Please click on any of the photos directly above to proceed to those pages.


Finally, after much pleading from family and friends, I have decided to post both the studio and "live" to two-track demo versions of the Vision songs. If you are interested in hearing them - please click on the VisionTunes links directly below.

After Happy the Man broke up, Stan Whitaker and I decided to start a rock band and chart a new course, which included moving from the D.C. area up to New York. Stan was still thinking Peter Gabriel - and he made a tape of "guitar noises" at Gabriel's request - and sent it to him. I am not sure what really went down, but in the end Stan opted to move to New York and make a go of the Vision project. We had a singer named Rocky Ruckman, who had opened for "Happy the Man" in his band "Skywalker" at a show in Cumberland, Maryland. Stan thought Rocky was one of the best rock vocalists he had ever heard, and I was also very excited about the remarkable range, grit and power that Rocky had in his voice.

TOP PHOTO, From Left to Right: David Hayden, Rick Kennell, Stan Whiatker, Shannon Ford and Rocky Ruckman.

Rocky had a friend and keyboardist named David Hayden, and we invited him to join. We settled on Shannon Ford on drums, who we had always admired in D.C. as the drummer for Tim Eyermann's East Coast Offering. Shannon went on to play with Paul Simon, The Gatlin Brothers, Danny Gatton, Robert Gordon, Lou Christie and Roger Miller, among others. So, the five of us gathered much of the "Happy the Man" crew, and with wives and girlfriends in tow we moved to Lexington, New York, above Woodstock. We found a summer stock theatre there which rented us the entire complex during the off-season, so we divided into smaller groups and stayed in the houses on the property. When winter came we were in for a bit of a shock as some of the buildings were not winterized. What fun.

We jumped right in on an interesting batch of original tunes. Working with Rocky proved to be another dimension of amazement for me, as he could write lyrics almost at will. I had never been around anyone like that. I am not just talking about average lyrics here, the guy was a prolific story teller and could come up with solid lyrical ideas virtually on the spot. While we were working on the music Rocky would slip into the next room and work on the lyrics. By the time we had the song roughed out, he would usually have the lyrics and melodies ready.


One day we were cruising through Fishkill, New York and we noticed a dance club called "Capricorn II" right on Main Street. We stopped in and the owner Sal was hanging around and we convinced him to let us do a show there. We loved the set-up - it was one of the only clubs we had seen that had a glass wall dividing the club in half. You could still see the band onstage through the glass - but you could sit in the back part of the room and carry on a reasonable conversation. It was a strange scene at first, as the crowd was used to a heavy dose of Michael Jackson and the other dance music hits of the day. We rocked our asses off during the sets and they played dance music during the breaks - and everyone was happy.

The first show went really well, we rallied the troops and our fans showed up in droves - and they had to turn away a number of people at the door. We were booked back in on a regular basis and Kevin Brenner's Creative Talent Associates (CTA) caught wind of us and offered to book us. They had all the hot circuit bands of the moment such as Twisted Sister, The Good Rats and Rat Race Choir. They plugged us into the regional club circuit - which included Brandies in Poughkeepsie, Fore and Aft in Brewster, Gemini II in Yorktown Heights - and because we opened the door to rock at the Capricorn II it allowed CTA to open the room to their other bands. However, at that point we were the only all-original band they were booking - without a record deal. We didn't do covers because we didn't have to. Our originals were carrying the day.


We started spreading the roughs we had of the band to our limited business contacts in and around New York City. I think it was somewhere around this time that David Hayden decided to leave the band, and we replaced him with David Bach - an original member of "Shady Grove" Stan's army brat band in Germany.

We realized the way to go was to score a manager. We had heard that Irving Azoff's Front Line Management had opened a New York office operated by Michael Klenfner. I tried and tried to get through on the phone, but I had no luck in getting a call back. I had realized at this point that sending a tape unsolicited was a total waste of time.

On one of my trips to New York City, I tucked a sleeping bag under my arm and headed over to Klenfner's office. When I walked in - the waiting room was nearly full and I noticed the look of surprise on the face of the receptionist. She asked if she could help me. I took a seat and proclaimed from across the room "I am here to see Michael Klenfner and I am not leaving until I do." She had a very puzzled look on her face and disappeared into the back. Within a minute or so, Michael walked in, shook my hand and said, "Listen, I am a very busy man, what can I do for you?" I simply said - " I wanted to deliver this tape to you personally, I happen to know it's something that you are interested in". He then said - "I will give it a listen and get back to you in a couple of weeks." I said - "No you won't - your curiosity has the best of you and you are going to listen to it right now - and get back to me by early tomorrow - so we can meet while I am still in New York City." He shook his head in mock disgust but I could see the twinkle in his eye. I befriended the receptionist and we chit chatted for a couple of minutes, and as I was leaving I could hear our tracks being played in the back office.

He called me the next morning and long story short, Michael offered us a management contract with Front Line and started plans to showcase us to his contacts in the industry. We did the showcase before the contract was finalized and afterwards the band was perturbed because Michael was able to get record company money to do the showcase - but he never reimbursed any of our expenses. Needless to say, this didn't go down very well.


One of the members of the showcase audience was producer Eddie Kramer of Hendrix and Led Zeppelin fame. He was infatuated with the band and we spent some time with him after the showcase. He told us maybe we should consider a manager friend of his - Dee Anthony. Dee was managing or had managed, not only Peter Frampton, but also Jethro Tull, and King Crimson, bands who we felt more of an affinity with.

Eddie set up a meeting for us with Dee at his plush apartment in New York, and after several hours his stories and charm had us hooked. Below is a later photo of us with Dee in his office, after a meeting at Mariella's for pizza and, as always, he gave us $100 to pay our expenses back to Lexington.

From Left to Right: Rick Kennell, Stan Whitaker, David Hayden, Rocky Ruckman, Dee Anthony and Shannon Ford.

Eddie offered us a production contract and after it was signed, he rehearsed us for a few days and took us into a little recording studio in Briarcliff Manor. The studio was actually in the back of a Volvo dealership and was run by the owner's son Mike Scott. Bands like Hall and Oates and Foreigner used the studio to rehearse and Eddie was a mad man during the recording process. I remember during a take watching him take off his shirt and swing it cowboy style over his head to inspire us. He also took a chunk out of the naugahyde on the Harrison console by biting it with his teeth. We recorded eight tunes in one day, mostly in one or two takes with a few punch ins. At the end of the day Eddie mixed everything on the fly. He and Dee then circulated it among their friends in the industry and scheduled a showcase at the Ritz in New York City for a month or so later.


In the meantime, Dee was pitching Universal for us to do the soundtrack for the movie "Night Hawks" with Sylvester Stallone and Lindsay Wagner. We were doing a show in Poughkeepsie and Dee decided to bring Lindsay and some other VIP's from the movie up to see the band. The club owner found out they were coming and had their limo met at the highway with a full police escort. It scared them to death, and we were severely reprimanded - even though we had nothing to do with it. It makes for a good story - as apparently they were in the middle of some questionable recreational activities and they certainly didn't appreciate what they thought was a very unwelcome police intrusion.

Once the band started the show, I noticed right away that Rocky was having some trouble with his voice. The very top of his range didn't seem to be there and he was re-writing the melodies on the spot to compensate. We took a break after the third song or so to see what was going on. Rocky was as bewildered as anyone and had no idea what was happening with his voice. We were puzzled, because he hadn't been sick and wasn't having any other issues with his throat leading up to the show. Dee came back and urged us to get back on stage and finish the set, which we did. Rocky didn't improve, and didn't have his usual chops - and the movie deal went away - with the soundtrack eventually awarded to Keith Emerson. Here is a couple of photos of the band "live" from that show.

Left to right it is Stan Whiatker, Shannon Ford, Rocky Ruckman, David Hayden and me.

By the time the Ritz showcase came around, Rocky was still struggling a bit with his voice. He had reworked the melodies more carefully to compensate, and they sounded quite acceptable - but the punch and range of his voice as heard on the Kramer produced demos just wasn't quite the same. In the end, all nine labels at the showcase passed - and Rocky packed up his family in his station wagon and was on his way to Florida - literally the next morning.


Stan, Shannon, David and I wanted to continue to gut it out. As fate would have it - David had a singer/songwriter/guitarist friend named Brad Busby in Texas - who was also looking for a musical home. Brad was fighting a rare form of brain cancer - but seemed to have it under control at the time - and was willing to take the leap.

Shannon hung in for a while, but eventually moved on as well, and our first choice to replace him on drums was Vince Santoro, who we had admired since the late '70's in D.C. Vinnie was not only an amazing drummer and showman, but was also a dynamic lead vocalist. Vinnie went on to perform with Edgar Winter, Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Felix Cavaliere from the Young Rascals, among others.

So, with two new members in place, we decided to move closer to New York City. We got lucky by landing the John Jay Homestead summer house in East Fishkill, New York as our rental home. It had huge pillars in the front and nine bedrooms - with a huge foyer that we used as a reverb chamber when we recorded. It was like living in a small palace. As a side note, IBM eventually bought the property, but as part of the deal - were forced to disassemble and reassemble this historic house piece by piece in a new location.

Getting Vinnie in the band changed the dynamic dramatically. Vinnie had an old world Italian heritage with a very strong work ethic. He made it clear that we would need to pay our bills by becoming a working cover band - along with pursuing our own songs when we could. Brad and David had been working on the cover circuit down in Texas, so it was no surprise to them - and they were supportive of the idea. The result was that we ended up doing less and less original music and began performing more and more covers - including full blown Styx and Journey tribute shows.

Here is the band with me, Stan Whitaker, Vinnie Santoro, Brad Busby and David Bach.

In retrospect, I must admit - with our stellar musicianship and the vocal prowess of Brad, Stan and Vinnie - we nailed it - the band sounded amazing. Unfortunately for me - expressing the heartfelt music deep within is a very sacred process. It's what I live for. Playing music that I have no true artistic or creative investment in - or heartfelt connection to - is really not my cup of tea. It was different in my early formative days because we took creative license and did our own eccentric versions of the tunes we covered. But here it was simply going through the motions of copying the original versions as closely as possible, like some bizarre song factory. The entire process seemed cheap and phony to me and I felt completely unfulfilled.

I soon resigned from the project as a new singer - Jonathan West - was brought on to replace Brad. According to our Booking Agency CTA, Jonathan would move us up to an "A" band - on the cover circuit - from our current status as a "B" band - which was supposed to tranlate into more money for us. Surprisingly, Brad stayed on for a while and became our FOH Mix engineer, and kept singing a few tunes every night for a while. Jonathan had a pretty incredible voice, but struggled mightily when it came to writing lyrics. It simply wasn't his forte - his strength was his amazing voice and his performance abilities.

I saw this as the beginning of the end and with my departure, the band ended up in Baltimore. Brad stayed in New York for a while, working as a producer and engineer at Millbrook Sound Studios - but eventually went back to Texas and lost his fight with brain cancer.

Meanwhile, the drinking age in New York had changed from 18 to 21 and the entire cover band circuit had completely dried up within a few short months. I was glad that the band had moved to Baltimore where they could still make a living - raising the drinking age made it impossible to make a living as a cover band in New York!

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