Early Years

In The Beginning

Any chance of Richie Fontana having a so called regular life pretty much ended on February 7th, 1964 with the arrival of The Beatles in his home town of New York City. Already having shown an interest in music as a young child, playing his Dad's records, and listening to the pop radio stations with his sister Marianne, Richie was very much primed for the phenomenon of the Fab Four.

Since both his parents were music lovers, they were easily persuaded to buy him his first guitar, and later, his first drum kit. Aside from a few early guitar lessons, Richie was self-taught on all iinstruments; an important factor in the creation of his signature playing and writing style. This all paved the way to a life dedicated to music making, a course from which he would never stray. Heavily influenced by the British Invasion and other choice American groups, Richie soon became a guitarist, and then a drummer in neighborhood bands with other kids who were also bitten by the same Beatle bug.

Eventually he moved onward, beyond his own zip code, where he would meet better and better musicians.
Although never forsaking his ability to play guitar, bass, and a bit of keyboards, it became obvious that his forte would be that of a drummer throughout his career.

Things began to get serious when in 1973 he became part of a group called Wormwood Scrubs. This was the best band he had been involved with to date. Also, it's where Richie's songwriting skills would begin to bud. Working with the late/great guitar virtuoso Jack O'Brien (from Hammer), Richie's playing (drumming) abilty would excel to a much higher standard. Also part of this group was bassist Danny McGary, who along with Richie, would later form the nucleus for the band Piper, founded by Billy Squier in 1975.

Max's Kansas City

Max's Kansas City in New York, being "the" music industry club, was ground zero for rock 'n' roll in the 70's. Groups like The Ramones and Blondie were just emerging at that time, and they were all part of that scene. On a given night at Max's, you would see people like David Bowie or Alice Cooper, just hanging out. It was like "Glitter Rock", meets Andy Warhol, meets the then budding punk rock scene. It was a great place to be at that time.

Richie Fontana and Danny McGary being frequent patrons of Max's, were right in the middle of it all. One of the more avant-garde acts from that time was the transvestite rocker Wayne County (known today as Jayne County. Ah....you do the math). For a while, Danny played bass in Wayne's band, which lead to Richie Fontana playing keyboards (Hammond Organ/piano) on two songs on Wayne County's album.

So for Richie and Danny, just being around that whole scene, somehow they knew that the "big time" was maybe just a breath away. And then....


In the summer of 1975, Billy Squier, Danny McGary, and Richie Fontana got together at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, where they would record the first demos of Billy's latest songs. Although Richie loved to rock on the heavy side, he has always been much more concerned with the 'song' - good playing with good melodies was, and still is, of the utmost importance.

Billy's music had all of these elements. True power pop. He (Billy) was, and still is, a great songwriter, as many now know.
With interest from Aucoin Management, the people who handled KISS at that time, came the addition of guitarists Alan Nolan and Tommy Gunn (that's right, Tommy Gunn). Now, with management, and after showcasing for Clive Davis and various other record execs, Piper signed a record deal with A&M Records in 1976, and proceeded to Toronto to record their self-titled debut album "Piper".
It was "welcome to the machine" time. After lots of radio air-play, and their first major/national tour, it was back to the studio to record the second album titled "Can't Wait", this time at Electric Lady Studios in NYC. After another tour with many different headlining acts, including KISS, Piper disbanded in 1978, as Billy Squier was at the beginning of his career as a solo artist.
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