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Ridgewood Dad Embraces Inner Rockstar As Lead 'Doghouse' Guitarist

(L to R): Vic Gratta, James Marussich, and John Santuoso. Photo Credit: James Marussich
Doghouse playing at Mexicali Live Showcase 1-7-15
Doghouse playing at Mexicali Live Showcase 1-7-15 Video Credit: Doghöuse
(L to R): Vic Gratta, James Marussich, and John Santuoso. Photo Credit: James Marussich
James Marussich. Photo Credit: James Marussich

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Ridgewood native James Marussich is a tech salesman, husband, and father of two teen girls Mondays through Fridays.

But for a few hours on some weekends, Marussich gets to be a rockstar.

The vocalist and guitarist for Doghouse tours the local bars and restaurants of Bergen County.

"If I wasn't doing this I would be sitting at home," said Marussich, 47.

"Now I have [made] friends and I go out more. I'm part of this great little music scene."

The musician started taking guitar lessons in 2009 after seeing how much fun a friend of his was having in a band.

By 2011, he put a band together with friends Mark Ellis and Brian Mara. The trio began covering popular rock songs by bands such as The Rolling Stones, Queen, Bon Jovi, ZZ Top, Green Day, The Beatles and Blink-182.

Or as Marussich describes it, "stuff that people like to party to."

Later that year, Doghouse got their first gig at a "Dad Show" at Willard Elementary School.

"I was absolutely scared to death before the show," Marussich said. "We were playing in front of all our friends and neighbors."

"But somehow we pulled it off."

The performance earned the band some notoriety around town, including an article in the "Ridgewood News."

But Mara ended up dropping out of the band soon after, and Ellis moved away to Texas.

Marussich found bassist John Santuoso from Ridgefield Park, and drummer Vic Gratta from Warwick.

By the summer of 2012, Doghouse was getting offers to play gigs.

Since then, Marussich said the band plays out at least once a month, and has been a regular fixture at Ridgewood Unplugged.

Marussich said Doghouse has been a great way to remain social.

"We have a mini high school reunion every time we play," Marussich said. "My fraternity brothers from Stevens Institute come out, and my wife comes to every show and brings her friends."

"It's a very rare show where not at least a few friends show support."

In the future, Marussich said he would like for Doghouse to play bigger venues, and maybe even take a crack at performing original music.

"It's a fun hobby that has worked out really well," he said.

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