Chapter 1 – The Early Years

Rich and mysterious co-star
Rich and mysterious co-star from a 1966 talent show.

Richard G. Spina was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 1, 1955. The youngest of two children, Richard was destined to flourish in music. His older brother (by a year) Frank, began playing piano at an early age. Richard’s parents were music lovers as well and as far back as he could remember all the youngest Spina wanted to do was sing and act. By the time the Spina family moved to Brook Park, Ohio in 1965, Richard was playing the clarinet and acting in school talent shows or theater productions. The next year saw the pre-teenager picking up a guitar and learning the latest British Invasion songs off the radio. By the time Richard got in junior high school, he’d actually begun writing songs.

Once Richard got into high school, he’d begun singing in bands with names like Rush (before Geddy Lee’s band was known) and D.L. Short Hair & Co. As he continued to act in school plays, music was beginning to win the battle for his career choice. Seems that were the only two choices Richard ever considered; that’s how career-driven he was even then.

DL Short Hair & Company
DL Short Hair & Company – fall 1971

Doing songs by Uriah Heep, Humble Pie and Led Zeppelin, Richard began forming a vocal style that would identify him for the next decade. However, in the summer of 1973, just after graduating from Midpark High School, Richard put together an original project called Ecstasy. The band consisted of John Lucic (guitar), Rick Klein (bass), Joe Chott (drums) and Richard Spina (lead vocals, acoustic guitar).

Within less than a year the band had amassed a loyal following – mostly girls. At one particular high school date in Berea, Richard was to play with a band called Skyport. The members of that band, Wayne Cukras (bass), Wes Coolbaugh (guitar, vocals), Mike Hudak (drums), John Zdravecky (lead guitar), along with organist Tom Kolas, would figure heavily in Richard’s next career move.

Ecstasy circa 1973
Ecstasy circa 1973
From left to right; Rick Klein,
Richard Spina, Joe Chott and John Lucic.

Having just signed with manager Otto Neuber, Skyport were poised to become a success. Wayne, Wes and Richard became friends soon after and upon hearing him play piano they asked him to join. “I jumped at the chance,” Richard muses today. “I could barely play the piano, but I didn’t care,” he laughs.