But when I hear Fleetwood Mac’s song “Dreams” on the radio I don't think of Stevie Nicks, I think of LaVena Lupo.
“Vena" was a band mate of mine a few decades ago. She wasn’t famous, but she was a big part of my early music career.
For many bands it’s all about the music, but it takes more than talent and a passion for music to have a successful band.
Some management and organizational skills also come in handy. Vena was an astute businessperson, good manager, public relations person, and promoter. She even served as costume designer, sewing and coordinating one band's wardrobe.
At a lot of band practices involving talented individuals it’s like herding cats as each player is tuning or jamming in different keys and playing a variety of song fragments a various volume levels. Sometimes all you need is someone to make a decision. “Okay, guys, let’s play ‘Hey Joe’ in E.” I was always good at taking the initiative in that way, but lacked other essential abilities.
That’s where Vena came in. Besides being a talented singer (imagine a cross between Nicks and Janet Jackson), she had the business acumen to get our band some decent paying gigs.
We met when she invited a couple of local musicians over to her house on East Lake Tohopekaliga to talk about forming a band. I remember her sitting at piano as we flipped through a songbook and tried out several popular tunes.
It went well and that’s how “Lakeshore Boulevard” was formed. That was the first a few musical collaborations that continued for several years.
Vena was the public relations face of the band and was instrumental in getting us booked at private parties, hotel lounges and other events. She was great at negotiating our contracts as well as making contacts.
I remember her inviting prospective clients to our band rehearsals and making them feel a part of the music by handing out maracas, tambourines, and other rhythm instruments so they could play along.
Some of us, however, weren’t always as good at making a good impression. At one gig, a private party for a bank, I think, a couple of us made off with half a bottle of top-shelf whiskey. There was an open bar and the band was invited to partake so we figured we were welcome to take some home with us.
That apparently wasn’t part of the deal.
Vena took care of the apologies, which included a full bottle of the name brand booze, thus saving the band’s reputation. Disaster averted.
Even after Lakeshore Boulevard broke up Vena and I stayed in touch and called on each other to perform.
One time she asked me to pair with her at the last minute for an anniversary party where the planned live entertainment had cancelled. I accompanied her on piano to a much appreciative audience that paid us in cash and homemade wine.
The last time was when I asked her to join a band I put together for just two gigs on the same day. One was an afternoon wedding reception in Orlando and the other an evening anniversary party on the other side of town.
I regret that we lost touch after that. I moved a few times and in those pre-Facebook years it wasn’t as easy to keep up with friends.
In fact, it was on Facebook that I learned about Vena’s passing from her daughter.
Her voice and her guidance will live on in those of use who knew her and will remember.