Pasta with Shrimp, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Momma Max

IMG_7851My first band was called Momma Max. We were a punk-rock band, although they hadn’t come up with that phrase yet. We did a lot of original material, and some covers—mostly songs by our favorite band, The Stooges.

Not Larry, Moe and Curly. Iggy Pop and the Stooges. “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog.” “Down On The Street.”

Momma Max played a lot at a club called the Bluesette, which was on Charles Street in Baltimore, Maryland. It was a club that didn’t admit anyone over the age of 21. Imagine that. The kids that hung out in the club were the kids who didn’t fit anywhere else.

No wonder I felt so comfortable there.

Hippies, rock stars, black radicals, black hippies, runaways, dropouts, gays, musicians, artists—it was a crazy mix of young people who found a place to hang in a town where there was nowhere else for kids like that to go.

And Momma Max was one of the bands that played the Bluesette. We also played high school dances, festivals and concerts; but the Bluesette was our hang.

I lived on a dead-end street named Rosebank. There was a kid up the street who played guitar — Rob Grant. A friend of his, Brian Cain, played drums, and the three of us started jamming in my Mom’s basement.

My childhood was great. Up until the age of 15, things could not have been better. I loved school, had great grades, was president of the class, teacher’s pet; loved my neighborhood, rode bikes, had fun, loved my family, played music.

Then all hell broke loose.

My folks divorced; the three kids stayed in Baltimore with my Mom, and my Dad moved back to New York. My cousin – we were really close – died in a car accident. High school was a veritable hell; I didn’t fit in anywhere, so I started a band. It was the outlet for my teenage rage. We wrote a lot of angry, aggressive songs.

My Dad had a dog named Momma Max, and I thought it would be a great name for the band. We started playing and word got out.

Word of mouth was the way most kids heard about music. Iggy Pop wasn’t on the cover of People magazine. Led Zeppelin wasn’t on the Tonight Show. Kids found out about music from other kids. And when word got out about Momma Max, it spread like wildfire. We started selling out shows.

There was a club outside of Baltimore called the Latin Casino. It was owned by some Greeks, who owned most of the nightclubs in Baltimore. The Latin Casino brought in big-name acts, and when they needed a band to open up for Iggy Pop and the Stooges, they called Momma Max. It was a perfect fit. We were ecstatic.

We played our hearts out that night. Then we watched the Stooges from the side of the stage.

Iggy Pop was in full effect — he came out shirtless, and sang and danced and broke glasses on the floor and crawled around the stage on his bare stomach.

It was an incredibly exciting show. The Stooges did a live recording that night in ’73 – I found a copy on the Internet. Momma Max was not included! But we did get a couple more gigs out of that show. The Greeks liked us.

When we got an offer to open up for the Raspberries at the Latin Casino, we were a little apprehensive, but we took the gig. The Raspberries were a power pop band, with matching suits and hairdos you could bounce rocks off of. Momma Max was a rough and tumble punk rock trio. Momma Max and the Raspberries?

We took the gig. We needed the money! I brought a date, something I rarely did. She wasn’t a girlfriend, but she was beautiful and sexy and I wouldn’t have minded having her as my girlfriend.

Momma Max opened the show. People didn’t throw rocks at us, but the response was underwhelming.

Then The Raspberries came out and did their show.

I wasn’t too impressed, but they must have made quite an impression on the girl I brought, because at the end of the night, I saw her walking out the back door with the lead singer, Eric Carmen.

Welcome to the glamorous life of Show Binniz.

Momma Max played around Baltimore for a while after that. The drummer brought in his girlfriend to sing. She was good, but I wasn’t ready to share the lead vocals. Maybe we should have tried the Sonny and Cher thing. Momma Max broke up not long after that.

Brian, Robby, Kathy and Mr. Man

Brian, Robby, Kathy and Mr. Man

I’ve kept in touch with that girl singer. Her name is Kathy McCabe. We’ve become really good friends. She’s pretty amazing.

How amazing? She just produced an incredible documentary about Freda, the Beatles’ secretary. The film is called Good Ol’ Freda, and I saw it at the Nashville Film Festival last year. Kathy introduced the film to the crowd. Freda was the Beatles’ assistant from the very beginning until the bitter end. Her story is fascinating, and Kathy did a wonderful job capturing that story.

After the movie, Kathy and I had a chance to hang out in Nashville, eat IMG_1156some hot chicken, and catch up on all of the crazy things that have been happening in our lives, We started off years ago in this crazy punk band in Baltimore, Maryland, and now here we are in Nashville; she’s making movies and I’m still making music. Momma Max had run its course. But the friendships that were made endured and matured. I haven’t matured, but the friendships have.



There’s nothing like a dish of pasta after a night of punk-rocking and mosh-pitting.

A couple of things to mention here. I don’t use farm-raised shrimp. They taste funny and have the consistency of wet cardboard. Use wild shrimp. As wild as you can get ‘em!

You can de-shell and de-vein your own shrimp. It’s easy — remove the shell, make a split down the spine, remove the dark vein, and rinse. You can also buy shrimp that have already been de-shelled and de-veined.

I use sun-dried tomatoes in oil. The dry ones soak up too much sauce.

A note about pasta…I recently cooked a pound of DeCecco spaghetti (number 12) over the highest heat I had. The directions on the box said to cook it for 10 to 12 minutes. It took 16 minutes. Start tasting your pasta a few minutes before it’s supposed to be done, and keep tasting it every 2 minutes until it’s al dente, firm to the bite.

Let’s start cooking!


1 pound large shrimp, de-shelled and de-veined

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 cloves garlic, sliced thin, about 2 tablespoons

Crushed red pepper (I start off with ¼  teaspoon)

¼ cup dry white wine

½ lemon (2 generous tablespoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice)

3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes cut into small strips

3 cups baby spinach

1 pound of pasta; spaghetti or linguine

Kosher salt

Here we go…

Rinse off the shrimp and pat them dry with paper towels.

Let’s get the pasta water started. Get a large pot, fill it with cold water, and put it on high heat. As the water starts to heat up, let’s make our sauce.

Put a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil. Let it heat for 2 minutes, then add the sliced garlic and some crushed red pepper. Let the garlic cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until pale gold.

Add the white wine, turn the heat to high. Let it cook off for 2 minutes. Turn the heat back down to medium-low. Add the shrimp. Sprinkle a little kosher salt on top, and let the shrimp cook for 3 minutes, then turn them over.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes; place them in between the shrimp.

Take the half of a lemon, and squeeze the juice through your fingers over the shrimp, making sure no seeds get into your sauce. You don’t want Aunt Esmerelda busting her dentures on a lemon seed.

Add the spinach. As the spinach cooks down, use a wooden spoon to mix it in between the shrimp. Let it cook for 2 minutes or so until wilted, and remove from the heat. Taste for salt and adjust.

When the pasta water comes to a boil, add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, and the pound of pasta. Follow the directions on the box. Two minutes before the pasta is supposed to be done, take a piece and give it a bite. It should be firm, not chalky or too chewy. If it’s not done, cook and check every 2 minutes until it is al dente, firm to the bite, and drain in a colander.

Put the pasta in a large bowl, and drizzle it with a tablespoon of olive oil, and give it a gentle toss.

Add half the sauce to the pasta. Gently mix the sauce into the pasta.

Dish it up! Add a little bit of extra sauce on top of each plate.

One of my Exes loved to put grated Parmigiano cheese on this dish. I was going to say something to her about how in Italy they don’t put cheese on seafood, but I just grated the cheese and kept my mouth shut.

Like my Dad used to say, “Nobody gets in trouble by keeping their mouth shut.”