RIDGEFIELD — On the eve of his 65th birthday, rocker Eddie Money is hoping all his Connecticut fans will queue up to get their own “Two Tickets To Paradise,” and check out his set at The Ridgefield Playhouse on March 20.
The “Money Man” extended that invitation to readers of The Newtown Bee during an interview ahead of the show. Newtown's own Doug Wahlberg is opening with his band, providing an added incentive to attend.
Money began coming to the attention of US audiences in 1977 when he released his debut album which contained the aforementioned single and the follow-up, “Baby Hold On.” On the heels of that release, Money began bouncing back and forth between concert stages and a variety of television appearances.
He said recently that his guest turns performing those singles on The Mike Douglas Show, The Merv Griffin Show, American Bandstand, Soul Train and his high-profile debut on Saturday Night Live in March 1978 cemented his popularity as an affable, yet hard-edged front man.
Often multi-tasking on his material playing saxophone or harmonica, Money amassed an impressive run with 14 singles hitting Billboard’s Top 100 in less than a decade, including “I Wanna Go Back,” “Walk on Water” and the catchy Ronnie Spector duet “Take Me Home Tonight,” all breaking into the Top 10.
Famously hailing from a family of New York City cops, Money — then Edward Mahoney — was two years into a law enforcement career of his own when he decided to follow his heart and pursue his true talent as a musician, songwriter and aspiring rock star by pulling up roots in the Big Apple and heading to Berkeley, California.
Upon his arrival, Money quickly put a band together finding that he could get regular work playing disco and R&B material in local clubs. But with dedication and persistence, he started building a following of fans clamoring for more and more of his own material.
His growing Bay Area fan base helped Money secure regular headline gigs and got him a spot on a talent showcase at the Winterland, where he caught the attention of promoter and concert impresario Bill Graham.
Graham took Money under his wing, acting more as a mentor than promoter, Money said, and helped him develop a keen understanding of the business end of show business, while honing his infectious stage presence.
Graham has been quoted as saying: “Eddie Money has it all … not only can he sing, write and play, but he is a natural performer.” Money said he also developed a strong friendship with Dick Clark that lasted long after numerous appearances on American Bandstand.
In addition to maintaining a busy touring schedule, Money has been featured on hit television shows like The King of Queens, where he performed for his good friend Kevin James; and The Drew Carey Show, where he played Mimi’s ex-husband.
Along with having sold more than 28 million records, Money’s songs have appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, and have recently been included in hit video games like Grand Theft Auto and Guitar Hero.
More recently, he has been joined on tour by his daughter, Jesse Money. Jesse, who was featured on MTV’s Rock The Cradle, is following in her dad's footsteps. Eddie and his wife Laurie also have four sons: Zachary, Joseph, Desmond, and Julian.
In an exclusive chat with The Bee ahead of his big birthday bash and concert in Ridgefield, Money jumped at the chance to open things up talking about his Connecticut fan base, and another of his passions: supporting injured and returning veterans.
Newtown Bee: So I see from your schedule that we’re going to see you a few times in Connecticut this year starting with your show March 20 in Ridgefield?
Eddie Money: Well my brother lives in Stamford so I’m in Connecticut a lot — and we have so many great fans in Connecticut. We play Mohegan Sun a lot and we’re all over the area. Not as many private jobs as we’d like — you know you get those private jobs and those women in their black dresses and pearls and they go crazy.
Bee: I know you’re a married man, Eddie, so let’s move swiftly away from that subject and on to the next question.
Money: Hey, we’re not allowed to eat but we can always sneak a peek at the menu once in awhile, right? The girls are prettier than ever out there and they all seem to end up at my shows. It’s great because I get to meet them all after the show when I’m out in the lobby selling T-shirts for the troops. You know I’m always thinking about our service men and women who are out there in places like Afghanistan with 90-pound packs on their backs walking around in 120 degree heat. So I sell T-shirts to help the troops and they’re not $90 like the shirts at a Rolling Stones concert. Just $25 bucks and the proceeds go to help our troops.
Bee: So you are still backing the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund?
Money: Yes, I wrote a song to honor them, “One More Soldier Coming Home,” and we (contribute) to two facilities. One in San Antonio with about 100 beds, and they just built another facility in Maryland. You know these kids come back from Afghanistan with these head trauma. These soldiers don’t just sign up for this because they’re gonna get something from the GI Bill. They love their country, they’re serving this country and they’re just great kids so they deserve all the help they can get.
Bee: So when I was thinking to myself, “when was the first time I first heard of Eddie Money?” It was on Saturday Night Live. And you came out there with such a combination of confidence and vulnerability. Was that a turning point for your career?
Money: It was great because I became friends with John Belushi, sadly I introduced him to the Chateau Marmont, the hotel where he died. On the night of that appearance I met Dan Aykroyd on the elevator and he asked me how I liked the show. But I had been so busy I had to admit to him I never saw the show before. So he says, “What do you mean? We’re one of the most popular shows on television.” And I had to remind him, “Hey buddy, I work every Saturday night! What are you talkin’ about?”
Bee: And here you are, still having your own Saturday Night Live every week since then, right?
Money: The shows are still going great, I’ve still got my voice, I got my weight down, and I still have enough hair to compensate.
Newtown Bee: And with 14 songs hitting the Top 100, several in the top 10, and a Grammy nomination — that’s a track record a lot of your peers would love to have, right?
Money: But it’s not enough to get me in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, is it?
Bee: Not this year, I guess...
Money: You also have REO Speedwagon, and Styx, and .38 Special and Peter Frampton — all my buddies. I’d like to see them all get in before me. I’m in the (Long Island) Music Hall of Fame with Kiss and Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand, Cyndi Lauper, so I’m in good company there. But for the kids someday, I hope it happens.
Newtown Bee: I often cite your song “Shakin” as a quintessential classic rock song. It has all the architecture that makes the best rock songs great.
Money: You know that would have been a much bigger hit for me but a lot of radio stations refused to play it because the programmers said I sang the lyrics “her tits are shakin’” That one line kept me off AM radio.
Bee: Let’s go back in time to before you even headed off to the west coast to start you music career. Were you a singer first, or did your first introduction to music come when you started playing saxophone?
Money: Back in the day, when I was in high school, my friends were all singing be-bop —- you know, “Life is But a Dream” and “You Belong to Me.” So I got turned onto that music really early singing with my friends in the basement hallway at my high school. My first rock band came out even before the Beatles. Then later I joined the Grapes of Wrath. But I remember singing along to the old transistor radios you used to pick up for five bucks. I’d be walking around with the earphone singing when I was eight or nine.
Bee: So when did you pick up the sax?
Money: When I went to junior college I was taking vocal lessons, and the teacher turned be on to King Curtis and Junior Walker. So I decided the saxophone is a natural extension of the human voice. And it was great for me because I could hit notes on the sax that I couldn’t hit with my voice. Plus the saxophone is a lot of fun. Another thing I like is, when you sing a song like “Baby Hold On” you can’t really change the words or the melody, but when you pick up the sax, it’s like an endless world of things you can explore, you know?
Bee: I also wanted to talk a little about your family. You have been bringing your daughter Jessie along with you as a backup vocalist for a few years now. But you also have four boys. Are any of them involved with your band or into their own musical careers?
Money: They are all great kids. My son Joe is into dub stepping, where there’s not a lot of vocals. He went to Berklee School of Music so he’s got a lot of education to back him up. Jessica is recording in Nashville right now, and she’s gonna come back on the road with me pretty soon. And the real surprise is Desmond. Look him up as DZ Money. He’s really got some great songs and he’s prepping a release now. I’m very excited about it — it’s gonna take off and he’s gonna do well.
Bee: You alluded to the fact that you were on a health track, but you’re also really out there in terms of your sobriety. So I imagine with the level of success you’ve had staying clean and sober, it’s got to break your heart when you see others in your world fall to addiction?
Money: It does. The thing is, when you’re in a spiritual program, you don’t want to get six months in and then go back out and be a newcomer again. It’s an honest and rigorous program of recovery — but alcoholism is cunning and baffling. It’s a hereditary disease. I get up every morning and I say I didn’t drink yesterday, I didn’t take any Vicodin, I didn’t snort any [expletive] cocaine, I didn’t take any Percocets, and you know what? I’m gonna have another good day today, folks are going to get a great show tonight, I’m going to sell T-shirts for the troops and hang out with my fans. Where would I be without the fans? People like you?
By the way, The Newtown Bee is a great paper. A lot of friends read it, and I’m looking forward to checking out this article.
Newtown-based The Doug Wahlberg Band has the opening set for Thursday night. Showtime is 8 pm. For tickets to see Eddie Money March 20 at the Ridgefield Playhouse, call 203-438-5795 or visit ridgefieldplayhouse.org.