It has always been fun to receive one of Sneaky Pete’s albums. There is exuberance and laughs in abundance as he addresses his observations with sly comment. Pete is not mean or profane and doesn’t lash out, instead preferring to pull the mask from the clown and be amused with him ,not at him. Sneaky good, I’d say.
HOME TAPING BIOLOGY PROFESSOR by “Sneaky” Pete Rizzo
I started a teaching/research position at Texas A&M University in September of 1975. I was an active musician since 1960, and continued to be active during my undergraduate years at Indiana University. After graduation I decided to stay at IU to obtain a Master’s degree in Biology and as a graduate student, had no time for music. This continued through my four years at the University of Michigan while working on my Ph.D., as well as a three year post-doctoral research study at Purdue University. This constituted about eight years of not “playing out”, and very little “playing in” . So when I landed my first “real job” at Texas A&M, I was ready to get back into playing live music. My first gig was at a pizza pub in College Station, TX, the home of Texas A&M University.
I did a solo act which consisted entirely of cover songs, because I was not yet writing my own material. Still, this “split personality” thing was impressive to my students, who all thought college profs were “stuffed shirts”, and totally lacked any kind of “real personality”. After the first year, I had a student in my Freshman Biology class (Lyle Lovett), who attended every one of my weekly shows, and soon started performing at the same venue. I was still doing cover songs, but Lyle would mix in some of his own material. After a little while he started recording his originals, and in a relatively short time, started his musical career which still continues.
For several years more, I continued to perform covers, but then started to sneak in some of my own compositions. This wasn’t until 1985, when I actually became a “home taper”. But in the meantime, my solo act gained popularity, and I would joke with my students, telling them that this Sneaky Pete (my stage name), was my evil twin brother. I actually had a student in my class, attend every one of my “Wednesday Night Live” solo acts, and never knew that Sneaky Pete and Dr. Rizzo were one and the same person. I often wondered how many other students in my classes never believed that “we” were the same person. A common comment from my students was “I can’t believe you are a Rock & Roll performer”. On the other hand, students who were not in my class but attended my shows would say “ I can’t believe you are a Biology Professor”.
After about five years of this solo act, those students who attended every Wednesday Night Live show (they called themselves Sneakaholics), wanted something to remember their experience, and suggested that I make a cassette tape that they can take with them after they finally graduate. Since I was already producing home tapes of my original material,
I was set up to make a WNL tape of their favorite songs. But the number of songs was too numerous for a 45 min. tape, and I ended up making two (WNL Volumes I & II). I would give these out to my “Sneakaholics” at request. In fact, I still get requests for these tapes via my Texas A&M email address (which I am allowed to keep as long as I wish, and is the best way to contact me). So these home cassette tapes, though not of original material, served a great nostalgic purpose for these people, who consider their experience to be “the best years of their life”.
I then started to make cassettes of my own songs which I would sell at a “break even” price. The first one was at the request of my following, who voted to select which of my originals would be on the tape, which was aptly named “Sneakaholics Anonymous”. It had 11 songs chosen as “the best of Sneaky’s originals”. Now this first, as well as my 13 other albums are on CDs, but it all started with home taping cassettes. In fact, I still use a TASCAM 8-track reel-to-reel tape machine to record my originals, which are then channeled into a computer.
The home cassette taping years were “magical” in the sense that cassettes were the first means of recording and trading your music. It was just not possible to do this “via vinyl”. This practice still continues in the digital format of CDs.