Phil Falcocchio

Drums, Back-up Vocals. Phil's early friendship with a local virtuoso named Billy Tragesser and Billy's father, Zeke, started him playing professionally at the age of 13 with jazz and jazz/bop groups in and around the Pittsburgh area. As a young teenager, he worked many of the area's jazz rooms. And, although he appreciated local jazz acts like Gene Lugwig and Walt Harper, he was more excited about the possibility of playing rock with guys his own age. His Rock & Rolling began with a band called the Starfires in 1963. The band worked a lot of teen gigs, but they were also the house band at the Red Rooster Teenage Night Club in Greensburg, PA. They backed acts such as Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Jive Five, Lou Christie, Sonny & Cher, Simon & Garfunkel and many others. In '65, his friendship with a DJ named Stan Wall from Greensburg's WHJB, landed him an audition with a popular Pittsburgh group called the Fenways. They had regional success with songs like Walk (a Gene Pitney cover), and Be Careful Little Girl, which was an original of the band. The band kept very busy in and around the Pittsburgh area. In '66 Phil was drafted like so many others back then. There wasn't much rock & roll in the military. He spent 2 years in the service, including 15 months in combat in the 1/26 Inf., 1st Infantry Division. "I was anxious to get a clean bill of health from the Army hospital in Oakland, CA, so that I could be discharged. I was there for lingering physical problems, but had no major injuries. I'd tell anyone who would listen that I was well enough to leave. Once, I told this to a corpsman at the hospital. He answered me by saying, I know where you've been, I was there too, and we might get better, but we'll never be well again." In March of 1968 Phil was discharged. Things had changed in the music business, and also with him. He was physically and mentally spent at 22. Music just wasn't important any more. In July of '68, The Starfires, who were now the Napoleonic Wars, asked him to join them on a gig and hang around for fun. The band had become a direct copy of Paul Revere & The Raiders, right down to the costumes and guitar fights. They worked mostly shows in Western PA and even toured with the Dick Clark Caravan. The drummer was leaving the band, and they decided to shed the costumes and take on a new identity and a new drummer, Phil. Gigs were scarce in Western PA though, and the band knew that it had to make a move soon or else. Friends of the band had gone to New England to work the clubs up and down the east coast. The word was that bands could get work, a week or two at a time, and still keep in close proximity to NYC, in the hopes they might be able to book a couple of gigs there. Off to New England they went to meet a promoter by the name of Eddie Vallone, who would book and promote the band. They made it to NYC, changed their name to Gingerbread, found their hotel and put their truck with all of their equipment in a "secure" lot. The following morning, they found their truck, but all of their equipment was gone. It was time to re-group. They went back home to get new equipment so that they could do what they set out to do. They began in a club in East Orange, NJ, and it didn't go well at all. They realized that their music and show needed to be upgraded. They worked a few small joints and then began working places like Trudi Heller's in the Village, and Arthur in New Haven, CT. They did a little recording, but nothing came of it. The band's biggest claim to fame was using a substitute guitarist who turned out later to be none other than Steven "Little Stevie" Van Zandt. The work was plentiful in New England, but Phil couldn't stand one more minute in a car or truck going to another gig. It wasn't going anywhere and he wanted to head home. Back in Pittsburgh, Phil was asked to join The Racket Squad. They were doing the hotel circuit. It was very boring. One night while playing, he turned toward the organist and caught him dozing while he was playing. Eventually, his luck improved and while playing a gig he looked out in the audience to see some familiar faces from the past. These guys were in a local band known as The Raconteurs, and they were now ex-members of the Shondells. Mike Vucish, Ron Rosman and Eddie Grey along with another ex-member of the Shondells, Pete Lucia, wanted to put something new together and asked Phil to join the cause. Phil was up for this. The band, Hog Heaven, rehearsed and wrote for a few months and eventually went to New York to strike a deal. The music was exciting and new for the time. Business differences led to the departure of Phil from Hog Heaven. He, Ron Rosman and Eddie Grey came back to the Pittsburgh area to form Shadraque, which was very similar to Hog Heaven in that their music was a very funky type of country rock. The band worked steadily, but eventually came to an end as well. In 1972, Phil began working with B.E. Taylor and four others in a Youngstown, OH based rock and soul band called Coconut. The band was comprised of 5 former lead singers and Phil. He said that he had never been so intimidated in his life while playing in a band. "The guys were so talented, both vocally and instrumentally, that we would meet on Monday at The Apartment in Youngstown and play pinball machines while we picked songs. We would return on Wednesday with equipment and play the songs we picked. The guys knew all of the vocal and instrumental parts. It was just a matter of playing through it once or twice". It was a long drive to Youngstown from his home and it eventually came to an end. Moving to Ohio was not an option. For most of the 70's, Phil worked in studios doing radio and TV commercials and took many gigs with larger orchestras, playing for circuses and a variety of shows at the Stanley and Nixon theatres in Pittsburgh. As a matter of fact, at one point, he and another musician thought seriously of running away with a couple of the circuses that came to Pittsburgh. In 1976, Phil went back to school and joined the rest of the 9 to 5ers, growing a family and supporting them. In the 80s and 90s he continued to get calls to play, and sometimes went depending on the gig, but the sense of urgency and desire to prove something was gone. It was all for fun now. By 2005, Phil had pretty much resigned himself to the idea that his musical career was over. He hadn't played in almost 3 years and saw no reason to get involved any longer. His son, P.J. who is a drummer, guitarist and vocalist was embarking on his own career as a musician, and Phil was enjoying watching on the sidelines. On a chance meeting with an old friend, Johnny Marsiglio (a hometown rock guru and singer), Phil was invited to come to the next gig of Johnny's band, The Knobs. The band did originals, and songs from the 60s and 70s, but they did it in their own very entertaining way. He sat in for a song or two, and really enjoyed the band, the music, and the crowd's response. Phil didn't realize it at the time, but the present drummer with the band, who was also the guitar player's son, was about to leave the band and Phil was going to be asked to join. He was reluctant at first, but joined anyway and hasn't regretted one moment since. Music is fun now. After all these years, the realization is this: Success truly is relative. Packing a small club in Pittsburgh is success. When there are so many people in the club that you can't see over them, and they enjoy everything you do, then your successful. It doesn't need to be an arena full of people. I wish I had realized this years ago. Music would have been so much more fun, and I probably would have been more fun to be around as well.