Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The art of Rock n Roll

Toledo guitarist, in two bands, heads graphic design company

by Jennifer Kellow-Florini

Toledo guitarist Rick Zeithaml has rubbed elbows with plenty of rock royalty. He has shared stages with the Association, Mitch Ryder, Meat Loaf, The Guess Who, the Romantics, Spencer Davis, the Fixx, Loverboy and many more. 

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Zeithaml started playing guitar at 11 years old. His school gave kids hearing tests designed to see if they could distinguish differences in tones, and the kids that tested well were offered guitar lessons. In a kind of science meets destiny story, Rick aced his test and started lessons. But even before he picked up a guitar, drawing was an early passion. 

“I first showed artistic talent in third grade,” Zeithami said. “I could render dinosaurs in perfect perspective from looking at library books. When I found music, I preferred the interaction with people to the relative solitude of drawing. In music, the listeners’ reaction is immediate.”

His father’s job brought them back to Ohio where Zeithaml met his mentor, Skip Westphal, a music school graduate and professional club musician in the Cleveland area. “He was a profound influence,” recalls Rick, “He taught me theory and classical guitar technique and how to be a musician. After a couple years of lessons, he saw that I was listening to rock records and teaching myself Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter and Ritchie Blackmore riffs. He had the integrity to cut me loose from lessons at age 15.” 

Cleveland rocks

As a teen who was obsessed with playing guitar, Zeithaml was in the right place at the right time. “Growing up in Cleveland in the seventies was an amazing time and place for Rock ’n Roll,” said Zeithaml. “Bowie debuted his Ziggy Stardust tour there and Ian Hunter wrote ‘Cleveland Rocks.’ I saw a steady stream of live acts.”

At 16, Zeithaml joined his first band, Starliner, and it wasn’t long before he was playing shows on university campuses and at legendary venues like Chagrin Falls Armory. After graduation from BGSU, Zeithaml moved to Toledo to work as a graphic designer while still playing music. By 1981 he became a founding member of The Exception taking a hiatus from graphic design to play a whopping 250 plus shows a year for the next five years. 

“One of my original songs co-written with singer Liz Presley was selected for Toledo’s Best Rock compilation in 1982 and received extensive local radio airplay,” he said. 

Getting Frijid

After five years of touring, he left the road to continue his graphic design career and, in the late 80’s, joined the NuTones performing 60’s British invasion rock. 

Zeithmal is currently a member of Frijid Pink, which he joined in 2011, and RuKus, which he formed in 2013. “I’m thrilled to be a member of Frijid Pink for 10 years contributing lead guitar, lead vocals, and numerous original songs on two full-length CD’s — Made in Detroit (also available on vinyl), and One the Edge, plus 4. These releases received three Detroit Music Award nominations and entrance into the Michigan Rock Legends Hall of Fame. Frijid is currently working on a new CD. Two of the songs I’ve written, The Music Came Alive and Right or Wrong, have just been mastered by Robin Roberts of the Silver Bullet Band (Bob Seger) and will soon be available for streaming on Spotify.” 

Learn more about Rick by visiting frijidpink.com/bios/rick-zeithaml.

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