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Articles Home » Book Reviews » Son Of A Milkman - My Crazy Life With Tesla By Brian Wheat Book Review By Nina McCarthy
Son Of A Milkman - My Crazy Life With Tesla By Brian Wheat Book Review By Nina McCarthy

Son Of A Milkman

My Crazy Life With Tesla

By Brian Wheat (With Chris Epting)

Post Hill Press

December 15, 2020

Book Review By Nina McCarthy

Boston Rock Radio

 

Some things have been joked about for years, but when you are the target of the joke, it may not be so funny. As the book title implies, Brian Wheat was in fact the son of the milkman, who his mom had an affair with in the 1960s. This was the very beginning of what became the crazy history of Wheat’s that led him to being the co-founder and bassist of Tesla, the band that has sold over 14 million albums in the US.

Wheat’s autobiography, written with the award winning journalist and author Chris Epting, is a great historic journey through the career of Tesla, which he co-founded in 1981 along with guitarist Frank Hannon. Vocalist Jeff Keith and drummer Troy Luccketta joined them in 1984, along with bassist Tommy Skeoch, who was later replaced by Dave Rude in 2006. Starting out as City Kidd, they eventually shifted away from that glam-like genre that was so prevalent during those big haired days of rock n roll. Finally releasing their first album, Mechanical Resonance, and with the help of Def Leppard taking the guys under their touring wing as big brothers, Tesla grew their audience from the typical 10 people at a dive bar to the point of selling out arenas. Then back down again, sadly.  So, yes, this autobiography does tell a tale of caution to young bands that suddenly find themselves signed and having success, fans, and money. Once you’re at your peak, it’s time to go down the other side of the mountain...just as fast as it was climbed. It’s either “be smarter, change with the times, or don’t. Eventually you’ll either pull through, sink, or burn out,” as Brain states and experienced for himself. These musicians are just vulnerable humans, as we are. Believe me, it’s not all glamorous as one imagines. Ups always come with downs.

Any colossal fan of Tesla should read this autobiography and hear Wheat’s side of the story. I have been a fan of the band since their first album, and Tesla was actually my first “big” interview as a music journalist where I had an all access pass at the old Providence Civic Center in Providence, RI (Boy times have changed!). That experience is what made this story from behind the scenes enticing to me. Like any rock n roll band coming out in the 80’s, there eventually was the repercussion of drinking, drugs, and girls that took its toll on the individual members of the band as well as the band as a whole. In fact, in 1996 they disbanded for four years as a result of the dishevel that these addictions and contrasting personalities induced. Brian is very honest and revealing about his own anxiety and depression, perhaps stemming from his early beginnings being the butt of the milkman joke, along with his health issues and with substance abuse. He actually tells of band psychotherapy sessions for four months to smooth things over amongst themselves before coming together again as a united group. The psychiatrist actually told them that “everything was going to be spinning around and round except for their CD, unless they get it together.” Apparently, they did heed his advice as the band re-emerged in 2000 ready to kick some more rock n roll ass.

Also enlightening was the fact that Wheat had ulcerative colitis, worsened by stress, throughout the band’s history. He found himself being the main spokesman of the bunch, and eventually becoming the manager. He only missed 3 gigs in 25 years, oftentimes having to push himself out of his tour bus bunk, and through the agonizing pain, to get to the stage to play. Two gigs were missed due to this auto-immune disease, and the third is for you to find out when you read the book for yourself.

Although I found the book a little slow at times, it was still an excellent read. Straight forward, to the point, just like Wheat himself and the vision for the band. To me, reading biographies is about getting to know the band member as if we’ve been friends for years. Of interest was Brian’s enthusiasm for buying and remodeling Victorian homes and his collection of antiques to fit the aforementioned era. I also enjoyed the story of Brian’s relationship with Jimmy Page leading to the highlight of his musical career, to the point where he stated, “If that was my last night on this planet I would’ve left with a huge smile on my face. I was floating on air…”  Most interestingly, is the debate over “Love Song” with the label which became one of their top songs that everyone wanted to hear. The book takes you right up to recent times, with a prelude taking you up to the beginning of Covid pandemic. Brian now owns a recording studio called J Street Records in Sacramento, CA that has worked with Papa Roach, Deftones, Pat Travers, and many others, as well as continuing to play bass for Tesla.

The appreciation that I took away from this memoir is how Tesla always was a little different from the other bands, especially during the glam rock times of the 80’s with the likes of Def Leppard, Poison, and Motley Crue. Tesla was straight up rock n roll without all the frills, remaining true to what they wanted to be, oftentimes passing up contracts for large sums of money to remain true to their intention. As Wheat says in the book, they were “musicians not rock stars” and this showed in their advancement through the music business despite some pitfalls.

Making money, losing money, losing everything you own, gaining weight due to medications for an auto-immune disease, losing weight from the disease itself, marriages, divorces, anxiety, depression, relapses...it is all covered in personal detail from Wheat’s memories. I just gave you a taste of the stories covered throughout his long career. The book was released December 15, 2020, so get this book into your hands and re-live the history of the multi-platinum band Tesla, from the humble beginnings, touring, and collaborations with legendary names in music, right up to what’s been happening in 2020.  Now go find a quiet corner and get reading, or listening if you prefer audiobooks. Son of a Milkman is available on Amazon and Audible, as well as at your local bookstore.

 

Autographed Copies Available

 

*Special thanks to Chipster PR for this opportunity.

Nina McCarthy, joined the Boston Rock Radio staff in December of 2015. Nina has freelanced for over 25 years, interviewing bands for various webzines. Nina currently focuses full time as the Senior Music Journalist and Digital Content Editor for BRR.  Nina is a very dedicated supporter of music. Contact Nina at nina@bostonrockradio.com for interviews, reviews, comments, etc.


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