“I never made it to the Ed Sullivan Show, but I sang the national anthem at Giants Stadium before a Cowboys game, that was a goal,” laughs Pat Guadagno, talking about what he hopes to accomplish with his music. “I heard Vin Scelsa play one of my records on his radio program; that was too. It may sound corny, but my real goal has always been to touch people with the music that comes from my soul. There is no feeling like that of being connected to someone across the room from you. I hope to never get used to it, expect it to happen, or understand where it comes from.”
Pat has been a major figure at the Jersey Shore for years, almost reaching legendary status with his constant performing, and his work on benefit shows with Big Joe Henry, the famed radio voice from NJ 101.5. So it may come as a surprise to many that it has taken him until now to put out his first studio CD, New Jersey Material. “As a ‘saloon singer,’ I do 10 shows a week in the summer, and in the winter months I try and book Mexico, Puerto Rico, Key West, and warmer climates. So carving the time out to record is difficult.”
The album is unusual in that it’s all songs that Pat has come to love over the years by other artists. He is a unique “song stylist,” in that he has a way of interpreting the music to make it his own. Whether it’s a serious song, or a fun romp such as “People My Age,” he is able to reach out and grab your ear. And what musician hasn’t felt the feelings he expresses in “This Guitar Is For Sale?”
Besides the heartfelt and expressive lyrical content, Pat has developed a finger picking style that rivals anyone you might hear on any stage. Adding to it are guest appearances by such notable musicians as blues guitarist Keb’ Mo’, and Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Buck Dharma. “Rather than go out and find technicians to play the notes I feel belong on the track, I select musicians I like and admire to put a little bit of themselves on my record,” says Pat. “I have been blessed with excellent musicians who are fun to hang with. My core guys are Phil “Red River” Rizzo, Rich Oddo and Rene Wolley. Guests also included Harry Stinson, Joe Peterson, and Rob Paparozzi.”
Though it took Pat a long time to put out the CD, he actually started tracks for it a long while ago. “The first tracks were recorded in Nashville in 1997. It moved through three or four different studios, adding and subtracting, until Buck Dharma played the definitive guitar part on there a few years back and it was done. Some tracks were lost and had to be redone when one of the studios I was working at, in New Orleans, was hit and destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.”
The album has folk, country, and rock influences, and even some pop similarities to Matchbox Twenty or Dave Matthews. “When I am asked to describe my music, I am a folk singer and I play folk music,” states Pat. “There are country influences because I find so much of my material in Nashville, where I go as often as I can, just so I don’t lose that country influence.” As far as other influences, there are many that aren’t household names, as you might expect. “I have to say Richie Havens and Joe Cocker right off the bat, because they were unafraid, and successful, at taking other peoples music and making it their own. It is a time honored craft that doesn’t get much industry respect in the ‘singer-songwriter’ era we are in. The world forgot about Jule Styne and Tin Pan Alley. And as a performer, any guitar player from New Jersey who has ever seen Springsteen on stage was influenced by him. I saw him at a YMCA dance and saved up for a green Epiphone.”
When you go to a Pat Guadagno show, you’ll hear great versions of songs you know, as well as forgotten classics. “This album is mostly songs that you can’t listen to while watching a hockey game, so I don’t do a lot of them in clubs,” he explains. “On rare occasion I’ll play ‘Gravedigger,’ just to test it out and see if everyone loves it as much as I do, and it always stuns them.”
Pat’s artistry has attracted fans from the music world as well, which is how Keb’ Mo’ ended up on the recording. “I opened a couple of shows for Keb’, who happens to be an excellent musician and a good hang,” Pat recalls. “He liked one of the songs I did and offered to play on the track if I ever recorded it. Keb’s free time dwindled considerably after every Grammy, but we managed to hook up on his last tour through New Jersey.”
One of the bigger shows Pat does every year is BobFest, which happened last month at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. The show has become an annual event on Dylan’s birthday. The show originated out of a jam session at the Downtown Café in Red Bank. “We were playing ‘see how many Dylan songs the fat guy can sing’ game,” Pat laughs.
If you’re a music fan, you owe it to yourself to check out Pat at one of his local shore haunts, which he’ll be hitting with extreme regularity this summer.
“There are a ton of great songs out there that need to be heard,” is how Pat sums up his life as a minstrel. “My job is to play them.” You can find out where to see Pat at patguadagno.com.