Opening for Ted Nugent a dream come true for teen
Back in grade school, Eddie Konopasek made a list of the rock bands he wanted to see in concert. By the time he graduated Cary-Grove High School last June, all performers on his list were checked off except for one: Ted Nugent.
Last month, Konopasek was able to grab a pen to finish the list. He not only saw the famous guitarist perform "Cat Scratch Fever" at Milwaukee's The Rave, but also opened for Nugent with his own band.
"For it to be the first time I see him, I open for him, it was the perfect ending," said the 19-year-old.
The guitarist recently joined up with Prairie Ridge High School seniors Jim Goffron, Joey Pinkl, Chris Stoddard and Lowell Todd as a part of Don't Tell Mama, a blues/rock band that has played at Chicago's Metro as well as the Woodstock Music Festival and several local venues.
"It's a really diverse kind of set. We do a lot of AC/DC to B.B. King and everyone in between," he said of the band, which has a site at www.myspace.com/donttellmamaband.
But this is not the first time Konopasek has been on stage in front of a large crowd. During this year's spring break, his family vacationed in Cabo San Lucas, where guitarist Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo Cantina Restaurant & Bar is located. Ed Konopasek had e-mailed Hagar's staff ahead of time to let them know his talented son would be visiting.
Hagar was out of town, but his managers made room for the Cary guitarist on stage, where he performed a few numbers. Konopasek is still awe-struck about the experience.
"I wound up playing on Sammy Hagar's personal guitar on his stage, through his amp, in his club, with his band. It was pretty incredible," he said. "The Rolling Stones and Van Halen played there, so it's not some little hut."
Long before the Hagar and Nugent connections, Konopasek began taking guitar lessons in grade school, spending long hours practicing and writing songs.
While at Cary Junior High School he formed a band, Emerge, with friends James Allen and Tony Keathley. They played classic rock at parties and local venues such as the Broken Oar in Cary.
At Cary-Grove High School, Konopasek participated in band and credits band instructor Marty Magnini for encouraging his music talent.
"He is pretty much the best music teacher I ever had," he said. "He made me decide that I was going to make music my career."
Konopasek's talents were showcased during his senior year at Cary-Grove. He played Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" as a solo act during the 2006 homecoming halftime performance.
During a basketball game, he played the "Star-Spangled Banner" in a manner similar to Jimi Hendrix's rendition at Woodstock in 1969. School administrators liked the performance so much that they recorded Konopasek's version and played it first thing every Friday morning for all Cary-Grove students.
With high school behind him, Konopasek looks to the future with enthusiasm. He continues performing with his band, writing music, taking lessons and teaching lessons.
In January, he will attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, majoring in music and music management. The college boasts of famous alumni such as John Mayer, Quincy Jones, Diana Krall, and Aerosmith band members Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford.
Konopasek is not sure where his talent will take him but knows where he stands right now.
"I'm happy that I can do what I love to do."