David Stefanelli. Drummer, percussionist, guitarist, and music producer.



Peter Wolf (Part 1)

“Well hold on. This song has a little introduction to it. It ain’t supposed to be sad though you might feel it that way. It’s a song about desperation. Every now and then we do get desperate. And this is a song about L O V E!... and if you abuse it, you gonna lose it, and if you lose it, you gonna abuse it, and if you abuse it, you ain’t gonna be able to choose it, cause you ain’t gonna have it further on down the line, and things ain’t gonna be so fine, you gonna be sittin’ on your little machine, tryin’ lookin’ to keep it clean, you gonna be playin’ BINGO all night all alone, that’s why you’re sittin’ there by the telephone, and you know that SHE AIN’T GOING TO CALL YOU!”

If you listen to any classic rock station today or thankfully if you lived through the actual great, past, era of rock, you will recognize these words immediately. If you don’t then I’d like you to read the sentences aloud and as fast as you can. It’s a tongue twister. THAT is the great Peter Wolf from the equally great J. Geils Band and that is a partial section of his introduction rap to the J. Geils track “Musta Got Lost”, recorded live. This track and a slew of other crazy tracks are from the band’s hugely successful live album, “Blow Your Face Out”. If you have never heard this, I urge you to listen to it.

It Begins With Our Friend Jerry

One of my best friends back in the day was a local paisan from Somerville. Jerry Antonelli. We called him “Twanne”. Still do. Jerry is indeed a fanatical music fan and follower and a true friend. He is also a wonderful piano player. Jerry worked in retail all over Boston at one time or another. Boston Music Company, E. U. Wurlitzers, Strawberries, etc. He sold instruments and anything that had to do with music. Jerry has another gift; he can get himself into any place and any situation. For example: He was the only one who got into a backstage situation with mime star, Marcel Marceau and got to have a one on one with him. At a local concert he brought the band “The Police” their transcribed song books before they saw them. He got word to them and ended up ushered to backstage hanging with Sting, Stew, and Andy. Jerry knew everyone…or would in the not too distant future.

Meeting Peter Wolf

It was the very early 1980’s and I had got my feet wet recording with and for Robert Ellis Orrall in several studios. I also began my long career of recording for jingle houses in the area. Mostly I worked for Handsome Brothers Music Service. I got hooked up with this great situation through Robert’s band members, Kook Lawry and Don Walden. I had a pretty good awareness of how recording worked and was learning more and more each week. Confidence really was building.

Around this time, Jerry Antonelli began helping Peter Wolf (that he met while working at a Boston music store) by impromptu jams with Peter. Jerry, with his ever present oodles of fake books on hand, would entice Pete to sing different standards and hits. It’s important to point out that Peter had just recently gone through the awful breakup of the J. Geils Band at the height of their success. Peter was a bit distant and very cautious during this time. Although Peter knew everyone in the business he was defiantly undecided of which path he should choose to move forward.

“Lemme Hear Ya Play A Fatback!”

Jerry called me one afternoon and sounded more anxious than usual. “Hey! What are you doing Friday? Can you bring your kit over to my parent’s basement around 1pm? I got Wolf coming over and I want him to meet you.” I asked Jerry if Peter knew I was going to be there but Jerry only replied “Just be there!”

On Friday I showed up at his parent’s Somerville house and set up a small kit in the basement. Jerry had his electric keyboard setup and a small amp with a vocal mic. Jerry went upstairs after welcoming me and was gone for some time after that. It was well past 1pm and I was just sitting there alone. I heard the cellar door open and down the stairs came a very thin person dressed entirely in black carrying a guitar case. It was Peter Wolf. Immediately following Peter was Jerry. After a quick introduction by Jerry, Peter opened his guitar case and strapped on an electric Gibson. Jerry jumped onto his keys and began to accompany Peter. I just sat and listened. Not much was said by anyone.

After a few minutes of them both jamming Jerry said aloud “David, jump on the kit will ya?” Now I must say that I did feel a bit uncomfortable with this request although I wanted nothing more. Wolf is not a man of many words if he does not know you and for sure I didn’t want this to seem like a trap for Peter to hear me drum. I know now that it indeed was the confident and sometimes diabolical work of our pal, Jerry.

I saddled up and joined in. There were a lot of old Hank Williams and blues standards being played and I did what I was supposed to on the kit. It was fun. It was casual. Everyone was enjoying themselves. I think.

After a short time Jerry excused himself and quickly headed upstairs. Jerry does nothing slowly. There was Peter and myself alone in complete silence. I’m never silent. Peter started asking me some general questions in that unique, jive talking, silky voice of his that I knew from his records and from seeing the J. Geils Band live. “Where you from? Who do you play with?” Pete asked. That went on for a couple minutes. But then Peter started asking things like “Lemme hear ya play a fatback!, How ‘bout a New Orleans shuffle?” It was Peter’s way of testing you. He was having fun. Of course I played it all for him best I could. I smiled at him and he gave a bit of a combo smirk-smile back at me. I liked Peter Wolf.

“Great Coogly Moogly!”

We became casual friends and ended up with me and my musical comrades helping Peter out here and there in local studios as he wrote and recorded demos for his future releases. Pete always had a huge corral of local and not so local musicians that he called upon. He always had GREAT players and singers. More on that in a bit.

The DJ With The Green Teeth

Peter is a musicologist. His modest apartment in downtown Boston revealed this as soon as you entered. His awareness and knowledge of ALL music is stunning. And his actual music collection is equally stunning. When I visited he would always talk about music. It could be maybe some classic Dylan song he wanted to play for me as he searched through his hoarded collection of vinyl until he found it. He would then play it on his stereo equipped with a turntable and then switch to a deep cut by Don Covay doing the same type of search through his collection. At one time Peter was married to actress Faye Dunaway. Faye surprised Peter by having his entire living area fashioned with shelves to house his HUGE vinyl collection. From floor to ceiling. ALL vinyl records. She hired local contractors to build these shelves while Peter was away. It was a complete music library. It was Peter Wolf.

I should mention that Pete’s beginnings in Boston included him as a radio DJ on the infamous Boston station, WBCN. It’s clear to see his style was indeed hatched from who he listened to on the radio as a kid growing up in the Bronx. He was a huge fan of notable DJ’s popular in the late 50’s and 60’s including the likes of Philadelphia’s Jerry Blavat also known as “The Geator with the Heater”. (I would end up meeting Jerry when we toured with Peter.) These DJ’s on early rock radio were mostly white guys who would sound black on radio. Many would talk in rhyming, rap, slang as they introduced the next song to be played. Peter would become really great at this way of talking both on radio and on stage. Pete was a natural. His rapping on the radio helped him to create his own persona which was “The Woofa Goofa Mama Toofa with the Green Teeth!”

I would venture up to his apartment on Boylston Street in Boston for both a visit and a music history lesson. He loved this. It’s one of his great enjoyments being the wise one with a vast knowledge of music. I earned the nickname “Young David” from Pete. He’d make fun of me if I wasn’t familiar with a track or artist and accuse me of listening to only “Knight Ranger”. I really do like Peter Wolf.

The “Dummos”

Peter, in his never ending search for both writing partners and musicians to work with, ended up for a bit with myself on drums, Brian Maes on keyboards, Don Walden on bass, and Kook Lawry on guitar all working together in local studios cutting demos for Peter. I remember working on basic “Dummos”, Wolf’s alternate phrase for “Demos” which were demonstration recordings meaning they were experimental so you could try this and that with the song ideas. Songs we worked on were “Come As You Are” and I believe “Lights Out” among others. Many of these songs ended up on Peter’s solo albums. Unfortunately for us he used other musicians to cut the actual tracks that would be released. I was disappointed but not defeated.

Peter Wolf And The Houseparty 5

A local entertainment lawyer named Frank Cimler entered the scene helping Peter out during the 1990’s. Frank was indeed trying to get things moving for Pete by having him perform live. Frank is a true GO GETTER. Never to be stopped! He had his mission. A show presented itself where Peter was asked to perform at an event being put on by a Harley Davidson dealership in New Hampshire. Frank got Peter to agree to it and sent out his feelers into the Boston music community that Wolf was looking to do a show and needed a band.

Some of it is a bit foggy but it ended up being myself, guitarist Johnny A, keyboardist Brian Maes, and bassist Tim Archibald jamming together at a place called B3 Rentals located in the waterfront area of Boston. Frank got this all together and Pete would make his way down to see if this line up would “do it” for him. Of course we had a past with Peter so we knew what to expect. Tim was an RTZ member around this time as were Brian and I so we had played together quite a bit and filled him in as well. We all knew Johnny for quite some time so that was all good too.

This rental-rehearsal place was called “B3 Rentals and Rehearsals” or something close to that. The place was run by a keyboardist and Hammond B3 specialist named Doug Dube. Doug was and is an amazing Hammond B3 player as well as being sort of a mad scientist with his ability to “soup-up” these Hammond organs so that they sounded hotter and more aggressive than most. Seth Justman, J. Geils keyboardist extraordinaire, was a client of Doug. The Geils band had that amazing B3 organ sound you can feel as well as hear. Doug was pals with Wolf and would end up splitting the keyboard duties with Brian. It was Doug on Hammond organ and Brian on piano and synth.

We met late afternoons and early evenings and started jamming and learning some classic J. Geils tunes without Wolf. Several rehearsals went by. No Wolf. The band was sounding great. We had all worked together in one form or another except for Doug. He was indeed amazing on that B3. This band jelled immediately. Now if we could get a singer!

A few rehearsals in one night as we were jamming, the door opened and in came Peter Wolf. We didn’t stop playing. We kept on wailing through the song hoping Pete would grab the mic join in. Nope. Wolf just stared and listened. He’d nod to the groove and move over to Johnny and point to him to solo. Then he’d slip over to Brian and Doug doing the same thing. The Peter Wolf Testing Method Of Blue Eyed Funk & Soul Rock & Roll. I have witnessed this before. It was good to see Pete. We jammed a few songs that Peter requested. We were ready as a band. We had done our “Homework” (pun intended). This went on all night at that rehearsal but no singing from Wolf.

We did many more rehearsals when finally Wolf would grab his mic and sing a couple lines of the song then stop. I hasten to add that this band indeed sounded amazing. Tight as they come. Pete started to do some jesters during these songs signaling us to break it down or stab some kicks just like you would see with James Brown and his band. Little by little Pete would sing more and more. More signals. More tests. And he REALLY started getting into it. He knew. It was obvious. This lineup could really deliver. We didn’t try to copy the J. Geils Band but grabbed the essence of the band and of course played the songs the way they were to be played. We had our own thing going. We did all the huge hits like Centerfold and Love Stinks but for me and the rest of the band it was more exciting for us to do the classics from the early days of the Geils band. Songs like Homework, First I Look At The Purse, Sanctuary, So Sharp, Detroit Breakdown, Serves You Right To Suffer, Teresa, Musta Got Lost, Give It To Me, etc. And we learned them all plus some!

What Now?

We rehearsed and then rehearsed some more. Weeks went by. More rehearsals. Pete was singing it all and we got a huge set together for the show. And an exciting show it was. Playing in a band with Wolf is the best and also the most commanding. The energy level is crazy. Imagine sitting in an enclosed 10’x10’ room and lighting off 1000 bottle rockets. That’s Wolf’s energy level. He was a rocket fueled pogo stick with more energy and coolness than anyone I had ever seen. Then it happened. The show got cancelled for some reason or another. We were devastated.

We took a break after one rehearsal and Peter and I were standing alone. Wolf said to me “The band really sounds good.” Of course I agreed and immediately replied “Pete it is amazing. Let’s just do it. Book some dates. Get back on the road. Fuck worrying about anything including writing or new albums or whatever. You got us all. We are ready. Just do it.”

{End Part 1}

Read Part 2

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David Stefanelli, Zildjian endorsed.

David Stefanelli uses TOCA percussion instruments.

David Stefanelli uses Zager guitars.