Being the youngest of six children, my older siblings used to tease me about being the milkman’s son. Now, if you were born after the late 1960’s, you are probably thinking, what is a milkman? In the olden days, local dairies used to deliver milk and other dairy products, door to door to households in neighborhoods all over their geographic region. It was said that the milkman might deliver a little something extra to housewives whose husbands were away at work, if you know what I mean. For founding member and bassist of Tesla, Brian Wheat, this is no joke, it’s reality. In his new book, Son Of A Milkman, My Crazy Life With Tesla, available now from Simon and Schuster, Wheat recounts his personal story and how that moniker has shaped his journey through this thing we call life.
You’ve heard it before: From humble beginnings… well, Wheat comes from extremely humble beginnings. He is very forthright about his particular experiences growing up in Sacramento, California and coming of age, to making life-long friends through music. Between the covers, you will read about his learning the truth about who his biological father was at a time when his biggest worry should have been whether he should play baseball or football after school. Wheat is also exceptionally honest about his struggles with depression and anxiety and how those two gremlins manifest themselves in other health issues. You will also learn how he has learned to overcome, or at least keep those issues at bay, while continuing to be a productive musician, producer and artist.
Are there the usual gratuitous tales of rock-star excess and drug use, etc.? Of course there are, what professional musician’s memoirs would be complete without some of those? But don’t think this is just a tell-all chronicling of how many groupies he slept with or how there were piles of blow at recording sessions. Yes, there is that, but this is so much more. The retelling of these exploits is simply a revelation of his reality and carry no more or less importance than that ascribed to his love of Victorian homes and his penchant for restoring them into their original grandeur. There is also extensive recounting of his life that transpires inside the confines of Tesla, which of course is the most noteworthy professional aspect of the man. Success, internal strife, breakup, reformation, anger, creativity and monetary woes are all chronicled here. So also are healing of old wounds, maturing and emerging with an intact career.
There is a saying that you can learn a lot about a man by looking at with whom he associates. There is plenty of light shone on this aspect of Wheat’s life within the just over 200 pages of this written record. Wheat’s friendships seem to transcend the world of rock music. Two very prominent instances of this are the contributors of the foreword and afterword, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott and photographer to the rock elite, Ross Halfin respectively. Another friendship burgeoned with someone who might seem a little bit unlikely. Buried within the pages is a tale of camaraderie with a very well known individual that may be of interest. Above all, this very personal exposition contains one new and very important friend, the reader. Co-written by Chris Epting, the book reads like you met Wheat in a bar and were just conversing over a beer. Even for those who do not go deep into Tesla’s trajectory, this is an interesting read. This is especially true for those who may struggle with depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses, there might just be some insight on healing in here. Whichever facet seems most appealing to you, pull up a barstool, order your libation of choice and spend a few hours talking with Brian Wheat.