ABOUT "THE FAB FIVE"
Members of the Accounting Crows (from left to right): Jay Wiggin (bass & vocals); Alan Friedman (lead guitar & vocals); John DelGrego (lead vocals & rhythm guitar); Jimmy Quinn (drums & vocals); Mark Zampino (keyboards, rhythm guitar & vocals)
"We're an accounting band, we're an accounting band, We're coming to your town, to get taxable income down, We're an accounting band."
--Sings the band with robust pride!
The Accounting Crows are "Connecticut's only CPA Rock 'n' Roll Band." However, as auditors who recognize the importance of the rule called "full disclosure," they quickly point out that only 3 of the 4 members (or 75%) of the band are CPAs.
The History of the Fab Five...
So who are the "other 25 percent" of the band? Mark Zampino, the Crow's keyboard player and only non-CPA, is the Public Affairs Director of the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants (CSCPA) and DNA-tested father of both the band and its name. The 3 other Crows, all licensed CPAs, agreed Mark's occupation alone is close enough to make him a CPA by osmosis. But his lack of a real Hammond B-3 sound, his pig-headed insistence that analog sounds better than digital, and his constant despair over Hollywood's projection of the accountant as a "trusted, but un-hip conversationalist," kept Mark in a constant state of turmoil, depression and mental anguish. "CPAs are cool!" he would tell anyone willing to listen…but no one believed him. Well, Mark finally got his chance to prove it in 1997 when he recruited CPA-guitarist Alan "Luke Jr." Friedman and CPA-drummer Mike "Ringo" Fortunato to play together for a CSCPA sponsored gig. Shortly thereafter, they were joined by CPA-bassist Reed "Mac" Risteen, and now these “fab four” are internationally known throughout Hartford, Connecticut and are on a non-stop whirlwind world tour from Farmington, Connecticut to Storrs, Connecticut. So here's their story of rags to riches, Silvertones to Soldanos, the garage to the "Garden" (in the back of their house). Here is "The Accounting Crows: Behind The Music" (...VH1 music starts to play here...)
BORN TO BE WILD
It was the summer of 1996, when keyboardist Mark "P.Floyd" Zampino was asked if he could put together some entertaining act that might interest graduating high school students attending the CSCPA "Career Day Conference." Mark tried to find a group of juggling clowns or singing dogs, but to no avail. Then he remembered he had a talent (besides his ability to recite the complete liner notes off any of the 27 Pink Floyd albums) - he played keyboards.
"What is the least-likely activity a CPA might engage in?" Mark waxed rhetorically. "Why, no doubt it's rock 'n' roll!" he exclaimed in a blinding epiphany. He was so elated at his brilliant deduction, he began using big words like waxed, rhetorical and epiphany.
Mark immediately called his CPA friend Alan "I wanna be Steve Lukather" Friedman, his guitar-slinging, plank-spanking, string-bending, local-CPA-firm-managing-partner-type pal, who also knew some big words too. He invited Alan to lunch at a local Chinese restaurant so Alan could buy lunch, mark up the bill by 30% and invoice one of his clients (just kidding). "Why don't you come out and play 'The Star Spangled Banner' with your white Fender Strat through a Marshall stack, and then talk about your firm's rock star clientele to these high school CPA wannabes - they'll love it!" Alan was interested, but his fragile ego demanded a back-up band. "My solos will sound so much better with a full band backing me up," he argued. Mark reluctantly said "Okay, whatever, just do the gig; I'm in a bind." The deal was done.
Mark also knew another CPA, Mike "Mike" Fortunato, who was rumored to play the drums like Ringo. Not only did this rumor turn out to be true, Mike was really into doing the gig as long as the green M&M's were removed from the bowl in his dressing room. The makings of an all-CPA rock band had begun, but for one minor issue.
"We'll do this gig only if you play keyboards" Alan demanded of Mark. Seeing his career fade like Alan's wallet when a waitress presents a dinner check, Mark quickly said "alright, alright" and uncharacteristically stepped out of the CPA shadows and into the CPA limelight.
THE AUDIT BROTHERS, LED PENCIL, ETC.
About two days before the gig, Mark, Alan and Mike realized they might sound better if they had two things: a bass player and a band name. Finding a CPA bass player is kind of like trying to find a ballad on an AC/DC record. Mark remembered another old CPA buddy who agreed to play the gig… Ten minutes BEFORE the gig, names like "Led Pencil", "Ink Floyd", and "Jacob and the Javits" were strong contenders for the band's official name. But in memory of Elizabeth Reed and his longing for Greg's B-3 sound, Mark dubbed the band "The Audit Brothers.” And 10 minutes AFTER the gig, Mark’s CPA bass-playing friend exercised the free agency clause in his contract and quit, having not realized he had to move his own equipment.
IT'S A SINGER, CAPTAIN WALKER, IT'S A SINGER
The first gig went well, but all instrumental tunes of Jeff Beck, blues standards, more Jeff Beck and more 1-4-5 blues was capturing a limited audience. The band knew it needed a front man for the next upcoming CSCPA Career Day Conference. Yes, the band was asked back again because the juggling clowns wanted to be paid.
So the search was on for a singer who had Jim Morrison sex appeal, Robert Plant vocal range, a valid CPA license with the Connecticut State Board of Accountancy, and a willingness to wear tight spandex pants. The band hit pay dirt when Mark met John "DelPuesto" DelGrego, a singing CPA guitar player, in late summer of 1997 at a CSCPA Publications Committee meeting. Although lacking Jim Morrison's sex appeal and Robert Plant's vocal range, John did have a certain "Hey, I'm the only singing CPA you're ever going to find" attitude about him. Plus he was willing to wear pants 2 sizes too small. Johnny D. was hired on the spot, after meeting his demand for a name change (anything with the word "audit" in it scares him).
WE'RE GONNA GET SUED
Everyone started thinking of band names. John came up with "The RockinFellas" (the band liked the financial reference, but Alan is a registered Democrat). Alan came up with "It's All About Al", but the band said they already knew that. Mike wanted "The CPA Rock Band", but the band thought the name lacked a certain creativity. Skip just wanted to get the gig over with and get out. So, once again, Mark, in a spurt of creative genius, came up with the (now permanent) band name. Apparently, one day Mark was listening to a local radio station and the DJ slurred the name of a band while introducing their song. "That's it! The Accounting Crows!!" screamed Mark, as he heard the DJ chew up and spit out the name of some similar sounding non-CPA band. After much debate, consideration and consulting with intellectual property attorneys, The Accounting Crows was christened (and bar mitzvahed for the sole Jewish member of the band).
Of course, nothing goes as planned. At the last minute, Skip couldn't do the gig because of his ferocious drug appetite (well, not really, but it sounds more interesting just like on "Behind The Music"). In reality, Skip actually had a client commitment for a certified audit in Antigua. So the hunt for a CPA bass player was back in full force.
Mark quickly tapped into his CPA connections and learned there was an accounting professor at the University of New Haven who played bass. So after three days of stalking, Mark found bass playing CPA Rich "I like rocking and rolling" Silkoff who also sang backup vocals. He agreed to join the band without any conditions, mostly because he was bored of watching "Laverne & Shirley" reruns.
Once again, the band of five rocked the CSCPA Career Conference, but this time with vocal tunes like "Hush" by Deep Purple, "Taxman" by the Beatles and "House is a Rockin" by Stevie Ray Vaughn. The rock and roll steam engine came to a boil, poised to roll through larger and more lucrative venues.
THE BOTTOM FALLS OUT
Of course, nothing goes as planned, again. Like a scene from Spinal Tap, The Accounting Crows couldn't keep a bass player. Rich pursued his educational career to inspire young accounting minds, as the band pursued its career of hunting for a CPA bass player to corrupt young accounting minds. More gigs kept coming in and more bass players kept going out. Out of sheer desperation, Mark and Alan started practicing a "full monty" performance to the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, in the event a bass player couldn't be found. As luck would have it, Alan remembered his good friend, client and talented bass player client, Tommy "Tutone" Russo, President of L&R Productions. Although Tom wasn't a CPA, Tom did know where to sign his tax return which qualified him to join the band on a temporary basis. It was agreed that Tom would stay in until the band found a CPA bass player, or until Tom went back to college to acquire enough requisite courses to take and pass the CPA exam.
GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS
Gaining popularity, The Accounting Crows were asked to play their first public gig on April 15th, 1999, the last day of tax season. The gig was at Murphy & Scarlettis, a local watering hole where accounting firms and other hip people hang out. Knowing they were about to hit the big time, the guys needed to add more songs to their set list, beyond the three they already knew. They also knew they had to deliver a sexually-charged performance to keep the audience hanging around long after their ears started to bleed. Accordingly, they asked singers Nancy Battistini (office manager of CPA firm Friedman, Kannenberg & Co.) and Bonnie Gulliksen (a client of Alan's firm) to help with the vocals. Once Bonnie realized she had just agreed to do a non-paying gig, she did the gig, sang her heart out and then quit.
Bonnie was promptly replaced by the talented and beautiful Cheryl Cormier. Cheryl, a vocalist and client of Alan's firm, graciously agreed to do the gig, but only after Alan promised to do her tax return sometime sooner than 6:00 pm on April 15th. Now known as "The Crowquettes", Cheryl, Nancy and singer-client Gail Schiro bring killer vocals to high-profile gigs and, more importantly, shake their high-profile booty so people in the audience get some entertainment value out of the performance.
Also joining the girls for the end-of-tax-season gig, is friend, client and resident alien keyboard player Jeff "J.B." Batter. It seemed appropriate to have Jeff annually join the Crows for the April 15th gig for the following reasons: (1) Jeff is a great keyboard player and, accordingly, keeps Mark motivated on the piano intro to "Hold The Line" by Toto, (2) Jeff is a great singer who can hit all the high parts on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", due in large part to his wearing women's underwear, (3) although rumored to be a highly opinionated ego-maniac, Jeff always plays off to the side of the stage, allowing the rest of the Crows to act like highly opinionated ego-maniacs, (4) Jeff does the gig for free in return for expert tax advice (as far as he knows), and most importantly (5) no Jeff, no Cheryl – Jeff is Cheryl's lawfully wedded spouse. Accordingly, Jeff has always been a welcomed member of the Crowquettes, as he's considered simply "just one of the girls."
THE LADY MADONNA REED SHOW
Well, things never seem to go as planned, especially when it comes to bass players. Tommy "Tutone" Russo's hectic business schedule was preventing him from playing bass on many of the Crows critical gigs, regardless of how many complimentary CPA Society sweatshirts, golf shirts, coffee mugs, and other logo-emblazoned marketing items Mark bribed him with. Quite simply, Tommy had a partner, a mortgage, and a healthy sense of self-respect. Plus he didn't seem too enthused with The Crows suggestion for him to give up his career as the President of a successful commercial and jingle production house and go back to school for accounting to then study for, take and pass the CPA exam. So the search for a CPA bass player was, once again, back in full force.
But just as you might guess, Mark knew yet another CPA, Reed Risteen, who was rumored to have some musical talents. Reed, an expert in certified audits for not-for-profit organizations, was leading a secret double life as a singing multi-instrumentalist Beatles fanatic enamored with emulating the bass playing of one Paul McCartney. Finally, the band found their CPA bass player, and he is the real deal.
Reed joined the band in March, 2001, for an Accounting Society sponsored bash at the University of Connecticut and officially became an Accounting Crow at the April 15th gig. Not one to take his new-found celebrity for granted, Reed went out and bought a new amp and a true Hofner "Beatle Bass". Not one to ignore the fact that the band needed him more than he needed them, Reed immediately demanded a new repetoire comprising 73 Beatles, 16 Stones, 11 Who, 8 Grand Funk, 5 Monkees and 3 Steppenwolf tunes.
PAUL VS. JOHN
Well, as with most bands, egos, musical tastes and wives usually lead to the breakup of most bands, or at least getting some member thrown out...The Accounting Crows were no exception. Except that it had nothing to do with egos, musical tastes and wives. Instead, there was the huge argument between Mark and John over whether to adopt the cash or accrual method for the band's accounting and financial reporting. Well, that's not really true. Actually, Mark wanted to play guitar, so he bought 5 Stratocasters and made a new band rule that you must own at least 5 Stratocasters to be in the band. No, that's not what happened. John hated accounting and demanded the band change its name to "The Business Valuation Crows"...well, not really. The simple truth was John got a huge promotion and was hired as a Business Valuation expert by the New Haven, CT CPA firm of Meyers, Harrison & Pia, LLC. That, coupled with 2 new kids and a new demanding work schedule, John gracefully bowed out, learned ProTools on his home computer and started a new rock band, "The Blue Agaves", all of which allowed him to keep his musical endeavors a little closer to home. Besides, we all know how lead singers need to run their own show. Now John's band does 3 sets of music by his 3 favorite artists: The Clash, Roger Clyne and Toto.
The Crows still stay in touch with John both professionally (as his advice is sought on business valuation matters) and personally (as his over-indulgent opinion is sought on who's better, Paul or John). Whatever...we all know it was George anyway.
AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR
It's been a "Long and Winding Road" since 1996, but The Accounting Crows have experienced their "15 Minutes of Fame" many times over. They've even been featured on CBS's national "Eye on People" segment which aired on April 15th, 1998. In fact, the local media find the idea of rock 'n roll CPAs so intriguing that the Connecticut ABC and NBC television affiliates and a number of national business publications have flaunted the Crows on their pages. All this media attention, however, hasn't affected the Crows one bit; that's because the Crows play and promote themselves for only two reasons.
First, the band now provides its members with a "legitimate" reason to occasionally leave the office early and let (what's left of) their hair down to re-live the glory days that perhaps never were, all while "turning it up to 11."
But second, and more importantly, the Crows charge themselves with the responsibility to give back to their community. Accordingly, every April 15th, the Crows promote the "spirit of giving" by playing a now-traditional evening at Murphy & Scarletti's in Farmington, CT, and donating their performance fee to a selected charity. Beneficiaries to date include AmeriCares Kosovo Refugee Fund, the Connecticut Breast Cancer Institute, FoodShare, and the Connecticut Women and Disability Network, Inc.
Each of the Crows has started working on CD's of their own original music and can't seem to escape the musical influences of their youth. Here's a lyrical excerpt from a tune they're currently working on:
"We're an accounting band, we're an accounting band,
We're coming to your town, to get taxable income down,
We're an accounting band."
Now you know why they don't give up their day gigs.