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Son of Lawrence

Sully Erna gets the key to his city


By: JIM SULLIVAN

1/23/2007 11:46:47 AM

Sully Erna, Lawrence-born singer for Godsmack, is feeling reflective as he approaches February 7, the date of his 38th birthday and the release of his memoir, The Paths We Choose (Bartleby Press). “I didn’t want to write an autobiography as much as a snapshot of my life, about growing up on the streets of Lawrence, the troubles you get into,” he says, looking slight, scruffy, and amiable, a faded star tattoo on his right cheek. “It was really more, hopefully, a self-help kind of book.”

It’s the evening of January 16, and Erna is in Lawrence mayor Michael Sullivan’s office, about to receive the key to the city during a city-council meeting. He’s with family and friends, including some old Lawrence mates and Godsmack associates: drum tech Jeff St. Hilaire, lighting director Jim Mustapha, and former driver Fred Cristaldi. He jokes that the last time any of these guys had been inside City Hall was a couple of decades ago — and not for good reasons.

Like when he was 17. “We went to a house party in South Lawrence, and as the night unfolded I got into fistfight with a kid upstairs. He pulled a knife on me. They broke us up. Jimmy and Freddy got the car. I went downstairs and the kid had followed me down. He had a pretty big knife, and I pulled a shotgun — it was Freddy’s sister’s boyfriend’s — out of the trunk. I put it up to his face and pumped it, and this showdown began. I won’t tell you the rest.” It’s the story that starts the book.

“We led a wild life and did a lot of crazy stuff. There was a lot of times it was easy to make wrong decisions, but I have this passionate, creative side to me. I think in the book there’s a lot of lessons learned.” Erna’s time in the rock trenches included drumming with Seka (later Stripmind). In 10 years with Godsmack, he’s sold more than 13 million discs. They’re currently at #8 on Billboard’s Rock Radio chart with “The Enemy.”

During their talk, the mayor tried to talk Godsmack into playing the newly renovated Veterans Memorial Stadium. He also noted that Sully is one of only six key recipients over the past five years, joining Miss USA Susie Castillo and Wayne Newton.