Corrections or additions?
This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the June 25, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Who the Hell is John Eddie?
Given that John Eddie’s "career" in the record
business has been such a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, it’s
appropriate that he has ended up enjoying the most radio airplay in
his life with a label called Lost Highway Records. Eddie is in good
company at the Nashville-based Lost Highway. One of America’s greatest
songwriters, Lucinda Williams, also records for the label.
"Lost Highway is a true artist-driven label," says Eddie with
enthusiasm in a cell phone call from California, where he was on tour
last week. "They’re very artist oriented, and everybody on the
label has such a great reputation, it’s given me more credibility
than I’ve ever had in my career, with people like Lucinda Williams
and Ryan Adams on the label. I find people are coming out to shows
just because I’m a Lost Highway act," he says.
"It’s almost like a name brand that stands for Americana and roots
music," adds the 43-year old Highlands, New Jersey, resident,
who recently purchased the small house he had rented for the last
Eddie’s debut for Lost Highway Records, "Who the Hell is John
Eddie?" was released May 13, but there was a lot of radio promotion
going on in advance of the album’s release to create a palpable buzz.
Tracks from Eddie’s new album have been played on WXPN 88.5 FM in
Philadelphia for months now. There are dozens of other Triple A formatted
[adult album alternative] stations around the country that have also
latched on to Eddie’s Jersey Shore-styled soulful roots-rock sound.
Eddie, who has continued to hone his craft at bars from
Long Branch to Asbury Park to Atlantic City in the last dozen years,
never threw in the towel on his own artistic vision even when his
"career" in the record business delivered some heart-breaking
knocks with major record labels. Born in Virginia but raised in Maple
Shade, Eddie dropped out of high school in the 10th grade in Florida
and ran away from home — back to New Jersey. His father, a civilian
employee in the Department of Defense, died when Eddie was 23. His
mother, still a big supporterand also "very, very funny,"
Eddie says, worked as a waitress.
His "career" in the music business started at CBS/Sony in
1986. "John Eddie" was released by the label at the height
of Bruce Springsteen’s success with "Born In The U.S.A." While
Eddie’s debut was reasonably successful, his follow-up, "Hard
Cold Truth," was not a commercial success. He was released from
his contract with CBS and he signed with Elektra Records, but was
later dropped by that label in 1992. Shore-area fans of the singer-songwriter
helped finance several independent releases through the 1990s.
"As far as I can tell," Eddie enthused, "this is by far
and away the most airplay I’ve ever gotten on a record. We even played
at a radio programmers’ conference," he adds. Eddie owes much
of his career turnaround to Michele Clark, a Turnersville native who
ditched plans for law school and started her own radio promotion firm.
Clark started her promotional firm in Cherry Hill. Now based in Malibu,
Calif., Clark was once a 16-year-old who snuck out of her parents’
house with her girlfriends to go see Eddie perform. Now, she’s often
driving him to shows, since she’s been formally managing him for the
last three years.
"We just played Reno, Nevada last night," he continues, "and
there were about 300 people at this club. I looked into the audience
and the people were singing along to my words. It’s the first time
we’ve ever really been able to break out of the East coast club circuit."
So what has Eddie learned in the process of being signed and dropped
from two major record companies, and then playing the Shore’s small
and big bars like the Stone Pony for most of the 1990s?
"A lot of the supporting tours we’ve done in the last couple of
years have been really helpful," he says, noting his band opened
for John Hiatt last year. "We’ve been touring non-stop for the
last two years, and that’s helped build awareness."
"Now, even though I’ve been blessed with all this support from
radio, I still think, nowadays, a band has to work 300 nights a year
to make an impact," he says, noting all the distractions nowadays,
like five new movies coming out each weekend, the proliferation of
video stores, and the Internet.
"We still sell a ton of records at our shows. People see the band
and they want the CD. I really believe in the power of that one-on-one
connection with an audience," he says, adding, "it helps if
you can see as many people as possible face-to-face."
At his slew of area shows this week and next, Eddie will be accompanied
by P.K. Lavengood on guitar, Kenny Aaronson on bass, Gary Gold on
drums and Bart Weilberg on guitar.
Other than having a multi-tiered, international marketing
and promotional record company machine supporting "Who the hell
is John Eddie?" little else has changed for the singer-songwriter,
who turns 44 on July 9th. He bought the house he was renting in Highlands,
"because I just recently was able to obtain good enough credit
to buy it outright!" Eddie, who has never been married and has
no children, looks after three dogs and two pigs when he’s not on
"I’m blessed to have good friends who house sit and look after
the animals when I’m away," he adds.
Despite his lack of formal education, Eddie showcases some incredibly
literate, poignant, autobiographical songs on "Who the hell is
John Eddie?" Songs like "Shithole Bar," "Family Tree,"
"Jesus Is Coming" and "Play Some Skynyrd" demonstrate
that Eddie has taken his songwriting to a new level with his current
release. Eddie cites legendary Americana songwriters like Willie Nelson,
John Hiatt, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan as major influences since
he first started jumping on stages, singing his own songs in bars
in Philadelphia and south Jersey with his old band, the Front Street
"I’m like a little cliche of all the people I love. To me, they
should be everybody’s favorite songwriters," he argues.
What has a new lease on the artistic life, in the form of a contract
with Lost Highway / Mercury Records / Universal Music Group taught
Eddie? He’s the first one to tell you how lucky he is to be 43 and
signed to a major label.
"These days, I’m a lot more realistic about `being a rock star.’
Now, I’m more interested in being a good songwriter. I like to play
live and it keeps the whole enterprise going, but in the last couple
of years, I’ve been concentrating on becoming as strong a songwriter
as I can possibly be," he says.
"If you write a great song, it lasts a lot longer than you do."
— Richard J. Skelly
Trenton, 609-393-7300. $7 at the door. Wednesday, June 25, 8 p.m.
and Wednesday, July 23, 8 p.m.
Red Bank, 732-842-9000. Opening for Willie Nelson. Thursday, June
26, 8 p.m.
Park, 732-502-0600. Friday, July 4, 9 p.m.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.