Monday, June 21, 2010

For Father's Day: Julian Dorio of The Whigs Talks About His Father's Influence for Him Becoming a Musician

by Julian Dorio

My dad is definitely the reason I am a drummer today. It was almost like he planned it, whether he knows it or not.

Growing up in my house seemed just like anyone else's childhood whose family owned a restaurant. Days after school were spent doing homework at the restaurant my family owned in Atlanta, GA until we were old enough to start busing tables, washing dishes, cooking, and, eventually, bartending. It’s amazing how the lessons I learned being part of a small business like a restaurant were applicable when running the business side of a small band.

My dad made baseball and music a big part of growing up. My father loves music but if there is one thing my father loves, as much as, if not more than music, it is baseball. Left handed, crafty pitching was very popular in the late 80's/early 90's on the Atlanta Braves team, my dad's favorite, so the moment I showed any promise on the baseball field my father was convinced it was a matter of time before the Major Leagues would come knocking. And though I did pitch left-handed like Tom Glavine and Steve Avery and could mow down a few batters, baseball didn't continue for me after high school. Perhaps if my fastball was 5 MPH faster, this missive would be about rotator cuffs, "circle" change ups, and the green grass of Fulton County Stadium, than record collections and drum sticks, so maybe we got ahead of ourselves on that one...

A love of music did remain though. A trained pianist since childhood, my father always made music a part of our household. He also had an impressive vinyl collection from the 50's, 60's, and 70's, which helped my older brother Michael and I develop an interest in rock n' roll early on. (Well, initially, I just wanted to do whatever Michael was doing, and if that meant listening to Sticky Fingers again, then I wasn't gonna miss it.) The Christmas when Michael was 10 and I was 6, my father told us that he no longer wanted to spend money on toys that my brother and I would inevitably throw to the side after a month or two, so we should think accordingly. My brother asked for a guitar, and I, not wanting to be left out, chose drums (with a little input from my dad…I mean, I was 6). Now, my father loves Christmas almost as much as Santa himself. In his opinion, there is no holiday that even compares, and this new idea made him even more excited. So sure enough, on Christmas morning that year, my brother and I couldn't believe our eyes! I got a no-name MX30 drum set that probably cost around $100. The equipment was inexpensive, but my dad promised that if we practiced, it would be replaced with professional gear the following Christmas. Lessons began, practice was daily, and even my father taught himself to play bass in order for us to form a family band, The Flying Dorio Brothers (my brother's play on the Flying Burrito Brothers, obviously). As silly as it sounds, my father was trying to stress the importance of the band dynamic and, of course, songwriting. Our father would pick out classic rock songs for us to learn, and if it was too difficult, then we could have our respective music teachers show us how to play them. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, T. Rex, Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks, and many more were done a huge injustice with our attempts at covering their timeless hits. But we came close, and more importantly, Dad was instilling in us what made a great song.

Sure enough, the following Christmas, Dad sold our introductory drums and guitar and bought us real equipment. Actually, Michael still has the Gibson Les Paul he received. This became the tradition for years to come: If we proved ourselves to him, he would buy us whatever we needed to keep honing our craft. At the time, I didn't fully understand what he was doing. It was fun, and we loved playing together, but our dad was investing so much time and money in breeding us to be what most parents would avoid - rock n' rollers.

The Flying Dorio Brothers continued to learn songs together and even play for family friends. As you might guess, my father was very proud to have us perform "Misty Mountain Hop" for dinner guests (my mom, maybe not as much), and we loved doing it. So the ball was rolling, I couldn't stop playing. My brother and I practiced a lot, and as we got older, began playing with friends. The support was endless from our parents, but how my parents tolerated all the noise we made, I will never understand. I was never in a band per se-I played with friends for fun, but mostly I spent my time practicing, and trying to learn and understand why the great drummers (i.e., Keith Moon, John Bonham, Ringo Star, Mitch Mitchell, etc.) were truly great. Once I moved to Athens, GA to attend University of Georgia, I finally felt ready start a band.

This is when The Whigs started. Months were spent writing and practicing before booking any shows. Of course, I kept my father updated as things progressed, but he hadn't heard us yet. Once we started playing some shows and Dad got a chance to see us play (which is probably the only time I have been truly nervous in all my life), he once again offered all the support and advice in the world. Every time he saw us play, he would write a formal letter and send it in the mail, critiquing the show, offering tips, likes, dislikes, and specific ways to improve. My bandmates couldn't believe it, but they were probably most surprised by how knowledgeable his advice was. As a musician since he was young, my father understood the intricacies of music and how to express it.

We still receive letters from him to this day. A matter of fact, I recently received his critique of our new album, In The Dark, and thank goodness, he likes it! Nothing is worse than my father being unimpressed. His support is unconditional but he has a keen ear-we can't play him just anything and get a good response. But I enjoy his honesty, as does the rest of the band, and I often think about him and what he would say while we're writing new songs. It drives me towards progress and what he would describe as "greatness". Whether or not that is achieved, I want to thank him for giving me the gift of music. Even to this day, he shares his experiences with my brother and me, and reminds us of the important principles upon which rock n roll is based. For that, we are forever grateful.

Julian Dorio is the hard-hitting drummer of mega-selling rock band, The Whigs. His brother Michael is also a professional guitarist with the band, Trances Arc. Dorio lives in Athens, GA.

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