Over the Fourth of July, everyone in the Rim Country has a free ticket to hear one of our own, John Carpino, perform live with his "band by committee," the Hot Cappuccinos.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist and sometime DJ, Carpino, a "Best of Payson" winner for 13 years, will be joined on stage at Green Valley Park by four local musicians.
"Musicians have regular gigs with their own bands so I pick and choose from whoever is available on a given weekend," John said. "I get to draw from a wonderful pool of talent."
On stage with John at Green Valley Park from 7 to 9 p.m., before the fireworks, are: Landon Fitch, drummer; Marty Tkachyk; Junction 87 lead guitarist Billy Ichida; and bassist Dave Yoder of Brooks and Yoder. John's wife Lu Carpino is on keyboard, percussion and vocals.
The Hot Cappuccinos play a variety of rock 'n' roll tunes -- classic and beyond. That means country rock, reggae, Motown and Carpino's original compositions are on the set list.
"We'll debut a brand-new song no one has heard before, at the Fourth of July," he said.
Fourth of July at Green Valley Park is sponsored by the Town of Payson's Parks and Recreation Department. Games: 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. Band: 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Fireworks: about 9 p.m.
The lyrics to the mid-temp anthem are a secret, but Carpino likened the sound to "Bob Seger meets John Mellencamp" meets "Bob Marley."
The Hot Cappuccinos were born
Carpino pulled his band by committee together in 2005 when staff at the Mazatzal Casino wanted a band for an Elvis' birthday party dance.
Other "outstanding musicians" John is proud to play with as the Hot Cappuccinos are: drummer Chris Campbell; bassists James Alstatt and David Brooks; and guitarists Nate Wright and Don Gibson.
"Payson should be really proud of these musicians," Carpino said.
The moniker Hot Cappuccinos came, not from the drink, but from a question Lu's family would ask her in college.
"Are you still dating that Johnny Cappuccino guy?"
A musician finds his own way
Those days were spent at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., where John got his degree in music education.
Yet, when it came to picking up an instrument, John, at 16 years old, was a late bloomer.
"I wanted to play football, but I was small for the team," he said. And, he kept breaking bones on the turf-hits.
"I thought, ‘this is silly, I'll start playing guitar,'" John said.
He spent his college years performing in coffeehouses and continued to moonlight with his acoustic guitar, occasionally with a band, but usually as a solo artist because, he quipped, "the pay is better."
His teaching gig took him from Colorado to schools in Sedona and Yuma.
Though he claims he was no poet in high school, he cops to creative writing coming naturally.
He was hooked on "singer-songwriters with something to say," such as Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Lennon and McCartney.
What kind of world are we leaving for future generations, is the crux of "Evolution," the title track from Carpino's 2005 CD.
Writing songs as a social commentary is his way of taking another look at the many "things that need to be looked at."
He writes down ideas when they strike him, then lets them evolve over time.
"No body is taking the high road here, we are all in this together," he added.
"Seems like everybody out there's got a place to move
"Everybody's lookin' for a way
"It really doesn't matter what direction you choose
"We can all find a place to play
"On the Rock and Roll Highway"
"Rock and Roll Highway," a song on his second CD, "Heart in the Rain," was recorded at his home studio in 2002.
Gary Eubanks, a singer who used to live in Payson, recorded it and in 2003, the song went to number one on the National Independent Country Charts.
Of course, John has hopes one or more of his songs will be smash-hits and climb the Billboard charts.
"That's why we do what we do," he said.
In fact, he said he has penned the perfect song for Tim McGraw.
"If anyone knows him or Faith Hill, give me a call, I'm in the phone book," Carpino said.
Not all Carpino's songs are about social change on a grand scale. He has composed many a love song.
Lu provides the harmony on "What She Sees in Me" and "It's About Love" from 2001's "Come So Far" CD. (It is playing on my computer as I write this story.)
"We were hanging out and Lu started singing to VH1 and I thought, she has a cool voice, so I invited her to come to the studio for a demo recording and sing harmony," John said.
That was 1987.
Twenty years later, their voices still complement each other.
"She is a blast to sing with and a key ingredient in the Hot Cappuccinos," he said.
"Besides, every band should have a cute girl in the front."
Altogether, Carpino has composed more than 300 songs. A fraction of those songs can be heard on his three CDS available through his Web site www.johncarpino.com or locally at Fireside Café, Beeline Music and the Payson Music Center.