Walker Hornung, a South Queens native whose 1990 album topped the Caribbean charts, had only partially recovered from Superstorm Sandy when he got on the phone to Ozone Park-based producer Frank Persico about a benefit CD.
“He had just gotten power in half of his house and he was on the phone to me saying ‘We have to record this song,’” Persico said.“I was cracking up, but I said ‘I got you.’”
So the seed was planted for the record “Greetings from South Queens,” a collection of 21 works from musicians in Howard Beach, the Rockaways, Ozone Park and Broad Channel who were slammed by Superstorm Sandy.
Michael Benedetto, who sings the folk song “Confess” on the album, lost his Rockaways home. Members of Indaculture, who sing the soulful “Virginia” on the record, were displaced from their homes also on the peninsula. Other musicians on the record lost their cars and went without electricity for weeks.
Hornung, who grew up in Howard Beach and lived in the Rockaways for 20 years, lost power and heat at his home in Island Park, LI, for six weeks. His song, “Hey Today” was the only song recorded especially for the album.
“Somehow they got to their laptops and sent the songs out,” Persico said, who sings “Move On” and “When Love Was Blind” on the compilation. “They needed a studio and to find someone in the area who is still in business. My house was OK.”
Hornung then set up an email inbox where everyone sent their audio files and Persico, who spent the first couple days after the storm bringing clothes and meals by bike to his friends in need, made sure all the songs were smoothed out and recorded at the same volume.
“It was a nice distraction to fill up the time,” Hornung said.
Once the product was finished, the contributing artists hosted a benefit concert to raise money to cover the cost of burning the CDs.
One thousand copies were handed out — 100 to Persico, 50 to this band, 30 to another, all depending on the amount of contacts they might have and could possibly sell to, Persico said. The album can also be found on iTunes and CDBaby for $10.
“They are going to come back to us with whatever they raise,” Persico said, adding that the artists will be able to donate to the organizations of their choice.
“They can give to whatever foundation they see that needs it or to a family,” Hornung said. One charity on his list is the Rockaway Wish Foundation.
“Not so much the Red Cross. We want to try to keep it really focused on the Rockaways and nearby neighborhoods.”
In past years, Hornung and his cousin Jimmy Dowd, who owns the destroyed Boarders Surf Shop once located on the Rockaway boardwalk, hosted the RockStock and Barrels surf competition and music festival each year. The future of the event is up in the air, Hornung said.
“We lost all the places we played,” Hornung said. “We didn’t know what to do. [Music] is what we know how to do and it will generate some money for those that need it.”