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  •  

    Lopez, Vini “Mad Dog”

    Drummer and vocalist from Neptune Township in New Jersey whose fellow students at Neptune High included Southside Johnny and Garry Tallent.  He started out blowing a bugle in the Drum and Bugle Corps in 1956, a “gig” that lasted about six years.  A self-taught drummer, he set aside his bugle in 1964 in favour of a drum kit. 

     

    Under the mentorship of DJ/drummer Buzzy Lubinsky, he decided to audition for one of the many local, up-and-coming rock bands.  He won a spot with a group called The Blazers which was fronted by a musician named Sonny Kenn.  They played under a couple of different monikers, including Sonny and the Sounds and Sonny and the Starfires.  The latter entity participated in a battle of the bands and their competition included The Castiles, featuring a young Bruce Springsteen. 

     

    In 1967, he graduated from Neptune High and went to work on the docks at Point Pleasant, New Jersey, to support his budding career as a drummer.  He continued gigging on the local club circuit with groups such as Downtown Tangiers Band and Moment of Truth.  The latter included Ricky DeSarno, Danny Federici and Garry Tallent, all of whom would become important figures in Vini’s musical life. 

     

    In 1968, Vini went to catch Bruce Springsteen’s act at Long Branch, New Jersey’s Italian-American Club.  At the time, Bruce was playing with a band called Earth.  Vini invited The Boss to come and jam with him and Danny at a new place called The Upstage Club.  It was here that Child was born, although the name was already taken so they quickly changed it to Steel Mill.  They were a highly successful local band who played colleges and outdoor venues and were invited to play at San Francisco’s Carousel Ballroom. 

     

    In spite of this success, they disbanded as The Boss was still trying to find his musical voice.  Bruce kept Vini on as his drummer in a number of groups, including Bruce Springsteen and the Friendly Enemies, The Bruce Springsteen Band, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom Band, and The Sundance Blues Band. 

     

    Eventually, out of all of these groups, the E Street Band was formed.  Its original line-up:  Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici, Vini Lopez, David Sancious, and Garry Tallent.  They collected to record Bruce’s first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., in 1972.  In 1973, they issued a follow-up, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. 

     

    Vini’s tenure with the band was short-lived, however.  On 12th February 1974, during a gig at the University of Kentucky, Vini accused Mike Appel, Bruce’s manager, of embezzlement.  This resulted in an altercation with Mike’s brother Steve, who was serving as the E Street Band’s road manager.  The Boss fired Vini after the concert and Vini was briefly replaced by Ernest “Boom” Carter. 

     

    Bruce and Vini reunited for a show at The Stone Pony on 8th September 1974, accompanying The Blackberry Booze Band, which would eventually morph into Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.  In the meantime, Vini moved on to play in a new band, Cold Blast and Steel, with Ricky DeSarno, Lance Larson, and John Luraschi.  In 1975, Vini started fronting his own group, Maddog and the Shakes, with Ricky DeSarno in tow.  The group also included Vinnie Roslin. 

     

    In 1977, Vini relocated to Maine and hooked up with the aforementioned Bill Chinnock on his album, Badlands.  It turned out to be a brief reunion, as Vini’s former band-mates, Lance Larson and Ricky DeSarno, had started The Lord Gunner Group and Vini, ironically, replaced Ernest “Boom” Carter as the band’s drummer.  They were a staple at The Stone Pony and became very popular on the east coast, and came within a hair’s breadth of landing a record deal. 

     

    A bunch of Artist and Repertory people were invited by the band to see them perform in a concert for which the group had spent time and money promoting.  Unbeknownst to them, their manager had invited another band to open for them in hopes of landing them a record deal.  Needless to say, The Lord Gunner Group was not amused.  “Mad Dog” lived up to his nickname and was bounced from the club by the boys in blue.  To make matters worse, Lance Larson asked the A&R representatives to give up their front-row seats to make way for the band’s fans and friends.  He may as well have asked them to just leave, because that’s what they did. 

     

    Vini quit the group and went on to play with other bands such as The Acme Boogie Company, The Asbury All-Stars, J.P. Gotrock, Live Bait, Opus I, and The Wheels.  On 18th January 1989, he reunited with The Boss at the Waldorf Astoria in New York for the Fourth Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame dinner.  He was invited to join the band onstage and found himself drumming not only for The Boss, but Mick Jagger, Little Richard, Keith Richards, and Stevie Wonder. 

     

    In the ‘90s, Vini put together yet another group, Mad Dog and the Disco Rejects.  This band comprised Bob Alfano, Sam Cooper, and the aforementioned Ricky DeSarno and John Luraschi.  He and Luraschi formed A Cold Blast of Steel Mill with Tony “Boccigalupe” Amato in 2002.  On 21st July 2003, he reunited with The Boss again, this time at Giants Stadium, where he sat in with the band for one song, “Spirit of the Night”. 

     

    In 2004, tragedy struck when Vini’s wife Laurel passed away.  It was the the year that A Cold Blast of Steel Mill evolved into Steel Mill Retro, a virtual Steel Mill tribute band.  In 2007, they released their first album, The Dead Sea Chronicles.  Plans for an accompanying tour evaporated. 

     

    In August 2008, Vini moved to Jackson Township, New Jersey, to live with Liz, his daughter.  One month later, Steel Mill Retro was in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, for a live performance at a Roulette Springsteen convention.  In 2009, plans were in the works for another Steel Mill Retro album, All Man the Guns for America. 

     

    Other albums on which he appears include The Collection, 18 Tracks, The Essential Bruce Springsteen, The Sounds of Asbury Park, and Tracks.  Vini is in the process of penning his memoirs, The First Beat from E Street. 

     

    Sources:

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vini_Lopez
    2. http://www.steelmillretro.com/
    3. http://njmonthly.com/articles/lifestyle/people/far-from-e-street-still-a-spirit-in-the-night.html
    4. http://www.discogs.com/artist/Vincent+Lopez?anv=Vini+%22Mad+Dog%22+Lopez
    5. http://en.allexperts.com/e/v/vi/vini_lopez.htm

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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