Walter Egan may very well hold some kind of Guiness Book World Record for the number of bands he has played in over the course of his 40-year career. Read on, then get on the phone and tell Ringo that it’s time to add a new all-Starr to his roster.
Born in 1948, Walter Egan was raised in the Forest Hills section of Queens, New York, in a household where his mother played Broadway soundtracks on the record player, while his stepfather bopped along to Dixieland jazz. Both parents worked in advertising in midtown Manhattan, so creativity was part of the family culture. An only child, Walter Egan grew up close to his second cousin, Jim, whom he refers to as his twin. “We were born in the same hospital by the same doctor. Jim came to this world 15 minutes after I had made the scene. We grew up living not far apart in Queens and were like brothers to each other.” Friendly competition between the boys spurred their musical inclinations. At 15, Jim got a five-string, longneck Vega “just like Pete Seeger,” prompting boy Walter to pester his parents for his own axe.
That summer, Egan was dragged along to Nantucket Island for vacation with his parents, where he broke up the monotony by making experimental home movies and picking out tunes from memory on the rickety Spinet piano in their rental cabin-including selections from “West Side Story.” Impressed with his ability to play Bernstein by ear, his parents wanted to give him piano lessons, but he put his foot down and parlayed for the guitar. One trip to Schirmer’s Music in Manhattan later, he had that magical first guitar: a six-string Goya F-11, which took both nylon and steel strings. “To this day I remember the aroma of that instrument as I lovingly removed it from its inexpensive case, and that is one great smell. The first song I learned was the old sea chantey “Drunken Sailor” with its glorious D-minor chord.”
Soon, Walter and cousin Jim gave performances at home for family and friends, a step up “. . . from our earlier shows, which had us using red, plastic Mickey Mouse guitars (with Mickey’s likeness as the body of the instrument) and it featured a little crank on the side which would play the Mouse Club Theme.”
Egan joined forces with his best friend from Loyola High School, John Zambetti, who played in a school band called the Moondawgs that specialized in Ventures-style instrumentals. Zambetti urged him to get an electric guitar so that he could join the Moondawgs to make “big money” at the local sock hops. Wisely, Egan’s parents produced a new Fender Stratocaster and a Fender Princeton amp, and Egan joined Zambetti’s new band, the Malibooz-yep, that’s surf music straight outta Queens.