Liberty DeVitto Recalls His ‘Nerve-wracking’ First Gig With Billy Joel

Their first time on stage has possibly caused anxiety for almost all artists. Now, imagine sharing the same stage with a name like Billy Joel… Known for his stint as Joel’s recording and touring drummer, Liberty DeVitto recently spoke to Classic Album Review and revealed how stressed he was during his first show with the musician.

Billy Joel caught the attention of Columbia Records with his live performance of ‘Captain Jack.’ Eventually, Columbia signed a record deal with him. After the release of ‘Piano Man’ and ‘Streetlife Serenade,’ Joel embarked on a tour. DeVitto was there to witness the musician’s success as his drummer. However, their first gig at the CBS Records Convention Center was pretty stressful for him. “Yeah, I was very nervous,” Liberty DeVitto said when he recalled that show, “I was very nervous.”

DeVitto continued, “I knew Billy in the Hassles, and I think we may have had a couple of rehearsals. It was just me, Doug, Billy, and the other studio musicians. Michael Brecker was up there; we had a string section because we did ‘New York State Of Mind,’ and we were introducing some of the songs that would eventually become ‘Turnstiles.’ So, it was pretty nerve-wracking to see all these heavy, rocket company people out there.”

So, the two met when Billy was in the Hassles while Liberty was playing for a band named The New Rock Workshop. At that time, they had a chance to watch each other perform. Years later, their paths crossed again when Doug Stegmeyer recommended Liberty as Billy’s touring and recording drummer. Together, Joel, Doug, and Billy recorded songs that would later appear in ‘Turnstiles.’

According to DeVitto, introducing the songs they recorded together to a vast audience was a nerve-wracking experience. Apparently, sharing the same stage for the first time with Doug Stegmayer, Billy Joel, and Michael Brecker was something that resulted in anxiety for the drummer.