A Weekend In Pittsburgh

by Mike Vallely w/ Joe Grushecky

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about

I met Joe Grushecky on August 9, 1996.

I was visiting my folks in South River, New Jersey and I saw in the local newspaper that Joe and The Houserockers were playing close by at Club Bene in South Amboy. I had just recently discovered Joe’s record American Babylon via his working on that record with Bruce Springsteen, and as familiar with the songs on that record as I had become, I was unprepared for the real depth of Joe’s songwriting and poetry.

Joe performed two sets that night, the first set rocked very hard and I loved every second of it, but it was the start of the second set that cut through and made a very profound impression upon me. Joe walked onto the stage alone, with an acoustic guitar and leaned into the song, Oh Kathleen:

“She had a heart like the soul of a junkyard…”

That opening line grabbed my attention and I thought, wow, this guy is more than just the leader of a great bar band, he’s a true poet and his music is something that I need to pursue beyond his work with Springsteen.

As I headed out the door that night, I stopped to buy any music that he had available, and since he was standing right there, I figured I’d say hello and thank him for the show and the music. I shook his hand and had him sign the CDs I had just purchased. We talked for a few minutes and I took a photo with him, but I couldn’t wait to get in my car and listen to the CDs. The music was calling me. I ended up driving all over New Jersey that night listening, trying to ascertain as much as I could as fast as possible, and at the same time realizing, that as with all great music, it would be many miles and many years of listening over and over before I could truly start to digest it all, which is a journey that I sincerely enjoy, that the greatest artists and musicians take us on.

Some months later, I ended up writing Joe a letter, thanking him for the music, for the songs. I was twenty-six years old, with a young family and I found a lot of his music, his stories and his characters to be more grown-up and immediately relatable. These were songs that informed me, that steadied me, that comforted me. It was music that mattered, and I told him so. When I got a letter back from Joe, it was very meaningful and it started an exchange of letters that lead to a friendship. 

At one point, I shared some of my personal writings with Joe, poems that I had been scrawling into countless notebooks for years. He told me that he enjoyed my writing, that his wife Le Ann enjoyed my writing, and that I needed to turn some of those poems into songs. I said that I didn’t know where to start, and that’s when he said that I should visit Pittsburgh for a weekend.

On February 27, 2002, I boarded a plane for Pittsburgh to write and record songs with Joe. The next night, we sat in a Ramada Inn, pages of my writings strewn across a bed, Joe sitting on the edge of the bed with an acoustic guitar and we worked through some song ideas. And then that Friday, we drove to Weirton, West Virginia to Studio L where Producer and Engineer Rick Witkowski, Drummer Tony Mora, Guitarist Bill Toms, Keyboardist Hermie Granati and bassist Juan Casas helped us form those ideas into the Weekend In Pittsburgh EP.

This was music from the heart, and very personal to me, a document of a time in my life, and a collaboration with a musician and an artist that I greatly admire and that I am honored to call my friend. Looking back on the material, I see that I was attempting to create a blueprint in song, one that summarized my values, to inform my actions and to continue to fuel my dreams. The next fifteen years would prove challenging, and at times I would lose my way, and these songs and what they represent would at times get lost in that shuffle.

But as I listen to them now, with fresh ears, and a renewed strength and desire to live purposefully, these songs have a life and an energy that continues to inform and inspire the very best in me. I truly must thank Joe for bringing those qualities out in my writing and in me. As we sat in the motel room that night in 2002, working through the songs, I began shying away from any definitive statements and instead I began to attempt to make the songs vaguer. Joe insisted that each song must remain direct, open and optimistic, and he encouraged me to steer hard towards my better side. As I listen now, I know that that is the greatest gift he gave to me in these songs, a reflection that I could be proud of.

— Mike Vallely

2/15/17
Long Beach, CA.

credits

released August 1, 2002

Produced and Mixed by Rick Witkowski and Joe Grushecky.

Engineered by Rick Witkowski.

Recorded at Studio L

Executive Producer: Juan Casas.

The Weekend Players:

Tony Mora: Drums and Percussion.

Hermie Granati: Keyboards.

Joe Grushecky: Electric Guitar on The California Sun and Crazy Eddie, solo on Run Together, Acoustic Guitar on Down On My Knees and Innocence Is Beautiful, Backing Vocals.

Bill Toms: Electric Guitar on The California Sun and Down On My Knees, solo on Crazy Eddie.

Rick Witkowski: Electric Dobro on Innocence Is Beautiful, Electric Guitar on Run Together, Backing Vocals.

Juan Casas: Bass

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Track Name: The California Sun
The California Sun
(Mike Vallely / Joe Grushecky)

I was born in New Jersey, thirty years ago
Raised in the suburbs, man, I went to public school
I left home at eighteen and I headed out west
I met a pretty girl and ended my quest

Our lives were just beginning, so many dreams to see through
I ran away with her from the world and all its fools
Out on the Pacific, condo-penitentiary
We lived like convicts of our own misery

Our enemies were chosen
So far still to run
We seethed in the heat
Of the California Sun
Of the California Sun

Back in New Jersey, my mother cried
Daddy had a heart attack, man, he almost died
I got back on that highway and I headed home
I held daddy in my arms and all the ripped seams were sown

I went back to California, pick up the pieces of my life
My girl got pregnant and she became my wife
On a rainy winter’s day, just before the new year
A baby girl was born and for a minute I felt no fear

Behind the walls on Main Street
I guarded like a loaded gun
I’d open up the blinds sometimes
To let in that California Sun
Yeah the California Sun

Back in New Jersey, I found myself again
I couldn’t make the ends meet, I felt my poor back bend
I crawled home to the shelter of my daddy’s house
I moved my family east, it was the only way out

Through storm after storm I weathered my pain
With a family to provide for and a pride to regain
I worked towards being someone with someplace to go
On the streets of my hometown I wondered if I’d ever know

Know what it was
That was pushing me to run
From the shadows of my past
Into the California Sun
Into the California Sun

I left New Jersey just after one year
I was back up on my feet and there was nothing left there
Back to California, I took my family
And I did what I had to do just like my daddy before me

A father and a husband, without a sacrifice
That’s the bottom line where I’m living my life
I’ve picked up all the pieces and I’ve put them in their place
The moon and the stars and those planets out in space

Heaven and Hell
Let thy kingdom come
Until then I’ll be basking
In the California Sun
In the California Sun
In the California Sun
In the California Sun
Track Name: Crazy Eddie
Crazy Eddie
(Mike Vallely / Joe Grushecky)

When Eddie was eighteen
He got kicked out of his house
He’s an unemployed, in a void
High school dropout
He lived in the field behind the elementary school
In a cardboard refrigerator box
And he hung out at the park
Always on the lookout for the cops

His hair’s a curly blond mop
And his eyes a sunken blue
And when Eddie got riled up
There’s no telling what he might do
He wore denim on his back
And combat boots on his feet
And he stole and he sold dope
Just to get something to eat

Now they call him Crazy Eddie
Now they call him Crazy Eddie

Now the local misfits, they were drawn to him
Like he was some kind of suburban messiah
And his apostles they pledged their allegiance
Never to waiver or retire
And they watched him and they listened
With a sense of revolution in the air
As he told them all how someday
He’d lead them away from here

Now down at Lindeneau Park
Eddie’s fire, it did spread
And soon the whole neighborhood was lit up
With a hundred burning kids
Demanding answers from their parents
And from the teachers at their schools
About the world they’re to inherit
And why, when, where and who

Now they call him Crazy Eddie
Yeah they call him Crazy Eddie
Yeah they call him Crazy Eddie
Well, I guess he ain’t so crazy after all

Now the elders, they had no answers
And so they drove their kids away
Down to that little park
Where Eddie was known to stay
And so it was decided
A rebellion was justified
And on that night, in that dirty little town
Everyone’s innocence died

Now they call him Crazy Eddie
Now they call him Crazy Eddie
Yeah they call him Crazy Eddie
But I guess he ain’t that crazy after all

Yeah they call him Crazy Eddie
Yeah they call him Crazy Eddie
Yeah they call him Crazy Eddie
But I guess he ain’t that crazy

Yeah they call him Crazy Eddie
Yeah they call him Crazy Eddie
Yeah they call him Crazy Eddie
Well, I guess he ain’t so crazy
No, I guess he ain’t that crazy
No, I guess he ain’t so crazy after all
Track Name: Down On My Knees
Down On My Knees
(Mike Vallely / Joe Grushecky)

I was in a hotel room
I was so far away from home
It seemed like the walls were closing in on me
And my soul felt like it had turned to stone
There were two books upon the nightstand
And I didn’t know which one to read
And I wasn’t sure what I might find in them
Or if it’d be anything I need
But I sat there in that small room
As the night became the day
I read about Buddha and I read about Christ
And the words that they did say
And I saw myself before me
Like a ship lost at sea
And I guess I was content to just let it pass
When I heard your voice in me

Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees


I went walking into a strange city
In the darkest hours of the night
I went looking for a sign from you
I was hoping to see the light
When a man came from the shadows
And he asked me if I’d heard
The good news about Jesus Christ
And how he was the word
Then he asked me to say a prayer with him
So that Christ I would receive
I told him I had further to walk
Before I could believe
He said he saw me standing before him
Like a ship lost at sea
And I saw myself reflected in his eyes
When I felt your breath on me

Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees


I was sitting by the ocean
I was up against a dune
I was listening to the tide come in
I was looking up at the moon
And I never felt as alone in my life
As I did just sitting there
And my whole life flashed before me
And the pictures they seemed so bare
And I was overcome with desperation
And a hunger I couldn’t feed
Time stood still and it was seething
And I could feel my existence bleed
And I saw myself before me
I was like a ship lost at sea
And I was looking for a beacon
When I felt your light touch me

Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees

Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
I got down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Down on my knees
I was down on my knees
I got down on my knees
I was down on my knees
Track Name: Run Together
Run Together
(Mike Vallely / Joe Grushecky)

Some guys, they just wanna’ run around their whole lives
But I aint runnin’ nowhere man, unless it’s with my wife
Cause all that runnin’, it aint nothin’ in the end
Unless you can look back upon it with your best friend

Now me and my girl, we’ve had our hard times
And we’ve played our head games, and we’ve walked some fine lines
And like every couple, we’ve had our trials and our fights
And like every man, I’ve slept out on that couch on some long mean nights

I aint runnin’ nowhere
I aint runnin’
I aint runnin’ nowhere
I aint runnin’
I aint runnin’ nowhere
No sir, I aint runnin’

I’ll tell you what, makin’ up, it aint that hard to do
When you love a little someone and she loves you
You gotta’ learn to take the bad with the good
And make sure each other is understood

Now I love my baby and I know she loves me
And we are there for each other, the way it should be
And I don’t let no one, no one, mess around with my girl
Those that have tried have known the hurt of this world

I aint runnin’ nowhere
I aint runnin’
I aint runnin’ nowhere
No sir, I aint runnin’
I aint runnin’ nowhere
I aint runnin’, I aint runnin’

I’ve got to be honest though, like every man, I’ve been known to get that itch
To have an affair, get drunk and crash my car in a ditch
But every time I think of something stupid that I could do
I think about our lives together baby, and how much I love you

So, here’s a drink to you and your health
And here’s a drink to our lives together, as well as ourselves
And here’s a drink to you, my best friend
May we run together until the end


I aint runnin’ nowhere
I aint runnin’
I aint runnin’ nowhere
No sir, I aint runnin’
I aint runnin’ nowhere
I aint runnin’, I aint runnin’ baby

I aint runnin’ nowhere
I aint runnin’, I aint runnin’
I aint runnin’ nowhere
Not me babe, I aint runnin’

I aint runnin’ nowhere
I wear this ring it shows my love is true
I aint runnin’ nowhere
I’d forsake heaven to always be with you

I aint runnin’ nowhere
We’re gonna’ run together baby, run together
I aint runnin’ nowhere
It’s just you me, it’s just you and me

I aint runnin’ nowhere
We’re gonna’ run together baby, run together
I aint runnin’ nowhere
Track Name: Innocence Is Beautiful
Innocence Is Beautiful
(Joe Grushecky)

Hey kids, it’s time for bed now
You played so hard the whole day through
Don’t try to put it off any longer
Your mama's wore out and I am too
A goodnight kiss will do

Your innocence is beautiful

Hey kids, it’s time for a bedtime story
But let’s forget about the, the birds and the bees
We’ll talk about that on the night before you get married
Because if you ask me now, I just might be
Less than truthful

Your innocence is beautiful

Little girls, playing with your toys
Don’t you know that you’re your daddy’s joy?
And I pray to God, to make this moment last
But time is slippin’, it’s slippin’ by too fast

Hey kids, I really love your mother
I remember when you were just a sparkle, in her eyes
Someday I’m gonna’ tell you about when we were younger
How we were wild, about all the crazy things we tried
How all our dreams came true

Your innocence is beautiful

So beautiful
So beautiful
You’re beautiful