STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For 21st Century Media
From the beginning, all he ever wanted was to be a rock star. “I wanted the whole thing,“ remembers John Eddie, speaking from his Nashville, Tenn. home. “I wanted to be the guy. I wanted to be Elvis. That’s all I ever thought about.” For Eddie, that reality came to pass and gave him a brief taste of what could be, only to fade away too quickly.
Undeniably one of the 80’s hardest working rock and rollers, Eddie and his band, “The Front Street Runners,” through sheer determination found themselves the talk of the Philly Rock scene.
Appearing on concert stages throughout the tri-State area with his straightforward rock and roll, Eddie’s live shows solidified his standing with an adoring public. The Empire Rock Club, the Trocadero and Asbury Park’s Stone Pony were favorite haunts of this burgeoning star, who put on one memorable show after another. Even Bruce Springsteen, who befriended Eddie, took notice and occasionally showed up unannounced, hopping up on stage to perform with Eddie.
“The Philadelphia music scene, especially WMMR and ‘XPN, when it was really just a little college station, really supported the local scene,” remembers Eddie. “We were able to get gigs just on the passion of what we were trying to do on stage. You had the A’s and Robert Hazard and The Hooters, and it became big. As far as we were concerned, there was a blue print. If we played those clubs and we released a song and got it on WMMR or XPN, we could see this thing and follow what all these bands did before us. So, it didn’t seem impossible.”
“On my end, while we were doing the Philly scene, we were also doing the Jersey shore scene,” added Eddie. “That was our little twist. Bruce started jumping up on stage with us now and then, and that got us more attention. We definitely had our little niche. It was a cool time.”
Major record labels couldn’t ignore the excitement that Eddie was generating. Inking a deal with industry giant Columbia Records, he released his self-titled debut album in 1986. His first single, “Jungle Boy,” made it to #52 on Billboard’s Hot 100 record chart with the accompanying video receiving heavy rotation on MTV.
At the request of the record label, Eddie cut loose his former band mates with the exception of lead guitarist Joe Sweeney. He was soon given worldwide TV exposure. As part of the musical line-up for the Amnesty International Concert at Giants Stadium in 1986, Eddie performed a brief set that featured fan favorites “Pretty Little Rebel” and “Jungle Boy.”
A 1989 follow-up album, “The Hard Cold Truth,” didn’t fare as well, and Eddie and Columbia severed their relationship.
“It turned out the way it did for most bands,” reflects Eddie. “There was definitely a lot of record industry politics. Right before my record came out, there was a payola investigation. At that time, the label used independent promoters to get songs on the radio. Right when my record was going to come out, they pulled all the independent promoters. The song “Jungle Boy” ended up going to number 52 on the national charts without any independent promoters working the record. The V.P. of Sony records took me into his office and told me, ‘John, I just want you to know that, had your record come out last year before all this stuff that we’re going through right now, it would have been a top 5 single.’”
After signing with Elektra Records, Eddie appeared on the label’s 40th anniversary album with his version of “The Cure” song “In Between Days.” Recording what was slated to be his third major solo album release and his debut for the label, Eddie found his efforts shelved over an extended legal dispute.
The 2003 release of Eddie’s Lost Highway Records debut album, “Who the Hell is John Eddie?,” spawned three top 10 singles at the Triple-A Radio format. Superstar Kid Rock recorded cover versions of Eddie’s songs “Lowlife” and “Forty” off the album.
“When Kid Rock cut my song ‘Low Life,’” recalls Eddie, “I was like ‘Wow’ — someone of that stature saw enough in my songs to cut them and put their voice on it. That opened the door for me to move to Nashville.”
Eddie departed his beloved South Jersey for Nashville, laying the foundation for what has evolved into a career as a successful songwriter.
“I’ve always considered myself a songwriter,” says Eddie. “I know for a fact the reason I got my record deal was definitely from my live shows. But in my mind it was just a delivery system for songs that I had written. I honed the live show because I was never the songwriter that got accolades like Tom Waits, Bob Dylan or Bruce. I always had a pop side to me, and I tried to make lyrics that were somewhat intelligent. I wasn’t going to change the world with my songs.”
The last few years have been successful for Eddie. In addition to performing live concerts, Eddie is enjoying notable songwriting success. His song “The Man I Am” was featured in the 2012 Dennis Quaid/Zac Efron film “At Any Price.”
In 2013, Eddie co-wrote the Top 10 country song “More Than Miles” with country music star Brantley Gilbert.
“I won an ASCAP award for “More Than Miles” as one of the most played country songs last year,” says Eddie. “I’ve never had anything like that as an artist, so it’s been a real proud moment for me as a writer and a little vindication. If you don’t give up, good things can happen.”
“I wish I’d gone to Nashville and concentrated on my writing earlier than I did,” added Eddie. “I wish I hadn’t been chasing those rock star dreams and was more focused on the business of songwriting. I’m enjoying writing for other people. I’ve had my greatest success writing for other people. As long as I’m able to write songs, I’m happy.”
IF YOU GO
What: John Eddie
Where: Steel City Coffee House, 203 Bridge St., Phoenixville.
When: Shows are at 7 and 10 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 20.
Info.: Tickets can be purchased by calling (610) 933-4043 or at www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com.