Livin’ on a Dream: The Philly Connection

Header image courtesy of Getty Images/Additional images courtesy Andrew DiCecco

By Andrew DiCecco

As a product of the fighting city of Philadelphia, where no punch is pulled, and respect is earned, I developed a blue-collar work ethic and hardened resolve at an early age.

A wide-eyed child growing up in the suburbs of Norristown, Pennsylvania, my parents fostered an environment that valued hard work, integrity, and respect, preparing me for what would become a decades-long journey to discover my calling in life.

As I look back, my recent endeavors would not have been possible without this upbringing, along with the nurturing I received from my beloved grandparents, who lived in nearby Roxborough. The unwavering support team I had in my corner empowered me to explore my full potential.

But as I forge ahead in my career, I’ve realized that my unrelenting drive, as related to my multifaceted journalism voyage, can also be attributed to a handful of unlikely sources.

During the mid-to-late 1980s, West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip served as a hotbed for both established and budding hard rock acts. Hoards of teens with boundless enthusiasm and delusions of grandeur descended upon the Sunset Strip, hoping to garner a following or play one of L.A.’s premier proving grounds. Sunset Boulevard’s 1.5-mile utopic stretch of venues and activities represented to many the requisite opportunity and optimism for a dream to become a reality. But with so many bands, there was little chance of standing out among the competition in Los Angeles – let alone across the country.

Images courtesy of Getty Images/Andrew DiCecco

On the east coast, Philadelphia-based bands such as Tangier, Cinderella, Britny Fox, and Heavens Edge cultivated their style, attitude, and essence that differentiated them from their Sunset Strip counterparts. These Philly mainstays delivered captivating live performances while conveying a distinct east coast edge and a palpable sense of urgency. The songwriting reigned supreme, as each band prioritized the music over anything else, but synchronized choreography and an impassioned sense of brotherhood were other distinguishing elements. Every member was committed to the cause.

Through playing the local circuit, which included venues such as The Galaxy, Empire Rock Club, Trocadero, J.C. Dobbs, TLA, Dick Lee’s, and Enchante, these bands meticulously refined each aspect of their live performance, amplifying an unparalleled cohesiveness. The approach to every show was as if it were being performed at the legendary Philadelphia Spectrum, preparing them for the grand stages that inevitably awaited.

At a time when there was already an overabundance of contenders out west, to find success and earn an elusive record deal as a hard rock act with east coast roots required unrelenting preparation, commitment, and discipline. Tangier, Cinderella, Britny Fox, and Heavens Edge all shared those defining traits. They had no excuses or complaints about their circumstances; instead, they worked twice as hard to reap the rewards.

Similarly to these Philadelphia rock soldiers, I also took an unconventional path in my field. I was not classically trained in journalism but opted to test the waters at the suggestion of a friend, who was impressed with my understanding and articulation related to specific subject matters. I had to work twice as hard – still do – as my peers. Even though my flair for reporting, interviewing, and storytelling came naturally, my margin for error was so small, given the inexperience, so I had to ensure I perfected my craft to even be considered among a vast pool of qualified prospects.

While many of these bands experienced their all-too-brief moment in the sun well before my time, their influence on my life cannot be overstated. To me, these were larger-than-life figures who defied insurmountable odds to seize their respective opportunities.

Images courtesy of Getty Images/Andrew DiCecco

As a close friend, first-rate human being, and infinitely talented guitarist, I look up to someone like Michael Kelly Smith, who overcame adversity and persevered when many would have folded, leading a successful career with Britny Fox. Michael’s playing often evokes memories of a simpler time in my life and has carried me through some challenging stretches. I’ve learned more from Michael than he’ll ever realize.

At the 2022 M3 Rock Festival, I had the opportunity to witness Heavens Edge guitarist Reggie Wu‘s mastery of the fretboard and vividly recall beaming with pride throughout the band’s 45-minute set. I still get goosebumps when I hear the “Find Another Way” solo. Reggie doesn’t know it, but his indomitable work ethic and optimistic outlook have been a major influence on my career as a journalist. It is surreal for me to see someone I hold in such high regard still doing what he loves and performing at a high level. Reggie is easily one of the most genuine people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with, and I can’t thank him enough for his continued support.

And how about the great Johnny Dee? The former Britny Fox, and current Doro timekeeper, put on a thunderous clinic when I saw him perform on the opening night of the M3 Rock Festival. Truth be told, J.D. is one of the most efficient and technically sound drummers I’ve ever seen live. I even had a chance to chat with Johnny later that weekend, and his infectious energy, attentiveness, and love for drums were apparent moments after we sat down. A legend in my eyes, Johnny’s list of career accomplishments knows no bounds. Much like Reggie, Johnny’s blue-collar work ethic has profoundly affected how I approach my craft.

The list of Philadelphia luminaries is endless, from Mark Evans, Tom Keifer, and Bill Mattson to Steve Parry, Jim Drnec, and the late Tony Destra. Each has inspired me to push forward, find a way, and never be discouraged by obstacles.

Having said all this, I feel it’s important for folks to know where I’ve been and what motivates me to understand where I’m coming from. I’m a Philadelphia guy through and through, and I proudly represent my city everywhere I go. The city of Brotherly Love will always hold a special place in my heart and be a part of my story and DNA. Consequently, I will continue to fly the proverbial flag loud and proud and utilize my platforms to spread awareness about these wonderful bands and artists.

These stories need to be told, and now that I’ve found my calling, I feel it’s my duty to tell them.

Images courtesy of Getty Images/Andrew DiCecco

Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a contributor for and may be reached at

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