October 8 - click on images to enlarge them!
Born in Queens, New York, to Carlos Cacho-Negrete and Michelle Cacho-Negrete. 1970 – My brother Bruce was born – my parents, knowing already he would be too soft for the city life, moved us to Rocky Point, Long Island. We stayed here until 1982.
My buddy JD showed me my first chords, let me borrow his guitar whenever I wanted and took me to buy my first guitar in his hometown of Agawam, which he was quite proud of because it has the first zip code in the country. It was a Takamine. I still use the guitar strap I bought that day. Geoff Bartley put my name on it once when I left it at The Cantab Lounge in Cambridge. He has nice penmanship. There is Me, My Brother and my Takamine
I wrote my first song, “And You Loved Her,” by taking the “E” chord, first position, and moving it up and down the neck. I have a clip of this song you can listen to that I made when I was 18 years old. The melody was one note (B) throughout the song until my brother encouraged me to change notes “like Jackson Brown does.”
I was visiting my girlfriend at Boston College in 1988 when we stumbled into The Nameless Coffeehouse in Harvard Square. There was a stream of folk music acts playing (I found out years later while talking to Dick Pleasants on WUMB that it was a songwriting contest they sponsored). Ellis Paul played and I bought his very first tape. I can almost guarantee I have the only one in existence. I began heading to Boston on a regular basis to see Paul, along with Jim Infantino, Brian Dozer and Jon Svetkey. I befriended the boys, who called themselves End Construction, and began discovering other new singer/songwriters. I bought a lot of tapes.
After Graduating from college I moved to Maine and started playing open mics. I made the drive down to Westboro, Ma to play the Old Vienna Kaffeehaus because Ellis Paul had told me it was the best one in the country. It was my first open mic. Doug Clegg was the feature. I played two originals, “Seems Like Forever” and “Open Sky.” You can hear them below, recorded about that time. Chris Goett plays lead guitar. Too scared to talk, but made my way through the songs. Played open mics on a weekly basis, The Pressroom in New Hampshire, The Stone Church in Newmarket and a few others I can’t remember. Began playing with my friend Chris Hoffman on lead guitar. We stopped playing together after a few months and I join up with Chris Goett. Pictured – Chris Goett in the studio, Chris Hoffman and myself with my Mom’s boyfriend, Higgy.
I decided to join my girlfriend in Colorado in January of 1991. Chris Goett convinced me to make a tape, in a real recording studio, before I left. I was not ready to make a tape. Here are 2 songs, one with my mom’s old boyfriend Higgy playing lead (One of The Family) and the other with Chris Goett playing guitar and singing harmony (Place To Hide).
Grand Junction, Colorado
Colorado was a different world from the East Coast. I was away from all I had known and lived hand to mouth, picking up social service jobs here and there. I started playing every Friday night with a group of amateur musicians at a local coffee shop, banging out cover songs. After a few months we developed an audience - it wouldn’t be unusual for 50 people to be hanging out listening. Eventually we put together a little show and I made 40 bucks - the first time I had made money playing music. I fell in with a gang of bluegrass musicians and started going to all the festivals - Telluride, Silverton and other smaller ones. It was the first time I got to hear Texas Songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Robert Earl Keen. Here’s a song I wrote out there, “Western Colorado,” recorded live at the coffee shop. That’s my buddy Dave Foster on lead guitar. I left to get my Master of Social Work degree in the Fall of 1992.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
I started graduate school in Ann Arbor in the Fall of 1992. The first place I went was the legendary music venue “The Ark.” Matt Watroba, who had a folk show on “WDET” in Detroit, ran an open mic every Wednesday. Waiting in line for the first open mic of the Fall I met David Goldfinger, someone who had been a big part of the Boston scene. I had his tape “In A Room Somewhere” and really liked his song “Snowblind.” David’s peers were many of the people I had gone to see regularly in Boston - Ellis Paul, Catie Curtis, Vance Gilbert - David became a mentor to me and helped me a lot with songwriting - we had a songwriting group that at different times included many of the local songwriters as well as musicians travelling through town. Catie Curtis, Diane Ziegler, Dave Crossland all stopped by. There were a lot of great songwriters in Ann Arbor – Dick Siegel, Scott Fabb, Chris Buhalis, Jerry Hager, Julia Gardner, Michael Hsu, Jenn Cass, Bill Boley. I had a great time with that crew.
I went to Nashville to visit my friend Jerry Hager, a fine singer/songwriter I had befriended in Ann Arbor who had moved to Music City. Jerry's roommate, Joe Nolan, came out of his room at Jerry's request and proceeded to play a bunch of the most lyrically expressive songs I had ever had sung in my presence. Clearly Dylan and Beat Poetry influenced, a rough but right voice and simple chord structures, hit me hard. Real hard. I wanted Joe to sing me songs all weekend, but he was a tough guy to pin down. Over the next few weeks I wrote "Tumbleweed's At The Fair," "Foulmouth Kelly" and "The Rabbi's Daughter," songs that are still with me. I am convinced that meeting Joe Nolan brought my songwriting up several notches. He taught me something just by being around, without trying. That’s Joe’s 45 lp up there. Here’s me singing one of his songs back in 1993, “Laughing Down The Hall.” It’s a great song!
Ann Arbor, Michigan
My first real show was at The Ark, a “Best of the Open Mic” feature. I later had shows there with David, Catie Curtis, The Five Chinese Brothers, Julia Gardner - That’s Julia and I doing “Down In Love,” a Freedy Johnston song. That’s Bill Boley and I on stage at The Ark. I was lucky to have such a great training ground.
Ann Arbor Michigan
I recorded my tape, “Tumbleweed at the Fair.” Catie Cutis played drums and sang, bless her heart. Here’s a bunch of songs from it. Ellis Paul crashed at my place when passing through town and told me I should head to Boston. After 3 years in Ann Arbor I did. That’s David and Paul jamming on “He Was A Friend Of Mine.”
I moved to Massachusetts in September of 1995. It was before the Internet and email had taken over. Few people had beepers, much less cell phones. You made your name the old fashioned way, by hitting open mics, going to festivals, and meeting other songwriters. I hit all the open mics, all the time. The Cantab Lounge and The Colonial Inn on Mondays; Club Passim on Tuesdays; The Kendall Café on Wednesdays; The Old Vienna Kaufeehouse on Thursdays, Java Joe’s on Fridays. There were other open mics that came and went – The Casual Cup on Thursdays was a great one, The Acton Jazz Café on Wednesdays, The Plantation Club on Tuesdays and at least 20 more over the 5 years I was hitting them.
On any given night you would be hanging out with Kevin So, Mary Gauthier, Ratsy, C.T. Elliot, Sean Staples, Jim Radar, Kris Delmhorst, Marc Herman, Jenny Reynolds, Alastair Mook, Kyle Schiver, Cheryl Hoenemeyer and a dozen other talented songwriters. I now was trading for tapes rather than buying them.
The first time I played the Passim Open Mic I was in the round with Pamela Means and Jabe Beyer. I was astonished at how good they were and that they were still playing open mics. I had told myself I would show up every Tuesday for a year to play and see if anything happened. Jeff Cannon, the open mic host, approached me when I walked off stage, got my phone number and said he wanted me to be on the live WERS radio show they broadcast every Sunday afternoon from the club. I had my first gig at Passim a month later.
That’s me at Passim, around 1996
Kevin So brought me to the Kerrville Folk Festival for the first time in 1997. I had met the master songwriter Steve Gillette earlier that year at The Rose Garden Coffeehouse and Kevin and I joined up with him at Camp Cuisine, a campfire song circle at Kerrville. I sang “Save Me A Seat” with Anne Hills jumping in on harmony. He then brought Kevin and myself down to Camp CoHo, another song circle. Jack Hardy was singing the song “Eclipse” as we sat down. It was beautiful. Jack was in his long gray hair period and seemed like some sort of Shaman to me then. I sang 2 songs in that circle –I was so nervous I had Kevin So sing a verse of each of them, “Save Me A Seat” and “Foulmouth Kelly”. When I was done Jack said “Where the *%#& have you been hiding?” I stayed at Camp Coho drinking Coronas and playing guitar for the next 10 days. Jack was very supportive of me and I wound up playing shows with him from New York to Maine. I miss him a lot. There’s Jack and Steve Gillette that day, and Jack singing with me on “Save Me a Seat”. There’s a picture of Jack and I a few years later at Kerrville.
Hampton Falls, New Hampshire
I recorded my first CD with Chris Biggi at Sunset Ridge Studios. Chris had recorded a lot of people, including Bill Morrissey, Bob Halperin and Kenny Girard. I made the mistake of not having a producer and running out of money. I got all my talented friends to help out for free, however, including Ellis Paul, Catie Curtis, Kevin So, Sean Staples, Kris Delmhorst, Stephanie Corby and Kyle Shiver. Paul got Kristian Bush, later in Sugarland, to play guitar. It’s a loose record that shows what I sounded like on a pretty good night. It could have been a lot better.
Despite its shortcomings it got a lot of airplay on WUMB and WERS in Boston as well as a few other folk stations. It got written up in The Boston Globe, no small accomplishment, as well as a bunch of other local papers.
to 2002, The East Coast
I started gigging as much as I could with a full time day job. Here are some of my old gig cards I would mail out. I would try to have between 4 and 8 gigs a month. There are split bills with Mark Erelli, Mary Gauthier, Kevin So and Jack Hardy, openers for Bob Franke, Brooks Williams, Connie Kaldor – a lot of Boston area coffeehouse gigs. I wrote on the card how much I made and how many Cd’s I sold. This is pretty representative of what I did for about 10 years.
Got Married! Best decision I ever made. There’s Kevin, Stephanie Corby and Kyle Schiver jamming at the reception.
I was nominated for a Boston Music Award for “Outstanding New Singer/Songwriter.”
Sanders Theater, Cambridge
Folk Legend Tom Rush had a “contest” to discover some new songwriters to present to his audience. First a cd was submitted, then auditions in Andover and finally, if he liked you, a show at Sanders Theater. Eric Gerber, Christopher Williams, Rob Laurens and The Scharff Brothers were there and joined me during my set. It was a good feeling to be a part of that community. Tom Rush is a gracious, generous man – I got to open up a few shows for him down the line. Above is a picture of us at the end of the show, the letter I got from him initially, and a review of an opening set I did for him at The Tupelo Music Hall in 2005.
Neale Eckstein is the man behind Fox Run house concerts, FoxRun studio and more collaborations, good times and stunning photographs than anyone else in the Singer/Songwriter universe. I got to know him well when he was first discovering this world, since one of his favorite acts was Kevin So. I played many times at his house and in 2001 he offered to record an album for me for the “experience”. I once again got all my friends out to play for cheap beer and food and Neale put in countless hours making sure I sounded as good as I do when all cylinders are firing. “Spark” was released in April of 2002.
“Spark” was released at Club Passim, which I sold out. I then set up a tour from New York to Maine spanning 3 months of gigs and hired a publicist, since the actual recording hadn’t cost me anything. “Spark” was in the top 10 of most played folk records for a few months and I actually saw a check from ASCAP for airplay. A number of people also started covering songs from it – Stephanie Corby recorded “Bluest Of Things” as a duet with Jimmy LaFave, Charlie Strater recorded “The Devil In Me”, Pat Wictor, of “Brother Sun” fame, recorded “Bordertown”, Molly Slone in Nashville recorded “Save Me A Seat” and Kevin So recorded “Stay With Me Tonight” and “Save Me A Seat”. Jimmy LaFave, Jack Hardy and a few others played songs from it live. It was a good year for me.
Hillsdale New York
Played the Main Stage of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival as part of their “Emerging Artists”. Kyle Schiver really burned it up on guitar.
1995 to 2007
Club Passim, Cambridge, MA
Club Passim was always my home base through the years, as it has been for so many others. Tim Mason and Matt Smith booked me often – I opened shows for Willy Porter, Bill Staines, Jimmy LaFave, Darden Smith, Lynne Miles, Claudia Schmidt, Brooks Williams, just to name a few. I did “songwriters in the square nights”, triple bills, split bills and one headlining show. I played tribute nights and the Cutting Edge of the Campfire several years in a row. I was at the Tuesday night open mic almost every week. I remember when Amos Lee opened for Kevin So at the club; Matt Smith asking me to do a split bill with Josh Ritter as Josh was playing a song at the open mic; watching unknowns like Amanda Claire sing amazing songs at midnight for nobody; Joel Cage tearing up a version of “Crossroads’; Mark Erelli trying out a new song; Mary Gauthier standing on the steps outside the club telling me that we could one day both sell out the club the way Kevin had just done; hanging around there was always inspiring. Up above are pictures of me in the round with Kevin So and Tim Mason; Kris Delmhorst and Mary Gauthier; a flyer with me in the round with Lori McKenna; in the round with Steve Tannen, later in “The Weepies.”
My last show at Club Passim was in 2007, a triple bill with John Schindler and Michael Troy. I was starting not to enjoy it as much. I was tired of worrying about my draw. I was starting to take gigs just for the money. I wanted to be home at night with my wife and 2 young daughters. I slowly stopped booking myself, going to open mics and festivals. I went from 50 gigs a year to 30 to 20 to a handful in the space of a few years. I consider the end a show at The Second Friday Coffeehouse (always a great gig!) in November of 2009, although I did do some things after that. It seems sad reading it over to myself, but it wasn’t. I had people pushing me to do it full time. One prominent Folk DJ told me I was the best unsigned singer/songwriter in Boston and he would help me get a record deal. Jack Hardy said I should move to New York and quit my “Social Working” to become the best songwriter I could be. I am way too risk averse to ever attempt a full time career in music – I always had a day job. I had become a supervisor at The Early Intervention Agency where I worked, a job I really enjoyed. My girls gave me a lot of joy and I was much happier being home with them at night than playing music. I played my guitar all the time, learning old bluegrass songs, and spent a lot of time listening to music on my stereo. The years I slowed down with music became the happiest years of my life.
2006 to 2012
There were various projects I started as I was backing out of the singer/songwriter scene. In 2006 I had an acoustic duo going with a great singer named Nicole Breaux. We made an Ep and did a few shows together. Here’s a track from that, “Find A Way To Dream”.
I ran a singer/songwriter open mic in my hometown of Amesbury for a few months.
I was in a band, “The Frog Holler String Band”. That was the only time I was really in a band.
Kate Redgate, a singer/songwriter from Newburyport, invited me to be part of a song swap at The Firehouse in 2012, a great venue in Newburyport. That was my last “concert.”
With a handful of new songs and an urge to start playing again, I start hitting the open mics again…..