Not too long ago on Face Book, WDVR DJ Deirdre Gilmartin recommended Frank Secich as a friend. Then I was thrilled to find out Frank not only played on a Stiv Bators albums (including “Disconnected” which is one of my favorite albums of all time!) but he also wrote quite a few songs I absolutely loved since I was 18-years-old and STILL LOVE: “A Million Miles Away” and “Evil Boy.” In fact, I played “Evil Boy” when I deejayed John Holmstrom’s 50th Birthday Bash back in 2001!
I quickly learned Frank is a super great guy and I loved his song, “Johnny Sincere” from his newest band, Deadbeat Poets (around since 2006). The first time I heard “Johnny Sincere” I loved it so much I played it three times in a row. Frank and I became Face Book friends and he was cool enough to read my upcoming book “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” and endorse it.
In return, I thought it would awesome to interview Frank for this blog. We had a great chat on the phone and I look forward to seeing Deadbeat Poets perform when they come back to New Jersey!
Like many other musicians growing up in the 1960s, Frank Secich got into playing music after seeing the Beatles perform on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” His first instrument was the harmonica. Frank grew up in Pennsylvania and had a grandfather who was a bassist and uncles who were musicians. He picked up the guitar when he was 14 after seeing Bob Dylan in 1965.
During his teenage years he played in local bands at parties and record hops. “I was in a cover band, the Mother Goose Band,” Frank said, “played all Rascals, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Cream …”
When Frank was ready to move on to an original band, it was his childhood friend Stiv Bators (who lived right across the Pennsylvania border in Ohio) who took his place in the Mother Goose Band. Stiv Bators is a punk rock legend known for his work with The Dead Boys, The Wanderers, Lords of the New Church and his solo albums. Frank knew Stiv since they were teenagers. “We became friends … met at teen dances in sixty-six, sixty-seven … he was two years older” he said.
After leaving the Mother Goose Band, Frank started Blue Ash and followed his dream of writing original material. After playing together three years, they were signed to Mercury Records by Paul Nelson, who also signed The New York Dolls. (And as a side note, the Mother Goose Band often warmed up for Blue Ash).
When the Dead Boys were breaking up in 1978, Stiv contacted Frank to work on some solo stuff and he worked with Stiv until 1981. He played with another Dead Boys member Jimmy Zero in a band called Club Wow from 1982 to 1985. Then Frank produced the Ohio band the Infidels from 1985 to 1990.
Since the late Stiv Bators is one of my favorite musical artists of all time, I asked Frank to share some Stiv stories. Frank just couldn’t stop laughing when he told me this gem:
“We were living in Los Angeles. Stiv was a big fan of Morey Amsterdam from ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show.’ We took our suit coats to get dry cleaned. There was a Chinese kid waiting for us, he has a real funny look on his face. He looked star struck … it was Dick Van Dyke. We met so many people [throughout music career] we were never really starstruck.
“Stiv says to the kid, ‘Give me a pencil and paper.’ He [Stiv] said, ‘Mr. Van Dyke, can I get your autograph? Mr. Van Dyke, I gotta tell ya, this is really special to me. I grew up in Ohio in an orphanage’ … getting teary-eyed … ‘the only show they let us watch was The Dick Van Dyke Show.'”
“He [Dick] said, ‘That’s nice.’
“Stiv starts crying. ‘You were like the dad I never had! As a matter of fact, you inspired me to do what I do today.’
“‘What do you do?'”
“‘I’m a singer in a punk band.'”
“‘Oh, that’s nice … take it easy guys.’ Stiv was gonna ask him if he wanted to go out to get a drink. At the time Dyke was in Alcoholics Anonymous. He [Stiv] was just a natural comedian.”
“A Million Miles Away” was one of the songs Frank wrote which Stiv Bators recorded on the Disconnected album (which when I told Frank was one of my favorite albums, he said he gets emails every day from fans who say that.) Michael Monroe, of Hanoi Rocks fame, recorded the song (not to be confused with the Hanoi Rocks song of the same name). Frank said that was his favorite cover recording of someone doing his song and is quick to note that The Records recorded one of his Blue Ash songs, “Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her).”
“Stiv would always pull my leg,” Frank said. “He said, ‘Mike Monroe recorded A Million Miles Away.'”
“I said, ‘Aw, Stiv, you’re crazy.'”
So when Frank went to see Mike Monroe perform at show, he saw outside the dressing room at least 40 girls, “dressed to the hilt, waiting to meet Mike.”
A guy Frank knew from Polygram told Mike that Frank was waiting outside and wanted to talk to him. “There I was, the forty-year-old. He comes running out, ‘I love you!’ The looks on these girls’ faces. Their jaws all dropped.”
Moving forward to 1990 Frank said he was fed up with the music business and walked away for 15 years. “Didn’t even touch the guitar,” he said.
Frank spent that time working for an insurance company and spending time with his young son. But then, “They dragged me back in!” Frank said, and laughed. And so, he began Deadbeat Poets in 2006.
In addition to Frank, members for the Deadbeat Poets are: Pete Drivere, John Koury and Terry Hartman.
Terry is an old friend of Frank’s and Frank said they laugh about everything. “It’s the most fun band I was ever in,” he said. “I really have a good time. We’re old men and we have fun at what we’re doing.”
When asked who he’s inspired by, Frank said, “My heroes are Ray Davies, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, of course the Stones.”
Other than music, Frank said he doesn’t have too many hobbies. “I like to write, play guitar … I love going in the studio. Twelve hours in a studio seems like twelve minutes. It’s the opposite of being in school and looking at the clock. Other than that we’re just having a good time. We never argue.”
The Deadbeat Poets just finished recording for their new album which will be out in February or March 2014. “Then we’ll start touring,” Frank said.
“Johnny Sincere,” a super cool song by The Deadbeat Poets is nominated for “Coolest Song in the World” by Little Steven’s Underground Garage Station.
The competition is stiff with other great artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Joan Jett! If you like the song — and I’m sure you will — you can vote for it here once a day until Dec. 27: http://undergroundgarage.com/the-coolest-songs-in-the-world-2013.html