MRRL Hall of Fame
- Category: Inductees
- Created: Thursday, 04 June 2015 02:55
- Written by Gary Johnson
In the words of former manager Jimmy Risk; “The story of Adrenalin is an American rock and roll tragedy. It’s a story that includes a lot of different players including its manager, two very different lead singers, and five guys who had a dream in grade school about being the biggest rock band in the world. They nearly got there and rose to the occasion every time they were thwarted. They put their lives of the line for many years for a dream….and in the end it didn’t work out.”
Brian Pastoria, one of Adrenalin’s founding members, was born in 1957 in Detroit, the oldest of four children. His mother, Eda, stayed at home and cared for the kids while his father, Tony, worked for J. L. Hudson’s, managing the furniture warehouse in Detroit.
Tony Pastoria was also a musician and played in a popular dance band called the Blue Notes. The band was often booked at society parties around Detroit as well as weddings for many years. Tony played accordion and sang performing material including the songs of Sinatra and other tunes from the classic American songbook.
Brian grew up near Eight Mile on Lincoln Street on the east side of Detroit. The neighborhood was made up of small houses of 1,000 square feet or less, with two or three bedrooms and lots of kids. The Pastoria family had four: Brian, Mark, David, and their sister Andrea. Brian and his brother Mark attended St. Veronica Elementary school where they first met future bandmates Bruce Schafer and another set of brothers of exactly the same age, Jimmy and Michael Romeo.
The Pastorias lived just a block away from the Furnier family whose son, Vincent, would later gain fame as Alice Cooper. Furnier, who was 9 years older than Brian, moved with his family to Arizona in the early 1960s.
Tony Pastoria and his band used to rehearse in the basement at his home, so his kids were exposed to musicians setting up and playing early on. Brian's parents also listened to records of the music they loved in the house; but nothing that he heard had much effect on him until he watched The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show with his family in the winter of 1964.
Although both his parents and grandparents reacted negatively to the British group, Brian remembered the night clearly; “It was the first time that I heard music that I felt was really mine.” His exposure to the Beatles also spurred him to start buying records. He would do anything around the house to earn money so that he could buy 45s at Record Town on Gratiot or J. L. Hudson’s on shopping trips with his mother. His first 45 was “She Loves You” and his first LP was “Meet the Beatles”.
But his greatest exposure to rock and roll came from listening to Detroit’s AM radio stations like CKLW as well as the juke box at Gino’s Pizzeria, his uncle’s restaurant on Chalmers and Jefferson. Brian was often there with his mother and his uncle would keep him quiet by giving him a handful of quarters to play the juke box.
Brian started playing drums when he was 13. He had always wanted to be a drummer from the very first time he saw Ringo Starr, but his parents were very traditional in terms of musical instruction and insisted that he learn to play piano before taking up the drums.
An older neighbor, Frankie LaRosa, played and had a set in his basement. LaRosa also loved The Beatles and would play his drums along with the records. Brian watched him play for several years but his parents insisted that he continue on the piano for nearly four years. His instructor would come to the house once a week for Brian’s lessons as well for those for his younger brother, Mark. They would then have to practice for 30 minutes every day of the week.
Although his brother Mark loved the piano, Brian had gotten so frustrated that he told his parents that after 8th grade he was going to quit school and go get a job so that he could buy his own drum set. It’s doubtful that his parents took his threat seriously, but he got his first kit for Christmas that year. It was a blue sparkle Slingerland set with a snare, two toms, and a small bass drum.
Brian began studying the drumming on the Motown hits of the day as well as records by both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones with the dream of someday forming a band. That didn’t happen, however until after his parents divorced in 1973 when he was 16. By that time, bands like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Grand Funk, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, the J. Geils Band, Deep Purple, and Kiss had come to the fore. With his father out of the house and his mother now working, Brian focused his energies on the drums and learning by playing the records of the drum masters.
He also became an avid reader of rock and roll magazines like Rolling Stone and especially Detroit’s own Creem magazine. They were the only sources where music lovers could really learn anything about the bands they loved.
Mike “Flash” Haggerty was born in Grosse Pointe, June 20, 1957. Like Pastoria, he was the oldest of four children and also had two brothers and a sister. Haggerty’s dad worked for Michigan Bell and mom was a homemaker. Mike lived in the St. Clair Shores-Grosse Pointe area located on the other side of the I-94 freeway from the Pastorias, Schafer, and the Romeos. He remembers that there were lots of kids in his neighborhood and that everyone listened to both the CKLW and WKNR radio stations. AM radio was an important early influence to all of the future members of Adrenalin.
He got interested in guitar at the age of eight through his aunt who lived around the block. She was playing acoustic folk tunes popular in the early 60s. She showed him some basics but he struggled at first because it was a right-handed guitar and he was left-handed.
Haggerty persevered and eventually became proficient as a right-handed guitarist. His first electric guitar was a Kent model for $150. The summer of his freshman year he contracted mono and tonsillitis at the same time and was confined to the house. Because he was unable to leave, it forced him to concentrate on guitar. He also started writing songs during the time he was confined to his third floor bedroom, putting chords and words together. He would become more serious about songwriting several years later when he started playing in a band.
Later that summer, there was a big concert in St. Clair Shores Civic Arena, located near his home, featuring Iggy Pop & The Stooges, Bob Seger, and Catfish Hodge. After much begging, he got his parents and doctor to give him permission to attend. The show made a huge impression on Haggerty and lit the fire to play in a band.
Mike Haggerty was a big record buyer – usually from the Korvette’s Department Store which had opened in the Detroit area in the 1960s. Korvettes offered $5.00 albums on Sundays, and he would save up his money to buy the latest albums by Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, Steppenwolf, the Rolling Stones, or anything else that looked appealing.
Haggerty also began attending concerts at Cobo Hall, the Olympia Stadium, and the Masonic Auditorium in Detroit, often for as little as $5 per ticket. The variety of shows in the Motor City during the 1970s was impressive. Each Sunday Haggerty would scan the Entertainment sections of the Detroit News and Free Press to see the listing of shows that included the likes of The Who, Humble Pie, Uriah Heep, Elton John, Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cat Stevens, the J. Geils Band, and Aerosmith. Haggerty had always managed to have some kind of job so that he had the funds to buy records and attend concerts. He would often sleep overnight with friends in front of the venues in order to get the best seats.
In 1973, he bought a Stratocaster from Fiddler’s Music Company located at Mack and Outer Drive in Detroit. Haggerty and Glen Young first started playing together in high school, along with a drummer and another guitar player they knew, in the Young family’s basement. Brian Pastoria and Flash Haggerty played together for the first time in high school when they performed five or six songs in a make-shift band at a Halloween party. They called themselves Adrenalin because they were trying to be high energy. Nothing ever came of the group beyond the party, but the name would become very important a few years down the line.
By 1977, Brian had graduated from Grosse Pointe North High School and was working at his uncle's restaurant. He had also joined his father’s dance band and was driving down Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe Woods with his drums in the back of his car when fate intervened. He ran into Haggerty at a local drug store. Although they were both deeply into music, they basically traveled in different circles at Grosse Pointe North – Pastoria was one of the “jocks” while Haggerty was a member of the “freaks”.
Haggerty told him that he had been jamming in a band, but they had a drummer that was not cutting it. Brian brought his drums to a rehearsal and was impressed with the fact that Haggerty was writing original music. That keyed his desire to join a rock and roll band – but he didn’t want to be in a cover band, he wanted to be in one that played original music.
Haggerty’s band didn’t really gel until Pastoria joined and provided them with a consistent drummer. Glen Young was the original bass player in the band; which at that point was a foursome that also included Pastoria, Matt Baron, and Haggerty but no lead singer. The young man that filled that position came from an unusual source.
Pastoria got a call from the mother of one of his friends who told him about a guy who she heard singing on the dock where she worked at Gregory Mayer & Thom's Office Supplies in Detroit. David Larson was looking for a band and she gave him Brian’s number. Larson joined the group after impressing everyone by singing “Stealin’”, a popular single by Uriah Heep, at the audition. With David Larson now fronting the band, they were looking for a good band name ‘Adrenalin’ was resurrected.
After a couple of jam sessions and gigs, Ralph Young stepped in to manage the band. A former sergeant in the Army, Glen’s father was adept at organizational skills. He started to package the band by putting together the essentials including cases for transporting the instruments, a mixing board, along with good speakers and amps. Two of Adrenalin's early shows were at the Broadhead Naval Academy on Jefferson and the Belle Isle Bandshell in Detroit.
Ralph Young was also responsible for giving Haggerty his nickname. Haggerty claims that it was bestowed on him because he was always on time for rehearsals and had a little 'Flash' patch on the blue jean jacket he often wore. Young’s nickname for him caught on, and soon everyone in the band was calling Haggerty “Flash”.
After a few more shows, Pastoria recommended his St. Veronica's friend Michael Romeo on lead guitar to round out the band's lineup. With Romeo on board, Adrenalin started making a lot of noise at local high schools and at the legendary Roostertail in Detroit.
At 22, David Larson was four years older than the rest of the band. He was adopted and never knew his biological parents. David grew up on the east side of Detroit and was also a big Beatles fan. Larson taught himself to play guitar, and he had begun writing songs by the time he joined the band. Looking back, Pastoria believes that the band was Larson’s salvation in many ways. It became the family he felt he never had, but it also led to some self-destructive and ultimately tragic decisions.
Larson quickly became Flash Haggerty’s best friend and mentor. Larson took Haggerty in after he left home at 18, and basically taught him about the essentials of living on his own. Haggerty soon learned that Larson had an issue that was weighing heavily on him. David had fathered a child and although he wanted to be part of that world, he was sorely lacking in resources to do so. He was hoping to make enough money in the band to play a more important role in his child’s life despite the fact that he had a very limited relationship with the mother.
Adrenalin’s early shows were at backyard private parties, performances where the band mixed their original songs with some popular covers of the day done in their own style. One of the first big gigs was a battle of the bands in the Fries Crystal Ballroom at Grosse Pointe War Memorial Auditorium. Adrenalin won the competition over several other neighborhood bands that already were established and had reputations. That victory got some buzz going for Adrenalin on the east side of Detroit.
Not wanting to play bars, the band eventually contacted Jerry Patlow, one of Detroit’s top booking agents, who lined up gigs at high schools, colleges, and private affairs. Adrenalin would do flyers to announce their shows back then. They also recruited some of the girls who followed the band to make phone calls and pass out the flyers.
Ralph Young quickly booked the band into the upstairs studio at Fiddler’s Music to record a single to take advantage of their live gig momentum. A 45 made up of two band originals, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Screamer” backed with “Cumz ‘n’ Goes”, was issued independently on the Fiddler Music Co. label in 1977. Adrenalin was not charged for studio time but made a deal that they would share the proceeds from sales of the single with the studio. Fiddler’s opened in 1972 and was owned by musicians who had formerly been in a popular Detroit band called the Lazy Egg.
Haggerty remembers driving to record stores around Detroit dropping off copies of the 45 on consignment and writing down how many were placed at each store. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Screamer” single sold enough copies to become a Michigan hit, gaining airplay around the state and leading to better gigs for the band going from high school dances and pool parties to playing clubs like JC’s Rock Saloon, the Carousal, the Three of Us, Cain’s Bar, and Kick’s.
In mid-1978 Adrenalin changed bass players. Glen Young had played since the beginning, but he had other interests and Pastoria didn’t feel that he was committed to the band. Young’s father had been managing the band so it became a big issue. Young and his father ended up being let go and Bruce Schafer was added on bass. Bruce was another St. Veronica's schoolmate of Brian's and he solidified the band's rhythm section. Schafer's skill as a musician and his friendship helped take the group's chemistry to another level.
Father Bryson from Notre Dame High School was also very helpful to Adrenalin. He put on dances at the Notre Dame High School gym that had a big stage and lights and was important venue for a number of young Detroit bands including The Look, Salem Witchcraft, and Adrenalin. Pastoria referred to Father Bryson as a “legendary cat”, and the gigs at Notre Dame were cool because you could play for high school kids and make a little money. According to Haggerty, a lot of major Detroit bands including Bob Seger, Holy Smoke, Frijid Pink, and SRC played at the Notre Dame dances that would often attract 400 or more.
The sacrifice in trying to make it without playing the bars was the lack of money, so the gigs at Notre Dame were big since Father Bryson always paid the bands. In playing other high schools, they would play for whatever people would pay to see them – taking the door for the gig.
Adrenalin’s first major recordings were done at George Hellow’s Polaris Studios in Windsor, Ontario. The band recorded 10 or 12 songs, basically everything they knew, and left the studio with an 8-track tape of the session. Adrenalin then submitted the tape to WWWW-FM which hosted a Home Grown Music Show every Sunday night at midnight that was hosted by popular DJ Doug Podell.
Haggerty fondly remembers sitting up with David Larson in the house they shared and listening to Adrenalin’s music being played on the air for the very first time. Podell played the entire tape and was impressed enough with their cover of Crazy Elephant’s “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’” to place it in regular rotation on his program, thereby helping generate a local hit for the band before they had a chance to put it out on vinyl.
According to Pastoria, this is when the band really got serious. Pastoria met Jimmy Risk at Risk’s T-shirt store called The Great One when he went to inquire about having shirts made with the Adrenalin logo. Risk had friends who were in the record promotion business. Risk asked to hear a cassette of Adrenalin’s music, loved it, especially lead singer David Larson, and was eventually brought on to manage the band.
In the 70’s and 80’s the only way you could get something on the radio was through a radio promo person who would contact the DJs and radio programmers. Since the big thrust for Adrenalin in 1978 and 1979 was trying to get on the radio, Risk turned them on to Jerry Allaer who worked with Don Davis at United Sound for his Groovesville publishing company. Davis had signed The Rockets and had produced their first album. Allaer liked the band and started coming around to rehearsals.
Michael Romeo’s older brother Jimmy joined Adrenalin as the sax player at this time. Jimmy was a former high school baseball star, pitching for Notre Dame High School, and his sax added an important element to Adrenalin’s sound.
The Romantics and The Rockets had both released successful albums and singles in 1979 and had generated renewed interest in the Detroit brand of rock and roll among major record labels. The Rockets had been formed by Johnny Badanjek and Jim McCarty from the Detroit Wheels and had Dave Gilbert on vocals. The Rockets often played the Red Carpet, a hip night club on East Warren where you might see people like David Bowie, Iggy Pop or Lou Reed hanging out after appearances in Detroit.
Harpo’s was Adrenalin’s home base in the Detroit area. They could always have a gig at the club whenever they came off the road. Adrenalin was the first band to play Harpo's when it transitioned from a theatre to a concert venue in 1979. Located on Harper in Detroit just off I-94, Harpo’s is a Detroit rock and roll institution.
In order to attract record company interest, Jerry Allaer suggested that the band re-record their popular cover of Crazy Elephant’s 1969 hit “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’”. Backed with “Change Of Heart”, Allaer produced the single at the Fiddler’s studio, and it was released on Jimmy Risk’s Musical Signature label. Allaer was at a party with DJ Doug Podell and played him a cassette of the song. Podell loved it and started playing “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’” on WWWW-FM the next day.
Pastoria heard it for the first time while driving down Mack Avenue, near the spot where he had met Flash and started the band. The local buzz started to build immediately, and Adrenalin was booked for a big show at Balduck Park on the east side sponsored by WWWW-FM and hosted by Doug Podell.
Everything seemed to change after Podell started promoting the band’s record on his show in 1979. Their gigs started attracting larger crowds because of the radio exposure. Both The Rockets and The Romantics had already taken off and Adrenalin wanted to join the club. To help accomplish that goal, Adrenalin started playing the bars, but they did it like The Rockets. There would be an opening band and then they would take the stage at midnight and play a long set at the end of the night.
In 1979, Jimmy Risk initiated I Gave A Kid Christmas at his Great One T-shirt store as a benefit for Mother Waddles Perpetual Mission, an independent church in Detroit that provided support, such as food, clothing, and other basic services to Detroit's poor. Adrenalin played its first benefit concert for needy kids at the Eastland Mall in Detroit and was hosted by Doug Podell and WWWW-FM. It was a huge success and became a tradition for the band over the years.
Although “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin” was a success in Detroit and starting to get airplay around the state, all was not well with lead singer David Larson. His current girlfriend was pregnant and he would soon have children with two different women. He was also being asked to provide child support now that Adrenalin was getting played on the radio.
The band was still not making much money, however, and Larson was trying to make ends meet by working at Risk’s T-shirt store during the day so that he could make some extra cash. Larson was trying to do the best he could but was struggling, and his situation was complicated by his increased use of amphetamines.
Larson had also met a girl who worked at the Detroit Free Press around this time who introduced him to cocaine. Brian Pastoria believes that the combination of speed and cocaine along with the pressure of letters from lawyers demanding child support money had Larson in a very fragile state just when there was a lot of interest from music producer/engineer Howard Steele to record the band.
Flash Haggerty knew about Larson’s drug use because they shared a house, but he didn’t think that Larson was doing that much more than anyone else at that time. Haggerty felt that it was more a self-esteem issue with Larson. David seemed to be adversely affected by the high lead vocals popular on the radio by singers in Journey, Boston, and The Babys. The band wanted to cover some of those songs but Larson wasn’t able to hit the high notes. Adrenalin was starting to attract attention from some record companies and Larson was afraid he would let the band down at one of the band’s showcases for a major label.
The night before Larson’s suicide, the band had a rehearsal out on I-75 in Rochester and David was in fine form and in a stellar mood. Larson seemed restless when they returned home, however, but Haggerty didn’t think much of it and Larson was gone when he left for work the next morning.
Howard Steele had come to some rehearsals and was back in town to see the band play a live gig at Bishop Borgess High School the next night when tragedy struck. Larson did not show up for the gig. It had never happened before, and the band was forced to cancel their performance.
For the past year, the band had been rehearsing at the house in St. Clair Shores, shared by Larson and Haggerty. The band members went back to the house to try to find David, but he wasn’t there and didn’t return that night. They reported Larson missing but there wasn’t much the police could do since he was an adult. 48 hours later, manager Jimmy Risk got the dreaded phone call that Larson had been found dead in his snow-covered car by a security guard in the parking lot of the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company, located across the street from the WWWW-FM studios. Larson had committed suicide by attaching a garden hose to the exhaust pipe of his vehicle and running the hose through the car window.
Larson left a suicide note in which he wrote, “I’m sorry that it had to end like this. I’m not holding my end of this down and I don’t think I’m going to be able to hold my end of the fort up as we get success. You guys are the best. I’ll be rockin’ my way back to earth soon. Next time I’ll learn my part the right way. Keep the Adrenalin flowing. Stay the Best, Fuck the Rest...Don’t stop. Keep going.”
David Larson’s suicide was devastating to the surviving members of the Adrenalin family. The band was heartbroken because they loved David and things got heavy when the media got wind of the story. Larson was a few years older than the rest of the band and they looked up to him as a leader. It was nearly impossible to comprehend. Larson’s good looks and stage presence made him very attractive to the female members of the audience at shows. Haggerty described him as “a great actor and charmer on stage who could make the women in the audience think he was singing directly to them.”
Understandably, the band was in a collective daze for a time following Larson’s death. After things settled down a bit, Brian Pastoria and Jimmy Risk were out to dinner in Greektown when a friend told them about Dave Gilbert’s younger brother, Marc, who had been jamming with the Joe Perry Project shortly before Perry decided to return to Aerosmith.
They hooked up with Marc Gilbert several weeks later. Gilbert had a bluesy, soulful vocal style that differed from Larson’s pop/rock style. Gilbert’s older brother Dave was the lead singer for The Rockets. The addition of Marc as the lead vocalist started an evolution of Adrenalin’s style as well. Gilbert was also a songwriter and he brought some great new tunes to the band including “Don’t Be Looking Back” and “Angel In The Day”.
With Marc Gilbert as the lead singer, Adrenalin went into Sylvia Moy’s studio with producer Eddie Harris and recorded demos of “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” and some other things that were inspired by the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. Mark Pastoria, Brian’s younger brother, joined the band at this time to add keyboards to the band’s sound.
The new seven-man lineup then went back into the studio with Howard Steele, Jerry Allaer; with Jimmy Romeo getting into the production as well, and cut the 5-song “Don’t Be Lookin’ Back” EP at the legendary United Sound studios in Detroit. The EP was band funded and independently released on Musical Signature in 1981. It featured the song "Angel In The Day", and the video was aired on MTV.
While on tour in Texas, following the EP’s release, Adrenalin signed with Rocshire Records, a subsidiary of MCA. This led to Vini Poncia working with the band in the studio at the Boogie Hotel, a studio owned by the band Foghat and located in a large Victorian mansion in Port Jefferson, New York.
Poncia had already enjoyed a successful career as a performer with the Trade Winds who scored a big hit single in 1965 with “New York Is A Lonely Town”. In the 70s, Poncia became Ringo Starr’s co-writer and appeared on several of Ringo’s albums. Poncia also co-wrote Leo Sayer’s 1977 # 1 hit, “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” and produced the solo record of Peter Criss, drummer for Kiss.
Vini Poncia was very skilled at bringing out the best in the artists he worked with. Pastoria and the rest of the band were nervous because of his association with one of the Beatles but found him to be a very down-to-earth guy in the Boogie Hotel where they recorded the “American Heart” album in six weeks. They then traveled to the Rocshire Studios in Anaheim, California to mix the LP.
With the Rocshire label behind them, Adrenalin was now opening for Cheap Trick, .38 Special, Aerosmith, and Bob Seger on big concert tours. Because they featured both a saxophone and keyboards, Adrenalin was labeled primarily as a “Heartland Rock and Roll Band”, along the lines of the Silver Bullet Band and the E Street Band.
Things were rolling along nicely, and “American Heart” was selling well enough to be on the same Billboard AOR charts as records by Springsteen, Scandal, and Huey Lewis & The News. Then, out of the blue, the wife of the owner of Rocshire Records was caught in a $15 million embezzlement scam involving Hughes Aircraft. Since the Rocshire label was in both her name and her husband’s, the government seized everything, including Adrenalin’s album and its single “Faraway Eyes”, as assets; and things ground to a screeching halt.
All of the company’s discs were placed in receivership and nothing was shipped to record stores from that point on. Flash Haggerty remembered that it was a very frustrating time for the band. The Feds confiscated the Adrenalin’s master tapes since they were part of Rocshire’s assets. It took eighteen months of lawyer bills and legal wrangling to get the tapes back.
The band carried on during the legal squabbles and wrote another batch of songs and went back to the Boogie Hotel and recorded demos on their own. The band played the songs for Poncia, and everyone loved the demo of “Road of the Gypsy” which had been composed by Mark and Brian Pastoria. Shortly thereafter, Jimmy Risk was talking to Don Grierson of Capitol Records about signing the band. When Risk discovered that Grierson was involved in a movie project titled Iron Eagle, he suggested that “Road of the Gypsy” would work well in the film.
Grierson agreed, and Adrenalin was given a recording budget and went into the studio with Vini Poncia to record it along with another song called “Summer Nights”. “Road of the Gypsy” was used in both the movie and on the film soundtrack. When Iron Eagle, starring Lou Gossett Jr., opened in a cinema complex in Southfield, Michigan, all of the members of Adrenalin and their family and friends were in attendance. Everyone in the theater cheered when “Road Of The Gypsy” was played briefly at the start of the film and then almost in its entirety in a later scene. It became the theme song for the movie!
Whie touring the Midwest in 1985, the band came back to Detroit and was asked to sing the National Anthem at Tiger Stadium. Adrenalin was a unique band in that everyone in the group could sing. They were among a very select few groups that could perform acapella on stage during a rock show. They had performed the National Anthem previously at other events around Detroit but nothing compared to doing it at one of the nation's most famous ballparks and for the team they all rooted for. They impressed everyone in the Tigers' organization with their acapella performance and became friends with legendary announcer Ernie Harwell and manager Sparky Anderson, along with Dave Bergman, Tom Brookens, and Alan Trammell who were big rock and roll fans.
At the same time both the film and its soundtrack were about to be released, Jimmy Risk went over to MCA, Rocshire’s parent company, and told them that Capitol was using one of Adrenalin’s songs in Iron Eagle and that they were interested in signing the band. Since MCA also liked “Road of the Gypsy”, they suggested that Adrenalin take seven of the best songs from the stalled “American Heart” LP and combine them the two new songs and put another album out. Thus was born the “Road Of The Gypsy” album.
Unfortunately, what appeared to be the beginning of a new chapter for Adrenalin was derailed in part by the drug and alcohol problems of lead singer Marc Gilbert. Marc’s parents were both deaf mutes and were employed as proofreaders for the Oakland Press. Both Marc and his older brother Dave were raised and well-provided for, but as they grew they learned quickly how to take full advantage of their parents’ disabilities. Being able to do whatever they wanted at an early age seemed to lead to both the substance abuse and personal accountability issues that negatively affected the relationships of both of these talented brothers with their future bands; Dave with The Rockets and Marc with Adrenalin.
In the meantime, Marc Gilbert’s drug and alcohol abuse was a constant issue despite the fact that Adrenalin was getting some choice gigs opening for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Huey Lewis & The News, Aerosmith, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Ted Nugent, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and .38 Special. Gilbert was fine onstage but offstage was another matter. The rest of the band had strong family guidance and backing, but Gilbert did not. The members tried to intervene by not using anything in front of him and signing him up for classes to help him to no avail.
The band soldiered on, but in 1986 fate reared its unmerciful head for the third time in six years. Just prior to the Grammy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on February 24th, NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw broke the payola scandal on his nightly newscast. MCA, Adrenalin's record company, was involved in the large payola investigation.
This turned out to be the proverbial third strike for Adrenalin. A new record needed a promotional budget to help ensure radio play but, because of the investigation, MCA failed to support the album and the progress of the “Road Of The Gypsy" album slowed to a crawl. Strangely enough, the lyric from the LP's title song seemed to foreshadow the band's fate; "The wax on the candle melts like tears, you know it don't come easy down the road of the gypsy."
They tried writing new songs, but Marc Gilbert was no longer contributing and band morale began to disintegrate. It finally reached the point that the band was fed up with Gilbert’s drug use and wanted to go in a different direction.
In 1985, Pastoria got an opportunity to drum in a project called Guitar Army at Harpo’s in Detroit. It involved a host of Michigan talent including Mitch Ryder, Dick Wagner, Rob Tyner, Scott Morgan, Dave Gilbert, Chad Smith, and headliner Mark Farner.
Pastoria and Farner became friends in 1986 when things with Marc Gilbert had reached the breaking point. The members of Adrenalin had started hanging out with Farner, spending time at his studio near Flint. Farner revealed that he was going out on the road but wasn’t happy with his current band and asked Pastoria if Adrenalin would like to back him. Since there was only room for so many guitars, Flash Haggerty became the odd man out as the Pastoria brothers, the Romeo brothers, and Bruce Schafer went out as hired guns performing as the Mark Farner Band and sometimes as Adrenalin.
Although Haggerty was invited to come along as a songwriter, he declined. Haggerty had built his own small studio inside his home called Inside Track Recording and formed a new band called Denmark, but it was more of a feel-good project to just play music rather than try to line up gigs. He became more involved in recording other acts and musicians from a variety of music genres.
Haggerty had started learning the plumbing business during his years in Adrenalin. During the day he would help a friend by first carrying his tools. Since he was living on his own since 18, he always had to have a job outside the band while most of the guys in Adrenalin lived at home. When the rest of Adrenalin went with Farner, Haggerty got into plumbing full time. He eventually got his plumbing license, folded his studio, and started his own very successful business called Direct Plumbing Inc.
At the end of the tour with Farner, Jimmy Romeo met a 20-year-old singer named Joey Bowen who was performing songs of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. Bowen was a very soulful singer who sounded very much like a young version of Mark Farner. Small wonder since Mark Farner was his biological father. Although he had yet to be acknowledged by the former Grand Funk singer/guitarist, Bowen was aware of his heritage and had been raised over the years by his birth mother and stepfather.
The band, with Bowen singing lead, recorded a few demos and sent them to Punch Andrews, Bob Seger’s manager. Andrews liked what he heard and recommended a bass player named Doug Kahan to replace Bruce Schafer who had left Adrenalin to get married and find a more traditional job.
This new lineup opened for Cheap Trick in front of 50,000 people at Hart Plaza in Detroit in 1988 while still billed as Adrenalin. After the gig, they decided that this new version of the band deserved a new name. They came up with DC (for Detroit City) Drive as their new moniker. At this point the band had evolved in a hard rock, yet soulful, direction that Doug Kahan described in his infamous quote: “Imagine the MC5 in bed with the Supremes.” One of DC Drive’s early fans was Bob Ritchie, who as Kid Rock would form his Twisted Brown Trucker backup band along the same lines as DC Drive.
DC Drive signed a three-album deal with Capitol Records in 1990-91, but again they were having some problems with their lead singer. Their new self-titled album and lead single “You Need Love” were doing good business in Canada where they were launched; but Joey Bowen announced that he was quitting the band just at the point that the album was released in the United States.
Left once again without a lead singer, Brian Pastoria and the rest of the band decided it was time for a change. They had used part of their Capitol recording budget to build their own recording studio in Detroit and named it Harmonie Park. The studio allowed them to change gears and focus on the production side of things, doing commercials and a wide variety of other projects for the next 20 years.
In 2002, there was an Adrenalin reunion at the Royal Oak Music Theatre feauring the Pastoria brothers, Flash Haggerty, the Romeo brothers, and Bruce Schafer along with substitute lead singer Graham Strachan. The highly successful show was organized by Doug Podell and led to two other Adrenalin performances at Freedom Hill and The Emerald (now the Macomb Music Theater).
Doug Podell was a great supporter and ally to Adrenalin and many bands in the Detroit area. He had a TV show called The Beat that provided exposure for many local artists. Podell is going to resurrect The Beat on Comcast 900 in the very near future in a format that will feature rock and roll news, gig information, and band videos. Adrenalin will be featured on the first show.
Brian Pastoria wanted to also give recognition to Adrenalin’s dedicated road crew, The Midnight Express, that included his younger brother David. “Our road crew was huge because we were constantly touring and playing. They set up all our equipment and stage, including the lighting and sound. We took a lot of pride in our production and our live presentation. That was the big thing about Adrenalin and DC Drive. We had vans carrying equipment and rented trucks for bigger shows. We toured in vans and mobile homes over the years, and the crew and band always traveled together."
In the years following the demise of DC Drive, Mark Farner and Joey Bowen bonded and developed a solid father/son relationship. Carol Bowen, Joey's wife, said this about their relationship: "They see each other often and are on the phone all the time." She also reported that Joey is launching a new music project under the moniker of Joey Farner and the Tribe, with all songs written by Joey. Mark Farner has continued his successful solo career with his NrG band. In 2015, Mark was voted into the MRRL online Hall of Fame as a solo artist.
Brian Pastoria, his brother Mark, and Jimmy Romeo have gone from the stage to the studio as producers and writers. Brian and Mark are currently working on a project called the Detroit Music Experience and, since 1995, have been partners in the Harmonie Park Media & Enertainment Group. They are currently involved in a new social media marketing company called Eye Exposure. Mark Pastoria has won two Grammy Awards for his work with Aretha Franklin, and the brothers continue to produce other artists. Brian is also featured in the drum book Sticks N Skins which is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and at The Smithsonian.
Michael Romeo, the band's outstanding lead guitarist, has continued to play and has a carpentry business. Jimmy Romeo is a music producer and now has a video production company. Band co-founder Flash Haggerty has his successful plumbing business. Bruce Schafer, the band's electronic genius who constructed his own bass and amplifier, is a technician in the automotive business.
The life lessons learned by this group of men on their sometimes heartbreaking journey down the road of the gypsy are of friendship, perserverance, faith, hope, and love - which serve them well to this day.
In recognition of their contributions to the state’s rich musical legacy, Adrenalin was voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame in 2015.
MRRL Hall of Fame: https://www.michiganrockandrolllegends.com/mrrl-hall-of-fame
Video: Watch a video of Adrenalin performing "Don't Be Lookin' Back" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmMCxqMdZqo
Internet Links: Check out more Adrenalin videos and music by visiting these sites: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw5F4RILghWcb5EVQnglEhQ