NYC’s DonBlackCat, Rockdaddy and Longtime Guitarist, Plays on

interview by Rew Starr, Rockmommy contributor

It’s been a rough year for so many of us, including NYC-area musician DonBlackCat ( Donald Sztabnik), who lost his brother from the disease. But the guitarist, a frequent guest on the Pandemic Party/Rew & Who Show and the #rockdaddy of on-air personality/Z100 host Erica America, is still playing virtually and looking forward to a better 2021. 

DonBlackCat playing guitar

Rew: What have you been doing these days?

DonBlackCat: We all are suffering and trying to navigate through the challenges of the Covid-19 maelstrom … I lost my brother from this terrifying disease. I know many people who felt this pain up close and personal. But somehow we keep going and the music is always our friend, sometimes our only friend. To me the Guitar is like a Rubic’s Cube … simple yet a mystery that gets more Byzantine each time I pick one up. I have many laying around all over my house whispering to me ‘I dare you to try and play me !’ I continue to take bait… like Sirens wailing in the storm tempting me into frustration… I need to put wax into my ears to get some peace of mind. 

Rew Starr: Can you tell us about your kids?

DonBlackCat: My daughter Erica ( aka Erica America ) and my son Brian both look like me and for that I apologize to them both! I could not have asked for better kids who are now adults… ( Rew, are we adults yet… please let me know?). They like different music than me, but I do like what they listen to…

Rew Starr: How many major concerts and backstages have you been to thanks to her?

DonBlackCat: Erica is an on air personality for Z-100 so I have been to all the Z-100 Jingle Ball Concerts since she joined the on air roster a decade ago… so many great pop artists have graced the Madison Square Garden Stage. Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Pitbull, the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Camilla Cabello, Justin Bieber, Bebe Rexa, Ed Sheeran, among many others. My new favorite is Dua Lipa, with a sultry voice and great dance songs… one year backstage at MSG I got to meet the very special Christy Turlington who was gracious, funny and very down to earth… and she laughed at my jokes!

DonBlackCat and his daughter Erica America (of Z-100)

Rew Starr: How old were you when you realized you wanted to be a Rockstar? 

DonBlackCat: I was just 13 when I heard the Beatles on the radio for the first time on Thanksgiving night in 1963. It was on a small radio in the office of a local gas station. The WABC disc jockey said these lads from Liverpool had long hair and wore leather jackets and were called … The Beatles. 

I was struck by lightning, frozen in place staring at a tiny radio with a single speaker hearing ‘I wan to hold your hand’… that was the moment of moments for me. From then on it was the Beatles and all that followed, The Stones, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Who, along with my folk and blues favorites like Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzey.  

To me, the guitar was a magical instrument. How could so many artists playing guitar sound so different and so good? I borrowed an older acoustic guitar and struggled to learn a few chords. I have never stopped since and my guitars are my friends… they frustrate me one day and bring me immense joy the next! … ha!… just like kids!

Rew Starr: What’s the greatest part about being a ROCKDADDY?

[RELATED: Rockdaddy Johnny Clay discusses music and fatherhood]

DonBlackCat: The greatest thing about being a rockdaddy is having two kids that gained me entry into this esteemed club. They are my greatest songs and they keep me younger every day. I give sincere thanks that I have remained active in music and that the thrill is not gone. I’m blessed and I appreciate every note!

Rew Starr is a musician, actor and mom who lives in New York City.