Born: NYC, Groundhog Day, 1950
Taught basic skills with tone, harmony and rhythm from my father,
Al Fonte. Rock and Roll, courtesy of WMCA, WINS, Alan Freed
and Dick Clark on TV (my Mom liked watching those shows). It
was a subliminal mantra. Poodle skirts, Chain Smoking babysitters,
Calendar Girls. Blew Trumpet and Baritone Horns, and sang in
the Chorus in Hicksville during my Elementary years.
Moved to Tampa in
the summer of '61. Finished elementary school at Town and Country. At
Pierce Jr High, marked time with the band but was more interested
in playing Accordion. Studied under Angelo Presti, my cousin.
(he ran Presti Accordion School on Henderson Blvd for many
years). Angelo was the most underrated jazz accordionist (zero
records) in town. His thing was jazz. He had several gigs in
the old Golden Triangle (Polish American Club on St Pete beach,
Las Novadades, Café Pepe', etc). He NEVER saw a New
Year's Eve off the Bandstand. His drive, passion, technique
and counterpoint was a true inspiration to me, as well as many
other Accordionists in Tampa (Charlie Cuafaro, Susie Roberson,
Betsy Vyles). His arrangements were hand scribed by a wonderful
woman named Viola. His student accordion bands played all over
town. He turned me on to Galla-Rini, Charles Magnante, Paul
Czerny, and Art Van Damme. Heavy cats in the accordion world
(as square as that may sound).
In High school (Leto, 65-68) I laid off music
and pursued writing. For cigarette money, I worked at the old
Hullaballoo Club, owned by my dentist/neighbor. Lots of groups
(Noah's Ark, Blues Image, Lost Element, Blues Magoos, one of
Captain Ron Goedert's bands, Lewis Clark, Mama's Boys, Split
Ends,) played that funky black light venue. I once got into a
serious writing exchange with John Brummage, who managed Noah's
Ark, and Buddy Richardson. It was hilarious.
I hung out at Beaux Arts in Pinellas, and
became interested in the Folk Scene. Met Don Couch (harp player
extroidinaire), Dan Finley (who later went on to play with the
Kinkster (Kinky Friedman), Stanley Powell (a master of the acoustic
finger pick styles), and was witness to several guest shots by
For kicks, there were the dancehalls in Tampa.
I was heavily into Rand B music. But, with the emergence of the
San Francisco groups, easily fell into a more improvisational
style of playing. By this point I was interested in guitars,
harp and electricity.
While attending USF the music scene in Tampa
was undergoing a subtle, but massive change. USF was an exciting
learning environment, but I was a Virgin Boy With Stuff To Do,
I gravitated out to San Antonio Texas for
about a year, enrolled in San Antonio College and became involved
in several rock bands out there. It was while in Texas that I
picked up the Fender bass. The group "Touchstone" featured
two singers. We opened up several neat shows for Blue Cheer,
Smith (an ABC "Downhill" band as John Phillips called
that label), MC5, Frank Zappa (Estrada, JC Black, Aynsley Dunbar,
George Duke, Flo and Eddie) (this information is contained on
www.mikesbandtrivia.com. It was a good time to be in Texas, despite
the Nixonian hoodoo that was afoot.
I returned to Tampa in the Summer of 1970,
and spent the next 2 years playing with several groups, most
notable being Rat's Rump (Bill Mann, WAZ, Jim MacNealon and the
occasional Monty Yoho ((on loan from Outlaws))) and Jas Grubbert
(AKA Amanda Jones, Jeff Bailey, Mike Yelton, Michael Regar and
Rick Johnson). This was at a time when I was becoming interested
in the Blues. I played bass with Jerry Newman's Barefooters (State
Fair, Tampa, Central Florida State Fair in Orlando, and several
juke joints in the territory that is now Disney World Entertainment
In '73 I moved back to San Antonio, Texas,
fell in with some old friends and played coffee/brewhouses with
Coyote Brothers, and then second lead guitar in a group called
Tailwind, while working at the SA Express/News, and later as
a record store called Record Hole. That was where I met some
serious sound freaks and got to appreciate the Tri-Amping technique
and the "mas e mas" Db on the Half shell sound reinforcement
barrage we worked with and blew beer glasses off tables with.
The lifestyle I lead was getting me nowhere,
so I enlisted in the US Air Force in 1977. While stationed in
Germany (1983-1990) I started writing and recording my own music.
I retired from Active Duty in 2000, and now
am a line haul driver with Yellow Trans-portation. The computer
occupies most of my free time now, but I have the gear to record
with, as well as some cool guitars and plenty of #2 pencils to
write songs. I am living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is
a pretty jumping music scene.
Hope somebody reads this. Tampa is a good
place and I love it.
jwf -- 10/6/2003
Jan 30, 2004, Bo Diddley celebrates his 75th
birthday here at the El Rey.
Alex Maryol is a tall, young blonde kid who plays a mean
El Rey was once one of four theatres on Central (Old Rt 66),
that once featured hispanic flix. Two bars, a basement under
the stage, good sound and this HUGE Swamp Cooler blowing all
the smoke out. Bo Diddley with The Cadillac Bob Band and Alex
Maryol. Check it all out below...