Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Founded in late September of 1999, Fat Vinny and the Wiseguys began as a project of Eric Vincent Kelly. After bumping into old friend Randy Ketner at a jam session in an Altoona club, the two friends got together in Randy's basement to jam and talk about music and the local scene. The idea, in these early days, was to play some blues and earn a little pocket money.
The name came from Eric's expansive frame, and duo's interest in the HBO Mafia- Drama/Comedy "The Sopranos". If James Gandolfini could be declared a sex symbol on the cover of TV Guide, why not E. Vincent "Fat Vinny" Kelly?
After a couple of rehearsals with another drummer, who was already committed to another project, Randy called Mark Panek who was drumming for no fewer than 3 other bands at the time, but always made time for rehearsals and the odd gig with The Wiseguys. It was supposed to be a hobby.
In late January 2000, Fat Vinny was checking out the website of his favorite HBO series when his sarcastic wit got the better of him on a bulletin board discussing the merits of "The Sopranos". Before you could say "Pasta-fazouli" The band's website was mentioned by name in "The Skinny" HBO's official e-newsletter. This led to a story by Wireless Flash News and to radio interviews in places as far from Altoona as Las Vegas and Rochester, New York. It, then, occurred to the boys that they were on to something.
In February, Fat Vinny and the Wiseguys traveled to Pittsburgh to pay
homage to Pittsburgh rock legend Norman Nardini. Norman suggested they
enter a blues competition in a Pittsburgh area club. In March, Fat Vinny
and the Wiseguys won their qualifying round handily, and in April placed
3rd out of a total of 17 bands, statewide. In May, Fat Vinny and the
Wiseguys released Not Enough Blood, their self-produced debut EP. In
July, those 5 tracks were added to 4 new original songs and 1 cover to
make The blues you can't refuse. Fat Vinny and the Wiseguys spent the
rest of the summer and fall of 2000, on the road, all over Pennsylvania,
bringing PA blues fans, "The blues you can't refuse".
In 2001, Fat Vinny and the Wiseguys, performed a showcase at the 5th
annual Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg and continue to write
and rehearse more material for a second CD, "A different kind of blues"
that was released in July to critical acclaim and solid sales. Fat Vinny
and the Wiseguys spent the rest of that year bringing their bare knuckle
brand of blues to the rest of America.
In 2002, Fat Vinny and The Wiseguys continued to grow. The band's blusey influenced has reached as far North as Maine and as far south as Key West with a short stint playing around the Austin and Houston areas. The band has also reached into the Midwest with stops in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Ft.Wayne and Louisville. Fat Vinny and the Wiseguys are currently writing material for a 3rd CD.
2003 was a year of transition for Fat Vinny & The Wiseguys. A tour of Texas and New Mexico and a trips to Florida and Virginia as well as a visit to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland were among the year's highlights. But the most important development in 2003 was the entre of new drummer Jeff Van Clief. Jeff's considerable talent and energy will no doubt move the Fat Vinny & The Wiseguys to greater things.