Rock star and Island Trees High School alumnus Eddie Money turns 67 today. In case you didn't know how much Long Island helped influenced Money's storied career, check out this profile that originally appear in Newsday on May 31, 1998.
Eddie Money, the rough-voiced rocker who sang his way to stardom with "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Baby, Hold On," lived on Long Island only as a teenager. But he considers his five years in Plainedge the most formative of his life.
"Long Island was the breeding ground; it made me who I am," said Money, 49, who now lives in a community near Malibu, Calif. "Most of what I learned about my craft I learned in high school with The Grapes of Wrath."
The book? No, the band that Money, then Eddie Mahoney, co-founded at Island Trees High School and that was named after the John Steinbeck tome. ("We actually read the classics in those days," Money quipped.)
As a child in Brooklyn, Money was the lead singer in his church choir and loved to belt out the songs from "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!," which he learned from records that his parents brought home after theater outings in Manhattan. But singing in a rock band was far better. "It gave me an opportunity to be in front of all these people without being the star of the football team or the smartest kid in the math class," Money recalled.
And, he added, "I got to date all the cheerleaders."
The Grapes of Wrath was a cover band, playing the Beatles, Kinks, Rolling Stones, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, James Brown and others. "We were doing Gloria,' we were doing What a Day for a Daydream,' we were doing My Baby Does the Hanky Panky,' which I hate to this day; it made me feel like I was actually working for a living," Money recalled.
But playing music was exactly what Money was doing for pocket money. "We'd play a lot of parties, we'd play until the cops came, we'd play the beach clubs, like the Malibu and the Colony out in Lido Beach, and a lot of dances at the school," Money said.
The Grapes also participated in the battles of the bands that determined who would perform at various proms. "We did a battle of the bands in 1966 with The Hassles, Billy Joel's band," Money remembered. "I think it was MacArthur High School in Levittown or Syosset High School or the Mid-Island Mall, I can't remember. Neither one of us won."
Despite his popularity as lead singer, Money recalls his years at Island Trees High School as a philosophical tug-of-war between his family and his associates.
"The other guys in the band were pretty freaky, growing their hair long and stuff, but my dad was a New York City cop so I couldn't have long hair," Money said. "And I also was a jock, I ran track and played soccer and baseball. I was on both sides of the bench."
Which didn't suit his father. "He'd be coming upstairs, ripping my Jimi Hendrix posters off the wall," Money said.
After graduating in 1967, Money decided to go his father's way, enrolling in the New York Police Academy. But he was still moonlighting as a rock-and-roll singer. At 19, he quit the academy, moved to Berkeley and a few years later wrote "Two Tickets to Paradise."
The hit had nothing to do with a desire to leave the Island, Money said. But he added that he has penned other tunes about that emotion, including "Something to Believe In," off his new album "Eddie Money, Shakin' With the Money Band."
"It's about growing up and leaving Long Island," Money said. "It goes, 'When I was young, I said goodbye to my mamma . . . she always said I could come back if I wanna.' "