Industry veteran Charlie Miceli has picked up the guitar again after a hiatus.
Charlie Miceli has music in his roots. His step-grandfather’s brother was a trumpeter in Tommy Dorsey’s band. His step-grandfather was a drummer/roadie, drifting in and out of bands throughout his life. Miceli himself has been involved with music – particularly rock and blues – on and off since he was 11. Although he took a 20-year hiatus from the guitar, he recently picked up where he left off, and now plays regularly with his group, The Hinge. (You can catch them at the Happy Swallow in Framingham, Mass.)
Miceli is a 1977 graduate of Notre Dame University in South Bend, Ind., majoring in arts and letters, and psychology. He moved to Chicago in 1981 and took a job in manufacturing services with the W. Braun Company, a designer and distributor of cosmetic packaging. (The company designed the bottle for Softsoap® liquid soap.)
Two years later, he satisfied a twin desire to get into law enforcement and healthcare by becoming a special commissioned Chicago police officer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He applied for a variety of materials-related positions and ultimately became assistant director of data management in SPD. Miceli had responsibility for the materials management information system. Later, when Tim Partridge stepped in as director of materials management, Miceli applied for and became director of purchasing. Partridge and Miceli also devised a home-grown materials management information system, which is still in use in some IDNs today. In 1988, Miceli became associate director of materials.
Soon thereafter, Partridge left to join Colonial, and Miceli left to work for Loyola University Medical Center in a near-west suburb of Chicago. Miceli would eventually work with Partridge again, this time at Colonial as the corporate materials manager, and then later at a consulting firm that Partridge created, Collaborations in Healthcare, where he was president of supply chain. The company focused on evidence-based medicine and supply chain consulting. But the company that provided funding for Collaborations in Healthcare fell into financial difficulty, and the consulting venture folded. Miceli went to work for John Gaida (to whom he had reported at Partners) at Becton Dickinson Healthcare Consulting and Services. But after Sept. 11, 2001, he found it difficult to log the 250,000 miles or so he was doing per year, and he settled down at Newton-Wellesley in February 2002.
Miceli bought his first guitar – a Yamaha FG-120 – from a music store in Oswego, for $99. “I paid off $3 a week from money I made from my paper route,” he says. He took lessons from an 80-year-old jazz musician who had played with orchestra leader Tommy Dorsey when he was younger. Although he didn’t join a band in grade school, he did play Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” for his eighth-grade commencement.
Miceli laid off the guitar during high school, and didn’t pick it up seriously again until his senior year at Notre Dame. “It was just something to do,” he says. “I grew my hair long, got an earring, and was in my first real band. We called ourselves Neon Wilde.” The group specialized in contemporary rock. His equipment? A 1962 Fender Jaguar and a Fender Dual Showman amp. “I bought both of them for about $600. If I had them today, they’d be worth about $20,000.”
Neon Wilde’s first show was the Beaux Arts Ball at Notre Dame’s School of Architecture. “We auditioned for it, but we only knew three songs. And we didn’t have a lead guitar player either. We got the gig, and learned 50 songs in two weeks.” The lead guitarist was Greg Mandolini, who today is an owner of Mandolini Produce in the Chicago International Produce Market. Miceli’s roommate, Billy Adams, also played guitar for the group. “He was a kicker on the football team; they called him Billy ‘The Toe’ Adams,” says Miceli. Adams was a child prodigy on the guitar. In fact, when he was 15, he had a band called Mother’s Little Helpers, which played at a now-famous bar called the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. Its opening band at the Stone Pony was Bruce Springsteen.
While he was at Notre Dame, Miceli worked in the life sciences laboratory as part of his work/study program. As fate would have it, the husband of the woman who worked in the library – Perry Aberli – ran the Midwest Blues Festival, an annual event held at Notre Dame’s Stepan Center. “For two days, at $5 a night, you could listen to the music,” says Miceli, who did stage work for the festival. “I was immersed in blues,” he says. No wonder. Blues guitarists such as Muddy Waters, Albert King, Son Seals and B.B. King performed at the festival. “They were all old, but we used to hang out with them. We were 18 years old!”
Miceli graduated from Notre Dame in 1977, and Neon Wilde disbanded. He moved to Milwaukee for about nine months, doing some jamming while also working as a busboy in a fancy restaurant. A year later, in the summer of 1978, he returned to Notre Dame for grad school. “I got a call one Friday night from Perry Aberli,” he recalls. “He said to me, ‘You need to come play with Son Seals.’ I said, ‘I haven’t played since I came back [to grad school]. And I don’t even have a guitar.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We have all that stuff.’” It so happened that Miceli knew most of Seals’s songs, and, after playing a set, he was hired for the job. Then, just as the fall session of school was about to begin, he got another call. Would he go on a European tour with the Seals band to back up B.B. King? He made a tough decision, electing to stay at Notre Dame and continue his studies. And study he did. But he also found time to start another band – the Manhattan Project.
The band featured Billy ‘The Toe’ Adams as well as Kari Meyers as lead singer. It leaned toward blues, music from groups such as Heart and Derek and the Dominoes, and some original material. The Manhattan Project was a backup band to the Faith Band, which was based out of Indianapolis and produced by musician Todd Rundgren. “We were successful,” says Miceli. But the drummer became busy working toward his Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering, while the bass player was pursuing an advanced degree in engineering. The group dispersed in the summer of 1980, and Miceli moved to Chicago.
The next time he picked up a guitar to play publicly was at his wedding in 1982. Some of the band members from Neon Wilde joined him for two songs: Caledonia, a B. B. King song, and Turn Me Loose, a Loverboy tune. With that, he laid down the instrument for a very long time.
Fast forward to 2004. “My kids were young teenagers at the time, and they started playing,” says Miceli. Their teacher, Gary Backstrom, was an accomplished guitarist himself, who had played with the Allman Brothers Band at one point. “I started messing around with the kids’ guitars,” says Miceli. By the time they had lost interest, he was hooked – again. Miceli now takes lessons with Bacsktrom.
At around the same time, he was involved in the planning process for a new radiation oncology center at Newton-Wellesley. A principal with the architectural firm – Steve Evers – played bass, and his son played guitar in a band called Buddha Head. It wasn’t long before Evers and Miceli got together to jam, and, after that, to start The Hinge, a rock, blues and soul band. This time around, Miceli was playing a 1996 Paul Reed Smith Custom 22 guitar and an Eric Johnson Signature 1957 Stratocaster. Miceli uses the latest Marshall Amp JVM 410H to get the ’70s tone. His favorite guitarists are Joe Satriani, John Petrucci and Eric Johnson.
The Hinge played its first show in June 2005 in Framingham, Mass., and began playing private events after that. A favorite haunt was a biker joint in Framingham called The Happy Swallow. The Hinge recently performed at the grand opening of the new Newton-Wellesley emergency department, as well as at Mile 17 of the Boston Marathon. Hinge members are Steve Evers (bass), Wayne Winch (lead vocals and guitar), Adam Subber (drums), Heather Gibons (lead vocals) and Al Torrissi (keyboards and vocals).
“The kids are embarrassed,” says Miceli, referring to his daughter Grace and son Gianni. And his wife, Mari, is accommodating. “When we first started playing The Happy Swallow, I didn’t let her go,” he says. “I didn’t know how wild it would be.”