Eddie Money isn't shy about his resume. “I’ve been getting really great reviews,” he breathlessly proclaims moments into the interview. “The band is amazing. I had twelve songs in the top 100. That’s kind of like a Billy Joel or Bon Jovi. I got a nice shout out by Lady Gaga in Rolling Stone a couple of months ago. Everything’s really going great.”
He’s not exactly an introvert. The former Edward Mahoney is still, at heart, an Irish homeboy, always loaded with a wisecrack and an unapologetic urge to say whatever’s on his mind.
You probably know Money from his reign on the charts in the late ‘70s through mid ‘80s. Songs such as “Baby Hold On To Me,” "Two Tickets To Paradise,” “Take Me Home Tonight,” “Think I’m In Love,” “Shakin’,” “Endless Nights,” and many others defined his style as a gravelly voiced, no-nonsense guy next door. But it almost never happened. Money tried out an early stint as a New York City policeman, a tradition he inherited from his father and grandfather. But he insists it wasn’t the life he was cut out for.
“I couldn’t see spending 22 years of my life in a cop uniform,” he says. “Two years? Fine. Four years? Fine. But 22 years? My father would always tell me that if I had remained a cop, I’d be retired by now.”
But in the late ‘60s, the police and rock and roll didn’t exactly enjoy the best relationship, which meant that Money’s segueway into rock singer wouldn’t be the most accommodating move. “Police were called pigs back then,” he recalls. Money eventually joined a band called Grapes of Wrath. They didn't really want him, but they couldn't find anyone better.
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Money continued to work at honing his craft, fitting in some original songs at local gigs. “I was always trying to get better and better and better,” he insists. “I was working at it ever since high school when we played in the battle off the bands. Because whoever won the battle of the bands got to play the high school prom.”
The rest, as they say, is history, and Money still seems eager to share it all. He quit the police department, moved out to California — alone, not knowing anyone — and eventually signed a record deal with the late Bill Graham, the San Francisco impresario who founded the legendary Fillmores East and West, America’s prime music venues in the mid ‘60s. “Next thing I knew I was doing Saturday Night Live and Letterman and Leno. My career really took off, but it took off because we had some great songs.”
But not everyone was on board. "My father was very pissed off at me because I quit the police force, and moved out to California. Eventually, I moved up to Berkeley," Money remembers. "I didn’t know a soul, but I was smoking a lot of pot so I didn’t give a shit [laughs]. At one point, I ended up in jail because my roommate was selling marijuana and my landlord busted me. It was a nightmare, and lots of bad things happened. But a lot of good things too.”
It was during an amateur night, at Winterland, another famous venue Bill Graham owned in the early days, that some powerful people finally took notice. “I had a large following because we played all the local clubs,” Money recalls. “I told everybody to get up close so the place would look packed and we went into ‘Two Tickets To Paradise’ and ‘Life For The Taking’ and really rock and rolled the place and apparently Graham’s people liked the show I put on.”
Graham subsequently signed him to his own label — which was distributed by the formidable Columbia Records — setting up the now familiar string of hits. “I loved Bill Graham. He was a fantastic guy,’’ Money says of the promoter who died in a helicopter accident in 1991. It was the mid ‘70s and Money was well on his way.
“I grew my hair long, had a bunch of girlfriends and was playing in a rock and roll band. There’s nothing like playing in a rock and roll band," Money says. But not everyone was impressed.
"I played Madison Square Garden with Santana and Cyndi Lauper and my father comes to the show and was still pissed off I quit the police department. Can you believe that shit? He thought rock and roll was a fly by night job," Money says. "Then when my mother dies, I take him on the road with me and he finally began to realize I was really talented. Not to blow my own horn, but what the heck? I opened for the Stones, the Clash and a bunch of big bands. I got thrown off the Rolling Stones tour in 1979 for getting too many encores. They told me, ‘We love Eddie but we can’t work that hard.’ If you get thrown off a Rolling Stones tour because you’re too good, I think that’s quite a complement.”
But like many a rock stars whose success comes so fast, Money succumbed to the usual vices. In his case, alcohol. “I’d get up in the morning and have a bloody Mary first thing. Then a cocktail during the day and Irish coffees at night. But once I had a family, I knew I had to quit. You don’t want to have your kids grow up thinking you’re a dope addict and an alcoholic."
Money quit drinking about five years ago and quit smoking in January. "I see beer advertised on TV and I wonder what they taste like. It drives me crazy. But I don’t want to break my sobriety. I don’t want to do it to myself. When I quit drinking, everybody was happy but me [laughs]."
Having reached the traditional retirement age of 66, Money now resides in Malibu with his wife, adult daughter and four sons. He mostly limits his live dates to weekends, and talks hopefully about “Two Tickets to Paradise — The Musical,” a musical he’s been developing that had a test run on Long Island. He likens the play to “Jersey Boys”. Money also has a new album he’s preparing to shop around called Shake That Thing, his first effort of all new material in 15 years.
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One would think the next step for Money would be a tell-all autobiography, but that idea might have one very big hurdle in front of it. “I definitely have a book in me but my wife is very shy,” he claims. “She doesn’t want to hear about all the drugs I did or how many girls I screwed.”
SunFest, April 29 to May 3, on Flagler Drive in downtown West Palm Beach. Ticket prices vary. A five-day pass is $80 at the gate, $70 in advance. A one-day ticket is $32 in advance and $40 at the gate. Kids under 5 are admitted free courtesy of Wells Fargo; kids 6 to 12 cost $10 in advance and $12 at the gate. Festival hours are: Wednesday, April 29: 5 to 10 p.m., Thursday, April 30: 5 to 10 p.m., Friday, May 1: 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday, May 2: Noon to 11 p.m., Sunday, May 3: Noon to 9 p.m. Make sure to get advance parking at sunfest.com/parking.
Eddie Money will be playing Saturday, May 2, at 3:30 p.m.
Visit sunfest.com for tickets and more info.