Friday, September 04, 2015

Tim Brannigan - Hiding in His Shadow on the World's Greatest Stage - Broadway NYC


The Broadway Bound Jersey Boy
Tim Brannigan

What if I told you I knew someone born to perform and his repertoire covers a multitude of disciplines in the performing arts,

lead singing to spotlight dancing,
playing guitar, keyboards, and drums,
producing music to writing and composing music,
orchestrating to arranging,
sound engineering from recording to mixing,
audio engineering for recording or live performance.

Seems a bit much to absorb or comprehend.  Listen to his original songs and you will begin to understand.

Then add in the ability to morph from rock to pop to country to gospel to Broadway to jazz to soul to hip hop to rap and still be sane at the end of a performance.

In fact, this particular someone, if cloned could perform every role of a Broadway musical from writing to composing, acting to playing in the orchestra, sound mixing to choreographer, dancing to singing, and even producing to directing.  Impossible you might respond.

Then you do not know the story behind the multi-talented renaissance man of the performing arts, one Tim Brannigan, genetically bred for the NYC music scene, born for Broadway, trained from birth for the stage, and lives to perform and please.

You might think someone with all these talents and multi-tasking ability would run on high octane and you would be right, his boundless energy is off the charts.  Many aspire to the stage or movies, are trained in voice, dancing, acting, and performing, but few ever become an exceptional singer, actor, or dancer like Tim.

Yet he goes way beyond disciplined training and legendary coaches when it comes to his creative energy, which is in a league by itself.  I have watched him write songs, play the various instrumental parts, sing lead and harmony, produce and direct himself, engineer the recording and mixing, critique his performance, and fire himself all in the same endless night.

Once we were at the end of a grueling sixteen hour television recording session with multiple elements and takes, when this maniac of music said to us, "that was fun, now I'm off to the City" (as in New York City) "to play in a club with some friends."

Another time we were in an all night recording session and Tim was exhausted from having worked all day so he caught a catnap while the band worked out an arrangement.  At 4:30 AM we woke Tim, handed him the sheet music, and in spite of his exhausted and delirious state of mind, he belted out a song he had never seen or heard before in one take.

Brannigan can hoof it like the legendary dancers in Hollywood, think Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, but then he learned to dance when he was a kid at the Kelly family studio so why not?

Are you kidding?  Learned at Kelly's studio?  Sure enough because the God Father to his kid sister was no other than Gene Kelly himself, a close family friend.

Like I mentioned, Brannigan seemed genetically bred to be on Broadway.  His dad, Bernie Brannigan, was a stagehand just like his brothers, Bob and John, as well as his father and Tim's grandfather, Robert, and all of his cousins.  Tim would become the 3rd generation of Brannigan's in the theater business, and eventually he would find his way from summer stock to Broadway.

Tim's mother, Joan Sandacz, was a professional lead dancer who toured with summer stock musicals and danced in the original Broadway Production of the beloved King and I, both on Broadway and in the motion picture.

She made her mark during the Golden Age of the Broadway musical, the 1950's, and performed in every state but Florida on the continental United States.  Along the way, she performed with a host of stars including Celeste Holm, Betty White, Doris Day, and many others.

Raised in the Steel City, Pittsburgh, PA, Joan was best friends with a neighbor Gene Kelly.  At four years old, she attended the Kelly family dance studio with Gene and his younger brother, Fred Kelly.

The Kelly Studio came into existence when a dance school where the Kelly children were enrolled failed, so their mother Harriet scraped together money to pay its bills and took it over. Soon Gene and Fred were the main teachers, pushing hundreds of students through lessons as Shirley Temple and Fred Astaire brought popularity to dancing and fueled the studio business with their popular movies.

When Gene became successful the studio was renamed The Gene Kelly Studio.  Then Gene moved to New York City and began making a name on Broadway and in movies so Fred took over the studio from his mother and moved it to Oradell, New Jersey, in Bergen County.  Here he was in the shadow of NYC, not far from the Hudson River, from New York City and Broadway.  One of his featured instructors at the Gene Kelly Studio was Tim's mother Joan.

Proprietor Fred Kelly, who appeared on Broadway and in movies and was one of the first directors and performers in the new medium of television, had a major advantage and a major disadvantage. Both were named Gene Kelly, a legend in the dance world and his older brother.  Gene, to put it mildly, cast a big shadow.

Gene's earthy, graceful masculinity was the perfect counterpoint to Fred Astaire's studied elegance in lavish Hollywood musicals. Fred Kelly's style and personal presence were remarkably similar to his brother's, and the effect was exhilarating the one time they danced together in a 1954 movie "Deep in My Heart."

However, Fred resisted Gene's entreaties to follow him to Hollywood, preferring the stage, whether on Broadway or in a high school auditorium, and enjoying family life in New Jersey.  The two brothers were always close, with Gene often calling Fred to consult on a dance problem.

But Fred never tired of teasing Gene about the special screening of "An American in Paris" in London in 1951, by command of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen jumped the receiving line and rushed up to Gene, the film's star.

Queen Elizabeth right, and her sister Princess Margaret as young girl guides

"Oh, Mr. Kelly is it true you are the brother of Fred Kelly?" she asked breathlessly.

It turned out that Fred, as an Army sergeant assigned to a traveling dance unit, had given Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret ballroom dancing lessons in England. At their insistence, he also sneaked in some Cancan instruction.  When the princesses later performed in costumes deemed too revealing, the military threatened to bust Fred Kelly to private.

It is Fred Kelly's dance shoes that are hanging on the Wall of Fame at Manhattan's legendary Roseland Ballroom, which credit him with introducing the Cha-Cha to the USA and popularizing the mambo here.

Fred's imprint as a young instructor in Pittsburgh, and in his later life in New Jersey, is still visible in the rhythms of thousands of successful students, including John Travolta and Tim Brannigan, who studied together at Mr. Kelly's dance studio in Oradell, N.J., beginning as 4 year olds. The studio operated for 25 years.

Young John Travolta

Such were the teachers and family friends who would influence Tim Brannigan growing up.

He dances like Gene Kelly, sings like a cross between Robert Plant and Freddie Mercury, plays guitar like Jimmy Page, pounds the keyboards like Nicky Hopkins, beats the skins like Buddy Rich, produces like George Martin, and arranges and orchestrates like Robert Russell Bennett.

So how does such a child protégée dance and sing his way from the Steel City across the Appalachian divide at the other end of Pennsylvania, to the entertainment capital of Broadway?  They don't.  Broadway has never really embraced outsiders if they did not come up through the ranks of New York based theatrical classes, voice coaches, and dance instruction from famous choreographers.

With the Kelly family dance credential, Tim had just one of the three prerequisites, which normally is not enough.  Undaunted by enormous odds against him, young Mr. Brannigan used his broad talents in the performing arts to sidestep the institutional blockades and prejudices and still get on Broadway through the stage door, the same one used by the stars.

However, that comes later in his remarkable story of perseverance and his gritty survival instincts.

Just let it be said, both sides of his family were a never-ending source of inspiration who lived by the toughest of all standards, no matter what happens, the show must go on.

However, to achieve that demanding standard required the toughest of all decisions.  At what point in your career do you stop the relentless pursuit of fame?  For his mother, Joan Brannigan, it was easy.  When she started having children, Tim being the first, she would reinvent her career.

As rapidly as his mother ascended to lead dancer in musicals and movies, she changed course giving up the glamour of Broadway and Hollywood, and charted a new course into raising a family.  From that point, her role in entertainment would be secondary to her role as a mother and her path became teaching and preparing young people like her own children for the demands, rigors, and lifestyle for a career in show business.

Unlike many others, Joan had no regrets and as a result was able to teach and guide her children through the many pitfalls of performing.  Along the way, she used her talents and "theatrical family" network to try to keep them on the right path.

When Tim was young the entertainment world was far different than today.  Back then, particularly in the theater world, everyone who contributed to a show was family and the unspoken rule was they took care of each other.

With limited Broadway opportunities, although Broadway musicals had their best decade in history in the 1950's, many singers, dancers, and actors found work in the summer stock theater and with road companies of Broadway shows.

Hollywood stars like Doris DayShirley BasseyDinah ShoreImogene Coco, and the Andrew Sisters often came from the theater, or performed with orchestras.  Joan Brannigan recalls a strong sense of family among the theater crowd, those on stage, as well as those behind the curtain.

In fact, so tight were the theatrical companies that Joan called Oscar Hammerstein, one of the greatest composers in the history of Broadway, and member of the legendary Rogers and Hammerstein team, "Uncle Oscar" while she was performing in the Broadway musical and shooting the movie in Burbank of the play The King and I.

Did I mention the day the Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra, treated Tim and his parents to dinner?  It seems on their first wedding anniversary, Joan and Bernie decided to go to an exclusive club for dinner and made reservations.

After being seated, they noticed their friends Edie Adams and Ernie Kovacs talking to the restaurant maître d' and became aware they did not have reservations and the place was full, so they invited them to share their table.

A short time later there was again confusion at the restaurant maître d' station only this time they noticed it was the legendary Frank Sinatra and several of his body guards who did not have a table.  Edie and Ernie were friends of Sinatra and invited him to share the Brannigan table, and he did.

Later after Sinatra left and the Brannigan's asked for the bill, the maître d' told them Mr. Sinatra paid the tab for their anniversary celebration with no fanfare.  As for Tim, he was at the table and just a womb away from the legend, as his mother was pregnant with him at the time.

Let us look at the very early life of Tim.

By the ripe old age of three, he was singing harmony to songs on the radio and television.  When he reached four, he urged his mom to send him to the Kelly dance school to learn tap, ballet, modern dance, and gymnastics.

He was staging family theater shows by age 7, with his brother Brien, and sister Kerry who share in the wealth of Brannigan bloodline talent.  In fact, Brien had a friend whose father was best friends with the legendary Les Paul, and whenever he visited Brien's friend's house in Jersey, Brien would go over and jam with the master.

As for sister Kerry, not only was she Gene Kelly's God Daughter but she excelled in dance and became a professional dance teacher.  Like Tim, she also knew John Travolta because she gave lessons to his girl friend, Brooke Shield, and he would meet her at the studio.

At one point, the dance school of Tim's mother was competing in a national competition when an injury to the star of the show threatened to end their bid to be national champions.  It happened just days before the finals.  Although not the understudy, Tim offered to replace the star and after just three rehearsals led the school to the national championship.

Of course, entertainment was not the only focus of young Tim as he was a gifted baseball player and bowler.

As a reoccurring theme in the life of one Tim Brannigan, often a strange happening or bizarre circumstance led to major turning points in his long and winding road.

Take his professional debut on stage.  No, it was not in the local theater, nor a bit part on Broadway, that launched his career.  Fact is it had nothing to do with the ambitions of Tim or his mother.

It involved a Puppet Show in the French exhibit with live puppets at the 1964 World's Fair stage in New York City, where a star of the show, a Midget, Dwarf, Little Person or whatever you want to politically correct call him, got sick.

Where in the world do you find an emergency replacement with no rehearsal time to perform, at one of the most popular attractions in NYC?  A fearless little man who could act was required, and the seven-year old Tim Brannigan filled the part, so to speak.  According to family members, he was a sensation.

Ironically, I was at the 1964 World's Fair in NYC, spent several days there, and I even saw the puppet show and young Tim might well have been on stage.  The entire World's Fair extravaganza was overwhelming.  My own experiences with Tim would come later.  Still, you must admit it was a rather odd debut of a professional career.

When he reached fifth grade young Tim discovered a talent for writing original poetry and treated his classmates to clever and humorous verse.  About that time along came The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and suddenly rock 'n roll and jazz dancing emerged to the forefront.  The world of music turned upside down while television brought an end to the dominance of Broadway musicals and movies of the musicals.

In Tim's own words, here are some of his early memories.

"When asked what inspired me to become a musician, I recollect watching The Beatles and The Rolling Stones when they performed, on the Ed Sullivan Show. While watching The Beatles, I told my mom, "that's what I want to be when I grow up." She told me, "it was a fine idea."

"When I was a few years older, around 1967, I would arrange album covers on the floor in front of me like the snare drum and tom toms of a drum set.  I would sit, cross-legged on floor, listening to my Beatle records, and playing along.

"I learned to sing harmony by panning my stereo to the left or right, isolating lead vocals and harmonies.  When recordings and mixing took place, voices and instruments were assigned to the left or right channel.  I would pan the audio so all vocals were on one side, and sing along or harmonize to the different vocal parts.  I would do the same with the drum parts.

"My first big investment came when I was thirteen and bought my first drum set with money I saved from my summer job.  My savings was about $20 short for buying the drums so I thought I might buy a mini-bike instead.

"Mother heard about it and gladly gave me the $20 so I would buy the drums instead of the dangerous mini-bike.  She also bought my younger brother an electric guitar and an amp, which was great because now I could teach myself to play the guitar as well as the drums.

Young Brannigan Brothers on stage

"I practiced incessantly at both.  My brother Brien, extremely and naturally gifted at playing guitar, joined in and we worked out together.  When it came to singing, I was not bad either, since I practiced singing my whole life.

"When I was eleven and in fifth grade I started writing poetry and lyrics.  Sometimes I would entertain the kids and teachers at school with my compositions.  However, the reason I wanted to write music as well as sing and play, was to accompany myself while singing original compositions.

"We also had a cheap electric organ in the house that I had been tinkering with for several years.  Suddenly all the different pieces began to make sense.  It did not occur to me a purpose might be served in the variety of interests I was pursuing.  I never even thought of what it would mean later in life, when my songwriting ideas matured a bit and I began to branch out.

"At the ripe old age of fourteen I started my first band.  As for preparation, just before our first gig, the lead guitarist handed me a bass guitar and that was to be my new instrument, so much for the years of learning drums, guitar, and keyboards.  That was my intro to playing the bass.

"One member of our band was a kid who'd studied drums since he was five years old.  He had the latest Ringo Starr Ludwig drum kit, and played like my idol Buddy Rich.  

"Now with four instruments to learn, I decided to give up my first instrument, the only one that I took professional lessons on, the clarinet.  I started clarinet lessons when I was in second grade because my dad had played in the Marine Corps in Korea.

"When I reached seventeen it was time to move on and we formed The Purée Brothers which played from 1975 to 1978.  The band consisted of:

John "Willie" Wilson - rhythm guitar/vocals
Neil Murphy - rhythm guitar/vocals
Mark "Doctor Hyme" DiRado - bass guitar
Brien Brannigan - Lead Guitar/vocals
Tim Brannigan - drums/vocals
Greg Kearns - percussion/drums

"The Purée Brothers band formed in high school and we were all school buddies with a shared interest.  Today, the group's genre would be called a "Jam Band." We were too young to play in the bars and clubs since my brother Brien, was only 15 or 16, so we lied about our age, claiming all were at least 18 years old.

"We looked like a bunch of loud, crazy, skinny, stinky, long-haired kids. While we only played in less than a dozen clubs, we played loads of other shows.  The band played shows at colleges and while we were there, we might play a show outdoors in the afternoon, then a show indoors in the evening.  After that we'd go jam at these insane parties in somebody's dorm room until five in the morning. We got no expenses for hotel rooms so we would scatter and each of us would be off to find our own spot to sleep.

"We knew some real musicians who were about three years older than us, I can't remember their original band name.  In 1976 they formed a band called The Rhythm Method. They were a classic club band playing mostly current covers of the time, with a handful of originals. I looked up so much to these guys.

"To me these guys were real musicians. They were my idols!  I was friends with their lighting technician, Tommy Brendise, and their sound technician, Kevin "Kray-Z-Man" Hilyer.  So I traveled with them as a roadie.  I danced my ass off at their shows, singing as loud as I could, hoping to be invited up to the bandstand.  Eventually I sang quite a bit with them. Their band also broke up in 1977.

"From then on players from our two bands united as one large Jam Band that we laughingly called, The Seethers. Rhythm Method drummer, Bob "The Hammer" Hammerstein and I would set up our two drum kits onstage and play off of each other with the band.

"When I was eighteen, my first apartment was across the hall from his place. On Sundays we would setup both of our kits in his living room and play together for hours, Bwanaman and The Hammer!

The evolution of The Seethers, 1976 - 2014:

Brien Brannigan - guitar/ vocals
Rich Shults - guitar/vocals
Neil Murphy - guitar/vocals
Rich Goldberg - guitar/vocals
Doug Goldberg - guitar/vocals
Rick Molnar - Keyboards
Mark DiRado - bass guitar
Frank Murphy - bass guitar/vocals
Chris Gilb - bass guitar
Greg Kearns - drums/ percussion
Bob Hammerstein - drums
Tim Brannigan - drums/percussion/vocals

"The Seethers is more of a collective than a proper band.  This group formed organically,  a combination of The Purée Bros and The Rhythm Method, and we played together more and more, sharing stages and joining each others' groups onstage.  In nearly forty years, The Seethers have never had a single rehearsal.  We just get together and play.  We do have a repertoire of a zillion songs to choose from, and it's always growing.

"We have always performed some of Rich and Doug Goldberg's original songs.  The style, feel, and arrangements are always subject to change on the spot.  After so much time, we know each other's playing habits and style very well.  We pay attention and follow each other to wherever our musical journey takes us that night.  The Seethers truly know how to improvise and jam.

 "Guitarist and singer Rich Goldberg was a member of  The Rhythm Method. Rich is a Seether as well. We've had a a wonderful, lifelong friendship and an amazing musical and personal history together as friends and as musicians. The Seethers still jam together as often as possible and we still call each other "seething butt holes," among other things.

"While being involved with The Purée Bros and The Seethers I also joined Eugene SantaMaria and the Goodlife in 1977 in my first attempt to get paid to play drums. This was a so called "club date" band which performed mainly weddings and corporate parties. They played top 40 songs and classics.

"Rich Goldberg and I auditioned for the band and were hired. We rehearsed in a gas station garage, with oil puddles on the floor.  Rich and I drove almost an hour to and from rehearsals.

From the very beginning I referred to Eugene SantaMaria, as Gino Venakizza, after a character in the lyrics of a Willie Wilson song.  I changed my name to Gino Venakizza, and said I could only eat garlic bread and pizza.

"Upon meeting the real Gino, I introduced myself as Tim Bwanaman.  During our first gig, at The Four Seasons Country Club somewhere in New Jersey, Gino introduced me to the club owner as Tim Bwanaman.  The look he gave me was awesome!  "The first gig also ended our careers with The Good Life.

"We rehearsed relentlessly while avoiding the oil spills.  At one point, I kept correcting our female keyboardist when she missed her parts on several songs. Finally, I got up from the drum kit, walked over to her, and played her part.  I was only trying to help.  She broke down in tears.

"There is a GREAT story about outfitting the band and there is another about Gino at our first gig.  Believe me, it was hopeless, so Rich and I quit the group.  I cannot stop laughing whenever I think of that group.  That was the only club date act I have ever played in.

"Several years later, I tried out for a well known "society orchestra."  The audition was corny, hilarious, but I still got the job.  Ape suits (tuxedos) were required and for a moment, I actually thought about buying my own tux.  That was the last time I tried to play in any type of a club date band.  I would have been so depressed that I would hate playing music, no way, not for me.

Life goes on and along came The Nightgang from 1978 through 1979.

John "Willie" Wilson - rhythm guitar/vocals
Chris  Marksbury - lead guitar/ vocals
Mark DiRado - bass guitar
Tim "Bwanaman" Brannigan - drums/vocals

"Upon starting this group, we had our first band meeting and I was ready to attempt serious business with this new group.  At that meeting we discussed what our short term and long term goals would be.  We discussed what our needs would be to move forward toward those goals.  We took a loan to buy a small, but very decent sound system, and an old (diaper) truck.  We began booking gigs whenever and wherever we could.

"In Marksbury's parents' basement we rehearsed cover songs that were different from the existing bands in our area.  We also began writing and rehearsing original songs.  At that time, through my membership in Local 1, I was working with the overnight crew at the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. People called the overnight crew at the Met the Nightgang. That is what inspired our band name.

"The band played mostly cover songs with some originals.  The Nightgang had no particular image.  However, we already had quite a definitive sound, with three lead singers and outstanding harmonies.  People liked us. Talented, funny, and different, audiences even sang and danced to our originals.

"We got busy fast with ever-increasing bookings.  Soon we were paying back the loan and saving for a bigger, better sound system, more lighting, and a bigger truck.  It was the first band I joined with permanent equipment including guitar amps, drums, and PA, to leave in our rehearsal space.

"Always adding new originals and creating cool arrangements of unusual covers, suddenly the ratio of covers verses originals was shifting.  Now we were becoming an original band with just a few covers in each set.

"However, it resulted in no success at breaking into the big clubs and thriving club scene that existed at that time. These clubs only accepted bookings from the big three management companies in our area.  It was time for a name change and some serious upgrades to our whole entertainment package.

Along came The Metros  in 1979-1983 and everything changed.

Willie "Grape Head" Wilson - rhythm guitar/vocals
Tim "Bongoman/Bwanaman" Brannigan - drums/guitar/vocals
Chris "Surfer Boy/Dunes" Marksbury - guitar/drums/vocals
Mark "Doc/Doctor Hyme" DiRado - bass guitar/vocals

"When The Nightgang changed it's name to The Metros in 1979, for no apparent reason the big clubs gave us bookings immediately, they paid good money, and there were no questions asked.  The new name really worked!  The club owners all said they knew of us.

"Somehow we received bookings in large venues that booked acts exclusively through one of New Jersey's "Big Three" agencies.  Each of these management companies booked particular venues exclusively.  The only way on stage was through the booking monopoly of the big three agencies.

"We were the exception to the rule when it came to the other big groups in the area.  As the only totally original band out there, we refused to sign exclusive deals with anyone to represent us.  Our position toward the Big Three was to remain independent, accept gigs from all if them, and pay them their percentages.  The idea of being exclusive to any of them was counterproductive.  It would limit our ability to perform where ever wanted.

"Along with our new name we updated our sound, our image, our stage act, and our repertoire.  We worked very hard at it.  We had a great logo created for The Metros.  It was used for club advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles, and of course, it was on my kick drum head.  We even had a huge backdrop made for our shows.

"By 1980 we had purchase full PA and lighting systems and a 19' box truck. We had hired our sound technician at the end of our days as, The Nightgang.  Now we hired two roadies, one for lights, and one for drums and guitars.

"After receiving $20 a night each for a few years and putting the rest of our take toward the band, the group and our sound tech were actually being paid a salary.  It wasn't much, but we could live on it. So now, all of our stage gear, sound, and lighting equipment lived in our truck. We had our own totally outfitted rehearsal space.  Our job now was to write songs, rehearse them, and play shows.

"In 1980, The Metros recorded, produced and self-released a 45 rpm record. It was a four song EP.  We sold our record at shows and in local record shops.  To show how daft we were, when we sold out all our copies of the first record, instead of ordering more copies, we recorded and released a second record.  When we sold out that one, it still never occurred to us to reorder the first one or two for selling.

"The first radio station to spin our EP was a small station, in Westchester, NY, called WRNW-FM, in Briarcliff Manor.  There's nothing so exciting as hearing yourself on the radio for the first time.  We gave our first radio interview there.

"We sent a copy of our EP to WNEW FM dee jay, Meg Griffin.  She loved it, played it often, and talked us up on the air.  In no time at all we were being played, on WNEW, by three DJ's.  

"One of the DJ's, Dan O'Near, played my song, Get Off The Phone, twice in a row.  He laughed about how short and fast the song was.  Meg chose The Metros to participate in her new program called, Prisoners Of Rock.  She played unsigned bands on the air and held a live showcase each month at New York's premier club, The Bottom Line.

"The Bottom Line was a coveted NYC venue that only featured acts who had a record deal, and a name people recognized, until The Metros.  We held the attendance record there for several years.

"This was one of my favorite venues to play in NYC.  Four times we played at The Bottom Line, twice for Meg's WNEW-FM Prisoners Of Rock, and twice as opening act for popular recording artists.

"In NYC you need a Cabaret license for people to dance.  The club didn't have that license, so dancing was strongly prohibited.  "Houston, we have a problem."  Metros fans did two things - drink (a lot) and dance like insane people.

"Our third date at The Bottom Line and The Metros opened for one of our favorite childhood bands, The Grass Roots.  At the first show when we opened, the place was jammed with people dancing on tables and dancing on the bar.  I tried to bet the bartender $100 that he would run out of Budweiser that night.  He took great offense to my obnoxious bet.  Then he ran out of Bud, during our opening set, of the first show.

"After we finished our opening set the house emptied.  Our fans simply cleared out and waited to pay again for our second show.  Willie and I sat at a table, in an almost empty club, and watched the Grass Roots perform.  This band had like a dozen hit songs.  We loved them.

"When they finished the first set the club owner called us together with the Grass Roots front man, Rob Grill.  We told Rob how much we loved his band, and how we grew up on it. I could see him wince a bit at the age thing.  Oops!  The owner then told Grill that The Grass Roots would open the second show for The Metros.

"Rob went apeshit!  Our childhood pop idols now hated us!

"And it all happened again when we opened at The Bottom Line for SVT, a trio featuring Jack Cassidy, bassist for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.

Jefferson Airplane
"Doc and I were crazy about Jack Cassidy.  He was showing us his incredible bass guitar backstage. Up comes the owner.  When he told them he was reversing the order of appearance, Jack Cassidy hated us too!  He is still one of the top three bass players that I love.

The Energy Show

Now this is a side story that took nearly two years to complete.  Once upon a time when Governor Thomas Kean served the State of New Jersey one of his staff, Jim Putnam, with the blessing of Energy Commissioner Leonard Coleman, asked the Governor for permission to undertake an exciting new initiative called The Energy Show.

Putnam promised to get President Ronald Reagan's administration to fund the program through the U.S. Department of Energy.  With a little nudge from the White House it happened.  The result was the most successful public education program ever undertaken up until that time by the federal or state governments, with it's goal to reach teenagers with a message to help save energy.  Nothing like it was ever attempted before.

Andrew Carl Wilk and Willie Geist NBC News
Andrew Carl Wilk was recruited to help create the components, produce the various video elements, and direct The Energy Show for television broadcast.  Andrew, a multiple Emmy winner as a director and orchestra conductor, had previously worked with Putnam on a PBS series they created called "Flashpoint."  This undertaking would dwarf any previous production in size, scope, and budget.

Dave Gellis - Energy Show
Dave Gellis - Blood Sweat and Tears
Wilk, who is now Executive Producer, Live From Lincoln Center on PBS · New YorkNew York, was up to the challenge.  The centerpiece was to be the production of a show meeting national broadcast standards consisting of a live concert, for broadcast on the prestigious A&E network, shot on location at Red Bank New Jersey High School, with on site production trucks, six miles of cable, and a massive generator.

Brian McMahon and Tim Brannigan - Energy Show
These visionaries not only secured federal funding but it was the first government funded program ever broadcast on A&E.  After a review of the script, the cable network executives were convinced the show presented a balanced view and the energy conservation message was important for public information.

Jeff Young - Energy Show
Jeff Young and Jackson Browne
The Energy Show included three elements, a stand up comedian opening the show, a twelve minute animated film called The Energy Odyssey to be shown on a 24' wide screen on stage, and a live rock band to emerge through the fog as the screen opened in the middle.  To make it work and catch the attention of the teens, the band had to be MTV quality.

Jeff Gellis - Energy Show
Jeff Gellis - Ranchero Allstars jam

In 1984 auditions were held in NYC, by Andrew Carl Wilk (Producer and Director), Jim Putnam (Executive in Charge of Production), Chuck Hammer (Music Director), Mark Cordray (Energy Odyssey writer), and Jo Bonney (Art Director), for a one of a kind production called The Energy is You.

Brian McMahon - Energy Show - deceased
It would consist of a series of live high school appearances all across the State of New Jersey and at the last venue, Red Bank High School, a television special of the show would be shot for national broadcast on the Arts and Entertainment Cable Network.

The all star band was selected and spoiled from the beginning.  The best equipment was brought in, a team of song writers to write all originals songs were recruited, the band traveled to and from rehearsals and performances in their own stretch limo with their own chauffeur, they were all paid from the minute rehearsals began, and Tim Brannigan was one of five musicians chosen to star in the show and write one of the songs.

Tim with Beatle George Harrison's guitar
Harrison guitar auction reaches $400,000

The band State Property consisted of Dave Gellis - lead guitar, Tim Brannigan - drums and vocals, Jeff Young - keyboards and vocals, Jeff Gellis - bass guitar, and Brian McMahon, rhythm guitar and vocals. 

Members of the band would later join and record with groups like Blood Sweat & Tears, Meat Loaf, Jackson Browne, Donald Fagen, Sting, Vonda Shepard, Curtis Stigers, and Bonnie Raitt.

Patti LaPone, fresh from a best actress Tony Award while starring in the musical Evita on Broadway, provided a voice over for an animated Energy Odyssey encouraging teens to conserve because the energy is you!

Jo Bonney and husband actor Eric Brogosian
The art director, Jo Bonney, became a Broadway director.

Gary Delena - Energy Show
Gary Delena - Today
The Einstein character, Gary DeLena, a comedian who opened the show, became one of NYC's most successful stage and television comedians and appeared on every major show on national television.

Music director Chuck Hammer played lead guitar with Lou Reed and David Bowie and went on to create amazing guitar sounds.  Hammer's recorded work is known as Guitarchitecture, a process and term which he developed in 1977.  The underlying thought behind Guitarchitecture is to extend the guitar vocabulary by altering its temporal characteristics and context.

Tim played drums, composed a song, and was lead singer in the show.  Five music videos were generated by the production team of the band called State Property, and the national broadcast was such a success that A&E won the CableAce award, the Emmy for cable TV at the time, for public service excellence.

Wilk cast for Company - Tim on lower left
Andrew Wilk, who directed regional theater companies in which Brannigan also acted and sang, moved to National Geographic Television before ending up at the Lincoln Center.

Wilk and the dolphins 

Time to Move On.

Lennon in Toronto
From this point in his career Brannigan began producing for other groups and composing songs throughout the New York area until he was discovered by the legendary Kim Fowley.

The Runaways
Kim Fowley was an American record producer, composer, singer, and musician best known for a string of novelty and cult pop rock singles in the 1960's, and for managing the Runaways in the 1970's.

He got John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band to play at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in 1969 where Fowley, the program emcee, created the iconic experience of having the audience light matches and lighters to welcome John Lennon to the stage.

Tim's mentor Kim Fowley and Joan Jett
National magazines describe Fowley as "one of the most colorful characters in the annals of rock & roll," as well as "a shadowy cult figure well outside the margins of the mainstream."

Fowley discovered Brannigan at the legendary Austin, Texas South by Southwest Music Festival and for over a year, Tim worked and traveled with the Madman of Rock and Pop.  He co-wrote a series of songs with Fowley for major artists, songs yet to be released.

Fowley and Kiss
Producing and mentoring unsigned artists is a crap shoot at best and sometimes the Gods of music can trick you into missing golden opportunities.  During these years Tim was offered the chance to produce unknowns at the time like the Hansen Brothers, The Dave Matthews Band, and others, before they became famous.  Each time a last minute booking sidetracked him and the bands were handed off to other producers.

The Dave Matthews Band
And then, there is Tim Brannigan the producer, editor, and mixer of music and member of Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E).

As mentioned, Tim is a third generation member of Local One, the premier stagehand union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E).  This union construct, install, maintain, and operate the lighting and sound equipment, the scenery and special effects, which thrill and delight audiences in New York City.

Venues controlled by Local One include Broadway shows, concerts at Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall, the magnificent, spectacular productions at The Metropolitan Opera and throughout Lincoln Center, and the many entertaining broadcasts from CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and PBS.  In addition, numerous cable TV studios work through the union and make possible the presentation of major corporate industrial and special events.

While Tim Brannigan’s talents as a multi-instrumentalist propelled him to a career as a singer, drummer, and guitarist, it also led to the production side of music and entertainment, and to the union responsible for building the systems that give voice to music in NYC.

Broadway Show Angels in America
Tim began building and recording in [analog] recording studios in the early 1980's. He was first employed as Manager/Chief Engineer of a commercial recording facility, in NYC, in 1988.

Broadway show Ragtime
He is a Pro Tools® expert and proficient with popular hardware and software platforms for digital recording / mixing / editing / mastering. Tim has mixed extensively on most sound consoles manufactured for live and studio use.  Brannigan continues to write, perform, and record original music.

Selected Live Sound Experience: On Broadway, Tim has worked as Mix Engineer or Wireless Audio Technician for: Jersey Boys, Avenue Q, Angels In America, Ragtime, Master Class, Miss Saigon, The Boy From Oz, La Boheme, and several other Broadway hits. Currently, he is working on Jersey Boys as part of the sound production team.

Jon Bon Jovi
Brannigan has been Head of Department and Chief engineer at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Nokia Theatre, Hard Rock Café, and World Wrestling Entertainment. Tim was Sound Designer for the Off-Broadway musical, Cross That River.

Selected Mix Experience clients include Taio Cruz, Cee Lo Green, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Wynton Marsalis, Tony Bennett, Rihanna, Nas, Run DMC, Wu-Tang Clan, and Slick Rick.
Cee Lo Green
Live Broadcast Television and Radio Mixing clients include John Fogerty, Justin Bieber, Cody Simpson, Fabulous, Brittany Spears, 50 Cent, Ludacris, T.I., Ne-yo, Reba Macintire, Fergie, and Kenny Chesney.

Mariah Carey
Tim has been mix engineer on live and prerecorded shows for MTV, VH-1, ABC, NBC, CBS, Serius/XM, and others.

Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks
He has provided Front Of House Audio support for Rod Stewart, The Eagles, Prince,  Bon Jovi, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, Cheap Trick, Joan Jett, Sheryl Crow, Motorhead, and many more.

Justin Bieber
Selected Creative Credits of Brannigan include composing, producing, and performing commercials on Radio and Television for RCA, Lubriderm, VISA, Seaman’s.

Paul Simon
Tim wrote the song, Blind Faith for the award winning independent film, Bury the Evidence.  He has written, produced, and performed on CD’s for Japan, Spain, Germany, and the UK as well as here in the US.

Brannigan penned Rays Of Hope for the national award-winning Energy Show on PBS and A&E Network, and he Co-Wrote, I Had A Dream for the Martin Luther King Commission first national holiday celebration in Atlanta.

1 comment:

Lisa and Robert Hammerstein said...

Wow! That was awesome! And I knew you then and still do know you. Onward and upward dude... A great read!