lt to rt: Frank Calderone, Dennis Inzalaco, Ronnie Colantuono, Keith Fulsher

HeadFirst Band (photo by Melody Nieves Aubry)
"HeadFirst Band Interview"

Interview by Roger-Z (06/30/15)

Roger-Z: How and when did the HeadFirst Band come together?
Keith Fulsher: It's a long story! The band began in 1977 as Wild Oats, founded by our lead singer and rhythm guitarist, fellow Eastchester-ite Ronnie Colantuono. I joined the group on lead guitar in late 1977 along with drummer John Stewart, who I had played with since I was 13. In 1979, the band reorganized -- Ronnie, John, and myself continued on and we added Frank Calderone on bass and George Constantine on keyboard, both of whom I had played with in college bands. We kept the Wild Oats moniker for a bit longer. Then we changed our name to HeadFirst. When George passed away in 1988, we never replaced him on keys, and the four of us continued to play together. After John left this world in 2011, we added Dennis Inzalaco on drums. That's where we stand today. We consider ourselves a very tight group and see each other as family.

Roger-Z: What genres of music do you cover?
Keith Fulsher: We view ourselves as a Southern Rock tribute band. We play Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Charlie Daniels, Blackberry Smoke, Outlaws, and a few other artists thrown in for good measure. We evolved over the years. At first, a little over half our repertoire derived from Southern Rock. We also performed other material, from the Talking Heads to The Cars. When we decided to focus exclusively on our strength, Southern Rock, the band really gained traction.

Roger-Z: Talk about the band's musical influences.
Keith Fulsher: We all come from different places. I love The Who so I always inject Pete into whatever song I play. Also Joe Walsh, Eric Clapton (Cream days), Leslie West, Jimmy Page, Johnny Winter, Billy Gibbons, Dicky Betts, Warren Haynes, Alvin Lee, Mark Farner. Frank shares similar tastes -- Jack Bruce, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, plus jazz influences. Dennis grew up on Phil Ehart, Alan White, John Panozzo, and Don Brewer. Ronnie's roots derive from Country music, and he brings that melodic feel and style to the band. Put this all together and you get the HeadFirst sound!

Roger-Z: How does the group pick new material?
Keith Fulsher: Suggestions for new material come from all of us. The vast majority consists of Southern and Country Rock, as that style plays to our strength as a band. After all these years, we can tell which songs work best for us musically and vocally and which won't. In general, we like to pick tunes that people know and we like to bring our own style to bear on them. We change keys when it doesn't compromise the essence of the song. We all appreciate the great chemistry that exist between us!

Roger-Z: Any plans for originals?
Keith Fulsher: We used to play a few original songs, but stopped performing them live years ago. We talked about writing new material, but nothing yet has come of it. But we're getting close!

Roger-Z: Do you rehearse or just learn songs off the record?
Keith Fulsher: We rehearse about once every two weeks, sometimes once a week. We feel the need to keep the chemistry fresh, make changes to the tunes, and try out new material. We learn the songs off the record and then add our own twist -- either adding some aggressiveness to the sound or tweaking the arrangement. As Frank would say, sometimes we have to "Who it up!"

Roger-Z: Where do you usually perform?
Keith Fulsher: We work mainly in Westchester county. We play on average once every two or three weeks. Our favorites places include Pete's Saloon, 12 Grapes, MTK Tavern, The Winery, PJ's, and Lucy's. We also perform in Montauk at least once a year. During the mid 90's and early 2000's, we played almost exclusively in Montauk as our drummer, John Stewart, lived there. We began to work again in Westchester after he passed away.

Roger-Z: Describe the HeadFirst Band's most notable or unusual gig.
Keith Fulsher: We opened for the Charlie Daniels Band at the Durham County Fair in 2003 in front of 25,000 people! They gave us our own trailer as well as a police escort to and from the event. We played very well that night and Charlie warmly complimented us.

2015 Roger-Z