Taking chances is something most people do, whether it’s buying a lottery ticket or taking that new job hundreds or thousands of miles away. Virtually all creative people take chances just by putting their work out there for approval or appreciation. Some artists take the ultimate chance and leave home to explore what the world is all about in hopes of inspiration, fame or fortune. Singer/songwriter Marc Tappan of North Middletown took that ultimate chance 20 years ago and it has helped shape him into the musician that he is today. Always a creative person, Tappan was an avid reader and began writing poems and songs in grammar school. Starting on the piano at age 10, he later became proficient on the drums, flute and bass guitar. In college, he added the guitar to to this résumé, but didn’t care much for school, so he packed a few things and headed to California. Life on the road can be tough, a lesson he would soon learn firsthand. With little money in his pocket, no steady work and frequently homeless, Tappan began busking (performing for donations) on the streets in the Mission district of San Francisco. It was here that he met legendary blues guitarist Carlos “Guitarlos” Ayala. Choosing to perform on street corners now after years of local fame in Los Angeles, Ayala became something of a mentor to Tappan. Their hours of performing together and Ayala’s storytelling had a major impact on this young man from New Jersey. Armed with his newfound experience and knowledge, Tappan traveled to Los Angeles and finally Phoenix with his music before making the decision to come home to New Jersey.
With the desire to continue his music career, Tappan became interested in the inner workings of the guitar and became a guitar tech and studied to be a luthier. Today he owns and operates Tappan Guitar Works in Middletown, providing expert repairs on most stringed instruments and building new guitars, basses and ukuleles upon request. Reconnecting with his old college girlfriend, Katerina, the two were married and have since welcomed young Brooklyn and Marshall into their world. Now that his first two priorities had been established, it was time to get back to live performing.
Attending local open mic nights, Tappan became friends with bassist Ted Palumbo, formerly of Carteret. An exceptional musician, Palumbo was part of the amazing central Jersey music scene of the early 1980s, performing with local favorite “Capitol One” which featured Bill Babjak on guitar (Bill’s brother Jim joined The Smithereens at about the same time). Palumbo is a favorite at the local jams and his extraordinary “in the pocket” style appealed to Tappan and his type of music. Tappan’s wife Kat, also a talented guitarist, was asked to join the band as backing vocalist. Kat’s beautiful voice is a nice compliment to Tappan’s sometimes deep, growly lead vocals. The final piece to this puzzle was drummer Bryan Sachs of Laurence Harbor, another open mic standout. Sachs puts every ounce of his 6-foot-plus frame into the music, regulating the groove perfectly and delivering the beat “on time, every time.” This is the beauty of local open mic nights. Tappan did not know Palumbo or Sachs previously, but performing alongside these fine musicians once a week or so has produced a band of immense talent. Tappan credits his wife and bandmates for creating a great working relationship with a real family vibe.
And the name of the band? Well, while struggling in San Francisco, Tappan encountered two men on the street and recalls the exchange between them: “Look at this slick guy right here…Boy, you got some shine. You’re dirty but you still look good. You got that dirty shine on you, son.”
And thus The Dirty Shine Band was born. Early in 2018 the band released its first EP with seven great blues tunes and it is well worth the $7 price tag on bandcamp.com. The listener will hear hints of Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Stevie Ray Vaughn in the music, and the tracks are well written and professionally recorded. The band is working on another EP at this time to be released in 2019, so visit them on their Facebook page for updates and new shows on the calendar. The Dirty Shine band has a clean and polished feel to their music and the future’s so bright, they’ll have to wear shades.
Chris Spiewak is currently the bassist for Rock/Blues cover band VyntEdge
This article was first published in the Nov. 15-21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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