the Ellen Foley Band profile

1979 TOUR: Tommy Mandel (keyboards), Martin Briley (bass), Tommy Morrongiello (guitar), George Meyer (keyboards), Joe Stefko (drums)

1980 TOUR: Martin Briley (bass), Jeff Southworth (guitar), Russ Shirley (guitar), George Meyer (keyboards), Joe Stefko (drums)

1981 TOUR: Bob Riley (drums), Tony Bridges (bass), Tommy Morrongiello (guitar), Jocelyn B. Smith (keyboards), Gene Hicks (organ, violin)

1983 TOUR: Andy Kaufman (drums), Tony Bridges (bass), Phil Grande (guitar), Lloyd Landesman (keyboards)
[Tommy Mandel - 1981 EP] When Ellen auditioned for record companies in 1978, she brought along NYC keyboard player Tommy Mandel (from The Miamis), performing songs live in the record company offices, just like she and Meat Loaf did a year earlier! Tommy ended up playing on her "Nightout" and "Another Breath" albums, plus he was in Ellen's 1979 touring band. Interestingly, he has also written a book, tentatively called "Famous A**holes I Have Known", with a whole chapter devoted to Ellen Foley!

Born in New York City in 1949, Tommy Mandel began studying music at the age of six, in suburban New York. He took ten years of piano lessons, and mutated at the age of sixteen, joining and forming a series of bands performing Dixieland, James Brown, and Beatles-Stones music along the East Coast in the sixties. He studied songwriting with Paul Simon at NYU in 1969-70 in a class which included the Roches and Melissa Manchester. After receiving his degree from Bowdoin College in Maine, where he furthered his studies of Music History, Theory, Electronic Music, and Orchestration, he found work at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., accompanying classes combining Theater, Song and Dance, and composing music and songs for several original theater productions, a position he held for seven years. He also played with The Miamis, performing at the CBGB's.

During this period, while represented by the William Morris Agency and signed to Epic Records (by Stephen Paley,) he wrote two Pop-Operas, "Joe's Opera" and "Sea of Simile" , the former being twice optioned for Broadway production, and staged at both Cafe LaMama (1974), and the Stuart Ostrow Musical Theater Lab at St. Clement's N.Y.C,(1975). They were both directed by John Braswell, R.I.P., but the St. Clements' production was directed by Robert Allan Ackerman. A third show, "The Maurice LaRue Rhythm Revue", was mounted at Sarah Lawrence in 1979. A children's opera, "Animal Stew," was co-written and produced with Bobby Puleo a few years later.

In 1977, Mandel toured the US and Canada with the National Lampoon Travelling Road Show; in 1978 he traveled to West Berlin with the Rock Revue, "Shindig 77" and returned a few months later to form an "international all-star blues band", with musicians from England, Poland, and West Germany. Also in 1978, while preparing to record Ellen Foley's debut album, he met Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. He played on three albums and three tours with them, and began to make the contacts that led to his work on many records over the years. He has also recorded a series of solo albums, most of which are available on iTunes (but not his 1981 solo EP on Songshop Records, pictured above!)

Mandel's touring experience includes stints with Ian Hunter-Mick Ronson (79-81), David Johansen (before he became Buster Pointdexter... in 1980), Sylvain Sylvain (ex New York Dolls), Dire Straits (82-83), Todd Rundgren - Ian Hunter - Mike Shrieve (1980), John Waite (84-85), Little Steven, (86), Bryan Adams (88-98), and Richie Sambora and Friends (98), as well as local (New York City) gigs with Bo Diddley, Lou Christie, Paul Butterfield, Elaine Caswell, and Otis Rush.
(visit for regular updates to his biography)

TOMMY MANDEL INTERVIEW by Sven Gusevik (The Outsider fanzine #8, 2001):

Tell me how you met Ellen Foley, Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson?
I was in a band that recorded at Moogy Klingman's studio in NYC (it was Todd Rungren's too for a while..."Secret Sound", and Moogy (a great keyboard player) and I got to be friends. He was double booked one day and asked me to fill in for him, playing piano at the HAIR auditions, uptown. I did, and the casting agent there, Frannie Pillersdorf, liked my playing and I dunno, my sensitivity to the singers, (culled from 7 years of accompanying ingenues at Sarah Lawrence College in classes combining acting, singing and dance). So she told me to call her, there was this singer who she was repping who needed a pianist to go around with to auditions, so that there was no uncertainty when the actual auditions took place what the chord was, how fast it went, and where the pauses were, for example. That singer was Ellen Foley, very attractive, very talented and another Gemini (like me and Ian and Mick too!, but I found that out later). So I played and rehearsed with Foley (as Ian calls her) and then she was putting together a band, and asked me to rehearse with that; so I did. I met Hilly Michaels and G.E. Smith and one day Mick and Ian came down to the rehearsal hall, and because they were gonna produce her first (Cleveland International Records) record. I guess I had ear plugs in, because Hilly was very close (cymbal-wise) to my left ear (both ears, actually), so maybe I played a bit louder than I usually do...mostly rock piano- 8th notes in octaves, etc. Well that impressed Ian or Mick, so free spirits that they were, they said I could play on the record... Martin Briley was there too, on bass...Tommy Morrongiello was rehearsing in another room in the same (Full Tilt) rehearsal studio, and we invited him in one night, to fill in for Billy Cross who had been helping out in the interim, and then Tommy was in the band! But that was after the record was recorded I think. By the end of the recording sessions, (for Foley's Night Out album) Ian and Mick invited me, Martin and Hilly to go on tour with them, to support You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic which was doing very well right then. It was a good record for Ian, that.

What about your book, "Famous A**holes I Have Known". That's a great title!
I don't know how to go about publishing my book; it's 80 pages with 13 pages of pictures. I haven't found a publisher for it yet. I guess I wrote it for two reasons: (1) - to get it off my chest (there's only a few vicious parts, unlike the title implies; in fact Bob Doershuck, the editor of Musician Magazine, said he thought I should change the title because it's misleading.... still trying to think of another catchy one...) Sort of like a do-it-yourself headshrinking. (2) - to make TONS of MONEY! (house payments etc). So if I can't get a big advance for the book, which I probably can't, I might be better off just sharing it with friends, and avoid the Wrath of Adams, although he comes off pretty laundered in the book. (POSTSCRIPT 2010: some chapters now available on
[Gene Hicks - anno 2010] For her 1981 touring band, Ellen invited keyboard and violin player Gene Hicks along. She had previously worked with him on two musicals (Hair, and Into The Woods) for which he was pianist and musical director, respectively.

Gene Hicks is a veteran performer, composer, and teacher. A native of Brooklyn, he started playing piano at age four, and violin at age eleven. Besides teaching at Harbor Conservatory he maintains a teaching and recording studio in Brooklyn. He performs educational programs in New York City and area school assemblies, and is often called upon to direct choirs and accompany choirs. Gene taught music at Preston High School in the south Bronx for six years, where he directed the choir and musical performances, and gave instruction in violin, cello and piano. He has traveled the globe, and worked with such diverse notables as Andy Warhol, John Paul Jones, Bill Monroe, John Belushi & Dan Akroyd, and La Charanga Fanica. Sessions include Tom Russell, Kathy Moffatt and Elephant's Memory (Plastic Ono Band)

Gene has an extensive background in musical theater including: "Hair" European tour (musical director), "Hair" off-Broadway (pianist), "Always....Patsy Cline" N.Y.C. (band leader), "That's Not funny, That's Sick", national tour (musical director), "Into The Woods" and "Godspell". Gene has studied orchestration and composition with John Corigliano (The Red Violin), theory with Mark Adamo (Little Women), conducting with Alan Hollander, solfeggio with Marta Ghezzo, jazz piano with Stanley Cowell, classical piano with Peter Vinograde, and is currently studying Latin piano with the great Sonny Bravo, at Harbor Conservatory. He has taught himself jazz piano and violin, and is involved in numerous recording and arranging projects, besides working with several bands playing many genres, including country and western, cajun and bluegrass.
(visit Gene's website for more information)
[George Meyer - circa 1980] George Meyer was a member of the Ian Hunter Band, but during breaks in Ian's touring schedule, he played with Ellen Foley on her 1979/80 tours. Here is his story, in his own words:

I started my first band at 12 yrs old as a saxaphone player who became the lead singer-- ("because on the first song we learned that wasn't an instrumental I wasn't "doing anything" so...") By 22 I had become a keyboard player and, after many club bands, joined The Blackberry Booze Band with lifelong friends David Meyers, Paul Dickler, and Bruce Stewart. Blackberry went on to become Corky Laing's band (the drummer for Mountain) for his tour in support of his solo album.

After the tour, and back in Asbury Park, I eventually left to join Moment of Truth--a successful disco (yes, disco) band who had a pretty big hit in 1975 called "Helplessly". From there, a couple of other club bands then a call from Corky, who was putting together a band with Ian Hunter, Steve Hunter, and, "Buffalo" Bill Gelber, that needed a keyboard player. That band ultimately didn't happen, but a few months later I got a call from Ian Hunter, who had released his solo album "You're Never Alone With A Schizophrenic", and was asked if I would like to be in his touring band. (Must have taken me almost a whole second to make that decision!) I played with Ian and Mick Ronson (of David Bowie fame) for about 2 years, touring, recording a double live album--"Welcome To The Club"-- at the Roxy in LA, and also playing on the follow up album--"Short Back and Sides". With Ian and Mick I performed around the world and on such television shows as: Don Kirchner's Rock Concert, Midnight Special, Fridays, and Rockpalast from Germany.

During a break in the touring schedule I played in Ellen Foley's band (she is the voice on Paradise By the Dashboard Lights among many other credits) for her tour in support of her first solo album which Ian and Mick produced. With Ellen there was more television work including Old Grey Whistle Test in England and Bios Banhoff in Germany among others.

After the Ian Hunter Band, Martin Briley (the bass player for both Hunter and Ellen Foley bands) and I co-wrote "I'm Just Using You" for Karla DeVito's first album "Is This A Cool World Or What". Shortly after, Meatloaf called and I joined his Neverland Express tour in support of his second album "Dead Ringer". (And, not insignificantly, met the incredible Pamela Moore). With Meat's band we filmed a movie, did Saturday Night Live, Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show, and filmed a video during a 5 night stint at Wembly Arena in London. Back in the states the band spent a week at Boogie Hotel in Long Island and recorded a demo for Meat's next album. Ted Neely (Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar) and I co wrote "If You Really Want To" which became the single off Meat's "Midnight at the Lost and Found", for which I received my first Gold Album.

While living in L.A. Pamela and I recorded with Davey Johnstone (Guitar and musical director for Elton John) and, among other things, were in the band with Davey and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter that backed up most of the acts on a Jerry Lewis telethon. (Including, Sam Moore of Sam and Dave, George Duke, Al Kooper, Spencer Davis, the Turtles, the Chambers Brothers, and many others.) I also did the harmony vocals on Martin Briley's top 40 hit "The Salt in My Tears". I have also had the good fortune and pleasure to have played with (a song here, an encore there, a session here, a jam there): Heart, Blue Oyster Cult, The Crests, David Sancious, Bobby Baer, Shel Silverstein,Tico Torres and many many more.

Since moving back to New York I have continued writing and recording and have also played with Melanie, Otis Rush, Spirit, and Little Sammy Davis among others. When David Meyers called and said, "Would you like to play a Blackberry gig with Paul and I?" I did not hesitate. Now the Blackberry Blues Band (times change) is back together with good friends and family playing old favorites and new originals and having a great time doing it. It's nice to be home.
(visit the Blackberry Blues Band website for more information)