"Vagabond John" was written by Derek Lord, who was the drummer for the Peter Tork Project in the early 1980s. The song has remained a part of Peter's repertoire for years. In the video below, Peter performs it at a solo stop in 2012, while the audio file features a live version from a Project show at The Jetty in 1983 (with Lord on lead vocals). Thanks to Kevin Schmid for passing along the Project live version!
You might recall that the late Jerry Renino was a member of the Peter Tork Project. He also toured with The Monkees between 1989 and 2002. After the 1989 US Monkees tour, Jerry's band, Breakaway, became Davy’s road band in the early 1990s. Breakaway consisted of Steve Avitabile (keyboards), VJ Riccitelli (drums), and Rory Gordon (guitar). The group later added sax player Steve Barlotta, along with Wayne Avers (guitar) and VJ's brother Jimmy Riccitelli (keyboards). Monkees fans, of course, know Wayne Avers as the veteran guitarist in The Monkees' backing band. (The Riccitelli's have also toured with The Monkees through the years.)
According to longtime Monkees fan Helen Pantuso (who also was largely responsible for the campaign to get The Monkees a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame), the Avitabile's in both the Peter Tork Project (Scott was the lead guitarist of the Project) and Breakaway are not related! (What are the odds?!)
Helen talked more about Breakaway with the Live Almanac. "Scott and Jimmy were in a band called Rush Hour. I think VJ was in it, too, before joining Breakaway (there were 2 other drummers in Breakaway before VJ). They were all good friends and hung out together and even lived together. I think that Steve and Scott and maybe Jimmy shared a house at one point before Steve got married. I know VJ lived in the downstairs apartment in the house Jerry lived in for a while. I'm not sure how they all connected with Wayne (Avers)."
Helen continued. "Steve was found by Wendy Kaye. She was a booking agent with the Mars Agency. They handled Gary U.S. Bonds. Steve was Gary's sax player and musical director. Mars had just started booking Davy Jones so when Davy decided he wanted to add a sax player to Breakaway, Wendy recommended Steve."
A big thanks to Helen Pantuso for all of the information in this post about Breakaway, as well as Fred Velez, who helped facilitate this conversation about Davy's former backing band. Fred recently published a book, A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From a Fan's Perspective. You can download the electronic version of the book, and a hard copy is also now available. (Thanks, Fred!)
Thanks again to Helen for also providing some pictures of members of Breakaway:
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