Jim Thorpe native records his first song album
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Johnny Searfoss with his mom, Louise Searfoss of Jim Thorpe. "When he was growing up," Louise said, "I kept the records spinning on the phonograph playing the likes of Neil Diamond, Bobby Rydell, and Herman's Hermits."
Johnny Searfoss - it's both the name of the new album and the name of the featured singer/songwriter on the album.
On the album, Searfoss features his original blues and soft rock tunes with guitar and vocals with his band, composed of drummer Nick Lauro, keyboardist Matt McGasko, and Joe Bogwist on harmonica and singing backing vocals, providing the harmonic background.
Searfoss, 47 and a Jim Thorpe native, currently is based out of the Hazleton suburb of Larksville, although he returns to his boyhood home at least once each week to teach and visit with his mom, Searfoss.
"When he was growing up," Louise said, "I kept the records spinning on the phonograph playing the likes of Neil Diamond, Bobby Rydell, and Herman's Hermits."
"I was pretty much lying in my crib listening to it," Johnny said. "By the age of six, I was teaching myself to play guitar on a borrowed Gibson Hummingbird."
By 12, Johnny had his second borrowed guitar, a white, double-cutaway Univox electric guitar with a Fender Champ amp and was playing in his first band, Strider. They played covers of pop radio tunes from groups like Santana, Huey Lewis and the News, and Supertramp.
Eventually, Johnny's borrowed guitars were returned and his family bought him a Harmony Stratotone H48 with an Ampeg Amplifier. Later, his dad dipped into the family coffers to buy him a black Fender Stratocaster-a Fender Twin Reverb amp would soon follow. Soon, he was playing with the bands Dr. Doctor and Something Wet Something Different.
Although Johnny loved sports and music, a rare disease, eosinophilic granuloma, turned whatever injuries he received in sports into a trip to the hospital. After three operations, he decided to focus on his music.
Johnny graduated from Wilkes College in 1991 with a bachelor of arts in telecommunications, and dove into a career in teaching and playing music. Since then, he has been in a handful of bands in thousands of performances. "I learned that I could make a living if I would hustle, and I hustled."
When he's not playing or teaching, Johnny has a Deejay business, where he not only plays "smoking hits of the 50s and 60s," but also dresses in costume and performs comic versions of the Blues Brothers and ZZ Top. "We feature the front end of a 1957 Chevy. The headlights work. The turn signals work. We have an 8-foot streetlamp. One side reads Lonely Street, another reads 59th St. And on the side is a surfboard beach with a piece missing in the shape of a giant shark bite."
As the years passed, friends encouraged him to record, but the project remained on the back burner until in 2007, when Johnny was serving as a DJ at a wedding in Jim Thorpe's Memorial Hall, he felt lightheaded and dizzy. He stepped outside and collapsed. He was medevaced to Lehigh Valley Hospital where he was diagnosed with a stroke.
"It changed my life," Johnny said. "It made me realize that it was time to turn up the heat and get things cooking. So I want to get an album released I was still young enough."
His first album, "Johnny Searfoss," was released in August 2013. It is available on line and at CD baby, Amazon, iTunes, and locally at Soundcheck Records in Jim Thorpe.
"I wanted to do this since I was a kid," Searfoss said. "Now I finally have an album of my original material. I worked very hard, and I put it all together with a little help from my friends."
In September, Searfoss released his first single, The Best Day of My Life, a tribute to his wife, Valerie Storz. "When I married Valerie," he said, "my life became just that much better." The single is the start of his second album.