Nov 18, 2013

Remembering Vixen Founder / Guitarist; Jan Kuehnemund (1961-2013)

centerfieldmaz was shocked to learn of the sudden passing of Jan Kuehnemund, the founding member of the all female metal band Vixen. Jan was a fantastic guitarist, song writer & women pioneer in Heavy Metal. I am a huge fan of hard rock all girl bands & Vixen were one my long time favorites.

Janice Lynn Kuehnemund was born November 18th, 1961 in St. Paul Minnesota. The female guitarist formed one of the first all female Metal bands in Minnesota with singer Janet Gardner while in high school in 1980. By 1985 they moved the band to Los Angles California, to be part of the Heavy Metal scene.

In 1987 the classic Vixen line up of Jan Kuehnemund (lead guitar) Janet Gardner (vocals/ guitar) Share Pederson (bass) & Roxy Petrucci (drums) formed & released their debut album the following year.

Vixen 1988
In a world of all male Heavy Metal bands during its heyday, Vixen were groundbreaking in being an all female metal band. The Runaways, with Joan Jett & Lita Ford, had broken the mold a decade earlier, as a teenage all female hard rock band. Since then there were the Go Go's, the Bangles, & Girlschool but no one other all girl hard rock bands had been successful hitting the big time. Vixen were one of the first hard rock / Heavy Metal all girl bands to make it big.

Back in 1988, the beautiful girls of Vixen with their high hair, short skirts & leather boots, had all us rock guys loving the way they looked, but their music was damn good too.

I saw Vixen live at L'Amores East in Queens as they were making it big & became a big fan of theirs. Their debut album; titled Vixen, came out in 1988 & I remember playing the hell out of it. They hit MTV in the days when the channel actually showed music videos, making it big in the rotation with songs; "Edge of a Broken Heart" (co written by Richard Marx) "Cryin'" & "Love Made Me Strong". Vixen went on to open for Metal bands like; Ozzy Osbourne, the Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Kiss & Deep Purple.

In 1990 they released their follow up Rev It Up which made them headliners, but by 1991 the band disbanded due to musical differences. By the late nineties the band reformed without Kuehnemund but was sued by her for using the name.

In 2001 they reunited with her, Garner & Petrucci for a short time. In 2004 a VH1 television show called; Bands Reunited, got the original Vixen together for a concert reunion, which was aired on the station. The originals did not stay together long, but Jan continued to tour as Vixen with new members.

Reports stated that the original Vixen girls contacted Kuehnemund to reunite but she said she was happy with her current band. The others went on to form their own band which was at first going to be called; Vxn, but for legal purposes they decided to use a different name. They went under the name; JanetShareRoxyGina (aka JSRG) with new guitarist Gina Stiles.

By 2013, Kuehnemund had agreed to reunite with the original Vixen line up in 2014 & an official announcement was set to be released by the end of the year 2013. Unfortunatley, this was not to be. In October 2013 Jan Kuehnemund passed away after a secret nine month battle with cancer, she was 51 years old.

The original Vixen members, JRSG posted the news on its Facebook page; "It is with profound sadness that we announce the sudden passing of Vixen founder and lead guitarist, Jan Kuehnemund, who lost a fierce battle with cancer on Thursday, October 10, 2013.

Though most well known for her gifted guitar playing and other musical talents, Jan was a rare friend and beautiful in every sense of the word. Humble, thoughtful, loyal and kind, she was the most gracious of women, possessing the quiet strength of a true warrior. She genuinely loved and appreciated her friends and fans more than most could ever know. Those who were most fortunate to have known her and loved her are heartbroken at the loss of Jan, whose spirit will shine through her music eternally.

Jan was very courageous. Never complained. Never gave up. The cancer beat her body but it NEVER broke her spirit at any point. Up until the actual moment that she died, she really believed she was going back home. Jan... you will be missed.. but never forgotten."

In these current times, where female singers dominate a huge portion of the hard rock/ metal scene (outside the US), as well as the pop world, Vixen must be remembered (along with the Runaways) for paving the way for so many of the all girl hard rock/ metal bands that have come afterward. Girlschool, The Donnas, Crucified Barbara, L7, Octavia Sperati, Hysterica & Mystica Girls, just to name a few.

"Shine until tomorrow" Jan" you will certainly be remembered & missed.

Nov 10, 2013

Concert Review: The Eagles Soar at Madison Square Garden in New York City

The History of the Eagles Tour has landed in Manhattan for three nights at Madison Square Garden. At this point, nothing can be said of the Eagles but they put on a perfect absolutely perfect, flawless show.

The two part show featured a chronological history of the band with the opening set dwelling on the first four albums, an intermission & a second set consisting more of the latter mega FM radio hits, we all grew up on. These hits were mostly from the Hotel California & Long Run albums, with the Joe Walsh material added in as well.


It was a special treat to have original Eagle; Bernie Leadon play the entire first set & part of the encores as well. Leadon the last founding member to join the band, brought his blue grass/ country style of music into the band & into mainstream rock & roll. Leadon was introduced at the shows start, with the band sitting close together, doing early acoustic songs like Saturday Night & Doolin Dalton.

The group, (mainly Glen Frey) have still not come to terms with guitarist Don Felder who certainly should be in anything labeled "history of the Eagles". Felder was a member for four studio albums (1974-1980) as well as the Hell Freezes Over reunion in 1994. Once again a hired hand session guitarist plays Felders role, but Felder was certainly missed by many die hard fans. Randy Meisner (an Eagle from 1971-1977) was mentioned, but Frey said he had been under the weather as of late. Frey did a fine job on the vocals to Meisner's Take It To the Limit.

Tonight's songs were crisp, digitally clear & are nothing but perfectly covered. All the bands vocals have remained intact, whether it be on a lead vocal or in a harmony effort, these guys are 100% on the money. If anything Don Henley, Glen Frey, Timothy B. Schmidt & Joe Walsh have their voices sounding better than ever.

The Music, also fantastic, was nothing less than perfection. Some of the purity gets lost at times, with the backing musicians on stage which seemed a bit much. I wished it was just the main Eagles up there doing their thing, nut that's not a reality with the elaborate stage show. When they did the acoustic sets, early on in the show, it proved the originals needed no extra support from anyone else, these guys are some of the best on the planet in music.

Joe Walsh was spectacular with his lead guitar, electronic voice effects, & his lead vocals on his songs. Walsh looks fantastic, maybe as healthy & energetic as I have ever seen. He gave us the classic "how ya doing" after an elaborate introduction, only maybe Henley got a louder ovation. Walsh went into performances that provided the hardest rocking in the show, as well as some of the biggest crowd pleasers.

Only the Eagles can go from the Walsh rockers (Rocky Mountain Way, Funk 49, Life's Been Good) to the county rock (Take it Easy, Peaceful Easy Feeling) as well as the classic mellow Eagles love songs (Best of My Love, I Can't Tell You Why, Desperado). Thrown in the legendary classics (Hotel California, Life In Fast Lane) & you have your self one hell of a show.

This show was different than Eagles shows of the past years, as it featured no solo songs from Henley & Frey. It was all Eagles, celebrating their history with the Walsh stuff thrown in.

Glen Frey, who still looks very dapper, yet raw as well as tough. He is shorter than the other band members & as he hunches over while playing, gives off a now classic image of himself today. His attitude is still there, as he proved early on, when he scolded a fan in the first few rows for texting. He even joked about his now famous ego, like when he was introduced by Timothy B. Schimidt & was seen fixing his hair jokingly in a mirror. Another funnt take on himself was when he said, he had brought a new song to the band & as usual they loved it (tongue in cheek).

Don Henley, who has emerged as a superstar singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist rock star legend, seems more loose in his older days. To me he seemed more laid back in his flannel shirt & very casual. He sports short red hair pushed back, with a new full grey goatee beard.

Henley's voice is still amazing & he can still do with that special edge he has on his great lyrics. He played the drums most of the night & also played on percussion. I feel Henley's fine drum playing always gets overlooked because of his fantastic voice.

Not to get unnoticed, the mellow Timothy B. Schmidt, as thin as ever still sports his long hair & looks very youthful.

All I can say is that this was an excellent show, the highlights for me were; Those Shoes (from the Long Run) which I never seen them do before, arguably my favorite Eagles tune. Lying Eyes, just one of the best songs ever made, Life In the Fast Lane, which was a theme of life & a party song back in my heyday. Also Joe Walsh's; In the City is always special, especially for those of us who are fans of the Warriors movie, where the song was featured.



Eagles Set List: New York City 11/9/13:
1. Saturday Night
2. Train Leaves Here This Morning
3. Peaceful Easy Feeling
4. Witchy Woman
5. Doolin-Dalton
6. Tequila Sunrise
7. Doolin'-Dalton/Desperado (Reprise)
8. Already Gone
9. The Best of My Love
10. Lyin' Eyes
11. One of These Nights
12. Take It to the Limit

Intermission

13.Pretty Maids All in a Row
14. I Can't Tell You Why
15. New Kid in Town
16. Love Will Keep Us Alive
17. Heartache Tonight
18. Those Shoes
19. In the City
20. Life's Been Good
21. The Long Run
22. Funk #49
23. Life in the Fast Lane

Encores:
24. Hotel California
25. Take It Easy
26. Rocky Mountain Way
27. Desperado

Nov 5, 2013

Former Italian /American Player: Archi Cianfrocco (1992-1999)

Angelo Dominic "Archi" Cianfrocco was born on October 6, 1966 in Rome, New York. Rome has a large Italian-American population, especially in the Little Italy section of East Dominick Street. Located in Oneida County, it is home to the oldest Cooper manufacturing company in the United States.

Archi's father was a union worker there for nearly 40 years manning a hot furnace, burning cooper to brass at the company founded by Paul Revere.

Archi attended Perdue University getting drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 5th round of the 1987 draft. He hit .300 at AA & AAA getting to the Expo big league club in 1992. He would spend time back & forth in the minors over the next three seasons. He hit well there, batting over .298 over those three seasons.

In June 1993 he got traded to the San Diego Padres where he had his best year in 1993. Overall he only hit .243 but had a career high 11 HRs with 10 doubles & 47 RBIs playing in 84 games. He played at both third base backing up Gary Sheffield & at first base behind Fred McGriff.

Cianfrocco played a total of six seasons with the Padres as a reserve player. In San Diego he was a very popular player & had multiple fan clubs, including "Archi's Army" and the "CianfrocCrew". He still has a fan club supporting him on Facebook. Once on ESPN baseball highlights, Chris Berman referred to him as “Raider of the Lost” Archi Cianfrocco.

During the 1995 baseball strike he was asked to join the replacement players, but because of the strong union ties in his family he declined. His best career game came in 1995 against the Atlanta Braves where he hit a grand slam HR & drove in six runs. In 1996 he hit a career high .281 with 13 doubles playing in 79 games as the Padres won the Western Division. That year he made his only post season appearance going 1-3 as a pinch hitter in the 1996 NLDS.

In 1997 Archi was the HR champion at the Hall of Fame Game HR Derby at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. In another not so famous moment, when Cincinnati Reds pitcher Tom Browning broke his arm while pitching, Archi was at bat.

Cianfrocco was also a roommate of former Padre player Billy Bean, who walked away from the game battling his sexuality issues. Archi said he never knew about Bean's sexuality struggles & would have supported him no matter what.

Archi spent the first four months of the Padres 1998 NL Pennant season on the club, getting sent down to the minors then brought back up for the September stretch. He did not play in the post season & was released at the end of the season. His MLB career was over at age 32 when no one signed him as a free agent.

He played seven big league seasons, batting .241 with 308 hits 34 HRs 59 doubles 16 stolen bases a .292 on base % & 185 RBIs.

Nov 4, 2013

Italian / American Father & Son Pitchers: Jason & Steve Grilli

Jason Michael Grilli was born on November 11th, 1976 at Royal Oak Michigan. The tall six foot five left hander went to high school in Baldwinsville, New York located in Upstate New York. He was drafted by the AL New York club but chose to go to school instead.

He then attended Seton Hall University in South Orange New Jersey. By 1997 he was the first round draft pick of the San Francisco Giants (the fourth pick overall).

By 1999 he was traded to the Florida Marlins organization in exchange for Livan Hernandez & Nate Bump. Jason Grilli would wear the uniform number 49 in honor of his father.

He has been a long time journeyman middle reliever who has pitched for six different teams. Grilli has been with the Florida Marlins (2000-2001) Chicago White Sox (2004) Detroit Tigers (2005-2008) Colorado Rockies (2008-2009) Texas Rangers (2009) & Pittsburgh Pirates (2011-2013).

He arrived with the Tigers in 2005 & made his debut exactly thirty years after his dad had made his debut with the team.  In 2006 he made it to the World Series with the Tigers appearing in five post season games, pitching three scoreless innings.

In 2008 Jason earned his first career save & the Grilli's made history. They became the first American father & son duo to earn saves. It had been done before by Latino pitchers Julio & Jamie Navarro as well as Pedro Borbon Sr. & Jr.

In 2011 he was the set up man for Joe Hanrahan, getting credit for 32 holds. After Hanrahan was traded to the Boston Red Sox Grilli took over as the Pirates closer.

The Pirates went on to have one of their best seasons in two decades, winning 94 games & making it to the post season. Grilli would go on to save 33 games (7th most in the NL) post a 2.70 ERA & Strike out 74 batters in 50 innings pitched over 54 appearances.

He began the year saving 13 games before taking a loss, then saved another 12 into mid June before blowing another opportunity. He had notched 30 saves by late July but then missed over a month of action before returning for the September pennant race.

In his ten year career Jason Grilli is 21-25 with five saves & a 74 games finished with a 4.34 ERA in 330 appearances. After each game where he makes an appearance the Grilli's still talk on the phone or in person.

Post Season: In the NL Wild Card Game he closed out the 9th inning of the 6-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds. In the NLDS Grilli made three appearances, earning a save in Game #3, in a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Grilli has pitched for Team Italy at the 2006 & 2009 World Baseball Classics. He has also spent a lot of time in Italy & has dual citizenship between the two countries. He has learned to speak the Italian language very well.

Grilli also runs a videophone company called perfect pitch, that also deals with social media marketing. In the off season he his wife & their child live in Orlando Florida.

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Stephen Joseph Grilli was born on May 2nd 1949 in Brooklyn, New York. He attended high school in Memphis Tennessee & then Gannon University at Erie PA. The six foot two right hander was signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1970.

He would spend the majority of his career in the minor leagues making brief appearances in the majors in four seasons.

In 1972 he went 11-3 at AA Montgomery where he earned a promotion to the AAA Toledo Mud Hens. In 1975 he got a September callup to the Tigers making his debut on September 19th, 1975 finishing up a loss to the eventual AL Champion Boston Red Sox.

In 1976 he went 3-1 with three saves in 33 appearances, having his best year in the Detroit days where Mark the Bird Fidrych was all the rage. In 1977 he made 30 appearances going 1-2 with a 4.83 ERA. He would eventually get his contract purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays where he pitched one game in 1979.

He was back in the minor leagues where he became a popular figure while pitching with the Syracuse Chiefs 1978-1981. He would put on a show during the 7th inning stretch playing the "air banjo" to the delight of the fans.

On June 23rd 1981, while pitching for the AAA Rochester Red Wings, he was the losing pitcher in the longest professional game ever played. It was  between Rochester & the Pawtucket Red Sox. In the 33rd inning Grilli faced three batters giving up a run, not retiring anyone, allowing the PawSox to take the win.

In his four season  MLB career he is 4-3 with three saves & a 4.51 ERA in 70 appearances. Grilli had control issues as he walked 96 batters while striking out 91.

Retirement: After his playing days he opened a bar in Syracuse, NY called Change of Pace.

Nov 2, 2013

Former 1962 Met Turned Orthodontist: Rick Herrscher (1962)

Richard Franklin Herrscher was born on November 3, 1936 in St. Louis, Missouri. The six foot two righty, attended SMU and was a member of their 1958 Final Four basketball team.

He also played baseball getting signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1958. He showed some promise in the minors jumping from A to AAA in 1960 batting .320 overall.

In May of 1962 he was sent to the New York Mets as part of transactions that included Frank Thomas coming to New York & Gus Bell going to Milwaukee. In 1962 at AAA Louisville he hit .337 before getting traded then hit .260 at AAA Syracuse.

He got called up to the expansion '62 Mets team in August. He debuted on August 1st, as a pinch hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies reaching on an error at second base. He found himself penciled in as the starting third baseman the next day, going 0-3.

A week later he got his first career hit which was also his only career HR. It was a three run shot down the right field line at the Polo Grounds, against Jim O'Toole & the Cincinnati Reds. It helped the Mets win the first game of a double header 5-2. Historically, that was the same day Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood, California home at age 36.

The versatile Herrscher would play in 35 games at third base, short stop, outfield & first base for the ’62 Mets. He made some pinch hit & pinch running appearances as well, batting .220 with one HR three doubles & six RBIs.

It was back to the minors the next two seasons before giving up his baseball career in 1964.

Retirement: After baseball he went to dental school & became a successful orthodontist in the Dallas Texas, area.

Nov 1, 2013

Former Mets Player & Coach: Billy Connors (1967-1968)

William Joseph Connors was Born on November 2, 1941 in Schenectady, New York. At the age of twelve Connors was a member of the 1954 Little League World Champion team from Schenectady, NY. Later in life after he high school he attended Syracuse Unioversity getting signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1961.

His minor league career was highlighted by a 17-4 season in 1965 between all three levels of the Cubs system. He debuted in 1966 for the Cubs appearing in eleven games, taking a loss, his only decision of the year on May 30th in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. He was back down at AAA in July finishing the season there at Tacoma in the Pacific Coast League. In 1967 he went 9-9 at Tacoma before getting his contract purchased by the New York Mets in late August.

He was brought right up to the Mets staff pitching the second game of a double header on August 22nd against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium. He gave up two runs over two innings allowing a HR to Dick Allen while earning no decision. Connors would pitch six games for the ’67 Mets in relief posting no record & a 6.23 ERA.

In 1968 he went 8-5 at AAA Jacksonville pitching in both relief & as a starter. He was brought up to Gil Hodges staff in late July and his only decision was a blown save taking the loss in Atlanta on July 28th. In that game he gave up a bottom of the 9th triple to Mike Lum & a base hit to Bob Johnson. On the season he made nine appearances posting an ERA of 9.00, pitching his final MLB game on August 28th against the Cincinnati Reds.

In a three season career he was 0-2 with a 7.53 ERA in 26 appearances. In 1969 as the Amazing Mets were on their way to a Worlds Championship, the staff had no room for Connors. At AAA Tidewater he was 7-13 for the first place Tides, third on the staff in wins behind Jon Matlack (14-7) Danny Frisella (11-2) & Larry Bearnarth (11-4). He finished out his pitching days in 1970 at age 29.

Retirement: After his playing days Connors became the Mets batting practice pitcher for the 1971 season. He then became a minor league instructor with the team through the 1976 season. He went to the Phillies organization from 1977-1979 before becoming a major league pitching coach for the next 17 seasons.

He coached with the Kansas City Royals (1980-1981) Chicago Cubs (1982-1986 / 1991-1993) & Seattle Mariners (1987-1988). Connors served three terms with the AL New York team (1989-1990 / 1994-1995 / 2000). He worked in the clubs front office as a senior director of player personnel & now serves as V.P. in that position.