No, it’s not a play on words. Brian Wheat was actually conceived by the neighborhood milkman according to the bass player of Tesla and we’ll get closer to Brian in a minute.
I have always been a huge fan of Tesla since the Mechanical Resonance album came out in 1986. Not only was it a great guitar riff-driven album, but Tesla was one of the first concerts I went to. I remember them playing at “the Castle” in Charlevoix Michigan where they played with /Poisson in 1989.
When I spoke with Brian from his home in Texas recently, he didn’t seem to remember that show, but who could blame him; he has probably played in the arena of 5,000 shows and that’s just an educated guess. It could also have been due to the fact I that made a mistake as it was Europe who opened for Leppard in 86, not Tesla.
Anyway, I read the PDF version of Son of a Milkman at the request of the all-mighty Chipster Ruggieri (PR) and I have to admit that it was a good physical read and a good smooth mental read.
Well, I have always preferred to hold a hard copy book in my hand and since Chip wasn’t able to send one in time, I agreed that I would take a stab at reading the book via my laptop. I was pleasantly surprised by how smooth it went and maybe the experience was because of the content.
Brian wrote the book in a kind of bipolar way; I mean no disrespect as I am just saying that the book read like a conversation where it many times flipped back and forth between topics and things of that nature. After reading it, you’ll know what I mean.
Reading the book was a bit of an eye-opener for even a seasoned Tesla fan like myself. Of course, I knew they were tight with Leppard, and of course, I knew guitarist Tommy Skeoch was asked to leave the band for various infractions relating to his substance abuse issue, but there was a lot that I didn’t know.
Without giving too much away, Brian does discuss his issues with his weight, depression, anxiety, and his own substance abuse problems. He even shares his moments of thinking about “ending it all” which actually happened to be when Tesla and Def Leppard toured Canada in 2019.
Like most bands, there are periods of love and hate and love again. On more occasions than not, wherever Brian and a bandmate or manager or whoever had a falling out; over the years or within days they managed to resolve their differences.
I asked Brian if that were the case (I think I knew the answer) with former original and very talented guitarist Tommy Skeoch and Brian referred to him as only “that guy” or “the other guy” in our conversation. I didn’t need to ask him to elaborate. There must be something deeper involved as Tommy’s “antics” and issues with substance abuse would not in my opinion keep a resentment going for almost 30 years. Brian didn’t mention anything more serious in the book and maybe it is a private matter and we’ll leave it that.
Relating to what Brian brought to the band in the early days until now; I didn’t realize how much of a driving and influential force he was. I always thought of Brian as the silent one in the back.
The book makes it clear that Wheatie is not only one of the main songwriters in the band, but he has always either been the peacemaker or the one to get his hands dirty in the mixing booth. Brian built many studios and sound rooms in his houses either in Sacramento or Texas or New York and would record or mix Tesla at times and also other bands.
Speaking of Wheatie , which is Brians’ nickname; a funny moment in the book was where Brian talks about exercise and diet and losing a bunch of weight at one point in the band’s tenure. Apparently, he lost 60 lbs. and the band and friends started calling him “Shredded Wheat” 😂.
Brian also tells a story of his first meeting with his idol Paul McCartney (Beatles/Wings) and he also talks about his close personal friendship with another English legend, Led Zeppelins’, Jimmy Page.
Aside from his work in Tesla and his development into a strong songwriter and influence in sound, he also touches here and there about a project he started a few years ago called SOULMOTOR with some of his friends in the South Sacramento where he grew up.
Yes, it seems to have been a rough go for Wheatie over the years. He has dealt with the above issues I mentioned, but also an autoimmune disease which is painful and it makes you gain weight. That along with the depression has kept Brian bedridden at times, where he only left the tour bus to play and then slept the rest of the time.
Son of a Milkman starts off with a prologue from Joe Elliot from Def Leppard and the band and their management are definitely peppered throughout the book.
Another thing that is a constant in the book, is (in my opinion) a lack of confidence by Brian in respect to his bass playing. Actually, I should rephrase that; I think Brian does give a lot of emphasis on his bass playing quality. He says and alludes to that fact that for many, many, many years, he was always waiting for the band to cut him loose whether it was his physical image or whether it was his bass playing which he says is average.
I could go on and on about the cliché parts of the book, drugs, sex, fights, more drugs, more sex, etc but we all know that that is the hard rock lifestyle when bands are maturing and young, but this book has much more.
Dennis Rodman, Chris Cornell, Rush, and many other names and stories short and long make an appearance between these pages.
On a scale of 6.5, I’d give it a 6.3.
Grab your copy NOW!!
***Coming up in the next couple of weeks, interviews with Billy Sheehan (Talas, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) and David Coverdale (Deep Purple, Whitesnake) will be coming to you via the Western Standard and Montreal Rocks….and great timing; Gerry Finn of the Killer Dwarfs just messaged me to advise the boys are writing and that a NEW KILLER DWARFS album is in the WoRkS !!!!!!***
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- Son of a Milkman: My Crazy Life with Tesla by Brian Wheat - February 20, 2021