone passing by overheard him through the door and stepped in to listen. This time, it was the Center's Activity Director, named Barry, and his surprising first question was, "Have you ever recorded an album before?" When Steve answered, "No," Barry's next question was, "Would you like to?" And this time, Steve's answer was, "Yes." Barry, a fairly well connected guy locally, hustled up an 'investor' who was willing to contribute a few thousand dollars to the cause, and they were off to the studio.
Many factors combined to make Steve's first album ("Dancing Fingers") the mess that it became. For one thing, after checking out several studios in the Macon area, it was decided to go with the cheapest; a small eight-track operation in a guy's garage. For another, Steve was going through 'Mob School' at the time (a three-week field orientation for the 'mobile' unit to which he was assigned). Then, shortly after graduation, he was deployed with his unit to Oman for the three weeks of 'Operation Bright Star,' just as the mixing and mastering part of the recording process was starting up. And though Steve had left five pages of detailed written instructions for what he needed fixed with each song, none of those adjustments were made. In addition, it was discovered during the mixing that the Dolby system had not been used in the recording of the drum tracks... which left a bad hiss that could not be hidden or disguised by the mixing... which led them to ship the unfinished album off to a facility in Nashville - where they had 'a machine' that would theoretically correct the hissing - all before Steve could get back from Oman. Still, while 'the machine' was able to eliminate most of the hiss, it couldn't eliminate all of it. But in the process, it did eliminate most of the low end of the music. So, by the time Steve returned to the States, he not only had no recording to listen to (it was still in Nashville), but when it did finally come back, another full month later (complete, jacketed and shrink-wrapped), he found that its thin, scratchy, 'old radio' sound was augmented even further by an absolutely horrendous looking album cover... grainy, low-res, black-and-white photos, with every other inch of the album's black jacket, front and back, slathered in dense white calligraphy; titles, credits, song lists, the works. It was an amateurish embarrassment on every level. But it was done - a thousand copies worth - packaged, bundled and boxed, the investor's money spent, and nothing fixable without starting all over... except for the cover.
Spending over $700 of his own money then, Steve had a photographer friend shoot some dramatic poses of him playing a piano (only without the piano), all lit from below. He chose new fonts, simplified the layout of the text, and wrote up a detailed set of instructions on how to recompose everything. He also typed up a single front-and-back lyric sheet, cranked out a thousand copies of it on blue paper stock, then boxed it all up and sent it back to the distribution company. And a week later, "Dancing Fingers" - with all its attendant musical and engineering flaws - was done. At least it looked good.
In March of 1984, Steve once again entered the Base-Level Talent Competition, this time at his new 'home base' of Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. And this time, right from the beginning, right from the lowest level, he competed in two categories, as both a solo act and as a member of a three-man band that called itself 'Alloy." From there, over the course of the next month-and-a-half, he fought his way up through the progressively more challenging levels, winning First Place trophies all the way up to the top... the 'Worldwide Talent Show' (WTS), held at Charleston Air Force Base that year. There, although he was legitimately bested in both competition categories, he was still selected to tour the world with "The Air Force's premier touring band, Tops in Blue." And two months later, he began the seven-month whirlwind of staging, traveling, performing at bases all over the world, and finishing up at centerstage in the Superbowl XIX halftime show.
*** (for more details and photos from the 1984 competition circuit, the world tour, and the Superbowl XIX halftime show, visit the "Tops in Blue" page) ***
The last song Steve ever wrote (or at least completed) - entitled "A Moth To Flame" - was a wedding present to Beth, the woman who was about to become his wife. He first met her during the 1984 competition circuit that led him to Tops in Blue. She was in the audience at the Command-Level contest. They corresponded all the way up to and through the world tour, and four months after the tour ended, he proposed to her. They were married in September of 1985... the same month as the completion date of "A Moth To Flame," his 67th and final original composition. And for whatever reason, he hasn't composed anything new since then. Play the clip for an excerpt from "A Moth To Flame."
In late 2006, now living as a civilian in Orlando, Florida, and just shy of 50 years old - fifteen years after getting out of the Air Force for the final time, and more than twenty years since writing his last song - Steve and his father conspired to have some of his old music recorded again, a full-blown professional-quality album this time. And as long as they were committing to the one-time investment, Steve decided to go all the way and seek the collaboration of renowned guitarist and bassist, Roman Morykit of Gypsy Soul (www.gypsysoul.com), who he'd met through his younger brother while laying down piano tracks on his earlier albums. Roman agreed to the project, but the trick was going to be fitting the recording time into his busy touring and performance schedule. In addition, it would have to be recorded at Roman's studio up in Seattle, Washington, which made the 'commute' from Orlando long and costly for Steve... but worth every penny.
The stars finally aligned sufficiently in March of 2007, and Steve flew up to Seattle - twice, the two visits separated by about a month - for two concentrated eight-day recording sessions. And in the process, laid down all of his piano, guitar and vocal tracks for all twelve songs, as well as most of Roman's many guitar and bass tracks. The rest of the instrumentation, as well as all the mixing and mastering, was completed by Roman on his own. And the result is the album featured on the main "MUSIC" page of this website, entitled "All But Forgotten"... Steve's "latest and last" musical effort.