Monty Byrom, left, and Eddie Money listen to harmonica player Sonny Lackey, aka Sonny California, at Julie’s Brandin Iron in Oildale during a 2012 rehearsal. Money died this week at 70.

Eddie Money wasn't a Bakersfield guy — not officially. He earned the honorary title, however. Just ask the waitresses at Zingo's.

Money, the husky-voiced, blue-collar performer known for such hits as "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "I Wanna Go Back" — the latter penned by his friend and collaborator, Bakersfield's Monty Byrom — died today at age 70. The singer-songwriter had recently announced he had stage 4 esophageal cancer.

"It is with heavy hearts that we say goodbye to our loving husband and father," his family said in a statement. "It's so hard to imagine our world without him, however he will live on forever through his music."

Money announced his cancer diagnosis via a video last month from his AXS TV reality series "Real Money." In the video, Money says he discovered he had cancer after what he thought was a routine checkup. He said the disease had spread to his liver and lymph nodes.

Money said it hit him "really, really hard."

He had numerous health problems recently, including heart valve surgery earlier this year and pneumonia after the procedure, leading to his cancellation of a planned summer tour.

Byrom, who had success with the band Big House in the 1990s, played and toured with Money off and on starting in the 1980s. He also produced some of Money's albums and wrote “I Wanna Go Back," which was used in the 2013 Adam Sandler film "Grown Ups 2" and covered last year by Ace Frehley on his "Spaceman" album.

"I recorded that song for my band Billy Satellite in 1984," Byrom said. "Eddie got mad. He says, 'I thought you were saving that for me.' Then he recorded it."

Money's version, released in 1986 as the follow-up single to the top 10 hit "Take Me Home Tonight," reached No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the Album Rock Tracks chart in early 1987.

Gregg Rolie, keyboardist for Santana, also recorded the song.

Said Byrom: "I told Eddie, 'After you covered my song, I sing it like you, not me.' I guess that was a compliment."

They toured together for three years. "Every day, different city. We did every radio station together. That's how tight we were. That was my best ... friend."

One of Money's favorite stops in Bakersfield was Zingo’s Cafe, on Buck Owens Boulevard near the Crystal Palace. His framed photo still hangs on a wall behind the cash register next to that of another Zingo's fan, Merle Haggard.

In 2012, his hit "Two Tickets to Paradise" was featured in a Geico commercial, with Money himself appearing in the ad as the hammy owner of a travel agency. At the height of the commercial's popularity, he and Byrom walked into Zingo’s one Saturday morning.

"You could hear a pin drop," Byrom said. "Everybody stopped and looked up at him. Eddie says, 'Don’t nobody get up.' The whole place just cracked up."

"He loved Bakersfield," Byrom said. "I'm not sure why, but he loved Bakersfield. Maybe it was because he got along with everybody — rednecks, East Coasters, hippies."

A New York City native born Edward Joseph Mahoney, Money grew up in a family of police officers and was training in law enforcement himself before he rebelled and decided he'd rather be a singer.

"I grew up with respect for the idea of preserving law and order, and then all of a sudden cops became pigs and it broke my heart," Money told Rolling Stone in 1978.

"Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Baby Hold On" both reached the top 30 in the late 1970s and his self-titled debut album went platinum. In 1987, he received a best rock vocal Grammy nomination for "Take Me Home Tonight." The song featured a cameo from Ronnie Spector, who reprised one of her signature hits from the 1960s as she crooned "Be my little baby," which she first sang on the Ronettes' "Be My Baby." Money remembered calling Spector, still traumatized from her years with ex-husband and producer Phil Spector, and convincing her to sing on his record.

"I said, 'Ronnie, I got this song that's truly amazing and it's a tribute to you. It would be so great if you came out and did it with me,'" he told HippoPress.com in 2015. "When she got there, she didn't even remember it; she had a mental block against (Phil) Spector. But then she came out and did the song."

Money's other hits included "Maybe I'm a Fool," "Walk On Water" and "Think I'm in Love." He had few successes after the 1980s, but he continued to tour and record, and for decades would open the summer concert season at DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Mich. Meanwhile, "Two Tickets to Paradise" became a favorite on classic rock radio stations and was heard everywhere from "The Simpsons" to "The Office." 

For years, he lived too much like a rock star. In 1980, he sustained nerve damage in his legs after overdosing on alcohol and barbiturates, a near-tragedy he wrote about on his hit 1982 album, "No Control." He continued to struggle with alcohol addiction before joining a 12-step program in 2001. "I came to the realization that I didn't really need (alcohol) for my quick wit," he told CNN in 2003.

Byrom could attest to Money's wit, straight and sober or not.

"He was Rodney Dangerfield with a band," Byrom said. "One Sunday morning we drove from San Juan Capistrano through Southern California for two and a half hours. He did a comedy routine the whole time, nonstop — two and a half hours and four joints. He was very funny. He was a character."

Money did manage the rare rock achievement of a long-term marriage, more than 30 years to Laurie Harris, who would say that at first she confused him with John Mellencamp. The Moneys had five children: Zachary, Jessica, Joseph, Desmond and Julian.

A born troublemaker, he was thrown out of one high school for forging his report card. He later moved to Berkeley, changed his name to "Money" and had enough success in the Bay Area clubs, even performing for a time with Janis Joplin's former backing group, to attract the attention of famed rock promoter Bill Graham. Money was signed by Columbia Records and by the end of the decade was a big enough act to open for the Rolling Stones, although the job didn't last as long as expected.

"I had a hit with 'Two Tickets' and everybody loved me; I was getting too many encores," Money told HippoPress.com. "We were supposed to have six dates (with the Stones), and we only worked four. The way I see it is this — if you're gonna get fired from a Rolling Stones tour, get fired for being too good."

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(3) comments

Muhammad Fatwa al Jihad

12 years touring with Eddie Money and forgotten in favor of Big Head Monty. Your writers are lazy with no real knowledge of local music history.


Muhammad douche bag. You have to hide your identity because you're too embarrassed to insult good people upfront. We love Johnny Snyder and he's one of our dear friends. Do you even have any idea who brought John to Eddie Money? That would be Monty Byrom. I know I was there.

You obviously you did not know Ed. He is my friend , Monty is one of his best friends and John Snyder jr. Is awesome and also someone we love dearly. You should be embarassed fool.

Muhammad Fatwa al Jihad

Monty? You forgot about drummer John Snider Jr.

John Snider, Jr., originally from Bakersfield, CA., is a drummer, clinician, author and educator who lives and works in Miami, FL. His new book/CD package titled “In The Pocket” (Hal Leonard), was released in 2005.

He spent 12 years providing the infectious groove for Eddie Money, touring, recording and appearing on the Tonight Show, Late Night, Regis and Kelly, Rosie O’Donnell, VH1 Top 20 Countdown, Carl’s Jr. and Rally’s commercials and the list goes on. He can be heard on Eddie’s “Right Here”, “Unplug It In” CDs and “Shakin’ With The Money Man” CD and DVD. He also did the “Fall In Love Again” video that appeared on VH1. Other credits include New Frontier on Columbia Records, AKA Lance on Empire Records, Tully Winfield, Burning Candles with Tommy Girvin, and back in the early days the Kern Philharmonic, Jazz Philharmonic Quartet and the Bakersfield Civic Light Opera.

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