I am adopted and could not have grown up in a more loving supportive environment. My parents are still in love and married over 60 years.
My dad is 84 and my Mom is 79. My dad still throws my paper route I had as a kid for our hometown paper “The Leader” Here is a photo of him in action:
Growing up in Houston I had an unusual amount of good friends that were Italians. Chris Sacco, Nick Russo, Louis Romano and Sam Zarzana. I went to the Italian Festival in Houston and I still do when I am not touring. I also was drawn to Italian guitar players. Growing up that was remarkably peculiar since I thought my adopted heritage was Irish, French and American Indian. I later learned when my birth mother found me that the information given to my parents from Catholic Charities only covered her side. My father was Italian and my Grandfather was from Spain. I started out in the art world and I absolutely adored Salvador Dali who is from Spain. Finding out that my birth father played guitar as well is just plain eerie.
Well over 50 times in my life I have been told I favor Sylvester Stallone. It happens so often that when I am approached by a stranger and they say “You know who you look like?” My friend that is with me will often beat them to the punch and say “Sylvester Stallone” I am a big fan of Rutgers University Biological Anthropologist Helen Fisher. In her pivotal book Why Him? Why Her?: Finding Real Love By Understanding Your Personality Type she brilliantly explains how 50% of our personality, character traits and what we are attracted to is innate. The other half is learned by the way we are raised and our environment. Now that I look back on this I completely agree with her and I am my own living proof that this is inescapable.
I could never explain why I listened to Italian guitarist Al Dimeola so much all those years. Why Tiramisu was my favorite dessert. Why I would always want to go with my high school bassist Willie Anglin to Depaul’s Italian Restaurant on Sheperd and get The Lobster Ravioli. The only reason I even thought of trying Tiramisu was because Al Dimeola had an album titled “Tiramisu” and I looked up what that meant and started to notice it on the menu at Italian restaurants. I also went to Italy with Erin Gilmore and I felt so at home in that country and I have always said I will eventually buy a home there like George Clooney did and I will. If that wasn’t enough my favorite movie hands down is Rocky. It is a great movie and considered by The American Film Institute as One of the Greatest Motion Pictures of all time.
I encourage you to embrace your heritage and talk to your Grandparent’s and find out everything you can. If you are adopted like me there are great resources with the internet these days that make it a lot easier to find your roots. Also remember that the other 50% of your personality and likes are cultivated and learned. Talent isn’t born into you completely. It is learned, my Grandmother was of Czech Heritage and my Grandfather was Jewish. I learned all my business acumen and my work ethic from my adopted family. My mother also sings and loves music. I got very lucky to have the tough genetics I have and equally luck to be raised by the most amazing set of folks one could ever ask for.
Antoinette is my birth mother’s name and she is one tough chick as is my half brother Jimmy. How are those for a couple of telling names of Italian origin? “Antoinette and Jimmy” eh fuggedaboutit!
Clark Erickson, Tex Bosley, Elliot Morgan and I recorded a jam session a few weeks ago at Reeltime Audio with Eric Delegard. It came out great and is some of our best work yet. I was playing the tracks for some dear friends at a BBQ at my home. My friend Trey commented that on one of the tracks I sounded like Joe Satriani. That is a great compliment as Joe is a great player and an Italian of course. I was listening to last track “Toro” we recorded and it hit me how much I hear Al Dimeola’s playing in my style. When you improvise the way we did it pulls back the curtain and reveals your inner true self. All of this has been a trip and I look forward to continuing the shiny path to being the best I can be.