My maternal grandfatherAlfred deMartino, a pianist, was a graduate of the Institute of Musical Art - Frank Damrosch’s precursor to the Juilliard Music Conservatory. His career included leading a radio broadcast big band in the 1920s, performing the live music that accompanied silent movies and the colorful experience of being the house entertainment at various illegal speakeasies during the prohibition years. It was in one those speakeasies where he met a singer named Alice. This 20's flapper would be my grandmother (the etymology of Allison, I'm told). What I remember the most about his playing was his incredible stride technique.
When my paternal grandfather recounted the understandably difficult to retrace family history, he told the story of his own father in Vienna whose name wasRichard Steiner. He recounted that it was Richard’s nephew,Maximilian Raoul Steinera child musical prodigy, whose talent and fortune led him to become a world-class film composer in the United States during cinema's golden years.
My motherLouise, was always a singer. When she attracted the attention of executives at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, she began to train for a professional career under their watchful eye. She eventually and reluctantly gave up this pursuit (I think it might have had something to do with 2 kids at home and 1 on the way). She was and remains a wonderful torch singer with a style reminiscent of Billie Holiday.
My brotherGary, formed and led a rock and roll band in the mid 1960’s called the Spydres. They were a regular booking at the Hullabalooand The Whisky A-Go-Go in Hollywood, playing alongside The Doors, The Byrds, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, The Strawberry Alarm Clock and numerous other young bands in the new Los Angeles music scene. They made several recordings before breaking up, partially reforming as The Belladonna Nightmare Blues Band. "Belladonna" enjoyed a live career in the late 60’s and early 70’s, sharing the stage with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, among others. My brother also, incidentally, kicked me out the room every time the Spydres were rehearsing – I was too young and apparently, a bit of a pest.
My sisterSusan, also a pianist (and eventually a 60's flower child), was indirectly the cause of my beginning education. She asked for the lessons and her little brother got them as well. In the beginning, my grandfather gave her the studies and she passed them down to me - she literally taught me to read music before I could read english. As I recall, it was really the drums that I wanted to play when I was 4, but they were... TOO NOISEY!
My fatherMichael, who neither played an instrument or sang a note, was perhaps the greatest lover of music in the family. He brought the Beatle records home and introduced me to Elton John. He was also the man who vehemently insisted that I stick to my musical aspirations; bringing me to every single lesson I took throughout my youth. He was also the one, ironically, who suggested that I use my middle name as my stage name (apparently I was musing over Reginald Dwight’s change of moniker). When I was about to turn 16, he asked me whether I wanted a used car or a Fender Rhodes - I took the Rhodes.