By: Alex Biese Metromix Jersey Shore August 21, 2008
A self-described “saloon singer,” Pat Guadagno lives up to his nickname, having played professionally around the Shore for about 20 years and averaging 10 shows a week in the summer at local clubs.
Guadagno’s packed calendar — which includes a free show with Bobby Strange at 7 p.m. Friday (Aug. 22) in Red Bank’s Riverside Gardens Park, plus gigs at McLoone’s Pier House in Long Branch on Saturday (Aug. 23) and Wednesday (Aug. 27) — is the fact that Guadagno is not a songwriter. Instead, he presents his own interpretations of classic numbers by the likes of Bob Dylan and the work of more obscure songwriters such as Fred Knobloch’s “King of Fools,” as evidenced on Guadagno’s 2003 album, “Live at the City Lights Saloon.”
Guadagno recently spoke with Metromix Jersey Shore about his secret to staying busy and what writers are the most rewarding to cover.
Q&A: Pat Guadagno
What’s your secret for being able to get out there and play as much as you do?
I don’t know; I still love doing it. I guess working other jobs that I didn’t like doing quite as much as this. I love working nights and having days off — it’s kind of cool.
You’re known for putting your own spin on other writers’ material.
Yeah, that kind of came out of necessity from my songwriting. I realized that I could arrange other people’s music better than my own songs, so I decided to do that full-time and it’s kind of caught on. It was a struggle for a long time because, really, in this industry, you don’t get any respect if you’re not a singer/songwriter and you’re just kind of recognized as a cover band or a “Margaritaville” kind of player.
But lately it’s kind of caught on, and I’m starting to get some respect as an entertainer as opposed to just singing other people’s music. One song that I arranged was picked up on a Showtime series, so that was a real pleasure for me.
That was the Warren Zevon song “Don’t Let Us Get Sick” (used on the series “Californication”), right?
And how did that come about?
That was really just from my record being on iTunes. Somebody out in L.A. heard the version, liked it, called me up and asked if they could use it. It was all just kind of one of those things, the way it happened.
Do you think the fact that you were invited to play the Songwriters in the Park series has to do with the increased respect you’ve been getting as an entertainer?
Yeah … I was invited to play the Light of Day concert and do one of their songwriters circles, and I got up there and I’m not sure whether they realized because a lot of the stuff I do is pretty obscure, so they think it’s mine without looking at the credit. I always give the songwriters credit for their material. But I got up there onstage and confessed that I was not a songwriter. .. That kind of started the ball rolling, and I guess with the release of the album, some of the radio stations starting picking up on the different versions of other people’s music and Sirius Radio is starting to play some of it. They have a show called “Coffeehouse Covers,” where they’ve been a lot of my music on there.
I saw on your Web site they’ve been playing “Bus Stop” (originally performed by the Hollies), right?
With your performances, is it an effort of yours to bring attention to some of the lesser-known songwriters out there, like Fred Knobloch?
Yeah, yeah it is. I travel to Nashville a lot and just have the utmost respect for the guys, the songwriters in Nashville, that really keep the whole machine going. A lot of their stuff doesn’t get released on the country Top 40; it’s just a lot of great material that otherwise doesn’t get any kind of airplay, so I kind of find their songs and do the ones that I want. One of the things I love about my job is I just do songs I like. I’m not in a position when I have to play stuff I don’t particularly like or do what everybody does, mainly.
Over the years, are there any songs that you’ve played countless times and still continue to surprise you?
Yeah. I guess because I’m not a songwriter I’m just really taken by lyrics and I think that’s why I do a lot of Bob (Dylan) songs because I’m in love with his lyrics, and Tom Waits is another guy that I really respect.
As a matter of fact, I’m working on a Tom Waits show that we’re going to do in the fall. We don’t have a date for it yet. I realized, when I was playing one night, that I do a lot of his stuff, too, so we’re gonna throw together a Tom Waits night. …. I’ve always loved his stuff, and the nice thing about the Tom Waits stuff and the Bob Dylan stuff is that it’s melodic and their treatment of it is more of a songwriters’ treatment, so it lends itself to creativity. They’re almost like rough copies of the songs and they’re in their purest form, so they lend themselves to license.
Are there any plans for another record, a follow-up to “Live at the City Lights Saloon”?
Yeah, I’ve been working on one; I hope it will be out this year. As a matter of fact, I’m on my way to the studio. I’ve got a lot of stuff recorded, I’m just trying to throw something together that makes sense, as far as an album’s concerned.