Never got to see Sublime? Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime has been channeling Sublime since 2001 – and they are at The Boathouse in Myrtle Beach this Sunday! Check out my Q&A with drummer and co-founder Scott Begin, which just posted on The Sun News companion site, Myrtle Beach Life.

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Sunday, The Boathouse Waterway Bar & Grill hosts Badfish: A tribute to Sublime as part of its 2017 Summer Concert Series.

Badfish_PressPhoto_2016_boat

Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime has been active since 2001, dedicated to playing the music of Sublime and building an impressive fan base along the way – some of which never got the chance to see Sublime.

Just two months after Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell’s untimely death from a heroin overdose in 1996, the band experienced considerable success with its third album, Sublime. That album hit number 13 on the Billboard 200, and the song, “What I Got,” became a number one hit single – and other well-known songs like “Santeria” and “Wrong Way” came from that album as well.

But without the presence of its lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, the writing was on the wall. Sublime was to be Sublime’s final album.

Badfish, not to be confused with the Southern California-based band of the same name, has been channeling the spirit of Sublime since its inception in Rhode Island 16 years ago, with no sign of letting up.

Badfish drummer and co-founder Scott Begin spoke with The Sun News by telephone last week.

Q: Do you guys still live in Rhode Island?

A: The bass player [Joel Hanks] and I live in Rhode Island. The singer [Pat Downes] lives in Hawaii. Dorian [Duffy – keys, guitars, samples] lives in Chicago. We’re kind of all over the place, but as much as we have a home base, Rhode Island is it.

Q: I read that you were computer science majors at the University of Rhode Island. Can you give us a rundown on this? How did Badfish come together?

A: Just [Joel Hanks] and myself were the computer nerds. He and I met in classes right here at the University of Rhode Island. It was the type of thing where – not to generalize, but I think a lot of the people in those majors or fields of study tend to be less inclined to do something like play music. They’re pretty much in front of a computer screen.

Joel and I were more like, “yeah, this is cool and we like the computer stuff,” but we also were musicians too and this was a passion of ours – so we realized that we had that in common. We just started to develop the idea of trying to put together a Sublime tribute show – which is really all it was at the inception of this whole thing – and see how it goes.

We loved Sublime. All of our friends loved Sublime, and there were no bands doing that then. We put on a show at our local beach bar here, and it went really well – and then we said why don’t we keep doing this once a month or here or there – and try to branch out.

Between 2001 and 2003, things started to snowball, and the next thing you know, we’re graduating. I worked for maybe a year in the programming field until Joel and I said we can keep ourselves busy enough to continue to keep this ball rolling – and maybe I am playing drums now for a living instead of sitting in front of a computer screen.

And that’s how it all went down.

Q: How do you capture the essence of Sublime?

A: We never got a chance to see Sublime – but just being so in touch with them by playing their music over the years, we always try to bring a show that we feel has the energy and the vibe of that a Sublime show would have been.

There are cover bands all around the country that play other people’s music. To any music fan, it’s clear when a band is sort of phoning it in. You can tell. But the songs themselves are not difficult. It’s not like we are playing progressive rock – so what you have to do then is not to just play the chords and sing the lyrics, but you need to project a vibe that feels authentic. By way of enjoying Sublime’s music so much – and having the crowd sing all of the words back to you – it’s a really cool synergy in a show. We feel like it’s a really cool, authentic experience.

And it’s honest, what we play. It has enabled us to keep going. We really have a passion for it.

Q: You guys are playing up and Eastern Seaboard until September, with some interesting stops, including The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J., and something called the Garden Grove Festival in Southwick, Mass. The festival seems like an anchor for Badfish. What is that all about?

A: A few years back, we had done a few of those Garden Grove Festivals. We’re trying to kind of build the festival. It’s sort of Sublime-themed, with bands that we are friends with and kind of have a Sublime vibe to them.

The idea sort of got shelved for a little bit, but we’re trying to resurrect it right now. There have been some new bands that we played with since then that just really incredible bands – part of a really great scene, and we really want to get this idea kicking again.

Q: Is this your first Boathouse show?

A: We have done at least twice already at The Boathouse. Maybe we have even done three. We will do House of Blues at different times of the year. The Boathouse is always a free show, it’s always on a Sunday, and it’s a really cool hang right there. It’s always a really, really fun gig.

Q: Are you actively involved in the bookings anymore?

A: We work in conjunction with a booking agency out of L.A., but we are pretty hands-on when it comes to the booking stuff. It’s not so much that we just say go ahead and book us a tour. We’re actively involved in making decisions about how often we play, where we play – and how long we are away from home.

Q: Since you have been at House of Blues Myrtle Beach and The Boathouse, you are no strangers to the Grand Strand. Do you guys have a rabid fan base here?

A: I think that we do.

Q: So you are well-received down here?

A: Yeah. I think we started playing at House of Blues 10 years ago at least. Maybe even 12 years ago. We played a couple of smaller spots around town, but it’s been pretty consistent with people coming out to check us out. We see a lot of familiar faces when we are out there – people that have been coming for years and years, so there has definitely been that good core of rabid fans, I guess. And you always meet some people who say, “this is the first time we saw you, and we really enjoyed it” – so that’s encouraging as well.

Q I am sure you have the superfans too – the ones who know more about Badfish than you do.

A: Oh yeah – we do. Sometimes it’s pretty surprising.  People tell me where we are going to be playing in four months – and I’m like, “I’m glad you know because I don’t.” It’s wonderful to have fans like that.

Q: Did you get a chance to poke around here and experience the fabled Southern Hospitality? Or do you just stick and move?

A lot of times, it’s, in town – do the show – and get out of town. I’d say more than Myrtle Beach, we probably spent a little more time in Charleston. I feel like we’ve had a few days off there where we’ve been able to kind of get out – walk around – get some good food. That’s one of our favorite spots too, and it’s got that kind of vibe – that southern hospitality kind of vibe.

[Badfish is scheduled to play The Windjammer in Isle of Palms with Sun Dried Vibes on June 26.]

Q: What about the younger fans –the people that didn’t get a chance to see Sublime? Does it surprise you to see young faces at the show?

A: It doesn’t surprise me in the sense that we do. I feel like it’s more spread out now than it was when the band started. When it started, it was just college-aged kids – like people that were fans of Sublime. But now those people – myself included – have gotten older, and what’s happening with Sublime is that it has sort of gotten passed down through the generations – or through the generation, I guess.

We see a larger spread of ages now, and it’s really cool to see how the legacy of Sublime has sort of meandered through the fandom to really illustrate what kind of a band Sublime was. They had this unique thing going on. I can liken it to kind of a Grateful Dead thing where they have a cult following. They might have had a couple of radio hits, but they still have a following that gets passed down as younger people get turned on to it. It keeps us busy.

Q: The mantle has kind of fallen on you guys now, 16 years in.

A: We have been lucky enough to get sort of the unofficial blessing from people that were involved with Sublime. Bradley’s wife was at a show in Anaheim – and she was onstage, rocking out with us. A couple of the horn players that have played with Sublime have sat in with us and have even done little tours with us.

I feel that we have always tried to be respectful to Sublime’s legacy. We try to bring the best show we can bring. If people consider that we are kind of carrying the torch, we don’t want to let them down.

Q: What are future plans for the band?

A: The plan is just kind of just keep it trucking. We’re working on a few different things with these outdoor festivals that we are going to try to build. A few of those that we have done for many years have done well, but we’d like to try to make a couple more big events happen. Otherwise, we have our spots that we love to go to and that love having us back – like Myrtle Beach and so many other places between here and there and around the country. We’re just going to stay the course and keep going for it.

I look forward to being at the Boathouse and doing some day drinking.

As part of my work on author and speaker Jeff Yalden’s creative team – I’ve been blogging about The BOOM Podcast as episodes come up. Hope you enjoy:

BOOM Podcast Logo

Many know Michael Oher from his football career – he now plays offensive tackle for the Carolina Panthers – and from the Oscar-winning film, The Blind Side. At 6’ 4” and 315 pounds, he’s hard to miss.

For Oher, it all started at Ole MissThe University of Mississippi – and its legendary NCAA Division I football program.

When Richie Contartesi walked on to the practice field at Ole Miss, he was 5’7” and tipped the scales at 155 pounds. By an awesome twist of fate, he was given one chance – and one chance only – to prove himself.

In classic “feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway” fashion, Contartesi made the team and became an Ole Miss Rebel – eventually garnering a full SEC scholarship to the University of Mississippi.

Yalden - Contartesi

In the ensuing years, Contartesi became an in-demand public speaker, with a focus on kicking off and closing conferences. He is also the bestselling author of In Spite of the Odds: A True Inspirational Journey from Walk-on to Full Scholarship at Ole Miss.

Reader Pat Canuso had this to say about the book in an Amazon review:

“Reading In Spite of the Odds was like watching the movie Rudy, but with a machine gun.”

Youth motivational speaker and Amazon bestselling author Jeff Yalden hosted Contartesi in the third episode of his BOOM Podcast.

“Richie and I have a relationship that goes back a couple of years now, and I knew from the beginning that he was going to do some epically awesome stuff,” Yalden said, adding that he helped Contartesi get into the speaking market and mentored him from the very beginning.

Contartesi grew up in Palm Beach, Fl., where there was a lot of competition for Division 1 and Division II scholarships. And he was already at a perceived disadvantage because of his size. But he said he was lucky enough to attend a new high school in his sophomore year.

“There was not as much competition, [and that] gave me the opportunity to touch the field as a sophomore. I got to learn a lot early on,” Contartesi said.

By the time he was a junior, he said he could play because he knew what was expected – and he was able to outsmart some of what he called the talent just from experience.

But he hit a major snag in his senior year. A broken ankle sidelined him, and the colleges that were looking at him about potential scholarships fell by the wayside.

Contartesi shared his story on the BOOM Podcast – how he had a chance to play at Jacksonville University, a non-scholarship school – but redshirted his first year. The next year didn’t go well either, after a change in coaching staff.

“He took a look at my size without really getting a chance to see me play, and basically just cut me from the team,” he said.

He had a decision to make: Hang up his cleats and quit, or continue to follow his dream of playing Division I football.

He resolved to keep going, putting together a spreadsheet of 119 Division I schools, including phone numbers and the names of the head coaches.  Contartesi picked up the phone and started dialing. Most conversations didn’t last more than 30 seconds, especially when he got to the height and weight question. But he kept grinding.

A silver lining appeared when he found out that a man by the name of Kyle Strongin was interning with the Ole Miss football program. Strongin, who eventually became director of football operations at the University of Mississippi, went on to work for the San Francisco 49ers and is now coordinator of football operations with the University of Tennessee.

Contartesi said he built a relationship with Strongin when he was 12 years old, and Strongin also coached Contartesi’s football team in high school.

“He saw my character, leadership and playing style. Because of the relationship I built with him, I called him and said, ‘Hey man – can I play football at Ole Miss and can you help me get in?’”

Strongin told him that if there was one person that he would help get in, it would be Contartesi. This was three weeks before school started and way past the admissions deadline.

“He was able to get me in academically, and was going to give me one shot – one try,” he said.

In this episode of The BOOM Podcast, Yalden and Contartesi talk about the importance of overcoming fear and self-doubt, while holding fast to perseverance – pursuing an important goal with bulldog tenacity.

Contartesi mentioned studies that show only three percent of Americans write down their goals, and uncovered an interesting correlation.

“When I was playing [youth] football, my coach said to me that only three percent of high school football players play Division I football,” he said. “When I was studying about goals and the fact that only three percent write them down – the same three percent get whatever they want in life. They live a lifestyle by design, and do what they want to do every single day.”

Powerful stuff.

“I wasn’t the given size. I wasn’t the most talented. I wasn’t the fastest, but I pushed myself into the top three percent by always putting myself in the position to be successful – by getting there early and leaving late – working with coaches, being in the film room every day – being in the weight room as much as I could, and doing everything I could that was humanly possible every day. It wasn’t given to me, because I didn’t have all of those other gifts.”

In this episode of The BOOM podcast, you will discover Contartesi’s empowering views on healthy competition and how to find the fire within yourself, and more.

Yalden and Contartesi work together in the youth speaking market and speak often on leadership, character and resilience, but they have a great relationship and help each other out – the exact opposite of cutthroat tactics and self-preservation. For them, it’s all about service.

“Healthy competition is when you are secure with who you are – and you want to see other people grow and succeed as well. I think that’s awesome,” Yalden said.

Contartesi’s daily routine involves affirmations, personal development study and a few minutes of meditation and regular workouts. He utilizes a vision board and a goals spreadsheet, taking the main specific goals and writing them down on a Post-It note every day.

He also uses a task management app called Todoist.

Yalden mentioned that Contartesi’s routine was like a customized version of the principles laid out in Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning.

Contartesi is currently implementing the principles laid out in the Dale Carnegie classic, How to Win Friends & Influence People.

Both Yalden and Contartesi are huge proponents of self-discipline, and Contartesi  laid out his three-point plan to bring the BOOM and make a huge impact in a person’s life.

  • Build Relationships/Find a Mentor
  • Overcome Fear
  • Be Persistent

Yalden closed this episode with an admonition for folks to put down the cell phone and make that face-to-face interaction.

“Come out of your shell,” he said. “Recognize fear. Overcome it. Feel it. Crush it and go through it. We all experience fear, but you have to learn to overcome it,” he said.

And never forget the value of persistence.

“Richie talks about the football analogy of giving it everything you have,” he said, adding a shout out to entrepreneurs: “Wake up and give it everything you have – every single day.”

For more about Richie Contartesi, go HERE.

Learn all about Jeff Yalden HERE.

To listen to this episode of The BOOM Podcast, click HERE.

For more of The BOOM Podcast, point and click HERE.

Grab your copy of BOOM! One Word to Instantly Inspire Action, Deliver Rewards, and Positively Affect Your Life Every day, click HERE.

This month, Kevin Kline won the Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his performance in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter.

My daughter took me to see Present Laughter at the St. James Theatre in New York over Memorial Day weekend.

 

As some of you know, I was captivated by Coward when I was a young man – read everything there was to read by him and about him. I had plays, records, diaries, biographies, memoirs. You name it.

Coward even inspired me to smoke cigarettes. That was a bad idea. I switched to vape three years ago.

Through July 2, Kline stars in the lead role of Garry Essendine, one that Coward – AKA “The Master” – brought to life in all his self-absorbed glory in 1942.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I spent an amazing long weekend in New York City with my equally amazing daughter, Taylor. What started out as a casual comment from Taylor – the fact that she had three days off and it would be great if I could finally come to see her – turned into an impromptu trip that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Rog and Tay NY Skyline

I’m 53, and this was the first time I had ever been there.

There isn’t a good reason why I’d never been. I had entertained romantic thoughts of driving across the country when I was 18, taking jobs along the way and ultimately winding up in the Big Apple. Who didn’t at that age. But I know myself then as I know myself now – not much, mind you – but that trip wasn’t about to happen.

The ensuing decades enabled me to build up a solid repertoire of misconceptions about New York and New Yorkers. You know the stereotypes – like, watch it or you will surely get mugged in Times Square (holdover from the seedy 1970s) – or that New Yorkers are rude, impatient and always in a hurry. I know so many New Yorkers who are not those things at all. Why would it be different on their turf?

Rog Times Square

Billy Joel bragging about walking through Bedford-Stuyvesant alone in “You May Be Right” kind of worried me because that’s exactly where my daughter lives, although she doesn’t have a motorcycle and probably wouldn’t ride it in the rain if she did.

My imagination couldn’t quite make out what “The City” would really be like – the sights and sounds glamorized in movies and television – and the music – the litany of bright lights, big city stuff – the hustle and bustle – the “if-I-can-make-it-there-I’ll-make-it-anywhere,” mantra.

And the other New York, New York (On the Town) line, “The People ride in a hole in the ground,” made me wonder what the subways were all about.

Somehow, riding the London Underground and for that matter, the Los Angeles subway (Metro Red Line) made me think the subway experience in New York couldn’t be much different. How about the touring companies performing the myriad Broadway shows I caught at the now-defunct Shubert Theatre or the Music Center, or the Pantages Theatre in L.A. – could the Broadway experience really be much different?

Roger NY Library

And could a simple slice of pizza really be any better there?

And how was everything connected – the boroughs, the layout? The reality had to be different from my imagined version.

The thought of setting foot where the unspeakable tragedy of 911 happened was also a bit surreal, chilling, and profoundly sad.

 

And, finally, I was about to take it all in.

From the moment I got off the plane at JFK, I could feel the energy.

Over the next three days, Taylor and I relied on the trains and walked our asses of – and I am surprised at the sheer amount of ground we covered. Taylor gave me truly immersive experience, and with the exception of an excellent leisurely breakfast at place where she used to work, an outstanding French-American restaurant and café in Brooklyn called French Louie (where she reconnected with her friends and coworkers and I could feel the love), we relied on lighter, faster fare in the form of tuna melts from a bodega on her block in Bed-Stuy, a couple of slices of pizza on her block, bagels and an interesting culinary oddity from a place called Sushirrito – and more.

I am still a bit overwhelmed by the trip – and I wanted to get something down in this blog to get started, but I think this deserves multiple posts.

I think it’s fair to say that I will never be quite the same after this trip – and now, in the limited time I was there – I have been there, done that.

But I am struck with how well my daughter is doing up there, putting that College of Charleston communication degree to work, currently at an awesome advertising agency called SpotCo – specializing in theatre, and more specifically the branding of many leading productions.

Taylor has really gotten to know the lay of the land, has awesome roommates, and doesn’t appear to take any shit from anyone.

Thanks for the advice, kid – but I can’t help saying hello to strangers.

I will always remember our long weekend in “The City,” but spending time with Taylor was priceless!

I’m so stoked to be a part of Jeff Yalden’s creative team.

Here’s a recent blog post from Jeff’s site.

In tandem with the release of his Amazon bestseller, BOOM! One Word to Instantly Inspire Action, Deliver Rewards, and Positively Affect Your Life Every Day, author and speaker Jeff Yalden has launched his BOOM Podcast – the perfect companion to bring the BOOM into your life, reinforcing the principles laid out in his life-changing book and digs even deeper, featuring people who have implemented the BOOM in their lives as well.

BOOM Cover Hal Elrod Endorsement

A leading youth motivational and mental health speaker for more than two decades, Yalden has addressed more than 4000 teen audiences in all 50 states, every province in Canada and 49 countries including Singapore and Vietnam.

His message has always been hard-hitting, bringing a world of actionable principles to the table and inspiring his audiences to take personal responsibility in all areas of their lives.

And now he has taken these principles and given them life in his book and in his podcast.

In this inaugural episode, Jeff explains with astonishing honesty and self-reflection where the BOOM comes from, what it means to him and why he decided to write the book.

“It’s pretty simple,” he said. “In this first episode, I want to come clean and give you guys a sense of where I have come from to where I am now, and how the BOOM really impacts everything I do.”

As he talked about in the book, coming to his BOOM moment involved a series of major setbacks that could have stopped him in his tracks, or worse.

About four years ago, Jeff went through a divorce which ended a 14-year marriage. Instead of placing the blame on anybody else, he went straight to the mirror and asked himself tough questions, coming to the realization that his mental health issues were much more severe than he thought them to be at the time.

Jeff was pre-diabetic and putting on weight. He said he knew what to do and what to eat, but was basically ignoring the warning signs.

“All of a sudden I was a full-fledged diabetic, but I still didn’t pay attention,” he said.

He vividly recalls the time he went to his parents’ house, physically exhausted and mentally drained and with his diabetes flaring up.

“I told them I felt like I was going to die and I didn’t want to die alone. They gave me some orange juice and something to eat, and I went home a few hours later.”

But his parents intervened that night. Jeff’s dad came to his house, woke him up, and called an ambulance for him. Jeff was a mess. His triglycerides were a jaw-dropping 2784, his blood sugar over 500 and his A1C level was 15.5.

“My endocrinologist said to me that at any moment something catastrophic was going to happen,” he said, adding that even despite these serious warning signs, he still didn’t make the necessary changes, citing his grueling speaking and travel schedule as a deterrent to a healthy lifestyle.

And that’s not all by any means. He endured a spinal cord fusion because of a CrossFit injury and was immobilized for six weeks.

“I couldn’t speak for almost four months and I ended up having a mental breakdown. My diabetes was flaring up and my depression got worse. I wanted to give up, and I did,” he said.

He quit speaking and got a 9-to-5 job, thinking at the time that he just wanted to have what he calls a normal job.

He packed up his office – his life – into cardboard boxes: Computer, fax machine, mementos, awards – even his varsity letters and photos – essentially getting rid of everything near and dear.Yalden Pic2

But something awesome began to happen when he started going back to counseling once a week.

“When I walked in there, I was emotionally broken. I was not the Jeff Yalden that many of you know. We started at the beginning and built a toolbox, and I began rewarding myself for small victories.”

As a result of building this toolbox, Jeff eventually made the decision to go home and restore his office and get back to doing what he loves.

This was his first BOOM moment.

Jeff also started taking care of himself – including a gastric sleeve surgery that might well have saved his life.

“That was something I needed to do for me, and when I did do it – it was like – BOOM! That was the reward. I don’t have to let my weight be something that monopolizes my every waking thought anymore. I am down 80 pounds. I am free of diabetes. I brought the BOOM into my life. I celebrate with the BOOM every single day.”

Jeff Yalden has come back stronger than ever, reestablishing his place among the best of the best.

“The BOOM is about you taking responsibility. The BOOM is about you saying, ‘I can do this.’ And the BOOM is about rewarding yourself for your accomplishments and little victories. Remember: Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

To listen to the BOOM Podcast, click HERE.

The BOOM will change your life. Grab this Amazon bestseller now by clicking HERE.

Join the BOOM Facebook community HERE.

When I first met Jeff Yalden, he was the GM of a business called Title Boxing Club here in Myrtle Beach, which had just opened. I was there to cover the business for a fitness slot in The Sun News.

Yalden greeted me with a firm handshake.  A big, tattooed guy –  6’1” and 320 pounds at that time [he has since lost more than 80 pounds] with 20-inch arms – my first thought was biker or weightlifter.  Little did I know then that I had just met North America’s number one youth motivational speaker.

Yalden Pic1

Photo Courtesy Jeff Yalden

Yalden has enjoyed an incredible 25-year career as a public speaker, addressing more than 4000 audiences in all 50 states, every province in Canada and 49 countries including Singapore and Vietnam.

During that first meeting with him, he showed me his website and talked about just having returned from a trip to Indiana, where teen suicides were running rampant – and I got the vibe that this was a man who cared deeply. I never forgot that meeting.

I was supposed to talk to Jeff again the following week, but when I got to the facility, I was told that he no longer worked there. I found that odd, but completed my fitness story without him.

Meanwhile, I had become friends with Yalden on Facebook – and I saw that his stint at Title Boxing came during a period when he was seriously considering giving up public speaking. In fact, he had been going through health issues, including a spinal cord fusion – and so much as announced that he was retiring from speaking.

But something changed, and I saw that Yalden was about to head to Vietnam to speak to 65 teenagers there as part of a youth team-building program. Intrigued, I looked him up again and found out that he had also appeared on MTV’s “Made,” appearing as a teen life coach.

Yalden’s retirement from speaking didn’t last long, and from where I’m sitting, that’s excellent. His message is too strong.

Jeff Doing His Thing in Texas

Since personal profiles are my specialty, I approached Jeff after his return from Vietnam about a Sun News feature, and he graciously accepted. That story ran last August, and I’m including it below.

The following is a testament to opportunities coming “out of the blue.” In late January, Jeff asked me if I would be willing to do some blogging for him. Remembering that initial meeting, the story that followed, and the fact that I am totally down with his message – of course I took the opportunity immediately.

In the ensuing months, I have been working with Jeff – blogging on both of his sites, www.jeffyalden.com and www.jeffyaldenblog.com. I enjoy the work – but not a post goes by where I haven’t learned something about life.

Something about the man struck a chord, and one of the standout things is that he served as a Marine. I think that anchor was awesome, because when we first spoke, my son had just enlisted and was at Parris Island, beginning his own journey as a Marine at the time.

Life can sometimes surprise a person by opening doors, and a quote attributed to Seneca sums this up best: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

I’m thrilled to be working with Jeff. More to come.

Here’s my Sun News Story about Jeff from last August:

Local Man Imparts Core Values, Life Skills to Youth Across the Globe

Jeff Yalden recently returned from Vietnam, traveling far afield from his home base in Myrtle Beach last month to participate in youth leadership training in Ho Chi Minh City.

It’s all in a day’s work for Yalden, 45, who has been a sought-after youth motivational and mental health speaker for more than two decades.  He has addressed more than 4000 teen audiences in all 50 states, every province in Canada and 49 countries including Singapore and now Vietnam.

Over the three-day engagement, he spoke to 65 teenagers.

“I was honored to go. My dad served in Vietnam, and suffers from the work that he had to do. I felt it was a good opportunity to go serve with a different purpose and in a different way,” he said.

While in Vietnam, Yalden worked closely with a translator.

“It was a challenge because you can’t really get into passion and emotion because you have to stop every couple of sentences so that it can be translated.”

Anyone who has ever seen Yalden speak can vouch for his passion. His style is hard-hitting and heartfelt – made more memorable by the fact that his message is emanating from a 6’1”, 320-pound tattooed frame with 20-inch arms and eliciting emotional responses running the gamut from laughter to tears.

He said he has been invited back for two more dates in Vietnam, and his father was invited as well to give him a better memory of the country.

“The kids were amazing. They are very disciplined and smart,” he said, adding that many of them are keeping in touch with him through Facebook.

Yalden Vietnam

Yalden in Vietnam – Courtesy Jeff Yalden

Yalden, who grew up on Long Island, NY, said his work is a good fit for him because his troubles started when he was 16.

“We moved to New Hampshire and I was a junior in high school. I never really opened my eyes to the possibilities of life after high school – and therefore I think my attitude needed to be adjusted.”

He had a learning disability, a facial tic and a stutter – and his self-esteem suffered tremendously.

He took the SATs twice, receiving very low scores – but he applied to 19 colleges and was accepted by three of them. Still, he was too afraid to attend because of a crushing sense of inadequacy. Instead, he joined the Marine Corps, which instilled in him core values like teamwork and self-reliance, as well as confidence and structure – just the tools he needed to start turning things around.

But he spiraled into depression after a relationship went bad and was hospitalized, displaying suicidal tendencies.

When he was honorably discharged from the Marines, Yalden had an epiphany of sorts, realizing once for all that he was solely responsible for his destiny – and he began to make transformative changes that ultimately led to his public speaking.

Yalden is still in therapy, having recently been diagnosed with major depression, bipolar II disorder and PTSD, but thankfully none of this impacts his speaking programs.

“I think I am most healthy when I am with my audience,” he said, adding that the reason he likes working with youth is because he is able to answer the commonly asked questions from high school students – and he still relates to them.

“I think I still go through it,” he said. “I often say that speakers speak about what they most need to learn.”

His work is often a journey of discovery on a very personal level, and Yalden puts it all out there, bringing a very definite authenticity to his messages – and he said he comes from a clinical approach when he is speaking.

Yalden - Merrimack Assembly

Assembly, Merrimack, NH – Courtesy Jeff Yalden

“It’s about not reacting, but responding – so you teach people that when something triggers an emotion, you want to give them the tools to be able to respond. Reacting can get them into trouble.”

And this helps him to deal with his bipolar II disorder as well, because he says certain triggers will want to set him off periodically.

“I have to work on that too, and I’m kind of like ‘OK, remember what you talked about. That’s what you’ve got to do.’”

This can be likened to a physician who benefits from his own medicine.

Yalden is also a certified suicide prevention trainer and has authored several books: Your Life Matters, They Call Me Coach, Keep It Simple, 20 Ways to Keep It Simple and Traits of a Leader.

Although he said he does not consider teen suicide to be an epidemic, he thinks it’s greater now than it has ever been and for a number of reasons including bullying and cyber-bullying. But sometimes parents tend to make things way too easy for their children. He calls them “lawnmower parents.”

“These parents want to go and cushion everything for the kids to make them feel like maybe they can live their lives over through their kids,” he said. “They don’t want the kids to suffer and they want to be able to give them what the parents never had – or do everything for them. I think these parents are telling their kids, ‘You can do anything in life. Life is not that hard and I will protect you.”

This perhaps sets up false expectations about adult life, which is loaded with challenges, adversity and many red herrings along the way.

“I also think the expectations are great and that teenage life is not what it is all cracked up to be. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations – all of these test scores and trying to get acceptance and fit in – so it’s a combination of everything.”

Add the fact that kids are now “on” 24/7 – with a dizzying array of online options, apps and social media – keeping them under the scrutiny of their peers – and many young people have adopted an entitlement mentality.

“When something hard comes along, a lot of kids don’t have coping or problem-solving skills,” he said.

His advice to parents is to allow their children to struggle and find the courage within themselves to find their way through.

“It’s going to be OK, but this if life: Paying your rent, paying your mortgage. Losing a job, finding a job. Life is hard. When you get knocked down seven times, you get up eight.”

If there are mental health issues at play, Yalden encourages young people to open up.

“Never be afraid to ask for help,” he said.

Yalden appeared as a teen life coach on the MTV reality show, “Made,” in a season 12 episode called “The Comedian.”

“I spent six weeks in Minneapolis, Minnesota with an amazing young lady [Alyssa Williams] that we had to help graduate from high school and find purpose and direction in her life – and we are still friends today.”

Williams’ episode was about her attempts to break into comedy.

“MTV was probably the biggest impact on my career,” he said.

The fact that Yalden overcame a stutter and became a public speaker speaks volumes about his tenacity – and this should embolden other stutterers to take heart.

“In public speaking, I think you learn to annunciate your words better,” he said. “You are also telling a story – and sometimes when you are telling stories, you put yourself in another character – and I think that helps.”

Yalden is currently recovering from a CrossFit injury that required a spinal cord fusion.

“This year has been the hardest year of my life,” he said. “I am just getting back to feeling healthy again with my body – and I think I am a completely different person today than I have ever been. I am more present as a speaker, more present as a person – and I think I am operating less on ego and more on what my heart is really telling me I love to do.”

This is not lost on his clients, including John Trombetta, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week/Foundation for Free Enterprise Education.

“Jeff and I have known each other for approximately 10 years,” he said. “When another speaker of ours could not make a date he was scheduled for, Jeff very kindly altered his vacation route to Tennessee and stood in for him.”

He said Yalden was so impressed with the students and the week-long intensive summer program, which teaches young people about the American free enterprise system, that he has continues to speak there each summer, free of charge.

“He believes so much in our mission and, of course, has dedicated his life to young people,” said Trombetta, adding that his organization is blessed to have many speakers who connect extremely well with young people, but Yalden has a unique ability to forge a very special connection with his audience.

“Many youth motivational speakers use entertainment and humor to connect with their audiences and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Jeff himself uses an edgy humor occasionally but it is his ability to communicate how much he genuinely cares about each of their lives individually that I think gives him a unique ability to connect one-on-one with students in an audience of thousands. He is captivating rather than being simply entertaining.”

He added that Yalden’s heart is as big as the man himself.

“His devotion to youth is not just about collecting a fee, it is about changing lives and he lives it, not only when he is doing his professional gigs, but also in the quiet moments of his personal life. He is continually reflecting on how he can better serve young people. That is rare.”

Trombetta also cited the fact that Yalden is open about what he called his emotional scars and traumas.

“Rather than allow those to cripple him in any way, he has used and harnessed them to develop a message and style specifically to prevent young people from experiencing some of the things he has. His love for young people and caring about them individually is simply inspiring.”

He watches Yalden after every talk.

“He will sit for literally hours, spending as much time with each young person individually as necessary to hear their story and offer them his advice and often his shoulder. I’ve never seen any other speaker of the hundreds that I have known so willing to personally invest himself or herself in each and every life they encounter.”

Kevin Gentilcore, supervisor of Pupil Services at Bucks County Technical High School in Pennsylvania said that his school has invited Yalden to speak to its seniors for the past four or five years.

“He’s been outstanding,” he said. “Jeff combines straight talk, personal experience, a great sense of humor and excellent storytelling skills. He speaks to the kids in their own language and they really relate to him. In the students’ parlance, he ‘keeps it real.’”

Gentilcore said that what he likes best about Yalden is that he is an authentically caring human being.“We had a few tragedies at our school in the past few years and Jeff took it upon himself to reach out to the students involved through [social media], which he didn’t have to do. He has a good heart, and that comes across in his presentation.”

He added that he and his colleagues like to have Yalden speak to their seniors early in the year.

“He motivated them to give their all in the final year and to make good decisions asthey prepare for their future after high school.”

Yale Brothers by Buzz Berry

[Above photo: Buzz Berry]

Thursday marked the final performance of The Yale Brothers‘ winter engagement at House of Blues Myrtle Beach – in all, 22 shows from 5:30-8 p.m in an intimate setting on the stage inside the restaurant.

After committing to the gig as a solo act, my brother Chris agreed to join me on these. I couldn’t have been happier, figuring this as a good way to hone our craft weekly in the same room, and cultivating our audience as we went along.

[Above performance photos: Rob Grindstaff]

Chris still gives me a hard time about the fact that the marketing promos and menus were printed with my name only – but deadlines are deadlines – and hopefully all was forgiven when he saw that The Yale Brothers appeared on the electronic marquee out on U.S. 17.

Yale Brothers HOB Sign

The cool thing about this gig was that we were able to deliver a combination of thoughtful covers as well as originals. This is always ideal, so in addition to great stuff by Faces, Elton John, Tom Petty, Radiohead and Johnny Cash, for instance, we enjoyed introducing our material – songs like Chris’ “Famous Last Words,” “Roll Away the Stone” and “Castaway” to my twisted ballad, “It’s Not Love” and Stax/Volt soul-inspired “Is That What It Is.”


Here’s our cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” [Video: Brendan Wright Images]

Many of our friends came out to see us – some more than once, and for that we are grateful. That was above and beyond. We also made the rounds of the tables and introduced ourselves to people who just happened to be in there for a meal or a drink – and made new friends.

The vibe at House of Blues is unmatched, and the kindness and camaraderie we enjoyed with staffers was astonishing. Thank you all for making us a part of the family.

[Above: Chris with Show Marketing Manager Megan Ramhoff / Brand Marketing Manager Dawn Temples Knopf kicking off a Hopped Up Tap Takeover]

Moving forward, The Yale Brothers plan on writing and recording, playing select shows – and finally getting our podcast up and running.

Stay tuned for details about next winter.

Yale Brothers HOB Water Tower

roger-with-casey-king-and-danny-trejo

(With Casey King and Danny Trejo. Photo: Gene Ho)

On Sunday, February 12, The Sun News published my profile of professor Casey King, founder of the Horry-Georgetown Technical College Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series, which kicked off last Thursday and will continue for three more weekly installments.

King teaches physics at both HGTC and Coastal Carolina University, and has been organizing this series since 2008. He will be the first to tell you that the series has very little to do with him and that it has taken on a life of its own.

I am grateful to King for his candor during the process of putting together the story, as well as for contributions from Dr. Victor Archambeau, local chapter chairman of Faces and Voices of Recovery – or FAVOR – as well as the heartbreaking input from a young man by the name of Dylan Parker, an HGTC student who lost his brother to the heroin epidemic in 2013 – and for a couple of to-the-point quotes from actor Danny Trejo.

Danny Trejo? “Machete?”

Yup.

Trejo was the series headliner, slated to kick off the event on Thursday night at the Burroughs & Chapin Auditorium on HGTC’s Conway campus.

I was bummed out that I was not going to be able to attend that event because of a weekly gig I play at House of Blues with my brother – but as fate would have it, I got a message from King. It turns out that Trejo was also set to speak in a classroom setting at HGTC’s Myrtle Beach campus Thursday morning, and King offered to save me a seat.

roger-and-trejo

(Photo: Gene Ho)

Thankful to have been included, it did my heart good to hear Trejo speak. For an idea of what he was talking about, go here.

And here is my Sun News article:

‘Machete’ star to make appearance as HGTC’s Addiction and Recovery Lecture series headliner

On Thursday, February 16, actor Danny Trejo will kick off the 10th annual Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, bringing his story of personal transformation to the Grand Strand.

Trejo’s iconic rugged demeanor has served him well over the years, and he has appeared in dozens of films from “Desperado,” “From Dusk till Dawn” and “Con Air” to the “Spy Kids” trilogy, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and of course “Machete” and “Machete Kills.”

Trejo, now 72, struggled with addiction early on and has been sober for a jaw-dropping 48 years.

The HGTC Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series has been going strong since 2008, bringing with it a veritable Who’s Who of well-known people who have struggled with addiction: Louis Gossett, Jr., Meredith Baxter, Steve Ford [son of former President Gerald Ford and Betty Ford], three stars of A&E’s “Intervention” and more.

The series continues for three consecutive Thursdays following Trejo’s event and will include featured speakers and community panel events.

Longtime HGTC physics and natural sciences professor Casey King is the organizer and the de facto face of the series, even though he will be the first to tell you that it has a life of its own.

King has been living and teaching on the Grand Strand for more than 20 years, following a stint in nuclear energy. After finishing graduate school at the University of Virginia, his first job was as a radiation specialist for the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC] in Chicago.

“That lasted about a year, and I last worked in a nuclear power plant. I was there for about four years until about 1994,” he said.

He said he was miserable.

“I worked in the control room and it was either incredibly boring or intensely manic,” he said. “The job was bipolar.”

King made the switch to academia when a job came open at Coker College in Hartsville and he was accepted to teach.

He went on to other teaching jobs at Francis Marion University and Florence-Darlington Technical College before transferring to HGTC in 1996. He also began teaching math and physics at Coastal Carolina University in 2003.

“It was like a breath of fresh air, and incredibly refreshing to begin to teach. That’s why I have been in the teaching field for 23 years. I love it, and look forward every day to going to work,” he said.

King has four adult children, three of which he raised as a single parent. He has been in a relationship with partner Jennifer Neafsey for nearly eight years.

King also struggled with addiction. He said he thought he had a lot of people fooled along the way, and that an active addict by his very nature has a way of covering things up.

“When my career with substance [abuse] appeared to be at its end, I knew I had no other choice but to seek some kind of help. It had been suggested to me by some friends that 12-Step programs worked – and I knew enough to do something before it was too late,” he said.

King got sober in 2005.

At that time, he was involved in organizing a general series of lectures on assorted topics at HGTC, but this changed in 2008.

“After we had done this for a few years, my partner dropped out and it was just me. I chose to include the topic of addiction and recovery because It because it was near and dear to my heart,” he said. “It was something that I had decades of experience with.”

King knew plenty of people in recovery and was already in the position to reserve the auditorium.

“I don’t think I have any special ability, but it just seemed like I was in the right place at the right time to do this lecture series.”

But he had no funds to work with, and relied for the first few years on local counselors and doctors to speak – sometimes more than once.

Eventually, HGTC got behind the series with the funding he needed to ramp things up.

The series has always been free and open to the public.

“There has never been a charge for any of this over 10 years. No money has ever been involved from the attendees,” he said.

The first Hollywood-connected speaker came in the form of screenwriter William G. Borchert, who lived in Little River at the time and wrote the 1989 film, “My Name Is Bill W.,” based on the true story of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous and starring James Woods and James Garner.

King’s networking efforts paid off next when he secured cast members from A&E’s “Intervention” for speaking slots in the lecture series – and his relationship with them has grown into a valuable resource to the point where he calls them whenever he needs to.

“There are people that come to me for interventions, and I will farm it out to one of them. It’s networking at its best,” he said.

Locals might remember the billboard on U.S. 501 touting the arrival of academy award winner Louis Gossett, Jr. last year. His speaking engagement was so full that some attendees had to use an overflow area.

This is shaping up to be the same scenario with Trejo.

“We’re making plans to accommodate a large crowd. There will be closed-circuit television in five rooms,” said King.

King just got word that a film crew will be on hand to grab footage from this event for a Trejo biopic currently in production.

“I want people to see that there are multiple paths to recovery – and when Danny Trejo comes, he will tell his story and how he did it. On the second night [February 23], there will be six to eight students – all local and in recovery – who are going to tell you their stories.”

On Thursday, March 2, William C. Moyers will tell his story.

Moyers is VP of public affairs for community relations for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and son of journalist Bill Moyers. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption.”

The final installment of the Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series on March 9 is sponsored by the local advocacy group Faces and Voices of Recovery – or FAVOR – and will include the showing of a film called “Generation Found,” which focuses on youth addiction and recovery in Houston.

Local FAVOR chapter chairman Dr. Victor Archambeau said he met King in more than three years ago, when FAVOR was being formed on the Grand Strand. The group has been involved with the lecture series since then.

“Casey joined FAVOR and asked how we could help,” he said. “He offered to extend the conference to four nights and let us have the fourth night for a program of our choosing.”

Archambeau is a family practitioner who said he has been in recovery for 23 years.

In addition to sponsoring the showing of “Generation Found,” Archambeau said FAVOR members will help with the dinner service for all four nights.

archambeau-and-shirley

(FAVOR Chairman Dr. Victor Archambeau and FAVOR Secretary Susan Shirley. Photo: Matt Silfer for The Sun News]

King’s efforts in the name of recovery are not lost on Archambeau.

“Casey is passionate about what he does and really wants others to get the message about recovery. This program is a labor of love for him and requires a huge commitment of time and effort to make it work,” he said.

HGTC student Dylan Parker is not in recovery, but he will be telling his story on February 23.

Parker lost his brother to a heroin overdose in 2013, when Parker was 15.

“My brother Clay was someone I always looked up to dearly and loved,” he said. “He was my best friend, and we connected on so many things that we were almost twins. I don’t remember exactly when Clay first admitted his addiction. After his death, a lot of things went blurry on me.”

Parker said his brother’s problem started with the abuse of pills – first taking them orally and then injecting them – ultimately moving on to heroin and the black tar that ended his life.

“Clay’s death showed me that drugs are a disease,” he said. “It’s one that people don’t want to realize or acknowledge. I was once one of those people. Drugs not only took my brother. They’ve taken away a part of my mom and dad. When Clay passed away I didn’t want to keep quiet about his addiction. I wanted people to know that drugs are a real problem and they show no discrimination.”

Parker said his brother’s death gave him the ability to share this story with The Sun News and to speak at the lecture series.

“If this could help or save someone then by all means I know my brother is proud of me. It’s time to speak up and help those that are in need,” he said.

Although King is the founder and organizer of the lecture series, he strives to keep himself out of the picture as much as possible.

“I am not an expert. I am a physics professor and just happen to be in recovery. It’s not about me. It’s about the series,” he said.

In a statement, Trejo told The Sun News that he has never been to Myrtle Beach before.

The focus of his message is to the point:

“Never give up on someone.,” he said.

And for those thinking about getting help, Trejo had this to say:

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train.”

For more information about the HGTC Addiction and Recovery Lecture Series, email Casey King at casey.king@hgtc.edu or call 843-477-2154.