my story

Like so many of us who grew up in the fifties and sixties, my first introduction to pop music was the Ed Sullivan Show. Ed had the unique ability, in spite of a rather dour demeanor, to assemble a collection of some of the greatest artists in the world for one hour every Sunday night at 8:00 P.M. You best believe that America was watching TV on Sunday to see the likes of Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and everyone else, including the Beatles, sandwiched in between the plate spinners and the jugglers. The artistry and showmanship of these great performers hypnotized me and I would get through the week until the next Sunday night lineup by repeating, in my mind, over and over again their songs and routines.

I knew every nuance and inflection of every singer and would imagine myself in their shoes. Coupled with this was a trip to the local drug store where I would pick up a song sheet with lyrics of the latest hits on the radio and sing them to myself in a rocker on my front porch on Garrison Avenue. I would imagine myself as Sammy, Tony, Dean, Bing or Frank playing the clubs and entertaining my throng of admirers. Reading “Variety” newspaper every week to follow the nightclub reviews, there were nightclubs then, I would hang on to every word the critics said about their performances, alternately agreeing or disagreeing, and keeping track of the box office.

My passion for singing and performing was born right there, Sunday night, with Ed. However, other than singing and imitating these performers around the house, probably much to the chagrin of my older sister and brother, I never did much to realize my dream until I became a counselor at Camp Wonderland. It was there, that I became the singing counselor.

Fortunately for me the nephew of the camp owner, was from Cherry Hill New Jersey and had an orchestra there. Now Cherry Hill, you may know, was the home territory of such popular performers and teenage heart throbs like Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydel and Al Martino. My friend somehow wangled an audition for me with the manager of some of these performers and thus I found myself auditioning for him, Mr. Silverman, in his living room. I remember I sang the Judy Garland arrangement of “Almost like Being in Love. “ Not duly impressed I never heard from him again but I left with the pride of having tried and the faint glimmer of hope that I would yet be discovered. Meanwhile my friend arranged for me to sing a few songs at a local country club there and some bar mitzvah at the Cherry Hill Inn (I think I might be imagining or exaggerating this recollection but it feels good).

The summer was over and I continued my years at Forest Park High School where I was the lead in a number of what we used to call “assemblies.” Parodying the “football coach” in some musical sequence and even having a part in “The Chinese Chalk Circle,” I was rewarded for my “art”, more likely for my courage, by being voted “Most Talented” guy in my graduating year along with a soprano who had far more talent and reach than me. The vote was a good thing but frustrating too. Deep inside I knew I wanted to do more of this but being practical, pragmatic and not particularly self-confident I didn’t pursue the entertainment realm much after that.

Fast track about 45 years from high school graduation, with maybe a few momentary songs over the years at a charity function or as part of an ensemble, coupled with the interruption of life, marriage, a child, a career, (all the things I would never change) I had let it all go, the passion, the dream and the act of singing, except in the shower, for 40 years, my exclusive venue, but that was about the extent of my career.

Until...until I was turning 60 and I was having a conversation with friends and discussing life-long fantasies yet unfulfilled, our “Bucket List.” I stated mine immediately of “wanting to sing” and much to my surprise they said, “We can make that happen for you.” I said, how’s that? After telling me they had a well known piano, jazz playing friend in Seattle, Washington who played local clubs they were going to call him and asked if I could sing with him. And they did just that. At that moment. And he said yes. Yikes! Now what?

The “now what” was answered by another set of friends introducing me to Brent Hardesty, a well know pianist, singer, composer and owner of a recording studio in Baltimore, who agreed to help me produce a set of “practice tracks”, that I could send my new found accompanist in Seattle to prepare for my club debut. Since I was flying out there only two days before my debut, having never met him, having never played with him nor not knowing how to read music or having had a vocal lesson, I figured I better get prepared. Really? For several months Brent and I worked on these tracks and I sent him the songs and scheduled my flight for Seattle.

Arriving in Seattle I had arranged to meet with him that day. We either would click or we wouldn’t. Fortunately we did and for two days I practiced the 14 songs from my practice tracks that I had sent him. While preparing for my debut I was waiting for a number of my friends who were flying out to see me as well as my daughter. I truly couldn’t believe I was doing this.

The BIG NIGHT!!!!! Gary Rubin appearing LIVE at the “Pink Door” a well known funky club in the highly touristed Pikes’ Market district. Adrenalin flowing, flop sweat beginning to surface a bit (but to my surprise, not a lot) and with the Bon Jovi song, “It’s My Life,” learned and internalized, I opened the set. Soaking up the crowd, a boomer having his life fantasy come through, I wove my story through the 13 additional songs resulting in a standing ovation (stacking the audience with friends and supporters) and lots of hugs and congratulations. I had done it. It felt good and I could tell it resonated with the audience, even the folks I didn’t know. What a sense of empowerment. I could conquer the world!!

Since that time, I may not have conquered the world but I am still pursuing my dream, getting better at my passion in the process and simply having a blast. As Bon Jovi says, “Live While You’re Alive.”