Saturday, October 11, 2008

Steve O'Connor-Manager of Music Dreams...

Visiting 'Guitar Center' on Okeechobee Blvd in West Palm Beach, Florida, is like touring 'Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory' for Music enthusiasts....
Instead of the blue Oompla Loompas workers running the factory, the stores helpful, friendly and most importantly, knowledgeable employees are found throughout in black shirts with the Guitar Center logo. The store is divided into different flavors, oops! I mean sections; guitars, drums, amps, keyboards and recording equipment. The outside of the store appears deceptively small, once inside, you can only stand there with your mouth open as your eyes glaze over while viewing the rows upon rows of brightly colored guitars found in all shapes, sizes and price.

Guitar Center is the leading United States retailer of guitars, amplifiers, percussion instruments, keyboards and pro-audio and recording equipment. There are more than 200 Guitar Center stores across the U.S. (check out their website at

And the 'Willie Wonka' of the guitar center? Master Manager, Keeper of the Keys of young hopeful rock star dreams? Deal Maker or Breaker and underneath it all, unpaid psychologist?

Please meet Steve O- Steve O'Connor-
Steve was born and raised in Miami by a very determined Irish Catholic mother, Peggy, who was a single parent. Often while his mom was working, a Cuban couple became second parents to Steve. His 'Cuban father' was an amazing influence in Steve’s life. As Steve puts it, he couldn't have custom made a better father. Steve’s dad passed away in 1987. His Cuban mom is also one of the most loving people in Steve’s life to this very day.

I learned all this as my eyes were popping out of my head when Steve, my blond haired, blue eyed friend, started rattling off our food choices in fluent Spanish at the local Cuban restaurant!

Steve’s also got a great family! His wife Diane of 20 years, his kids, Frank, his wife Jenny and Shawn. Three grandchildren too! Ages 11, 5, and 3!

It is this street wise nature along with not only the ability to roll with the punches, but to come out on top, which has made Steve the successful man he is today.
Being a manager is the second half of Steve's career however, the first was being a rocker in the 80’s & 90's.

20 Questions:

1. Everyone remembers their first kiss, first date, first...guitar What was yours?

Wow, first kiss that I can remember was a neighbor’s niece who was visiting one summer around 1977. / First date was homecoming with my high school sweetheart Denise. / First guitar was a $39.99 Japanese no name, single pickup, electric.

2. Self taught or lessons?

Self Taught, started at 10 years old… finally figured out a lot by age 12. Some lessons in high school later on.

3. What were the circumstances that caused you to decide to form a band?

KISS !! I used to see this older kid in the neighborhood playing guitar through his bedroom window, finally asked if I could go watch him and he invited me in. He had Frampton Comes Alive on and he was jamming to it… I looked through his record collection and there it was, KISS ALIVE! The cover alone made me want to be in a band and the music was awesome too! I love KISS!

4. Was the band for fun and to meet chicks? Or were you also aiming for a recording contract?

All of the above! Lol! I wanted to be cool but ultimately as I really got into the guitar I wanted to do it for a living. I had several locally successful bands and had a lot of fun! I think a couple of those bands would have gotten signed had we been in LA at the time and not Miami.

5. What bands do you feel passionate about?

KISS, Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, UFO, Guns n’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Journey, Foghat, Blackfoot, Molly Hatchet, Lynryd Skynyrd, 80’s metal bands galore. I love soulful, guitar rock and hard rocking metal too!

6. What song best describes your life?

Wow, tough question… I can relate to so many different songs now… Years ago I would have said “The Rocker” by Thin Lizzy.

7. I've seen the '57 Les Paul you had for sale at the center, what's the most valuable guitar you've owned?

Probably my 1959 re-issue Gibson Les Paul or my Paul Reed Smith Modern Eagle.

8. I was there the night that kid bought that guitar for $20,000. Being in the area where the center is located, is selling guitars worth that much the norm?

It really doesn't have to do with location. It’s more random when it comes to high end instruments as for the collectors. Collectors shop around and because we have used and vintage gear they frequent our store often. When they see the piece they need for their collection price usually won't matter. We sell high dollar packages all the time. Especially to pro recording studios, churches, schools and nightclubs. It’s not uncommon for big sales out of our store. The strongest reason why is the way our staff treats our customers with pro advice, honesty and great after sales support!

9. You should have been an air traffic controller, people are coming at you every 5 minutes from all directions. Employees asking what deal they should strike when customers want to 'trade up' or sell their old equipment, phone calls, meetings; how do you keep it all straight and handle it so calmly?

Lol! Calmly? Me? No, realistically, I try to just run this store with the patience I would have if it were family owned. I try to be as helpful to my crew as possible and I love the open door policy where they don't have to feel hesitant to come see me no matter what they need. Most of these people I do consider very close to me. We see each other here more than we do our families at home!

10. There are many famous musicians, rockers especially, that live in South Florida. Who are some of them that frequent the store?

You'd be amazed how many famous artists live in this area! Jason Bonham, (Led Zeppelin) Nicko McBrain, (Iron Maiden) Joey Krammer, (Aerosmith) Tico Torres, (Bon Jovi) James Taylor, Danny Spitz, (Anthrax) Beast Spitz, (Black Sabbath) Yngwie Malmsteen, Patrick Dahlheimer, (Live) Dave Hlubeck, (Molly Hatchet) Greg T. Walker (Blackfoot) Stet Howland, (WASP) This list could go on and on!

11. With all that knowledge and talent for organization combined with pro sales, have you ever thought about being the manager of a rock band?

Yes I have. I actually started working as a guitar tech for a band out of Broward called CREASE. They were awesome and signed to Roadrunner… They ended up with a great CD and not enough publicity to do it justice in my opinion and I always wondered what I may have been able to do to manage that situation.

Now days I'm dedicated to Guitar Center so I don't foresee myself managing outside of here any time soon but you never know.

12. Let's pretend that I'm the leader of your favorite band and I'm in need of a new manager. Tell me why you are the man for the job and what you can do for me!

Well if I indulge my imagination… The fantasy would be Guns N’ Roses. I'd be the man for the job because I feel that that band is the only band to come out of the 80’s with the talent to be as legendary as Zeppelin! With that said, my belief is that they accomplished more with 5 records and 1 ep than any other band in the world could have done.

As for what I could do for them… I can be very attentive and understanding of people. I have a great ability to incorporate all the needs of everyone on a team into the business equation. I am also confident that no one else would back them with the passion that I have for that band. My interest would be in Guns, not my pocket. That’s a guarantee.

Most of all the fans deserve it and furthermore, all the people that never got a chance to see them have no idea… Sorry but a DVD is cool and live CD’s are cool but you had to be a part of a GNR audience to feel the energy go right through you! It was hair raising. Just totally cool!

13. What groups or musician deserved more recognition than what they had?

Thin Lizzy… Huge in Europe… the US didn't give them the airplay or support they deserved. Also UFO! One of the most amazing bands ever… ditto above…

14. Who's the most 'down to earth' famous musician you've met?

A) It’s a tie! All they people that I've met have been very nice to me. I've built lasting friendships with many of them and many of them have thanked me in so many ways including putting my name and Guitar Center’s name on the liner notes of their albums and DVD’s. That’s a very cool feeling when you see that!

15. How involved is Guitar Center with music in the schools?

 Guitar Center is very involved. One of our founders, Mr. Larry Thomas semi retired but was so passionate about having music in schools that he started the Music Foundation which is dedicated to keeping music in schools! We sell Music Foundation bracelets here in the store and all the proceeds go to that charity.

16. Favorite place to vacation? Favorite way to relax?

The Islander resort in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys! I was just there in September! I love it there. Someday I'd like to live in the keys!

17. How do you feel about the direction music has gone in today?

It’s cool to see how music has evolved… Rap & Hip Hop mixed with rock is really cool! The metal scene, although still underground is alive and well. Classic bands reuniting and touring is awesome too! I think the best true rock band to come out within this decade is without a doubt, Velvet Revolver.

18. Does anyone stand a chance to 'make it' by purely blood, sweat and tears, or only through corporate sponsorship?

The harder you work at something the better your chances of achieving your goals. You'll only get out of your band what you put into your band. Corporate connections are key to maximizing a bands potential for worldwide success but look at Metallica, Motley Crue, Nirvana just to name a few that started life on independent labels!

19. I was just thinking about Iron Maiden the other day and 'Eddie' their 10 foot tall mascot. Then I read this-

"Today, Iron Maiden made 'Hard Rock' more than just a catch phrase by laying their hands on Hollywood’s Rock Walk of Fame, just outside of Guitar Center on the famous Sunset Strip.

Dave Weiderman, from Guitar Center, was the host of the event, which was surrounded by Maiden's devoted fans and plenty of press.
KNAC.COM’s Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie joined the other “John Doe” media machine members after Maiden’s induction ceremony to ask bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nikko McBrain a few questions regarding the event.

John Doe:When was it first brought up about this Rock Walk induction?

McBrain: Well, Bruce has been speaking with David [Weiderman] for like, 10 years about it, so it’s gone back a while. But, I had a phone call from a mate of mine called Steve O’Connor, who manages the Guitar Center in West Palm Beach –and he said “I just got back from this meeting in L.A. with the guys –all the main people, and we were talking about you.” [Iron Maiden] And he said. “I brought you forward, as a suggestion, to be inaugurated this year.” So, I think … really, Steve O’Connor was the instigator of getting this thing rolling, and then it just went from there."

Does Iron Maiden need a new manager?

Maiden has a wonderful management team! What other TRUE metal band can boast the success that they've had for as long as they've had it? Additionally, try playing their music, it’s very complex and melodic. The bands marketing is amazing too! Maiden fans world wide collect all of the Maiden stuff they can get their hands on! Kudos to Maiden and their management!

20. What are your plans for the next 5 years?

I want to find some “me” time. I also want to spend time with my kids and my grandkids! I'm blessed with a truly wonderful family and since we’ve moved here to West Palm Beach, Diane and I have not seen our family enough!

I want to get a band going again and continue to strive forward on my career path with Guitar Center. I think that I'll be spending a lot more of my “me” time fishing for snook and other inland fish. That’s where I feel free and appreciate all this amazing planet has to offer.


What would you name your band if you started a new band now?

Well, it would definitely be a cover band mostly classic, hard rocking stuff with some of today’s stuff mixed in too. I learned over the years that really happening bar bands that have a great following play tight, great songs and have a great name so… I thought of a hilarious but yet applicable name years ago and that’s what I'd use…

“The frunken ducks”

Instead of the bad word… invert the d & the f… Lol!

SleepCompass's Favorite Five Questions-

1. Gilligan had his hammock, Dracula his coffin and SpongeBob Square Pants his 'pineapple under the sea' Where is your favorite place to sleep?

Home in the king size bed

2. Do you-
a - sleep alone?
b - sleep with a significant/insignificant other?
c - with critters?

with a significant other-My wife Diane!

3. Jack Nicklaus dreamt a new golf swing.
Robert Louis Stevenson had a dream that became the basis of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Paul McCartney heard the melody for 'Yesterday' in a dream.
Have you ever gotten inspiration from a dream?

Yes actually, I often dream of places that seem so familiar, yet I know I've never been there… Even when I was younger I still have these reoccurring dreams and continue to visit new places and revisit places I haven't dreamt of in years! Anyhow, I did write a song about it when I was in a band called Sweet Revenge!

4. They say you are most vulnerable during sex, I say it's during sleep. Sex is often when we pretend, prepare, and promote who we want to be, not always who we actually are. Sleep is when all pretensions, prejudices and poses are washed away and left in it's wake, is our true essence, born from the ocean of our subconscious.

Or I could be wrong
What do you think?

Lol! That's a pretty interesting explanation of sex! I guess to some extent we are vulnerable during both sex and sleep, but I think vulnerable is a term I wouldn't use to describe sleep. I think it is nature's meditation. A way for your body to just shut down all the stresses of any given day and allow you to roam wherever your mind takes you whether you remember your dreams or not.

5. What’s your favorite sound to sleep to?

I love this rainforest CD I have. The natural sounds of the rainforest really put me at ease. The harder the rainfall, the better!

Sweet Dreams Steve, Sweet Dreams- Jane SleepCompass


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