"In Campi's band, someone always took care of the business, the bookings, took care of everything. I was thrust into a role of trying to do all that and I was totally unprepared. It got depresssing. "For me, L.A. became drugs, depression and self-hate. By 85 I couldn't even face going out to a gig. I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to do Rock Therapy anymore. I didn't want to get up there and be Mister Wiggle anymore. I felt like everybody in L.A. had seen what I do and I wasn't growing. So I escaped."
That's when Colin and Nina Winski moved in with her parents in Phoenix.
"This marriage has survived some hard-ass times," Winski says of their 16-year-old union. Part of the reason it's endured is that like Colin, Nina is also a rockabilly persona. A collector of vintage clothes and memorabilia, Nina recently learned that she's contracted lupus.
For the first couple of years in the Valley, Winski didn't play or even go out to hear music. His first job here was digging ditches. From there he moved up to become a security guard at the Biltmore, a job he held until two weeks ago. Although he spent much of his time at the historic hotel, "walking the halls and dreaming of past glories," he kept at it because it kept the rent man satisfied.
"Man, I remember what it was like in L.A. with no money. People banging on the door, 'So you're mister rockabilly. Fuck you, where's the rent?'"
But despite his rent-a-cop uniform and seemingly normal existence, Winski's rockabilly fires never flickered out. Slowly but surely, Winski began working his way back. First, he went to see a couple of local bands. After the set, he'd hang around the bandstand and try to talk to the players.
"I had kind of an L.A. mentality, which means that within five minutes, you've already given someone all your credits. In the real world, that's considered pushy," Winski says. "Maybe I came on too strong. Or too desperate."
Local players began letting him sit in, and slowly he won their confidence. That led to rehearsals, which in turn led to his new CD.
Winski's goals are simple. Play local gigs, sell out this CD and gain his performing confidence back. So far, he's enjoying his comeback. He doesn't even mind the frequent questions about Elvis. You can see he's glad someone is asking again.
"Anybody that moves is considered an Elvis guy," Winski says with a wave of his hand. "What I learned from Elvis, though, was raw feeling. That's what I responded to.
"Every performer is the sum of his influences. You take a little black here, a little red here, a little orange here, a little burnt sienna over here," Winski says, dabbing his finger on a mock paint palette, "mix em up and, yeah, people will recognize those shades. But if you do it right, they'll also see that you have your own color.