Sixteen years ago, Mike DelGuidice was a 30-year-old musician living with his young children in a trailer on Long Island and scraping by on gigs. He wrote his own songs, but always got his biggest reaction from crowds when he covered 1970s heavyweights, especially his idol Billy Joel. Soon, he was struck with an idea. “I had been doing Billy Joel since high school. I was like, ‘Maybe I should do a tribute band.'”
DelGuidice launched Big Shot, his Billy Joel tribute band, and they took off like he never could have imagined. Then things got even more surreal. In 2010, Joel took an indefinite leave of absence from the road to have hip-replacement surgery. Seeing an opportunity, DelGuidice phoned Joel’s touring drummer, Chuck Burgi, and guitarist Tommy Byrnes to see if they’d join Big Shot. “It was a bingo,” he says. “It added authenticity. We became real tight.”
A well-received mini-set at the 12/12/12 Superstorm Sandy benefit at Madison Square Garden convinced Billy Joel that he was fit to return to the road, and in early 2013 he called his band to rehearse for a European tour. Joel didn’t attend the early sessions, so the band asked DelGuidice to sub in behind the piano. After learning that he knew the songs on guitar and watching him play with the band for an hour, Joel asked to have a chat. He said, ‘I know you and your band are working a lot, but I would love for you to come out on the road with us in Europe.’ My exact words were, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ I got really emotional and said, ‘I just want to thank you. Your music has pretty much fed my family, inadvertently, for my whole life.’ Then he said, ‘No, thank you! You’ve been keeping my catalogue alive on the Island.'”
Read more at Rolling Stone.
Photo by Myrna Suarez (@myrnsuarezphoto)