When the Long Island Music Hall of Fame had its Sixth Induction Awards Ceremony & Fundraising Gala at The Space at Westbury on Thursday, Nov. 3, the venue’s home base was well represented. And while inductee Steve Vai is technically from Carle Place (which is also home to celebrity chef and childhood friend Tom Schaudel, who inducted the guitarist that night), Westbury is where the 56-year-old guitar god’s late father grew up. Westbury was also home at one time to legendary music executive Charles Koppelman, who was quick to point that out during a post-award press conference.
“I was born in Brooklyn and left there when I was [a] 1-year-old. I moved to Laurelton, which is right on the border of Queens and Nassau County. I grew up in the public school system. I moved to Westbury with my family and the first house that we bought is where I started in the music business,” he recalled. “I went to Adelphi, where I met Don Rubin. Long Island has always been a refuge for me. Wherever I went or did, I always came back home. To this day, it gives me great comfort. It’s probably the place where I feel the most comfort and the safest.”
And while Vai has been calling California home for the past few decades, he frequently comes home to the Carle Place/Westbury area to visit friends and family and oftentimes tool around town on a bicycle. Vai also shared that on the recommendation of good friend and fellow Carle Place native Joe Satriani, he went against the advice of his agent and booked his upcoming Nov. 12 gig here despite having played the NYCB Theatre only a few months before. But the nostalgia for his hometown proved to be too much.
“I was by where my dad grew up a couple of months ago. There’s something about coming back to your hometown that just has a real attraction to it. It’s really nice to be able to come back for this particular award. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to come here when I was a kid and see the movies.”
He further reminisced that, “Post Avenue was a real hot spot. When I was a teenager, there was a club that’s two doors down that I used to play all the time. And then up the road, there was a bar where we used to get into so much trouble. Westbury is just a cool place.”
Other inductees included singer/songwriter Garland Jeffreys, late producer/songwriter Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult/The Clash), Academy Award-nominated composer Carter Burwell, rapper Big Daddy Kane, songwriters/instrumentalists Santo & Johnny, jazz bandleader Vince Giordano and the Westbury Music Fair (now the NYCB Theatre at Westbury).
Visit www.longislandweekly.com to see more photos from the Long Island Music Hall of Fame Sixth Induction Awards Ceremony & Fundraising Gala.