In 1975 Billy Joel started looking for a new band. He had already released two studio albums with minimal success and was looking for a New York sound for his next record “Turnstiles”. His first choice to start to build the band was a fellow long islander and bass player, Doug Stegmeyer. He asked Doug if he knew some musicians to help round out the band, Doug replied “You know them already”. Doug suggested former band mates Liberty Devitto and Russell Javors, two guys that Billy had known well from his Long Island Music scene, and the band began to rehearse and truly become a unit.
Doug Stegmeyer, Liberty DeVitto and Russell Javors joined Billy Joel in studio to record his 1976 album “Turnstiles.” Billy Joel was also looking specifically for a saxophone player who could play keyboards. Al Stegmeyer, Doug Stegmeyer’s brother, was a sound engineer on the album, and recommended Richie Cannata to play saxophone and keyboards on the album. Cannata walked into Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead, New York, and heard for the first time the legendary hit, “Angry Young Man.”
Joel, Stegmeyer, DeVitto and Javors recorded the tune a day earlier, and Cannata was blown away by their experienced playing and speed. Cannata went into the studio and immediately recorded the unforgettable Empire State love song, “New York State of Mind.” What made the music on this album so special, were the dedicated and loyal New York musicians behind its creation.
The Turnstiles album was a huge success because Joel and his new recording and touring band performed the songs with such a fresh, and young driven beat. DeVitto, Javors and Cannata blew away audiences with their playing, and helped Joel sell millions of albums. The band went from playing local colleges and universities across the nation to performing at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden.
After the success of the Turnstiles album, Joel and the band began looking for a music producer for their next album. George Martin, the legendary Beatles record producer, offered Billy Joel a record deal, but he informed Joel he wanted to record with studio musicians. Joel would not create this new album without The Lords of 52nd Street, so he told Martin, “Love me. Love my band.” Joel turned down The Beatles’ record producer, George Martin, and was pleased to work with the legendary, Phil Ramone.
Phil Ramone and Joel coined DeVitto, Cannata, Javors and Stegmeyer as The Lords of 52nd Street, and went into Columbia Studios to record, “The Stranger.” The album was a commercial success, it holds a RIAA diamond certification (10x platinum), and several #1 singles including, Only The Good Die Young and Just The Way You Are. The Lords of 52nd Street, along side the Piano Man, led an international tour, and performed at famous arenas including, Wembley Stadium, Royal Albert Hall, the Sydney Opera House, Nassau Coliseum, Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, Budokan, the LA Forum and many others.
The band also performed on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and on the BBC’s “The Old Grey Whistle Test” television program back in 1978. The Lords of 52nd Street helped Joel establish a popular music career, and the opportunity to perform and record in the most prestigious settings.
Joel and The Lords of 52nd Street returned to the studio, and recorded Grammy award winning albums including, 52nd Street, Glass Houses, and The Nylon Curtain. The band recorded and toured with Joel for over a decade, and it wasn’t until their induction into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame where they decided to reunite after a 30-year separation. After their 2014 hall of fame induction, The Lords of 52nd Street picked up their instruments yet again, and began performing in front of live audiences together.
The Lords finally returned to the stage to a sold out crowd at The Space at Westbury in February 2016. Critics adored the band, and their performance blew away fans of all ages. The Lords of 52nd Street are touring regularly since their return in early 2016, and they do not plan on stopping anytime soon. Fans declared that The Lords’ live performances sound just like the original recordings with Billy Joel, if not better. The Lords of 52nd Street perform regularly for live audiences in public and private events, and continue to awe fans from around the world.
They are New York’s favorite band, they sold more than 150 million records, they helped establish Billy Joel’s formidable sound, and they continue to perform their legendary hits still to this day. Look no further; The Lords of 52nd Street are here!
Finding Inspiration in Every Turn
When you first hear “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel, a few things stick out in your mind; the fantastic songwriting and musicianship, and THAT solo. The solo that many people can remember note for note that has become part of us. When Richie recorded and performed that solo in 1976 on The “Turnstiles” record, little did he know what that song and that solo would go on to represent for the biggest city in the world.. Richie wrote that solo as a New Yorker, as a Long Islander, and he and his sound is forever ingrained in us. It was the beginning of him playing all those great memorable sax solos on Billy’s records, which has added up to being on over 150 million records sold…..
Richie was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Ernest and Anna. At the ripe old age of four, he had an attraction to the piano, then at eight, he laid his eyes on his future musical, life long companion, the tenor sax. With incredibly supportive parents, Richie blossomed as a musician, especially after the family moved to Garden City South, Long Island. He played in school bands and in bands with his friends. Wetting his lips and perfecting his trade on the local club scene, Richie began doing studio sessions with a variety of musicians. Until that fateful day in 1975, when Richie was in the studio doing some session work, and the engineer, Al Stegmeyer, recognizing his incredible sound and talent, suggested Richie call his brother Doug. Doug had recently gotten the gig as Billy Joel’s bass player, and they were looking for a sax player that also played keys and sang. Richie was that multi talented musician Billy was looking for.
Richie quickly gelled with Billy and the guys, and joined them on the “Turnstiles,” where he would play that amazing solo on New York State of Mind. Billy knew he had something special. Richie would continue to tour throughout the world and perform on albums for many years to come. Performing on multiplatinum records such as “The Stranger,” “52nd Street,” “Glass Houses,” “Songs in The Attic” and even I having musical residuals on “The Nylon Curtain.” It was then that Richie felt it was time to start a family and expand his horizons, performing with different and varied musicians. He went on to become a member of The Beach Boys, playing on their recordings and their successful world tours. He would also go on to perform with Elton John, Celine Dion, Tommy Shaw, Phoebe Snow, Roseanne Cash, Rita Coolidge, Charlie Danials, Vince Gill and many more.
Richie than took a chance in 1985, and opened up “Cove City Sound Studios” in Glen Cove. By bringing his unique musical talents to help other musicians, it put Long Island on the map as a “place to be” for recording for already established musicians. Artists such as Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Billy Joel, Jon Bellion. Chef Special, and Jenifer Lopez would pass through ”Cove Sound’s” doors. Richie would earn many Grammys and an Oscar. He was also a member of John Stamos’ band, “Jesse and The Rippers” on the TV show “Full House,” and continues to this day in his latest position as Musical Director for New York Yankee Bernie Willams and his band.
Richie has always been a true Long Islander at heart, living and working there. He is proud of his beautiful family, starting with his wife, Shirlene. Their talented son, Eren and his wife, Kristen, and their children, Ceo Prince Cannata and Leaux Cannata. Richie couldn’t be more proud to be the head of his family and watch his grandsons grow up. Richie is a Long Islander in his heart and soul, and forever remains grateful for the experience of growing up and living on Long Island for his entire life and how it has shaped him as a musician and a person.
Just pick up one of the 150 million copies of Billy Joel records sold in the last 30 years and you’ll hear why Liberty is called “THE songwriter’s drummer.” Spanning his career, Liberty has played with Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, Ronnie Spector, Karen Carpenter, Phoebe Snow, Elton John, Meatloaf, and many, many more. In 2013 he was inducted into The Classic Drummer’s Hall of Fame. He has been repeatedly featured in articles, documentaries and educational publications for over 40 years, and was most recently featured in the documentary “A Matter of Trust – The Bridge to Russia.”
Born to Sicilian immigrants, his mother Josephine Sardisco was raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Her mother was a seamstress, and her father a tailor; carrying his sewing machine on his back twice daily, as he walked across the bridge to his factory job in Brooklyn. Liberty’s father, Vincent, was raised in East New York, Brooklyn, one of the 11 children born to his immigrant parents from Naples. Liberty’s father and his 4 brothers served their country in WWII. Vincent served in the 101st Airborne Division, and was part of the Invasion of Normandy. Although 5 brothers went into the war, only 4 returned. Liberty is named after his Uncle Liberatori who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. The story of the 5 DeVitto brothers is featured in Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation Speaks.”
After WWII, Vincent returned to Brooklyn and met Josephine. Liberatori (Liberty) DeVitto was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 8, 1950, a second generation Italian-American. Life for Liberty began in a one room furnished apartment. Liberty’s mother would empty a dresser drawer, line it with a baby blanket, and use that for his bed. His Mother says it was the radio on top of the dresser, which she kept on all the time that gave Liberty his love for music. After Liberty’s father became a NYC Police Officer in the 77th Precinct in Brooklyn, he decided to join the migration out to the suburbs and moved his new family to Long Island in 1951.
On February 9, 1964 Liberty’s family, like every other family in America, had the TV tuned to “The Ed Sullivan Show.” There they were, in black and white, “The Beatles!” At that moment Liberty’s life would change, forever. The camera panned the audience and showed girls screaming and crying. Liberty panned the room and saw his sister and her friends screaming and crying. All of a sudden it hit him, “What a great way to meet girls.”
In June 1968, Liberty graduated from Seaford High School. By November he was on the road with Detroit rocker Mitch Ryder banging out Mitch’s hits, “Jenny Takes a Ride,” “Devil with a Blue Dress” and “Sock It To Me Baby.” Right after Mitch Ryder, Liberty landed a gig with Long Island alumni, Richie Supa, and had his first recording experience. The album, “Supa’s Jamboree” was recorded in Atlanta, 1969-70, and was produced by Buddy Buie of the Classics 4 and Atlanta Rhythm Section Fame. The album was released on Paramount Records and a tour immediately followed. Liberty was driving the band equipment van from Cleveland, Ohio, back home to Long Island when the van hit black ice and flipped off the side of the road, rolling four times. Liberty had sustained serious injuries, and was unable to play the drums for a year. To ease back in, he took a steady gig at a catering hall on Long Island. During those years, the group, “Topper” was formed. A club owner once called Topper, “the worst band to ever play his club.” Topper eventually became Billy Joel’s band and went to create such legendary songs as, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and “New York State of Mind.”
Thirty years with Billy Joel, and countless other projects, Liberty is still going strong. He is proud to have been a part of the 9-11 recovery efforts, visiting Ground Zero and supporting the first responders with Billy Joel a few days after the tragedy and performing to raise money to rebuild his city. He has also played for supporters at “The Tunnel to Towers Run” commemorating Stephen Sills heroic effort to save fellow New Yorkers on 9-11-01.
He can be seen live with his Brooklyn, New York based rock and blues band, “The Slim Kings,” who are working on their sophomore album, following their successful first album and single, “Waterloo,” which was released on the compilation CD “Songs For Sandy II” along with releases from Paul McCartney and Dave Stewart to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy. The band recently supported ZZ Top on their area gigs.
Liberty has drummed with English Invasion icon Billy J. Kramer since 2005. Liberty is an Honorary Board Member of “Little Kids Rock,” a non-profit organization that puts instruments and music programs in underserved public schools worldwide. Liberty is the house drummer for the yearly LKR Gala, driving the beat for such performers as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Morello, Elvis Costello, and many others. This year, “Little Kids Rock” has partnered with the NYCDOE and Berklee for an unprecedented music program that will bring $10 million of resources to 60,000 NYC public school children.
Liberty remains a band member for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, lectures globally for “Sticks and Skins,” and is a founding member of “The NYC Hit Squad.” Liberty is also member of “The Recovery Squad,” a band and program dedicated to rock ‘n’ roll and sober living. Liberty continues to lecture, interview and play all over the world, from Krakow, Poland, to Beijing, China to Santiago, Chile and everywhere in between. In 2014, the original members of the Billy Joel Band were inducted into the Long Island Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Liberty currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, and travels frequently with his wife, Anna, to visit his mother’s family in Sicily.
He continues to love what he was born to do, DRUM.
Russell Javors was born in Brooklyn on Friday the 13th, June 1952. Soon after, his family moved to Plainview where Russell spent his childhood. After seeing “The Beatles” perform on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Russell decided to devote his life to music. In Junior High School, Russell’s band, “The Aggregation” recorded original songs and played in many of the local Battle of the Bands competitions.
At 15, Russell began going to a popular club in Plainview called, “My House” where many local bands performed. Two of his favorite bands were “The Hassles,” featuring Billy Joel and “The New Rock Workshop,” featuring Liberty DeVitto. Russell was so impressed by a musician in one of those bands that he was determined to play with him. So, Russell and Liberty became friends and spent many afternoons at Liberty’s house in Seaford trying to put a band together.
In high school, the great Syosset keyboard player, Dean Kraus, introduced Russell to Doug Stegmeyer. By that time, Russell had written quite a few original songs and was looking for musicians to bring them to life. Russell’s parents, Geraldine and Sol, were tremendously supportive and their house became a haven for Russell’s musician friends. He and Plainview guitarist, Howie Emerson, would sit for hours-on-end working out guitar parts and arrangements to Russell’s songs.
Eventually Russell, Howie, Lib and Doug would all get together to play. Doug’s brother, Al Stegmeyer, a musician and an accomplished engineer, was very generous to Doug and the guys. Thanks to Al, the group was fortunate to get recording experience laying down tracks in a studio at de Servisky Center in Old Westbury where Al was working. These tracks were the beginning of the chemistry the guys developed as a recording band. This was the band that would eventually be known as “Topper.”
In 1972, Howie Emerson played some of Russell’s songs to veteran Atlanta producer, Buddy Buie. Buddy flew Russell and Howie to Atlanta for an audition and immediately offered Russell a record deal with the provision that the Atlanta Rhythm Section be the back-up band. Even though Russell admired the work of the Atlanta Rhythm Section, he turned down the deal because he believed so strongly in the musicians he was already working with. But, getting another record deal didn’t turn out to be as easy as Russell thought it would be. In fact, he was even turned down by fellow inductee, Clive Davis, at Arista. The band continued to play in and out of the studio, but they struggled.
In 1973, Russell and Doug shared a house in Dix Hills with Russell’s then girlfriend, Suzanne, where they could devote themselves to their music. In 1974, Russell and Suzanne were married and Doug was Russell’s best man. To Russell, this was more than a band – It was like a family. It was in 1974 that Doug did a tour with Billy Joel and soon became an important part of Billy’s future. In 1976 when Billy decided to record with New York musicians, he turned to Doug. Doug brought Liberty in first to lay down the basic tracks to Turnstiles. Later, Howie and Russell came aboard to add the guitars. At the same time, Doug also brought Richie Cannata into the fold.
After the Turnstiles tour in 1977, Russell signed a publishing deal with 20th Century Music and his friend and advisor, Charlie Brucia, raised money for a recording project. Russell, Lib, Doug, Howie and even Billy recorded with Russell during the same period Billy was recording the Stranger album. One of the songs from these sessions “All Because of You” would later appear on Karen Carpenter’s solo album, along with another one of Russell’s songs.
Through Billy, Russell went on to live his rock ‘n’ roll dream of playing rhythm guitar with the band he loved, both on records and on the road. His staccato rhythm is the pulse of “Still Rock And Roll,” “Pressure,” and “Sometimes A Fantasy.” His classic lick on “You May Be Right” sets the table for one of Billy’s best-loved rockers. His sensitive acoustic guitar on “Goodnight Saigon” which takes the listener into the barracks as the Vietnam story unfolds, and his “in the pocket” rhythm on “Keeping the Faith” are just a small sample of what Russell has contributed to Billy’s music.
Away from Billy, Russell has also worked with artists such as Karen Carpenter, Slash, Phoebe Snow, Iggy Pop, and others. After leaving Billy’s band, Russell pursued other interests. He wrote and developed shows for television, became involved in the toy industry and eventually settled in Hong Kong where he became a Vice President of a large Chinese manufacturing company. He later handled Entertainment Relations for Gibson Guitar Company throughout Asia. Hong Kong became Russell and Suzanne’s second home, where they spent many wonderful years making lots of great friends and fond memories. Russell even sat in with Billy during his first ever Hong Kong concert.
In March of 2014, Russell and Suzanne celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary. Their son Jesse, a talented guitar player in his own right, is living in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Lauren. Russell and Suzanne are the proud grandparents of Jake and Luke Javors. Russell is currently working in television. He continues to write songs and work on his music, a passion that has always been his first priority – other than the New York Yankees, who run a close second!
IN MEMORY OF DOUG STEGMEYER
One of the biggest parts of the origins of The Lords Of 52nd Street was Doug Stegmeyer. Doug was the first of us to join Billy’s band playing bass, and through persistence and having a great judgment of what worked, Doug suggested Liberty, Russell and Richie to Billy for his band. He was a crucial part of the group and was a big part of those records
He was our brother and every night we take Doug’s spirit with us on stage and honor him. Although he isn’t with us anymore, he is always in our hearts...
Douglas Alan Stegmeyer
Dec 23 1951-Aug 25 1995