"This is not an Ordinary Night."
(Ordinary Nights CD cover, 1996)
After Invented Memories, I returned to Pennsylvania for a reunion show with the original band in 1988.
It wasn't quite the last time we took to a stage.
We would perform five songs at my and Ellen's wedding reception in August of 1989, and that would be the final time we'd play together.
But the 1988 show was the final public performance.
Ellen couldn't make the show, but John DeHart returned on guitar and harmonica.
Richard Jensen played bass and acted as the band's musical director since I wasn't able to attend their rehearsals in Pennsylvania.
Kim and Lorelei Jensen returned to their roles on strings and keyboards, while Lorelei joined me on vocals
for the only full band performance of the duet Faster Than Light.
Kim (Weber) Randolph returned to sing.
Charlie Baker joined us on drums and had the time of his life, as evidenced in the video that remains of the concert.
State College was in the middle of a record several-week drought.
Of course it started to rain right before we were scheduled to perform, while equipment was unprotected on the stage.
It was just a cloudburst, but that night it poured, and the drought was broken.
Ask me, I still think we had something to do with it.
It was a nice sendoff for that phase of my career, while in Tampa, the new band was pretty much now in place.
In Tampa, the new G. E. Sassani & The Trigger-Finger Band was playing gigs.
Dale Keppley was now firmly entrenched on lead guitar.
Jeff Rott joined us on bass.
Donnie "The Animal" Melvan replaced Nolan on drums.
We also added a keyboard player named Jim Patterson.
While he would never serve on a CD, he was pretty much a part of the Tampa performing band for a couple of years.
We became house band for a club that catered to USF students.
We had some rather nice performances, but two stand out.
We played The State Theater in April of 1992 and ended up with what at that time was a record crowd.
The concert was sponsored by CAMS, and we used their Rolodex and spent a Sunday hand-delivering tickets that I sold over the phone.
It was one of the best performances of my life.
Everyone felt the energy of hundreds of fans in seats watching a true concert.
No club distractions. No dance floor or jukebox to compete with.
It was a truly memorable show on a stage that Ricky Skaggs took in a couple of weekends.
We even did a photo shoot at Al Lopez Park for promo shots to put on flyers and other ads.
I was also now hosting a talk show on local Tampa cable station.
It was called Focus.
I was making contacts there and was invited to write a Christmas special.
I delivered a script called Santa Claus Meets The Godfather.
The Don wanted to move in on Santa's action.
It included a spoof of a famous Godfather scene.
Santa would wake up in bed and there would be a head outline under the sheets with a blinking red light.
The implication was too horrific for the show's producers, and my special was cancelled.
But they felt a little bad for me and offered a concert special instead.
I took it, and we filmed a concert special that included the first songs that would end up on the next album.
We would return to Southern Sound Studios with Russ Birch back as engineer and record what would be our first release on CD.
Ordinary Nights was the result, and my favorite of my albums to date.
The CD featured 16 songs: A Long Way To Go, Ordinary Nights, Keep Up The Fight, Ivan, The Perfect Crime, Phantom In The Night,
Demons Deep Inside, A Prayer For Ellen, Gone, Elliott, Through These Eyes, You Better Be Right, Bottle Of Wine, That Sign, and Story Of My Life.
The band would feature:
Ellen Sassani on cello,
Dale Keppley on lead guitar and vocals,
Jeff Rott on bass and guitars,
Don "The Animal" Melvan on drums,
Daniel Swartwood on keyboards,
Bethe McDowall on flute,
and some guest musicians.
Keep Up The Fight was not originally scheduled to be on the CD.
I had written a song called Jane.
One night two Tampa police officers were gunned down by a dirtbag.
They weren't killed, but Mike Vigil was in a coma for quite some time.
It turned out I was teaching with his fiancée.
At the end of the school year we did a blowout for the kids where I was asked to write something to dedicate to Dianne and Mike.
I kept the music from Jane because I was in a pinch and wrote the words to Keep Up The Fight, which we also played at a biker event to raise money for his care.
Realizing it was a pretty good song, I went back in the studio after all the other tracks were in the can, and Russ formed a proxy band.
We rehearsed it and recorded it in a single day.
Jim Brown played guitar and bass, while Russ returned to drums.
Ivan is my favorite from the CD.
I created a medieval Russian tale and then wrote a song around that.
It featured my school's music director Bethe McDowall on flute and some very nice cello from Ellen.
Daniel Swartwood contributed some Russian scales to finish the song, and it remains a favorite.
The Perfect Crime, Bottle Of Wine, Elliott, and Gone were all recorded again to take advantage of the CD format.
I figured there were 16 songs, so fans might appreciate new versions of older songs.
Through These Eyes was actually recorded for the Invented Memories sessions, but not included in the final album.
We spruced it up here.
I wrote this at Veterans Memorial Pier across the Indian River from the shuttle launch pad when the Galileo probe was being launched.
You had to get your spot the day before.
I brought my guitar and wrote this looking at the shuttle on its pad bathed in lights.
That Sign has a long history.
It became a favorite of Ellen's after I wrote it, but I thought it too preachy.
Ron Adams also became a fan of the song and asked me to prepare to record it at a friend's studio in Ligonier, Pennsylvania one summer.
David Waters arranged a nice techno-pop version of the song, and I played the acoustic guitar and sang the vocals.
It grew on me, and I had Dan Swartwood reproduce that arrangement for the CD.
Story Of My Life really stroked my ego when I learned it was being played at a Sarasota gospel radio station.
I never intended the song as a gospel song but saw how it could have been interpreted that way
and loved the idea that someone took it upon themselves to play the track in that way.
A Prayer For Ellen was written for my wife Ellen.
One summer while I was touring arts festivals, I was away for her birthday but found myself staying in her old room at her dad's place that night.
I wrote the song then and ended up performing it for the first time the next day at the festival performance.
That same summer saw Tom Chapin, Harry Chapin's brother, also playing the festival.
I went to his show, but it started to rain, and everyone made a beeline for the cover of a nearby building with long stairway.
I noticed with the frenzy Tom's guitars were left unprotected on the stage.
I grabbed the two guitars and brought them to him under the cover where fans were gathered at the foot of the stairs.
He asked me if I played, and I told him I was also performing at the festival.
He told me to hang onto one of the guitars.
I followed his lead and together we performed WOLD for the gathering wet crowd.
The next day a local radio station picked up on the story, and I got to talk about it on the air.
It was a memorable tour, to be sure.
We ended up having tour T-shirts made with another original drawing from Ron Adams.
We called it The G. E. Sassani Pennsylvania Tour and listed the cities I played that year: Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Reading, State College and Jeannette.
I only have one remaining shirt that is too small for me to wear.
I have a nice shot of Ellen wearing one, however.
The CD photo was taken by Marvin West, who also took the promo shots for the State Theater concert.
We took real furniture and carried it down to the ocean at Sand Key Beach to set up the "living-room-on-the-shore" shot.
Marvin used infrared film to achieve the resolution, and we printed it with sepia ink to make it look like a very old photograph.
There were plenty of poses taken for the shot, and I was surprised how little notice people took of us carting around this living room set.
I thought the law would think we were dumping the stuff.
It's the most fun I ever had at a photo shoot, but that stuff was heavy, and it was a long way from the parking lot to the water.
The CD was dedicated to John DeHart's father, who passed away that year from lung cancer.
I hoped the loss would inspire John to give up the smoking habit he had developed, but it didn't.
All of the lyrics were printed on a 16-page booklet that came with the CD.
The release party was held at CAMS.
The stage there was small so that we could not perform as a band.
Ellen and I did most of the show, but Nolan, Dale, Jeff and even Daniel would take the stage during songs that featured them most.
There were about 100 in attendance, and we sold 67 copies of the CD in that one night.
Billie Noakes was generous with the facility, and though we offered her a cut, she refused to take a cent.
She considered it payback, because I was hosting Star Trek and movie nights with their PA and projection system.
I'm pretty sure I got the best end of the deal.
We also entered the world of the internet thanks to a friend I met playing the board game Risk online.
He was Tom Dantona, and he ran a website design company back in the day a presence on the web was very costly.
He developed our first web page and set it up so we could have music samples and an order form so that people could buy the CD.
For years he only charged a commission on credit card sales, and we enjoyed service for free because he believed in the music.
That led to distribution deals that saw units of 50 CD's at a clip going to places like Germany and Canada.
I hooked up with a Canadian musician I found years earlier going through discarded radio station albums.
His name was Lawrence Gowan, and we traded our music.
He ended up replacing Dennis DeYoung in Styx and likely wouldn't take my emails anymore.
All of this was thanks to Tom, who gave us an early edge on the technology of the internet.
Our Siberian husky Athena was put in charge of the site's "gossip" page, where she would reveal to the fans the secrets people feel free to talk about in front of the dog.
She ended up getting more email than the rest of the band combined.
Let's see if Aurora can break her record.
Ordinary Nights went into a second printing and remains the best-selling release I've ever had.
With about 2300 discs sold and another couple of hundred given away, I have few copies left.
Ordinary Nights would be followed by the longest dry spell I had in recording up until that time.
The band continued to play for years and eventually kind of fell apart.
Ellen and I started playing mostly acoustic shows and started a 10-year run at Tanya & Matt's Ice Creamiest.
Matt Walsh is still a good friend to this day, and I had a lot of fun over the years playing in that most unlikely of places.
Little did I know that I was making a connection that wouldn't bear fruit until after that 10-year run.
One of the workers and another friend of Matt's was Chris Cook.
Little did I know that Chris would end up salvaging not the next album, but one still in the making.
More on Chris and that effort later.
I was also breeding reptiles with my business Lost World Reptiles, and I was also unaware that the next millennium would see these two efforts collide.