"Secret Samadhi," Live's third and widely anticipated album, hits the record racks today. The buzz in the music industry is that this album will make the four boys from York, Ed Kowalczyk, Chad Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer and Chad Gracey, even bigger names than they already are.
But this is not a story about four rock 'n' roll superstars.
Before the record deals, screaming fans, No. 1 hits and the cover of Rolling Stone, the guys in Live were just William Penn students who played in the high school band by day and practiced in a garage on Newberry Street at night. They were just four boys who loved music and dreamed of success.
This is their story.
Flash back to the year 1985. It all started when Taylor, Dahlheimer and Gracey entered a talent show at Edgar Fahs Smith Middle School and won.
They were good, but they needed one thing: a lead singer. So good friend Kowalczyk joined the group and gave the un-named band a title: Public Affection.
"From the very beginning they had the mindset and determination and the talent to be successful," said Harry Kehler, supervisor of music for York City School district. Kehler was the band director at William Penn when the members of Live were in high school. "I really knew the guys since elementary school. ... They have always been interested in music."
Over the years, most teachers tend to forget the names and faces of their students, but Kehler will never forget his four famous pupils. Kowalczyk was a trumpet player in the marching band, symphonic band and jazz band "one of my top trumpet players," Kehler said. Kowalczyk also was active in the chorus.
"It was interesting. He really achieved in school as a classical singer as well as a pop singer," Kehler said.
Taylor, Live's lead guitarist, played guitar in the jazz band and played trumpet with Kowalczyk in the symphonic band. Gracey, the drummer, played the saxophone, and Dahlheimer played the electric bass in the school band, as he does now for Live.
"They were good musicians, among the best," Kehler said proudly. "They're a good role model for my students now. Kids are just amazed that they went to school here and played in the band."
But they weren't just into music. The William Penn yearbook for 1989, the year the four band members graduated, documents another dimension to the members of Live.
Gracey is photographed kicking a soccer ball, Taylor is singing in the Christmas musical "Joy," Dahlheimer acts goofy on top of a ladder, and a very serious Kowalczyk is wearing glasses and standing with members of the 12th grade honor society.
In the back of the yearbook, seniors listed their goals and dreams. Ed Kowalczyk's goal: "To extend my creative energy to the outer ends of the universe. To share what Public Affection has done with the world."
Chad Gracey: "To make the most of Public Affection and someday be successful and wealthy."
Chad Taylor: "To change the world."
Patrick Dahlheimer: "To be happy."
On page 111 of the yearbook is a dedication to Public Affection accompanied by a band photo. The four, dressed in black, strike classic rock star poses with their hands in their pockets and their sullen faces staring defiantly into the camera's eye.
Brad Stonesifer remembers the day he took that picture. At the time, he was on the school yearbook staff.
"They asked me to take some photos for publicity. So we went to Rocky ridge. They liked to go there," Stonesifer said.
Stonesifer still has his yearbook from 1989. "I know a lot of people that sold theirs," he said.
Those books are a hot commodity with fans now. "But I'd never sell mine," Stonesifer said.
It still amazes him how far his classmates have come since they all graduated.
"Sometimes when my friends and I sit around and talk, we say, "I just can't believe I went to school with these guys.' It's just cool. They deserve their success and everything they have now. They worked so hard in school. They had to go through a lot," Stonesifer said.
One thing they had to go through was working the day job while waiting for stardom.
Colleen Lippy remembers when Kowalczyk and Gracey worked for her as dishwashers at Granfalloons in York. Obviously, Kowalczyk remembers the job as well.
Besides writing songs for Live, Kowalczyk wrote a song for the band the Heads. In it, Kowalczyk sings, "I had a job washing dishes in a sink. It made me rich ..."
"He was always writing songs," said Lippy, who was a kitchen manager. "On breaks, he would go out to a table in the dining room and write music."
Gracey and Kowalczyk were good employees, Lippy said. Gracey was "fun and funny," she said. And Kowalczyk: "He was more cerebral, more serious," Lippy said. "Sometimes he was so deep, I was baffled. I just didn't understand him."
But he wasn't so deep that he wouldn't have fun.
"I remember a few water battles back in the kitchen." Is she surprised that her dishwashers went on to become two of the biggest names in music today? "Not at all. With them, you just knew. They were organized and driven. Even then it was clear. They were something special."
Rich Ruoff, owner of the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, recognized the talent in the four boys from William Penn as well. The band was having a tough time finding gigs in York so they sent a demo tape to Ruoff at the Chameleon.
"Right away, I thought there was something special about them," Ruoff said. "They weren't a great band. Remember, back then, they were just teen-agers. But there was a uniqueness to their music, and that's important to have an original sound."
The band's first show at the Chameleon: Opening up for Hershey band The Ocean Blue. Their pay for that show? Fifty dollars. After that first show, Live built up a relationship with the Chameleon.
"They did 12 shows for me that year. I was booking them more than anyone," Ruoff said. "I was just very impressed with them."
What impressed him the most was their focus on their music.
"A lot of guys, they just get into a band to meet women. They were serious about the music," he said.
Even now, Live remembers the club that gave it its first big break.
"They still come back. They were in my club rehearsing a few weeks ago," Ruoff said.
During rehearsals, Ruoff had a chance to hear the new album.
"It just blew me away," he said. "I think it's going to be the biggest rock 'n' roll record of the year. It will be nominated for numerous Grammy Awards next year. There are songs on that album that you are going to hear for the next 30 years. ... It amazes me that they continue to be so good."