Eddie Money was supposed to be a policeman. His father, grandfather, and brother walked a beat in New York City and a young Eddie Mahoney was expected to follow the same path. He did a short stint with the NYPD, which became more of a stunt after an incident involving the misuse of official stationery, and then in 1968 he followed his love of music to San Francisco, where he was discovered and groomed (starting with a name change) by rock impresario Bill Graham.
The outgoing prankster with a thick Brooklyn accent was a perfect frontman for the burgeoning ’70s blue collar rock. His hook-heavy lyrics and scratchy soul earned him several Top 40 hits and platinum records, and made him an early MTV idol.
Money still enjoys the spotlight and takes pride in his role in pop music history. “I was thrilled that Lady Gaga gave me a nice shout-out in Rolling Stone,” he said. “A lot of people—like these young kids in Third Eye Blind—are big Eddie Money fans. It’s a real thrill.”
The Money man took time to speak with C-VILLE Weekly by phone before his upcoming gig at the Jefferson on March 13.
C-VILLE Weekly: Talk about the early days in San Francisco. You were discovered in a local talent contest at Winterland?
Eddie Money: I loved Bill Graham, he was like a dad to me. I was actually one of the first rock artists to get a deal over videocassette tape. Can you believe that?
You’ve stayed true to your own brand of rock ‘n’ roll over the years.
It’s really crazy. I mean I ran into this guy Dave Grohl [of] the Foo Fighters and he says he’s the biggest Eddie Money fan in the world. I got a lotta great fans out there and it really hasn’t changed me much.
I always had my own style, which is great. When you listen to my voice, whether you think it’s good or bad, it’s very identifiable because I’ve got that crazy Brooklyn accent.
Your early vocal coach worked with Sinatra and Streisand. Do you admire that style?
Oh yeah. I grew up singing a lot of R&B actually. Four Tops and James Brown, a lot of Otis Redding. When I started doing my own material I used a lot of R&B. “Baby Hold On” has a lot of R&B, where “Two Tickets to Paradise” is more rock ‘n’ roll.
You seem to have a sense of humor about your career. The Geico commercial for instance.
I never really took myself too seriously. But now that they’ve got Internet—I’m up four years in a spiritual program—I was teasing my audience and went out there and said ‘I’m sorry I drank that quart of vodka, I’ll try to give you a good show,’ and I was straight as an arrow and next thing I know it was all over the Internet.
Every night that you perform you’re going to be on YouTube now, so you gotta give ’em the best show ya got.
You’ve been open about your personal struggles. What’s your perspective like these days?
Actually, one night when I was drinking a lot of vodka, I took this thing Phenitol and it knocked out the sciatic nerve in my left leg and blew out my kidneys and I couldn’t even walk for nine months.
I do appreciate that these days I’ve got my life together. It was a tough road for me, but then again after the overdose I wrote my best record which was No Control.
At what point in your career did you think you’d made it big?
I always wanted to play Madison Square Garden, which was in my song “Wanna Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star,” and then I got the chance to play there with Santana and again with Cyndi Lauper. I went to Japan and played Budokan. I played the Silverdome with The Who, I was on the road with The Rolling Stones.
At the US Festival with The Police, it was about 95 degrees out and Bill Graham and I decided to spray the crowd down with “Gimme Some Water.” So while this mist was hitting the crowd, 650,000 people, we were doing “Gimme Some Water.” I’d have to say that was probably the highlight of my career.
So, you toured with The Rolling Stones?
I did four shows with The Rolling Stones and I was supposed to do eight. I ran into Keith Richards and he said, ‘You got a big record out now Eddie, and we’re gonna have somebody else do the other four shows.’ I says ‘Why?’ and he says, ‘Well to tell you the truth, Mick likes you, but you’re gettin’ like three encores a night.’”
So I didn’t do the last four shows because I was getting too many encores, and I guess Mick was a little tired.
Do you have any acting gigs on the horizon?
I have a Broadway show that I put out about three years ago called The Eddie Money Story. It’s a musical. I’m tryin’ to get some investors to put the play back on Broadway because it’s a lot like Jersey Boys and it’s really got some great songs in it.
I’ve also got a song called “One More Soldier Coming Home.” The money is going to the Wounded Warriors. I’m very happy about helping the veterans out.
I see from past interviews that you’re a big baseball fan.
When I was a kid my father was an usher at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. The first time I went onto the field with my dad I looked at the players and it was peculiar to me, I saw a black man in a blue and white Dodger uniform, and who was it but the great Jackie Robinson.
What do you think of making baseball’s opening day a national holiday?
I think it’s a great idea because baseball is America’s pastime. I’m ready for some baseball. How ’bout you?
Would you like to add anything else?
Eddie Money’s got two tickets, but he’s taking everybody. Come down and do some shakin’ with the Money man.