Growing up in Mingo Junction, Michael Fracasso was exposed to the gritty, steel mill lifestyle, once the lifeblood for thousands of Ohio Valley residents.
They were spinning Wild Cherry's 'Play That Funky Music' on local radio and Fracasso occasionally journeyed to Wheeling to catch live country music on WWVA's Saturday Night Jamboree.
As his high school years evolved at Catholic Central in Steubenville, "I sort of became known as a musician," Fracasso laughed, recalling a school assembly in which he received a 'standing ovation' after performing Arlo Guthrie's 1969 penned "Coming Into Los Angeles."
Fracasso spent the next four years at Ohio State, playing an occasional gig at a (no longer in operation) popular retreat for aspiring artists, Stache's.
Returning to his valley roots was not an option for Fracasso who next traveled west to the state of Washington.
As his confidence and writing ability continued to prosper, Fracasso eventually pulled a 180, relocating to the Big Apple where he became part of an eclectic list of musicians who helped shaped a new generation of 'A' list singer/songwriters.
Eventually, Fracasso seemed destined to land deep in the heart. He moved to Austin, Tx. in 1990 and has stayed put for the most part.
Regarded an in-demand session player whose contributions have been rather prolific, Fracasso has not been a frequent visitor to the studio, releasing but three records since the late 1990s.
However, last year's 'Saint Monday' on indie label Little Fuji Records, generated top-of-the-line reviews. The San Francisco Chronicle labeled it one of 2011's finest.
"I still have family and relatives (up there)," Fracasso explained, referring to a sister in Wellsville along with various nieces and nephews.
Friday night at Barnesville's Albert S. George Center, Fracasso will be performing several songs off 'Saint Monday' in addition to a number of other favorites from his extensive catalog.
"It's always nice returning to the area where you grew up," he observed. "I'm happy to be playing a local venue there in Barnesville and hope a lot of valley music fans will come out. We'll have a good time."
It's no secret Austin is considered ground zero in terms of the Americana/Country/Folk movement.
"(This) is definitely home for me, now. Hundreds of serious musicians and music fans (live down here). There isn't anywhere else I'd want to be."
When I mentioned one of the Lane's favorite bands, the Austin-based Gourds, Fracasso informed two members of that band - Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith - were backing players on his 2011 CD. In fact, Fracasso played on one of Russell's solo projects.
Later this summer, Fracasso returns to Okemah, Oklahoma, site of the legendary Woody Guthrie Music Festival (July 11-15).
At Woodyfest, Fracasso is booked to play in addition to the likes of Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, Melanie, Ellis Paul, Jimmy LaFave, Butch Hancock, Lloyd Maines, Billy Bragg and Gretchen Peters.
Tickets for Fracasso's Friday performance in Barnesville are $10 and available at the door. Concessions are also available.
ONE of the great icons of American pop music, Dick Clark, passed away a few weeks ago.
As a tribute to the man whose 1960s groundbreaking TV show, American Bandstand, helped jump-start the careers of dozens of artists and bands, the 2012 Malt Shop Memories Cruise will help pay tribute to Clark who later went on to become a popular television game show host.
Scheduled to depart Fort Lauderdale Oct. 27 with stops in San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Bay, and Turks & Caicos, the cruise includes artists who appeared on the original Bandstand show, including then-teen stars Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Dion and Darlene Love.
"Dick was a very dear friend and helped shape my career tremendously," Rydell disclosed. "Bandstand was the first national television show I was on. I have Dick Clark to thank for the many years of success I was able to enjoy."
The cruise is open to the public with cabin prices starting at $1,900. For more info, visit www.MaltShopCruise.com.
WHAT a deal! Check out summer's best bang for your buck. A free Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers concert Sunday (6-7:30 p.m.) on the Dollar Bank Stage as part of Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Arts Festival.....
Gibson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org