I was tired of bands breaking up and decided to go out on my own; so from July 1976 till June 1977 I put together my solo act while working full-time at my brother John's spray painting shop (East Haven Finishing Company).. and No, he didn't paint cars! Also, during this time period Joe & I were writing and recording original music. ←Listen to the sample on the left. It's a home recording of a Joe & Bob original.
Although I didn't feel I was ready, my friend Harvey Thurrott ( Who called my act "A Band in a Suitcase") booked the act for the first time in June 1977 at McNaulty's Pub in Old Saybrook, CT. I played there every Saturday night from June through September 1977. From there I went to Barra's Cafe in Branford, CT where I performed every Friday and Saturday night from September 1977 'till June 1978. To the left you can hear a Barra's radio ad. Have a good time is an original recorded live on a small cassette tape player; a very poor recording but you can hear what the act sounded like back then. I'm playing an acoustic 12 string guitar, pedal bass, harmonica & drum machine... a one-man-band.
In 1977 I was working full time making $4.00 an hour at my brother's shop; that's $160.00 a week. On the weekends I made $75.00 a night at Barra's Cafe; that's $150.00 a week. I love to perform! It didn't take much to realize that this is something I should do full-time. So, I called my good friend Johnny Parris (Act 1 Entertainments) who had booked all my former bands. But he wasn't interested! He said "I already have a solo act". You see, at the time, solo acts were not much in demand.
In May 1978 I called him again. This time he asked "What are you doing tonight?" It was a Wednesday so I wasn't doing anything. Johnny booked me that night and came to see my one-man-band act and loved it. Within a very short time Act 1 went from booking bands to booking Solo and Duo acts. He would tell his artists, "Go see Bob Mel and do what he does".
This relationship worked well and soon I was working six nights a week.
"BK" . . . Before Karaoke
In 1978 Johnny gave me a MMO (Music Minus One) vinyl record of Beatle songs. MMO was (is) a company that produces records minus one instrument; so if you want to learn guitar, keyboard, sax or any instrument you could play along with a full band. The record Johnny gave me was minus the vocals. He thought I could sit on my stool and play along with the record.
I had a different idea: I recorded the backgrounds on cassette tape; walked around the audience and got them to sing little bits with me like, "You're sixteen, you're beautiful and you're mine". This caught on BIG TIME! I bought every MMO record I could find. I was, to the best of my knowlege, the only one doing this. Soon fans were singing entire songs during my show; and this was years before the word Karaoke (which means: empty-orchastra) was ever thought of.
Bob Aug 1979 at the "Ground Round" in Newington CT
The picture to the right is a shot of my set-up in August 1979, a little over two years as a Solo Act (full time, one year). I sat down to play the pedal base which resembled the pedals on an organ, in a portable form. Oh, and I played without my left shoe on so I could feel the pedals better!
To my left was the first drum machine (high tech for the time!), which I affectionately named "Little Dicky" after Rick, the drummer in my groups! I called the base peddles "Little Fenny", but only a few folks understand why! During this period I began going out into my audience to have people sing with me. It was pre-wireless, so a very long cord trailed behind me. The servers in those days really had to watch out for me!!
Back of vinyl EP (Extended play)
I signed a management contract with Thomas "Doc" Cavalier in 1979 and recorded my first solo EP record in 1980. I recorded 4 songs: Because of You, Big Mary, Miss Punctuality and Your Love Is All I Feel.