It was in Ft Monmouth, NJ, near the movie theatre where a young Bruce Springsteen would later rehearse the E Street Band, that David Minehan was born, a fitting start for a man who would also look to escape the perils of his family of origin and the American despair of the 1970’s.
It was this plight that motivated David to become a world-known writer, guitarist, lead singer and producer. This is the legacy that David would establish and nurture, and he continues this work today.
Early in his life, David’s family would move to Massachusetts — first to Groton, and finally to Upton. This would be the place from where David made his great escape from suburban despair into the hope and ultimate salvation of Rock and Roll.
Like many 1960’s and 1970’s homes, David’s childhood home was filled with the sounds of Elvis, Buddy, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the Stones, and David’s musical lexicon and early repertoire was informed by and consisted of songs by these and later heroes, such as David Bowie and T Rex.
Upton became the home of Starliner, David’s first serious band, of which he was lead guitarist with Joey Frost, lead singer, and musicians Rich Voorhees, Don Oliver and Jim Bowman. The boys played covers of their favorite bands like Aerosmith, Bowie and Led Zeppelin.
Later, drummer Mike Quagila moved to Upton from Boston and became a founding member of the Neighborhoods with David and Jim Bowman. The Neighborhoods moved into Boston after high school graduation to stake their claim as bona fide Rock Stars, arriving at the birth of punk rock and slamming into clubs like the Rat, Cantone’s, the Club, Harpo’s in Newport and anywhere else on the East Coast that Howie Cusack of Pretty Polly Productions could scramble a gig.
The Neighborhoods won the 1979 WBCN Rumble and had a breakout hit single with their song Prettiest Girl and were then playing 200 dates a year nationwide.
After moving 13,000 copies of “Prettiest Girl” independently with local label Ace of Hearts, the ‘Hoods got a deal with EMI and the journey of the next 13 years began as the band crisscrossed the country with support from EMI, foreign record labels, a Miller Genuine Draft sponsorship and the plight-fueled determination of hardcore rock musicians.
The Neighborhoods touring years included opening slots with the Clash and a 21-date tour with David’s idol, David Bowie, for the Tin Machine dates, an unforgettable personal experience for David.
Finally, after releasing a record produced by Brad Whitford of Aerosmith for Warner that the label basically sat on, the band began to wind down and David’s producing and recording skills began to wind up.
David had been producing bands like Scruffy the Cat and Salem 66 during his touring years and would now move more fully into his life as an engineer and producer with the founding of Woolly Mammoth on Boylston Street in the Fenway in 1998. The first several years on Boylston established David as a factor, and included a growing partnership with David Westner, a producer and engineer in his own right, who signed on when David took over former studio 10-Spot in the Boylston space. Clients like Peter Wolf, Henley Douglass, Duke Levine, Kevin Barry, Dave Mattacks and the van Gogh Brothers began to solidify David’s clientele and the rising rents gave rise to another plight.
David established Woolly Mammoth in Waltham in 2006, which has, over 14 years, become a “Holy Grail” studio for regional and national artists. The gear is spectacular, with a wide array of instruments including a grand piano and an amazing floating drum room. Woolly is able to offer top line professional tech in an inviting, bohemian space filled with legit Rock Star ambiance.
But wait, there’s more! In ’93, as the ‘Hoods wound down, David auditioned for and scored a gig with Paul Westerberg for a year-long North American and European tour and included appearances on SNL and Jools Holland’s show. This experience, as David puts it, “opened many doors.”
It also opened the door to David’s work with the Replacements, which included a headline slot at Coachella in 2014, a Late Night appearance with co-host Keith Richards and a vocal-sharing tour leg with Billy Joe Armstrong as Paul recovered from an injury.
And, as fate would have it, David would fill in with Aerosmith for Brad Whitford on a tour of Japan.
So now, David has worked with many of his early idols—Bowie, Keith, Aerosmith, Paul Westerberg, Joe Strummer and others, many of whom remain friends. When I ask David about his most memorable experiences in music, he talks about meeting Keith Richards twice (once in Boston for the Expensive Winos and once on Late Night) and how present, humble and kind he was. He speaks similarly of Bowie, who shared the Neighborhoods’ van for a day trip to Tijuana where they visited tourist sights and had dinner before driving back. David describes Bowie as, “a gentleman- an unpretentious, enthusiastic, curious human. I can’t believe I got to know him.”
And the Neighborhoods continue their legacy with Lee Harrington and John Lynch, having released a new record, Last Known Address, in late 2019. David looks forward to continuing all of his work in music, and adding a solo album to the mix as he goes.
I would have to say that, after working with David myself since 2003, his description of David Bowie describes his own character to a “T.” David is truly a gem in the crown of Boston’s Rock and Roll royalty.
David and his wife, Judy Grunwald, former lead singer and writer for Salem 66, have 2 daughters, Natalie and Sylvia, and live in the greater Boston area.
(by John Cate)