Raising Ricky: Pop-Pop’s Pride
Grandmother of 3, yogi, travel enthusiast, and quintessential Mother Goose Chick,
Mo Mitarotonda, reflected on the moment she knew her son Rick was a serious musician:
“In middle school, he put together this song he wrote… He played every instrument and layered one instrument on top of the other and then did the vocals and handed me this recording… that’s when I knew. This is a talent and a passion, and it needs to be nurtured.”
“This kid isn’t heading for
In 6th grade, they decided to start guitar lessons. Mo spoke highly of Rick’s first teacher, Bob Riccio, who stressed the importance of learning theory and not just playing songs. Rick gave it a shot, but ultimately wasn’t “so ready for this” and preferred learning songs and playing baseball. “By 8th grade, he really decided that he was serious about it and he said I want to go back to Bob Riccio. I want to do this the right way.”
Pictured Above: Mo Mitarotonda with her son Rick in New Haven
Photo used with the permission of Mo Mitarotonda.
Mo and her husband Richard Mitarotonda Sr’s unwavering support and positive manifestation played a tremendous role in her son’s success: “We always had this thing that there's no Plan B here. Plan A can be modified and you can redefine what success looks like but I'm not going to kill this dream… I think people think we have to sell out Madison Square Garden and then you've made it. It doesn't have to look like that.”
They went to work on plan A, enrolling Rick in summer programs at Berklee and NYU. She supported him as he helped pioneer an AP Music Theory program at his school. “It's not like we come from a family of career musicians. You have to forge your own path. Of course you want to raise a kid that becomes self sustained, who contributes to society in some way or another, but still is doing what they want to do and what does that look like… flipping burgers or in our case slinging tacos along the way.”
It takes a village to raise a child, and Mo and her husband had one hell of a tribe. Rick donned a sweatshirt at the 11/6/20 South Farms show honoring his grandfather:
“He was Pop-Pop’s pride!”
“They had such a special relationship. When Rick was born, his grandfather had just retired. When I was going back to work, I was kind of freaking out like I don't know if I can do this.” Her father-in-law drove from Long Island to Connecticut every week for the first two and a half years of Rick’s life. Tuesday through Thursday Pop-Pop changed diapers, napped, watched soap operas, and walked the neighborhood with Rick while Mo was at work.
Mo’s brother was another major influence on young Ricky. “My brother was a singer in a band. When Rick was probably 14 or 15, they were playing gigs in these local bars and clubs and Rick played with them. When he started playing, he sat on a speaker with his back to the audience because he didn't feel comfortable on stage. It took a while but my brother really helped him with that. After so many shows, there he was turned around, standing up. It was really cool. Those were his first gigs.”
Rick’s uncle also got the family involved with Shenanigans Nite Club. “When Shenanigans opened, my brother was working for my brother-in-law. They were installing the carpet at Shenanigans, and he just took a liking to those people and they took a liking to him. He said to my brother in law, ‘I think I'm gonna stay here.’ And he did! He started off as a bouncer, and then ultimately was booking all the talent. It was a real special place for our family.” Mo’s favorite show was rockabilly singer Robert Gordon. She also saw Goosemas 2018 when the club was known as Cantiki and had the honor of guest bartending for Bonnie Raitt. “I know exactly how she likes her lemons cut.”
There’s obvious lyrical homages to Rick’s uncle and father throughout the Goose catalogue. There’s something about these songs (Spirit of the Dark Horse, Western Sun, This Old Sea to name a few) that connect with the listener on a deeper level. Mo acknowledged many of these lyrics evoke strong emotions as they were written at a time of profound grief for her and her family.
That was really hard to lose him… that’s how he processes things and that’s how he expresses himself—through his lyrics.” Later that year, when Rick was just starting college, his father died.
“He just wrote and wrote and wrote… sharing it means something to people that are going through something. It doesn't even necessarily have to be the pain or the growth that you learn from that… They connect to it on whatever level they need to connect to it on.”
Her son managed to constructively deal with grief in a way that positively impacts our entire community.
The same can be said for the lyrics to Lead the Way, a song dedicated to the family’s Golden Retriever, Sadie. Around the 5th or 6th grade, Rick’s older sister left for college. Rick wanted a dog to divide the attention he was now solely receiving at home.
“She was on Rick’s schedule. We’re going to wake up at 11am and stay up to 3am. She really did sit in the front seat. She could always tell when he was making moves. She went everywhere with him.” Even when Rick moved into an apartment for college he tried to bring Sadie. He kept her there as long as he could until they got caught.
Several of these songs from Moon Cabin and Shenanigans were written and recorded in a studio Rick built on the third floor of Mo’s home. Despite, his best attempts to insulate the room, she could still hear that process:
“It's tedious. It’s the same thing over and over and over again because he's a perfectionist. Then I would hear it in a song and say oh my god he worked on that so hard for just that one little piece of it! It was really interesting to witness that process and see it come to fruition and hear what he was shooting for that whole time.”
Mo perfectly described how it feels witnessing her son reach so many people on his music journey:
“Tremendous pride, gratitude, happiness, a little relief (chuckles)… An unbelievable sense of fulfillment. Mostly just happiness for him that what he’s putting out there is resonating with people. It’s a real beautiful feeling.”
We are all so grateful for Mo’s contribution to our community and her continued support of Rick and Goose. Catch her on fall tour and Goosemas!
Note: We are not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected to Goose. We just love the band that much.