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Tony Spinelli

Tony Spinelli began his semi-professional career as an independent rock artist in 2000, after having played lead guitar in six local bands and bass guitar in two local bands, in his home state, Connecticut. For ten straight years, from 2008 to 2018, he was the top hit-making chart artist on hardcoremix.com, a leading independent music/radio channel, which had just under 1 million voting listeners. One of his mp3 singles in 2002, a psychedelic blues cover of Sevendust's "Live Again," was distributed online by TVT Records and Peavey Musical Instruments and garnered more than 10,000 downloads. His YouTube channel, where he posted his videoized original music tracks, had more than 450 subscribers and more than 1 million views. He has been active on all the major online music provider sites, including ebay, iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.
Tony, now 60, continues to market his catalog of original tracks on the Internet.
He is a multi-instrumentalist, handling the vocals, lead guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, synthesizer, banjo, fiddle, harmonica and mandolin.

Following is an autobiographical article about Tony's independent rock career that was published on ConnPost.com in April 2008.


Open Mic Night.
Just the sound of those three words makes me want to strap on my western jumbo acoustic guitar and get in front of an intimate little audience.
You see, in addition to being a veteran writer and newsvideo maker for ConnPost.com, I have for eight years enjoyed a moonlight career as an independent recording artist, an indie, with thousands of listeners all over the U.S. and the world. It's really a glorified expensive hobby more than a business, but I've received fan mail from disc jockeys and record buyers in Serbia, Finland, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Australia and Britain. It takes a certain measure of confidence as an artist to put yourself in the world like that, and it is partly because of performing at open mic nights that I developed that confidence.
My first experience with an open mic night was in the fall of 1976, at the tender age of 17. I had gone to a coffeehouse in the South End of Bridgeport called the Carriage House and was asked by a 30-something hippie guy in a leather hat if I played guitar and wanted to sing. "Do I? Are you kidding? Give me a guitar!" I've never been the American Idol type, never had a crooner's voice, and I knew it. But I learned how to communicate with the voice I had and got up on the small stage, with a borrowed Martin guitar that today would be the price of a small car, and performed a couple of new songs I had been writing - "Million Dollar Lottery Blues," about dreams of hitting the big one, and "This Ole Cowboy Never Gets Shot Twice By the Same Gun," about refusing to rekindle a jilted relationship. The audience ate it up. "Man, you have got to record those songs," a 20-something guy told me, excited that such a young kid was writing songs like that. So I did record them - I saved up money from my part-time job (as a Telegram night errand runner) and plunked down several hundred for a professional recording session at Trod Nossel, Doc Cavalier's mecca in Wallingford for Connecticut garage bands since the 1960s. Those maiden voyage tapes, on which I played lead guitar and sang the blues, never did make it onto local jukeboxes in 1977, like I had told Bridgeport Post interviewer Janet Durso at the time I wanted to save up and do. But they did go on to have an underground life of a sort on Napster New Artists, when that came along on the Web at the turn of the 21st Century and made independent music possible. And it had all started at an open mic.
My second significant experience with open mic nights came in 1999, when I was 40-years-old, overweight, divorced, and having not performed live since the 1995 acoustic Hootenanny at the Tressler/McCann family barn in Easton. I was anxious and showed up one September night at the Acoustic Cafe in Black Rock to perform some original arrangements of Grateful Dead songs.
So at the open mic, in front of a hometown Black Rock crowd, I played a couple of Grateful Dead songs I had arranged in my own gritty style that you don't want to hear in your Sunday choir: "Sugaree," and "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad."
The audience ate it up like chocolate almond ice cream. It was like that optimistic feeling from the Carriage House in 1976. "Man, you should put a record out," one hippie-looking guy in his 20s said. (Hippies always seem to be in my life story, like in a Roger Corman film.)
I thought about that: "put a record out," good idea. How do I do that? So I started my own microscopically small indie label, American Wolf, with a budget of $1,000 for the first issue of 250 promotional copies, many of which went to house disc jockeys at blues clubs in Chicago, Texas and New Orleans. Over the next eight years I issued on a small scale at least 10 CDs of original blues, alt-country and progressive acoustic rock music via the Web, all the while funding my endeavor with my full-time and freelance work as a writer. In 2002, one of my CDs, "Rain Delays," got noticed as a "connoisseur" work by Web-based record critic Steve Knowlton, who praised me for writing blues with no cliches and intriguing lyrics. That pleased me because one of my idols was blues composer Willie Dixon, who could have made the theme song from "Happy Days" sound bluesy. WPKN, my hometown non-commercial station, became my champion. People would ask me, "are you the Tony Spinelli whose records I hear on PKN?"
The Web made it all possible, because with the Web, an artist could bypass expensive retail distribution and sell with low overhead on Amazon, e-Bay, or in pure digital form on Apple iTunes. I had the most success with e-Bay, selling CDs all over the world to music lovers who would browse through the New Artists category, which I think they have discontinued.
I love it. I'm doing what I wanted to do when I was a kid at a scout troop talent show, writing songs before I could even play my first $25 Sears & Roebuck guitar. When you have guitarists in England writing to you to tell you how "wicked" you sound, and little stores in San Francisco 3,000 miles away are happily selling your CDs, it feels good. When you get 1,000 hits on YouTube every three days and your music is in rotation on several Internet radio stations it's a rush. It won't buy a cup of Starbucks but it's a rush.
I still occasionally play at open mics A song on my indie CD "Affirmation" from 2007, called "Cowgirl," was written from the couch at Safari Caffeine in Ansonia, with an ecstatic little girl no more than 6-years-old suggesting the title. On the new CD I'm working on, "The Fourth Element," the song "Sow" was written live in front of a teenaged Saturday night audience at the Huntington Street Cafe in Shelton.
So, open mics have been important to me. Artists don't get paid to play there but you can't say they don't profit from it.

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