Regarding Criss Oliva that fateful night in 1993……..

Criss Oliva pic 2015
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
.S&M Livestock map
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
The Masquerade
 October 17, 2003.
Memorial Pic Criss Oliva 2015
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.
Dawn Oliva 2015
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!
.CrissOliva overlay guitar pic 2015
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13 thoughts on “Regarding Criss Oliva that fateful night in 1993……..

  1. Steven David Wenner I was working that show doing the production and remember waiting up that night for Chris and Dawn but we just we to bed figuring that they just decided to come out the next morning. It was hard to work the rest of the weekend knowing that he left us only a couple of miles away.

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  2. Marla that is a very deep and sad story. I am so sorry you went through this. What a true tragedy. Thank you for telling your story. I never knew this was what happened to you through this tragedy. I do know it has affected so many wonderful people in such a profound way. I am in deep respect of you and I am proud to have worked with you both at YNF and 98 ROCK.

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  3. I am a backstage guy, been one for 27 years….The demons are real, you can hide like I did for a very long time, but they will show up! When they start chasing you around, trust me, give up. They are not worth the dream…. Read this if you want to live the dream in words, not taking the dream to death…. https://www.createspace.com/3912782

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    1. Beebo, send me a couple stories from the Dome days, back when we worked on the same crew. You’ve SO transcended those days in many ways. I am proud of you, and I ordered the book bro! It should be here Friday….I need it autographed, soon. xo, marla.

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  4. I will never forget that night at livestock. I caved about 4 or 5 am waiting for Chris and Dawn to show up. I got the news when I woke up. A true gentleman to other musicians and the most true and loyal man to his wife I ever met

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  5. Marla, thank you for sharing that story with us. I never got to see Savatage play live but was and am a fan. I’m sorry you have to live with the thought you had something to do with his death. The truth is, you weren’t the drunk driver in that car. That’s what took Criss from us, not your invite to Livestock. I was a photographer for 98 Rock for about 10 years and shot many Livestocks. I’m suprised that Greg didn’t have them play. Really suprised actually. Criss will live on in my heart and ears as one of the best guitarist ever! Thanks again for sharing and I wish you the best!

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  6. Savatage | Masquerade | Ybor City, FL | October 17,2003 |

    (W/Circle 2 Circle, Streets)
    I can’t say enough about what an amazing show this was, I grew up on Savatage, and being from Tampa, Fl. I got to see them a ton of times..
    Me and some of my friends even did Savatage for air-band in high school.. and won first place both times.. and doing that against, dancers.. and pop music wasn’t easy…. (Even if we were just faking it..lol) I went on to take drum lessons from Steve, who was one of the reasons I started playing drums. (along w/Tommy Lee) I watched them grow from our little local band.. to Mtv stars… but nothing prepared me for October 17, 1993.. I even remember what I was doing at the moment they announced Criss Oliva had died in a car accident.. I had just got home from Livestock, and was standing in my kitchen.. I knew the music world would never be the same.. I went to the funeral and saw the most amazing gathering of friends, family and fans.. the Oliva family allowed everyone into the family to share this very sad moment…. something else I will never forget..
    Through the years I followed them through many more line-up changes.. till they just lost me in the shuffle.. after about 3 more drummers (after Steve) at least 3 other guitarists.. and Jon Oliva in and out of the band.. I just couldn’t find the passion I once did… I will always be a Savatage fan.. but in my heart.. things were just never the same w/out Criss… the closest they get is when Chris Caffery plays Criss’s stuff.. I can close my eyes and feel Criss..
    Fast forward…
    October 17,2003.. The Criss Oliva 10 year memorial concert.. this would be the first time all original members would be on stage together in what seems like forever… and what a treat….. First off “Streets” opened the show with an amazing tribute to Savatage, the mix was a little off… so it was hard to hear all the guys.. but all in all they were great! Then came Circle][Circle, Zak Stevens new band.. awesome like always.. (See the Circle][Circle pics on another page)

    Marla Stone from 98Rock.. (the old days) even flew in for the show… which was a great old school treat…
    And of coarse we cant forget Kathy.. for putting on an amzing night…
    Then came Jon Oliva doing a bunch of solo songs no one had heard yet.. great stuff.. with Jon amazing vocal style.. and lyrics.
    He played keyboards.. and some acoustic guitar also…
    Then came an awesome treat.. Chris Caffery came out and they did a few Dr.Butcher songs.. I have both Dr.Butcher c.d’s (anyone who is a fan of OLD Savatage will love them!) This was amazing.. and the songs kicked ass!

    Then after a long break.. out came the boys.. Steve, Johnny, Chris, and Jon.. even Zak sang his era songs..
    The lights were amazing, the show was amazing.. tons of super rare songs.. “Wishing Well” “Jesus Saves” acoustic version..
    on and on.. tons of rare songs.. One of the highlights for me was seeing Steve kill those drums.. I’m used to see him playing sets that are about the size of a house.. so it was cool to see him play a set you can actually see him on.. (not that I could get good pics.. too much fog..)
    Here is a ton of pictures from the night… Awesome show.. the only thing I can possibly say about the show, is I wish they would have played the Criss DVD they were selling, or show some Criss footage between bands…
    We couldn’t hang out after the show, cause I was leaving for Biketoberfest early… I had even brought my huge Savatage scrap-book to get signed.. I guess I’ll have to hope for another amazing night like this one…..

    http://musicmayhemrocks.wix.com/musicmayhem#!savatage10172003/cwv5

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  7. Marla,

    I was on the side of the road in that parking lot you describe. Only hours before we lost Criss a friend and I were administering first aid to a guy that got hit on his bike by a presumed drunk hit and run driver. Not too many hours after sunrise I ran into You while You were wandering around the back end of the field where the stage was. I asked you about the helicopter and I could ‘feel’ that you were on the edge of falling apart when you told me ‘I just can’t talk about it now’… I truly don’t
    Believe you told me who it was, but I swear I walked away knowing. That weekend was an amazing blur…but I can still see us standing there talking.

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    1. Dan, I have a picture of me sitting on the end of that huge RV we used to broadcast out of….and, it is that morning, and it is obvious something big and bad had happened. It still hangs in a frame in my kitchen. The picture of me with my dog also stays up, until it turns to dust. That dog was my best friend right then, as it was an irrevocable situation, and I’m still alive…… Thank you for your comments Dan, it is appreciated. Love & Rock ON.

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