I’ve needed to tell this one for many years now, so here goes:
Back in 1990-ish, I was lucky enough to go into the studio with Jon and Criss Oliva during what I think was the creation of Streets.
That’s where I met Paul O’Neil, so it had to be Streets….
I was still at 95YNF in those days, and I’d first seen Savatage at Jannus Landing, the night that Rick the A&R rep from Atlantic was there looking at the band. They got signed after their performance that night.
It’s the first time I was so awestruck by the performers/performance that I didn’t go get a beverage until the final note.
I’d never witnessed anything even remotely close to the magic that band had onstage….Hall of The Mountain King was what they did, and it’s also the track I remember best from that night. They were on FIRE!
Fast forward a year or two…I’m now at 98 Rock, arch rival/enemy of 95YNF, and Savatage fits our format!! I proceed to ‘sneak’ and play Hall of The Mountain King regularly in overnights. I get caught, chastised, and I do it again, and again.
Gutter Ballet is the one that grabbed my boss Greg Mull, I think. This is blurry stuff for me, and I can only speak for myself here folks.
I end up in the studio with Jon, for days, and I got to sit on the piano bench next to him…which is a life-changer as well.
I vaguely remember the recording session. It was days/nights/days….there were a few of us there for days/nights/days along with the band….they know who they are.
I’d progressed to morning-drive somewhere in there, and I’d leave the studio, go do the morning show with Sea Bass, then head back over to the studio to watch the process.
Fast forward to 1993….
For whatever reason, Greg Mull decided NOT to put Savatage on the Livestock bill. I was not happy about that decision.
If I remember right, they were recording something else at that time, and we were all in the studio right up until we had to leave for Livestock….with me leaving, again, to do the morning show in between.
Some of the guys on the crew were working Livestock that year, so we all left for Zephyrhills in pretty close proximity to each other
I had to go pick up my rented, huge, tricked out RV, and drive it up there….it barely fit on the two lane highway, and I went up early to avoid the parking lot that road became prior to Livestock.
Long story short….I invited Criss and Dawn up to hang out in my VIP trailer, along with some other serious rock star folks, whom I will leave nameless here.
We all know who we are.
I spoke to Criss several times before he left the house, and we agreed I’d meet them at the back gate, with passes, and get the car in there as well, so they would be comfortable, and the car safe.
I had plenty of room in my RV for folks, and I never really relaxed at Livestock much anyway.
I sat out back at that gate, in the rain, with my dog Booger until the sun came up.
October 17, 1993.
No Criss and Dawn.
I had to be on the morning show at 6am with Bass, and somewhere after we finished that show, Greg Mull calls me into the production trailer.
In that trailer, it was me, Jesse James Dupree from Jackyl, LB, Greg Mull, and a law enforcement officer…which I found odd.
Only, not that odd, being that Criss and Dawn were off the grid, unreachable, and were not there with me.
I am never going to be able to explain the feelings that I experienced when I found out that Criss would never be joining me again, and that Dawn was touch and go…..
There simply are no words.
The bottom end fell out for me, and it will always be fractured.
There are things that the world needs to hear, and there are things that will go to the grave with me.
What killed Criss? A drunk driver.
Why was he on that road at that time? Me.
Jon called me the anti-christ for a few years.
I have since been forgiven. I thank Jon for that.
I would’ve hated me for life, and I guess I did just that…hated myself. For years.
In 2003, I flew back to Tampa for the
October 17, 2003.
Jon requested that I come. I did.
I hosted it, and spoke from Jon’s piano bench, with the band behind me, and then Jon took over. That show was pure magic. Period.
It was the first show ALL of us did SOBER. (I am not at liberty to say what went on with the others after the show, but I sure didn’t hold back on becoming UN-SOBER quickly.)
Dawn was an absolute mess. She was the only one a mess backstage that night.
I figure we owed Criss that much, and I guess everyone else felt the same.
That show is in the can, and Jon has it, but it has never been released due to some lawsuit-type-shit with the powers that hold onto things that Jon owns….
To Whomever those powers may be: I wish they would let go, so we can see that show!! It belongs to Jon. God knows he’s earned it.
I’m so very sorry that the world lost one of the greatest guitarists, and one of the good guys that night in 1993.
This story has a spiderweb of good that still exists today.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra the fact that TSO is THE highest grossing tour in existence today.
Jon doing Streets again.
The rest of us still alive, and choosing to LIVE.
Do me a favor, don’t drink and drive.
If cocaine and vodka is your vocation, maybe think about letting the demons go, at some point.
Get busy living, or get busy dying…it’s all a choice people.
Choose wisely. Rock ON!