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Billy Joel Band set to join Piano Man in Long Island Music Hall of Fame

Billy Joel (second from right) with his band

Billy Joel (second from right) with his band circa 1977. From left, they are: drummer Liberty DeVitto, bassist Doug Stegmeyer, Joel and saxophonist Richie Cannata. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives

Liberty DeVitto laughs as he thinks about what could have been.

"Our biggest mistake was never getting a name," he says. "Phil Ramone told us we needed a name. He called us the Lords of 52nd Street, and we even had jackets made, but it didn't stick."

Things still worked out pretty well for the Billy Joel Band, though, and Thursday night, drummer DeVitto, saxophonist Richie Cannata, guitarist Russell Javors and bassist Doug Stegmeyer, who died in 1995, will be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

"These musicians conveyed the intensity and the spirit of their own life experiences in that album -- for the rest of the world to hear and appreciate," Joel said in a statement for the induction. "I'm very proud to have worked with them on that record, as well as the many other recording projects we did together."

The Billy Joel Band will mark the occasion by performing together for the first time since 1989, when Javors and Stegmeyer left the band.

"We feel pretty good about it," says Cannata, who spends most of his time running the in-demand Cove City Sound Studios in Glen Cove, as well as serving as Bernie Williams' musical director and hosting his weekly jam nights at the Bitter End. "It becomes a part of your legacy. So many people have learned our parts that at the end of the day, this is documentation of what we have done. It's a sign that somebody likes what we do."

Javors says it's hard to put into perspective what they accomplished through the years. "We put our hearts and souls into that music," says Javors, who splits his time developing shows for TV production companies and working with toy manufacturers. "There was a lot of chemistry between us, and that went into the songs collectively for so many years. We had our own identity and it was that collective mindset that helped."

This version of the Billy Joel Band served as a unit from "Turnstiles" in 1976 through "The Bridge" in 1986 -- the era that produced the bulk of Joel's biggest hits.

For DeVitto, the recognition of their accomplishments from Long Island musicians carries extra significance. "They say you can't go home again or that home is your biggest critic, but this really makes me feel appreciated," says DeVitto, who spends most of his time working on his band The Slim Kings and as part of the house band at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. "I walked through the halls of my high school recently, and it made me proud. It made me want to contribute things to them."

All of the Billy Joel Band members recognize how influential they were to younger musicians, especially those from Long Island. "I always told people how Ringo inspired me to play the drums," DeVitto says. "It was great when someone came up to me and said, 'You're my Ringo!'"

Cannata, who still lives in Glen Cove and has brought superstars such as Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey to Cove City Sound Studios, says helping the next generation of Long Island musicians achieve part of what he did with the Billy Joel Band keeps him going.

"You have to give Long Island credit for supporting us, and I'm doing what I can to support it," he says. "I've stayed true to the '516' tattoo on my butt."

WHAT The Long Island Music Hall of Fame Induction Gala

WHEN | WHERE 8:30 p.m. Thursday, The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington

INFO $75-$150; 800-745- 3000, ticketmaster.com

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