Posted: Feb 14, 2013 12:13 PM ESTUpdated: Feb 14, 2013 2:56 PM EST
By ROBERT PRICE
When Frankie Reno was growing up, popular music of the ’60s and ’70s always filled his home. But one distinct sound, in particular, caught his ear — the harmonic country rock of The Eagles.
Now, after a painstaking 18-month developmental process, Reno is the leader of EagleMania, a group committed to providing listeners with the “ultimate Eagles experience.”
“‘The Eagles Greatest Hits’ was played over and over again. Every time it was on, I would run downstairs and play along with it on the piano,” Reno said, referring to a time when he was roughly 10 years old. “Little did I know that one day I would have the opportunity to put all of those countless hours of playing that music to good use, and entertain thousands of Eagles fans as an adult.”
On Saturday, EagleMania will perform for the first time on what several band members consider “home turf” when they hit the Stanhope House stage. According to Reno, the band has been playing to full houses all over the Northeast and is looking forward to playing “in our own backyard.”
“A few of us have had the pleasure of playing at The Stanhope House before. It’s a legendary club. To perform on the same stage as Paul Butterfield, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Richie Havens, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and many more is quite an honor. There’s an aura about the Stanhope House, especially on stage, that you don’t find in many of today’s clubs. It’s a special place, and we’re hoping to have a special night,” said Reno, of Sparta.
EagleMania covers all the great hits of The Eagles, including “Take It Easy,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Desperado,” “The Long Run,” “One of These Nights,” “Take It to the Limit,” “Witchy Woman,” “All She Wants to Do is Dance” and, of course, “Hotel California.”
When EagleMania formed two years ago, the most difficult aspect was getting the vocals to those songs just right.
“I’ve been playing in bands for the better part of 30 years and this was one of the most difficult projects to put together due to the complexity of the Eagles vocals,” Reno said. “The requirement is that we sound exactly like The Eagles on each and every song we perform. After 18 months of going through various lineups, we finally found the personnel to fit that incredibly tall order.”
That lineup consists of guitarist-vocalist John Gaechter, guitarist-vocalist Ken Darcy, vocalist Steve French, bassist Russ Wolgast, drummer Jon Weiswasser and Reno.
Reno, a keyboard player, vocalist, composer and producer, has taken his love of music and his technical expertise as a producer/engineer and worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Vince Gill, Lou Rawls, Marshall Tucker Band, Billy Idol, Ace Frehley and Grammy-winning producer Gordon Williams. He works with Disney and ABC Television Networks producing music for TV and movies.
Gaechter, of Hampton, lists Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh among his musical heroes. He has worked with Jack Bruce, Roger Daltrey and Leslie West. He owns and operates a recording studio in Sussex.
Darcy, of Woodbridge, studied music at Montclair State University and privately with Gian Carlo Minotti in Manhattan. He has played music on stage since the age of 11 and has been influenced greatly by the style of The Eagles, Neil Young, America and many other crossover rock acts. He has performed everywhere from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to the Bottom Line in New York City.
French, of Sussex, learned from such vocalists as Jon Anderson, Steve Perry, America, Heart and, of course, Glen Frey and Don Henley of The Eagles. He sings lead or high harmony.
Wolgast, of Sparta, comes from a musical family — his grandfather and mother were entertainers in Australia. Over the years, he has played in many popular bands in northern New Jersey, and once opened for Jonathan Edwards. Wolgast also has a marketing/promotions background.
Weiswasser, of Montclair, a vascular surgeon by day, has been playing drums in the tri-state area for the last 27 years. He was a member of the Gas House Gorillas, Mojo Edge and Mad for Justice. He has worked with producer Mark Hudson (Aerosmith, Ringo Starr), Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters), Elliot Easton (The Cars) and Earl Slick (David Bowie, John Waite, John Lennon, New York Dolls).
The Eagles were formed in 1971 by Glen Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner, later adding Don Felder, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit. With five No. 1 singles, six Grammys, five American Music Awards and six No. 1 albums, The Eagles were one of the most successful musical acts of the 1970s. Two of their albums, their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) and “Hotel California,” ranked among the 20 best-selling albums in the U.S., according to the Recording Industry Association of America. “Hotel California” is ranked 37th in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and the band was ranked 75th on the magazine’s 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. The Eagles have sold more than 120 million records. In 1998 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Reno has met Felder. “To say I was honored is an understatement,” Reno said. “This man wrote one of the most played, most legendary rock and roll anthems ever written (‘Hotel California’).”
EagleMania is working on an album, to be recorded in the fall. One of the songs on the album was written by Timothy B. Schmit. Additionally, the band has been working with Eagles producer Mark Hudson.
“He told us if he closed his eyes, he was sure he was listening to the Eagles themselves. That’s the ultimate compliment coming form a genius like Mark,” Reno said.