Went to see my mom yesterday, and on the way I passed by the house my father built in 1967. We moved into it when I was 14. It was the sum of his life’s work–his own Holy of Holies.

Once upon a time, on a snowy, bitter-cold winter’s night, in spite of being forbidden to stay outThe House My Father Built too late after weekend drumming gigs, I broke house rules and arrived home at 4 am. Joe Lanza, our percussionist, and I made the rounds of Montreal after our gig, and ended up eating at his father’s steak house at 2am. My young bottomless pit managed to accommodate three baked potatoes, stuffed with butter, sour cream and chives, a 24 oz. porterhouse, topping it all off with hot French apple pie a la mode.

I hoped and prayed my dad was somewhere 20,000 leagues under, deep into REM sleep and that not a mouse would be stirred by my late arrival. Joe dropped me off from his dad’s mammoth /68 Chrysler 300 that he’d parked in our snow-packed driveway, which had a steep incline. He assured me the Imperial tank would easily plough through the snow drifts and tear up the driveway without a hitch. Those tires screamed and howled like wild dogs after a kill, but alas the 5000-pound hunk of metal fell prey to the elements, slipped and punched a huge hole in the garage door like a battering ram. The door was right below my parents’ bedroom. I tried my damnedest to steer that car away from its objective, almost sacrificing myself in the process, leaping out of harm’s way just before impact. As if in slo-mo, the door bowed, creaked, and cracked, echoing through the neighborhood like loud gunshots and snapping giant boughs.

Feeling like an all-seeing eye was now upon me, I cast a wary glance upward and saw the drapes slowly draw open, as my father’s boxer’s nose poked through the lace like the end of a sniper’s barrel. His searing, narrowed eyes were right behind, boring a hole through me.
I knew I was in big trouble, not only for the garage door, but for bucking house rules. (my being sixteen alone was enough to piss off any parent.) My mom, my blessed and merciful intercessor, smoothed out matters some and called in a tow-truck to yank the 300’s nose out of our new crumpled garage door.

‘When I think about those nights in Montreal….’
Nice to be back.
Look forward to Saturday.
Love
G

13 Comments
  1. what a great story! . realizing we lived a mere 200+ miles from each other, I in Massachusetts, of the same age and profession / aspirations, at that time . I can relate to your testement of bearing down “the end of a sniper’s barrel” with your dad . like the day it was 10 below zero and due to my basement chemistry experiments , at 2:00 AM my entire family thought the house was burning down and quickly evacuated the premesis, standing in the street in their underwear, awaiting the Fire Dept to arrive, … when all it was was tommy g. re-inventing gun powder in the confines of his baement laboratory! . I was a dead man (or should I say, boy ) … hahhh! cheers to you and the folly of youth!

  2. What a great story! I’m a long time fan–way back to those nights in Montreal (loved your invocation of that line)–but I just stumbled upon your blog a moment ago. The good news is that I now have a lot of good reading ahead of me. You are a wonderful writer!

  3. This is such a wonderful story about your childhood – Did u ever get grounded from your mom and dad? I grew up in South Philly – we were funny quazy kids – sometimes I go to the city – I look at my house – It is very small –

  4. Querido Gino,

    Tu historia es común para un hijo único como yo, con un padre igual al tuyo. Aquí en Argentina la cosa no era tan diferente.

    Pero mi historia es otra, se remonta a mi adolescencia cuando en una cita con una señorita, en un bar muy discreto escuché por primera vez “vida loca”. Recuerdo que dejé sola a la dama, y salí corriendo a averiguar quien era el cantante. Eras vos.

    El show que brindaste en Buenos Aires fue espectacular.
    “Gino estaba intacto”.
    Como el buen vino malbec, mejora con el tiempo.

    Gracias por tu música, gracias por tu mensaje, y aunque no sea tan fácil asistir a tus recitales, desde aquí, tan lejos, estás más cerca que nunca.

  5. Sounds like you had a very lively childhood. 🙂
    …I will go back and listen to that song you refer to with new ears.

  6. I’m certain my boys could see themselves in your story. They also thought I was a two headed father/monster at times. But they lived and are better men for having survived those terrible teen years of parental expectations. Just as you are. Looking forward to seeing you in Austin at One World Theater.
    .

  7. Such a beautiful story. The first time I saw you in concert was 1977-78 in Dallas. What an experience! I haven’t seen you live in many years. I had no idea that you still toured until last year, when I just missed you in Richardson, Texas. My friend – who is also Canadian – and I have tickets for Nov. 14 in Austin, Texas. Can’t wait to see you then.

  8. I love your stories Gino and have been a fan of your music since the 70’s. MY first concert was in Chicago in 1977-78 and your voice brought tears to my eyes. So strong and powerful like your lyrics, unbelievable. Every time you did a show in Chicago me & all my siblings were their and to date I have 1 sister who travels to see you every chance she get. I am so jealous, I wish it could be me. I will always love your music and your story brought back so many childhood memories for me as well, i think i was around 18 or 19 at the time and it still feels like just yesterday. Keep making wonderful music and i will keep buying and trying to attend your concerts, YOU ARE TRULY MY FAVORITE ARTIST AND ALL MY SIBLINGS. God bless you & your family.

  9. When I hear the word “MONTREAL” it makes me think about your song “I JUST WANNA STOP”, so i think this would be a good day to have a Gino Vannelli Marathon and think about all the memories your music got me through. Whether i was up or down your music soothed my soul. You are awesome and i sometimes wonder if you really know how strong an impact your music had/haves on people, especially me. Love you Gino V.

  10. What a wonderful writer you are! I felt like I was right there with you during that long, cold
    night. Great memories for you, and a great story.

    Can’t wait to see you in concert in Brantford, Ontario next Saturday night. It has been too
    long since I last saw you live. I am really excited!

    Love your music so much…..and love you Gino.

  11. Gino, have been a devoted fan since 1975. Have seen you 4 times in my life, the last in New Orleans Oct 2014. Gonna be to see you Nov. 11th all by myself at table 73 seat 4 in Conroe Texas. I get better seats all by myself. Will attend the meet and greet also. I am your age and I relate to all your music because I have lived the words you sing. I will always admire you and you know I’ve always said to me; if I could be or be like anyone in the world it would be you! See ya in Conroe, my seat is right off your stage. Love ya brother.

  12. Funny that you should mention the home that you Joe and Ross grew up in. About two weeks ago I decided that I just had to re-visit the old neighborhood. I hadn’t been in nearly 30 years. Went by de La Nantaise as well. We spent so many memorable moments there. Uncle Vic had this amazing sound system. I remember you and Joe coming in to rehearse after we were thru with the gear. Ahh those were the days. When we were Kings!

  13. Maestro Gino,

    Fekkin’ brilliant story (as my Dublin born wife would say). So much so, I might add, that DAMMIT man –can’t you just be a weeeeeee bit human and only be brilliant at music (and not writing as well)????? Yeah yeah, I know….. Not so much.

    Fine. At least we know you’re human because you eat steaks and potatoes and pie.

    BEST wishes, Paul
    Master Class student
    (“First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” guy)

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