This week in Faces of Kingston it was a genuine treat to chat about country music and local memories with performer and local business owner Michele Ferraro. Michele’s love of our community’s people, past and present is inspiring.
Morgan Y. Evans: Hi Michele. How are you today? First off we are gonna start with something I often ask people, which is if you can recall your first real memory of Kingston. What is the earliest thing you remember here?
Michele Ferraro: Hello Morgan. I’m doing good and feeling the spirit of the holiday. My first memory of Kingston would have to be the Sunset Drive in. When I was a kid I spent many weekends in my pajamas playing on the swings then watching whatever movie was there with my mom and Uncle Peter. My dad was away a lot. He was a baseball player who played for the Yankees and Brewers in the ’70’s and then ended up third-base coach for the Yankees.
You have been involved with the influential regional band Ivory Rose for quite some time. This is hard to sum up, but what has made it so rewarding and what are some of your fondest memories over the years from shows or people met along the way?
I could go on and on about Ivory Rose. It was my childhood dream to always be in a band and play guitar. When I was 11 I fell in love with The Bay City Rollers and that’s all I dreamed about. I have to say I got to live my dream. I also grew up idolizing Bette Midler. I wanted to be like her and I love the fact that Tammy Rose, our lead singer, at times has that same stage presence as Bette. She can really make you feel a song. One of the most rewarding things about our band is the original songs. We have had people use them for their wedding songs. We got a message from a woman whose husband now has Alzheimer’s and he doesn’t know her but when she plays our song, “I’m Fallin’,” he remembers every word and sings with her.
I get crying every time I talk about it. It makes all the hard work and long hours so worth it. We got to play with some of our idols like Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, J. Geils Band. I mean, these guys were hanging on my wall. Our producer Pete Martin would get these shows for us and radio play. I can’t say enough about this man. And of course the people who followed us. The reaction from them just made us want to work harder. And of course our members, I love them like family. Our drummer Bobby has been with us over 20 years. Dave Daw has been with us for 20 also. He is doing a yacht rock project now that is just so much fun. So we now have Dez Williams from Big Sister and the Richie Scarlett band on bass and Louie Spagnola on lead guitar. It has been a long time coming working with Dez. She is awesome and Louie just plays so tastefully, really plays for the song!
Can you tell people about what you do for a living and how you got involved in it?
My brother and I own Ulster Uniform Service, since we bought it from our parents years ago. I have to say I love working with my family. My mom is 73 and she still comes in and helps out.
What is something about old Kingston that you miss? What is a current place that is here or newer that you love?
The place I miss most would have to be old Uptown. Back in the ’70’s … Ace Army Navy. It was on Wall Street and downstairs there was a T-shirt shop, record store, pinball machines. I would hang there every Saturday with my friends. Funny, I would talk to this older guy Russel who worked in the T-shirt shop. Of course he was in a band so I would just sit and listen to his stories and little did I know I would have my own. What I love about Kingston now would have to be the Strand. I love the creek and the boats and all the great restaurants down there.
What do you think makes the Hudson Valley a special place to live?
What I love about the Hudson Valley is the location and the scenery is just breathtaking. You have everything you want.
Did you really meet Keith Urban? When did you first become a fan of country music?
Yes I did meet Keith Urban. The first time I won a meet and greet, however the second time Tammy and I jumped in the car last minute and drove to Nashville for a benefit he was doing. Fifteen hours we drove for him and it was worth every minute, an amazing musician and person. I have been a country music fan for the last 20 years. And yes, I was one who swore it would never happen, but I love great songwriting and stories. I was the ’80s hair band girl. So, nowadays I go see Keith or Mötley Crüe.
What are you looking the most forward to about 2020? I can’t believe that is the year. It feels like a science fiction number! All the ’80s movies I loved like Blade Runner and Terminator and stuff are already supposed to have happened!
What I am looking forward to in 2020 is getting out this new music that our band has been working on. We have a bunch of new originals and I cannot wait for people to hear them. It’s been a long time since we have recorded anything so I am really looking forward to that. I still can’t get used to the fact that it will be 2020. Beyond Back to the Future.