FRANKLIN LAKES — Singing is a religious experience for Franklin Lakes musician Tommy Dudley.
He calls it "blues Buddhism."
"Buddhism is an awakening of the spirit," Dudley said. "When I sing everything, I feel comes through me and I am connected to everyone."
Dudley practices blues Buddhism in the band "Gangster Squad," alongside actor Vincent Pastore -- famed for his role as Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero on "The Sopranos."
He also founded the "Blues Buddha Band" in 2006, and has played with former New York Yankee Bernie Williams.
In 2015, Dudley was inducted into the New York City Blues Hall Of Fame.
Before striking out on his mindful path, however, he had to beat substance abuse.
On his way out of a 1998 NA meeting at a Mount Vernon, NY church, Dudley spotted a flyer for vocal lessons on a church bulletin board.
"Today, with my spiritual connection, I feel that it was fate for me to find that flyer," Dudley said.
The teacher, LaRose Saxon, was pretty intimidating, he said.
"I sang a little for her and she stopped me," Dudley told Daily Voice. "She asked me what I was doing with myself and why hadn't I been singing this whole time."
It was an awakening for Dudley.
"Something about how she said it made me believe her," he said.
Dudley eventually began singing in blues jams around New York City. In 2006, he launched the Blues Buddha Band. Two years later, he quit his day job and committed to the band full time.
One night at Posto's in New Rochelle, Dudley approached Pastore after a Gangster Squad show.
"I asked him if I could sit in for a song, and I promised I wouldn't embarrass him," Dudley said.
He's been singing with the band ever since.
"Music saved my life," Dudley said. "It is a spiritual thing that has healed me."
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