“I’m absolutely a goal-oriented person, whether it’s developing a strong soccer program that is competing for WPIAL or state titles or leading a group of musicians in creating art and producing a finished product that we can be proud of,” said Eldridge.
I have a strong competitive spirit and sometimes that needs to be calmed,” he added. “I do that by reading, songwriting and through my music. For me, it’s the yin and yang of life. It works well together.”
Throughout his life, Eldridge weaved sports and music together successfully. A Vermont native, he started skiing at age 5. He began playing soccer at 7 and evolved into an All-American while excelling on the Johnson State College team that competed in the national championships. While earning his masters degree in education, Eldridge helped coach the James Madison University men’s soccer team.
At that Harrisonburg, Va., school, he met his wife, Kim. When she took the lacrosse coaching gig at Duquesne University, the Eldridge family moved to Pittsburgh, where Rob took the assistant coaching job with the Dukes men’s soccer squad in 1996.
In addition, he joined the Beadling Soccer Club as a head coach, directing teams to multiple state championships and one regional title. Between 2002-07, he served as Peters Township head coach, guiding the Indians to three section banners, one WPIAL championship and two district runner-up titles.
Since 2007, he has been at South Fayette, claiming several COTY laurels in consistently guiding the Lions to the district and state playoffs. The Lions won a WPIAL title in 2015.
Music has been with Eldridge every step of the way. Raised in a “classical formal tradition” as maternal grandparents, Elizabeth and Herbet Kenyon, were a concert pianist and opera singer, respectively, Eldridge taught himself how to play various instruments, including piano, bass and electric guitar, which he plays on stage. “Never took formal lessons,” he said.
Eldridge said he started playing because he had written songs – he has more than 100 published pieces – so he decided to learn the instruments to “be in a position to write better what I wanted to sing.”
While his mother, Roxy, is a classical vocalist, his father, Bob, introduced him to the sound he prefers and performs.
“He exposed me to all the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s music,” Eldridge said. “I caught the rock ’n’ roll bug from him. He’s an artist, painter and illustrator. He designed the cover for the release.”
“Toro Toro” features six songs written by Eldridge. The CD was recorded by Mike Ofca from Innovation Studio in Steubenville and Eldridge at his in-home studio, dubbed Sonic Planet Studios.
Eldridge is the lead vocalist. He plays guitar, keys and banjo. His next-door-neighbor, Sam Baldigowski, excels on the mandolin and lap steel. Ron Castelluci (percussion and noise makers), Jerry Courtney (bass guitar and backing vocals), Eric Drake (lead guitar and back vocals) and Bruce Virtue (drums) complete the band, which Eldridge started three years ago in Pittsburgh.
“We’ve had a couple of different lineups but it’s mostly made up of professionals and buddies, all accomplished musicians. I know they were auditioning me as much as I was auditioning them,” Eldridge said of the players, most of whom hail from Weirton, W.Va.
Featuring a blend of genres, Eldridge described the CD as rock ’n’ roll with blues elements. The six-piece ensemble delivers the swagger of bands from days gone by while echoing its own influences. If it has a sound similar to British blues and the Rolling Stones, there is good reason: Mick Jagger and the boys are Eldridge’s favorite.
“I only wish I could perform like Mick,” he laughed. “Usually I have a guitar around my shoulder, so I am unable to move around the way he does.”
During his youth, Eldridge moved around a bit. He started with The Warehouse Band playing music from a range of bands like the Hollies, Stones, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Led Zeppelin, The Cult and Tom Petty. He moved on to the Voodoo Dolls, which included one member that currently plays bass for the “Jersey Boys” production in Las Vegas. The Voodoo Dolls covered more redent bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Jane’s Addiction and supported national acts like Gov’t Mule, the Jayhawks, Blue Rodeo and Edgar Winter. One of his biggest groups was the Spring Heeled Jacks.
Eldridge’s experiences have included encounters with Mick Taylor, who replaced founder Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones after he mysteriously drowned, along with Bob Dylan, Frankie Vallie and Gov’t Mule frontman Warren Haynes, who also played with the Allman Brothers and Phil Lesh and Friends.
“I met a lot of awesome musicians,” said Eldridge, “and it’s been wonderful but not my real desire.”
As he aged, Eldridge said his goals changed. While he has released a solo record on vinyl that can be heard on Pandora and Spotify, written background music for independent films and documentaries, and provided soundtracks for a local outdoor adventure show produced by Joe Rossi of Peters Township, Eldridge’s main focus is his family.
He is a father to three sons. His eldest, Ray, plays football. Heading into his senior season, he already has 15 Division I scholarship offers.
“He’s a self-made kid, good student, hard worker,” said Eldridge. “He did all the right things and followed Joe Rossi’s ground rules, and that had a big payoff.”
Eldridge’s two other boys – Gavin, a sophomore, and Chad, a freshman – have followed in their father’s footsteps and play soccer.
“I have been driven by raising my sons,” Eldridge said.
Through his music, he is driven to expose others to the art of writing songs and performing. Eldridge says that there are other things he wants to do but sharing is foremost on his list. While he’s excited about his CD release and calls it a “celebration and culmination” of the process, he is “pushing” for newer endeavors.
“I have an opportunity to help other artists,” he said. “You know, it only takes one song.”