By Amy Nicole Tangel
While summer is coming to a close and we go forward into the next chapter of the new unknown, for many artists it is a very dark time, but through it all humanity is resilient and there is a light shining bright in one musician who has turned his time off-stage into an opportunity to help others.
By day, Frank Junior Guertin has worked as an IT Specialist for Nassau County for the past 27 years, but for the rest of the time he is a father and member of Long Island Rock band, Craving Strange. As one of the original members for the past 13 years, other than a brief hiatus while raising his son, the 46-year-old guitarist has been a foundation of the band on lead guitar. Most recently, he has taken his found time during the shutdown to not only make new music with the band, but to start his own blog, Frank Junior: Pages of My Life; sharing some of the most painful and intimate details of his life with readers in hopes of giving insight and support to those need.
“It’s just a window into me; who I am, what I have been through,” he said.
Sitting in the Craving Strange studio in Amityville, N.Y., Frank sat back to talk about what he describes as a bumpy road in life; from his childhood to his passion for music, his life with addiction and the gift of sobriety, topped off by his love for his son and how it all led up to his recent mission to pay forward.
Frank, remembers third grade being a lonely time for him and having no friends. Attending Catholic school during a time when all the kids on the playground were playing kickball and baseball, left Frank, who was the only one in his class listening to KISS and Led Zeppelin, sitting on the sidelines by himself.
“For years, I was just shunned away. I had to figure out, as a child, how to take care of me…at an early age, it’s just what I had to do,” he said.
Frank always loved music and at 4-years-old he said he first felt drawn to guitars when his older sister started taking lessons. He would beg the instructor to let him hold the guitar after every lesson and the instructor would encourage him, so when Frank turned five, he was finally able to begin taking lessons. Beginning with lessons from Lou Capic, Frank went all-in learning how to play guitar and at the age of fourteen he first taught with Al Pitrelli, best known for his work with Megadeth, Alice Cooper and Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Focus II Guitar Center- New York Music Emporium in Bellmore.
At 16-years-old, Frank experienced a tragedy no child should ever have to face when he came home from school and found his father passed away in the basement from an aneurysm. In Frank’s eyes his father was his mentor, the rock of the family and his best friend. He was left devastated and haunted by the memory of not only having to be the one to tell his mother, but the entire family turned to him to bring everyone together, and he said it was too much pressure to take. Frank had never even experienced death in his young life before his father’s passing, and it turned his world upside down. Frank ultimately turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with his pain. Before his father’s passing, Frank said he never even thought about drugs or alcohol and that life was good; he felt safe.
“I was alone raising myself. My brother and sister split, my family members moved away. I was alone, so I then dove into the wrong things, because I had such pain; I didn’t know how to cope with pain,” he said.
As much as Frank hopes readers will be validated in their own life struggles by reading about his heartbreaks, he seeks to spread positivity and hope to inspire people with his stories of sobriety which he credits in large part to the birth of his son. The day Frank found out he was going to have a son he was also given the alarming news his unborn son had Gastroschisis, a birth defect in which the intestines grow outside of abdominal wall, and there was a high chance he wouldn’t survive.
Frank made the decision the minute he found out he was going to be a father to stop all drinking and drugs immediately, did a two-week detox in his house and began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He would go during lunch breaks, at night, weekends and Sunday mornings where he found a men’s meeting he just gravitated to, and eventually became his home group.
“I never stopped. I went every day,” he said.
When Frank’s son was born, the baby underwent surgery to correct the defect and Frank said he was told the baby would probably be in an incubator for months, but miraculously his son was home in three weeks and has never had a stomach issue ever again. Although there are some special needs, they go through them together, and Frank said his now, 15-year-old son Frankie who has recently followed in his father’s footsteps and picked up the guitar, is the strong one, a true warrior and his inspiration.
“Everything my father taught me I instilled on him, and he’s brought it back home,” he said.
The blog is not about the follows or the likes for Frank who will celebrate 15 years of sobriety this upcoming February 2, but the connection he makes with people by sharing his stories. He said right now with all the negative, the anger and the fear in people’s minds, it turns into situations, so for his blog to be a place for people to learn how to face problems and come out of them for the better, it’s a win.
“I love helping people. I do. What matters is who we are inside and the love we give each other,” he said.
As for the music in Frank’s life, Craving Strange has been in the studio separately and now together throughout the pandemic. While live shows are on hold, they have been live streaming from time to time, including a recent performance for News 12, and have just finished recording three new songs with the first titled, “Rise” being released this upcoming October.
To read Frank’s blog visit, www.frankjuniorpagesofmylife.rocks and to keep up with all happenings Craving Strange, you can follow them on Instagram, Facebook, www.craingstrange.net, and watch live YouTube content on www.youtube.com/cravingstrange.
Photos courtesy of Frank Junior Guertin