Mike DelGuidice was 15 years old when he started playing Billy Joel’s music, but he never imagined he’d be playing alongside him one day. Growing up on the North Shore, DelGuidice spent a lot of time watching Joel’s Live from Long Island concert video and hanging out in the music room at Miller Place High School where he practiced the songs of Joel, Elton John and Paul McCartney.
…After a few other recording prospects didn’t pan out, the father of four realized he had to do something big musically or get another job to pay the bills. “I was struggling and I had mouths to feed,” said DelGuidice. “So when the tribute thing started to happen on the Island and I heard how well Ants Marching, the Dave Matthews tribute band, was doing, I thought to myself, ‘My God, I’ve been playing Billy Joel my whole life. Maybe I should focus on just doing that and put together a Billy Joel tribute band.’”
Big Shot played its first gig at the Village Pub in Port Jefferson in 2000. With DelGuidice on lead vocals and piano, it drew big crowds from the start. By 2011, some of Big Shot’s members were burnt out from playing over 100 gigs a year. DelGuidice’s solution was to call Billy Joel’s long-time lead guitarist, Tommy Byrnes.
“Billy was off the road so it was a good time to ask guys to play—when they’re hungry and they’re looking for work to keep them fresh,” said DelGuidice. “We knew each other from years ago and Tommy immediately said yes.” Before too long, Joel’s drummer, Chuck Burgi, followed suit and joined Big Shot. Joel’s past and present saxophonists, Richie Cannata and Mark Rivera, and musical director/keyboardist David Rosenthal also play periodically.
Byrnes and Burgi joined regular bassist Nick Dimichino, keyboardist Carmine Giglio and saxophonist John Scarpulla in filling out Big Shot’s lineup and DelGuidice continued to make a living singing songs like “You May Be Right,” “A Matter of Trust,” and the epic “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”
…When Billy Joel decided to do a string of UK shows last year, Byrnes and Rosenthal pitched the idea to have DelGuidice stand-in for Joel at rehearsals. Joel agreed to bring in “Mike from Big Shot” and, three days into the rehearsals at The Paramount, DelGuidice was asked if he had a passport and could play Joel’s catalog on acoustic guitar.
“We rehearsed without Billy for the first three days and the band sounded really tight,” recalled DelGuidice. “When Billy showed up, he asked me to play a little guitar and sing during the rehearsal. Then later that afternoon he asked to talk to me alone. We walked into the back behind the curtain and he asked me to go on the road.”
Read more at Long Island Pulse.