Williamsburg resident Scott Sheets, an unassuming computer graphic designer, very nearly became an American celebrity.
On the strength of a rock ballad he penned four years ago after a painful divorce, Sheets, a 55-year old who lives on South 11th Street, was one of 20 finalists in the second annual “American Idol” songwriter competition.
“Fly Me Away” contrasted his enduring love of music with the faded love of his marriage. When a friend told him about the competition, Sheets, never a fan of “American Idol,” submitted the song on a whim.
Alas, Sheets came up short, losing out to “Time of My Life” by Reggie Hamm, which became American Idol singer winner David Cook’s inaugural single.
The decidedly old-school Sheets had a bemused perspective on his brush with American pop culture. He confessed, however, that he was “a little disappointed” he didn’t win.
“The song they picked wasn’t very good. The lyrics are pretty hokey – I wish at least something better would have won. It’s too bad it has to be [Cook’s] first single,” he said.
But life will go on for Sheets. And besides, it’s not as if he needed the “American Idol” competition to validate his musical career.
While the show usually tries to spotlight amateurs, Sheets has enjoyed his share of professional success in the music business.
In the late 1970s and 80s, the Garden City, LI, native was a rhythm guitarist for rock star Pat Benatar, nee Patricia Mae Andrzejewski, a Greenpoint native.
Sheets described his time with Benatar as exhilarating and educational.
“We went all over the world – we would play every single night and then get on a train and get to the next city the next day. A lot of the other people would just go to sleep, but I would walk around the city, seeing what there was to see,” he said.
After leaving Benatar’s band in 1982, Sheets moved to Los Angeles to start his own band. He also produced and wrote music for other bands and singers. Among them was Japanese singer Minako Honda, for whom Sheets wrote a hit song that topped the Japanese charts.
But as with so many musicians, “nothing ever worked out – I never got a record deal,” he said.
In 1998, armed with a degree in graphic design he obtained in night courses, Sheets moved back east to start his Brentwood, LI-based computer graphics and printing company.
Since then, the rock-star life has given way to that of the nine-to-fiver.
But he hasn’t stopped dabbling in music. He produces two popular Brooklyn bands, Paperdoll and the Vesties.
And the Brats, his band from the 1970s with whom he played before joining Benatar, reunited in 2004 after a two-decade long hiatus.
Taking their name from a derisive description by their old friend Alice Cooper, the Brats – a punk-pop outfit – were a mainstay on the ‘70s music scene at places like CBGBs, Max’s and the Ritz, and played with bands like Blondie, the Talking Heads, the Ramones, the New York Dolls and Kiss.
In 2004, the guys from the old band found themselves together for the first time in a while when one of the band members got married.
Soon after, they were back together playing gigs.
While nearly all of their material is from the 1970s, Sheets said their triumphant return has been met with appreciation from younger audiences.
“Kids that hear us now say what we do is relevant to what’s going on today,” he said.
Sheets said the Brats rehearse around once a week and play a gig once every couple of months.
“Back then, we used to play a lot more. I wish we still did, but guys got jobs,” he said.
The Brats will play at Southpaw (125 5th Avenue) on July 9 at 9 p.m.
The Vesties, a popular Brooklyn band that Sheets produces, will also play at Southpaw that night.
For more information, call 718-230-0236.
The Brats can be found on the web at myspace.co