Best Bets: Petting Hendrix getting ready to ‘Raise the Roof’ for American Legion

The members of the party band Petting Hendrix, are, from left, David Werner, Carmine Strollo, Michael Streck, Amy Walls and Rusty Hastings. The group will perform at Saturday’s Raise the Roof benefit for the Walter L. Fox Post 2 American Legion in Dover. (Submitted photo/Ray Nack)

When it comes to his band Petting Hendrix, Mike Streck gets one question all of the time.

What’s up with that name?

Turns out that one of lead singer Amy Walls’ former bandmates called her one day and asked her what she was doing.

“She said she was ‘petting Hendrix.’ Hendrix was her cat,” Mr. Streck explained.

“When she said it, she liked the sound of it and decided it would be the name of her band if she were to ever start one, and here we are.”

Mr. Streck notes that Hendrix has since passed, but the name and the band has lived on.

Around for more than a decade, Petting Hendrix has entertained legions of fans across Delmarva with an eclectic mix of cover tunes.

The band next will be heard in Dover Saturday as part of the “Raise the Roof!” benefit at American Legion Post 2.

Proceeds will go toward replacing the legion’s entire roof, as water has been leaking into restrooms and other areas for more than a month, sparking concern and potentially causing future events to be canceled.

The benefit, scheduled to take place from 4 until 11:30 p.m. (under 21 permitted until 10 p.m.), will also include Hooverville, Joey Fulkerson, The Jimmy Cochran Band, as well as DJ Casey Coleman, while Felicia Baker will be providing line dancing lessons.

There will also be auctions, 50/50 raffles and a cake wheel at the smoke-free event, as well as food, including chicken tenders, pulled pork and sausage platters, until 9 p.m.

Organizers say June Jam organizers donated a 60-inch flat screen TV to raffle off and there are more than 60 pick-a-prize items up for auction as well.

Tickets can be purchased for $10 at the door.

Petting Hendrix got started when Mr. Streck and Ms. Walls were in another band together.

“Back in 2005-2006, Amy and I were in a cover band called Jack the Penguin that played a lot of classic rock. Amy had just joined, replacing a male singer, and was coming from a smooth jazz background so she wanted to do songs that were more in tune with jazz and R and B,” said Mr. Streck, who plays guitar and keyboard as well as providing vocals.

“That didn’t really work for JTP, so we decided to start our own cover band to do stuff like that, but ended up doing a mix of pop, dance, 80s, classic rock and modern rock covers. It wasn’t exactly what we planned, but it’s been good to us. Now she loves singing all of it, which is lucky for us.”

After a slow start, the band started playing in gigs near members’ home bases in the Seaford and Crisfield and Salisbury, Maryland areas “and it grew from there,” Mr. Streck said.

Their guitarist Dave Werner has been around since 2008; Rusty Hastings has been the bass player for the last three years and drummer Carmine Strollo came aboard last summer.

“We all have different ages, different personalities and different musical backgrounds, so you’d think we’d be working against one another but somehow it all works out. Everyone is willing to work together and be a team player. That really makes a difference. We’re really lucky that everything has fallen into place,” Mr. Streck said.

Along with some personnel changes, Mr. Streck said the band has had musical changes as well over the years.

“We started out playing a lot of the same songs that every other local cover band was playing but then slowly started to pick up more current chart hits, especially female-fronted dance songs. That meant adding keyboards, so I ended up moving from guitar to keyboards.

“Always adding newer material keeps things fresh for us and fresh for the audience. It also helps us appeal to younger crowds as others age out of going to the bars. We still play some older songs, but they are songs that have proven themselves to be audience favorites, like some of the 80s rock that everyone knows and sings along to. But I’d say that 80 percent of what we currently play has been in the Billboard Top 10 at some point in the last 10 years.”

Mr. Streck also points to the addition of a sound engineer at all of their shows.

“That really helped add some consistency to our sound, especially if we get lucky enough to use the same person every week. In addition to that, we no longer use amps onstage and Carmine is using electronic drums now, which really cleans up our sound,” Mr. Streck said.

“Sound men tend to love that because they aren’t competing with a loud stage volume. And we always want to make the sound men happy so they will want to make us sound better than we really are,” he joked.

Organizers for Saturday’s event, which include the June Jam committee, say they owe a lot to the musical artists who are giving their time for the cause.

Mr. Streck said the band owes a lot to the Post and June Jam as well.

“We won a contest on WZBH (Radio) back in 2010 and the prize was playing a set at June Jam. From that point on, things just opened up for us. (June Jam vice president) Lynn (Fowler) has always been a big supporter,” he said.

“And we’ve known (Legion Post manager) Michele (Stabley) for years, from back when she was managing a different venue. She brought us and many other bands to the Legion with her, which always has a fun and really nice crowd.

“But I think an unsung hero for the Legion benefit is Tim Cannon, who is supplying the PA and his sound man services. He’s always helping causes like this. He’ll probably be the first one there and the last one to leave. Tim is a great guy and we are definitely proud to say he is a friend of ours.”

As the weather starts to warm up, Petting Hendrix will be heading down to the beach area for gigs, a place Mr. Streck always enjoys.

“It’s probably different for everyone, but one thing that I personally always found to be pretty cool was a family that would schedule their Ocean City vacation to coincide with us playing down there.

“To think that someone enjoyed us that much in a town that always has amazing cover bands from Baltimore and Philly, these bands that I have always admired, was a pretty awesome feeling.”

The American Legion Walter L. Fox Post No. 2 is at 835 S. Bay Road in Dover.

Shawn and Sharon

On Saturday, Delaware Friends of Folk will present Dover natives Shawn Qaissaunee and his wife Sharon Sable for their monthly coffee house concert in the Bennett Chapel at Wesley College, corner of Division and North Bradford streets in Dover, beginning at 7:30 pm.

Admission is $7 for members of Delaware Friends of Folk, $10 for non-members, and those 12 and under are admitted free. Fresh-brewed coffee, baked cookies and other snacks will be available.

This event features Mr. Qaissaunee, an alumnus of Berklee College of Music with a focus on jazz composition and music education. He has been in demand as a multi-instrumentalist and composer for over 25 years. A master of the guitar, bass, and keyboard, Shawn was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and has also learned to play two indigenous Afghan instruments, the rubab and the dutar.

Ms. Sable has recorded with Babyface, Boyz II Men, Pink and other international pop stars.

Opening the evening will be Delaware native Jason Filasky. He plays at the corner of folk and country and started playing music at a young age. Over his 20 years of active military service, music became his sanctuary while traveling and during deployments.

New Orleans production

Don-Del Productions presents “New Orleans – dans une perspective noire” at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover, Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29. Dinner is served at 6 p.m. (doors open at 5:15 p.m.) with freestyle musicians scattered around the dining area, followed by the show at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person for dinner and the show.

According to Don Blakey, producer, the show is an historical, informative and entertaining look at one of America’s most iconic cities from an African-American perspective.

Chronologically, participants will visit New Orleans through history. Visit Congo Square where freed people and slaves were allowed Sundays to be left alone to trade goods, see each other and make music familiar to them; and a look at the Voodoo practice of Marie LeVeau, the voodoo queen.

From there to the oldest African American Catholic Church (St. Augustine’s) for a typical service and then the Treme’ neighborhood where the Second Line bands hang out and jazz funerals are prominent.

The musical journey will also go to Jackson Square, where hundreds of artists and musicians ply their trade, plus a stop to sample the wares of a Senior Promotion which features familiar tunes to all.

Lastly you’ll take a ride on an up-river paddleboat to sample Dixieland music and a down river cruise ship headed for the Caribbean Islands.

The cast features regulars Dolores Blakey, Henry Greene, Ruth Shelton, Terry Gregg, Avon Barbour, Dion Savage, Pat Randolph, Alex Becton, Donna Blakey and several guest musicians and performers.

Tickets are on sale at Modern Maturity Center Member Services, or call 302-734-1200 Ext. 167. Proceeds benefit programs for older adults in Kent County.

Firefly addition

Finally, it was announced last week that the Firefly Music Festival has added a special, late-night Saturday performance by Passion Pit, as part of their tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of their breakthrough debut album, “Manners.”

The Boston-based synth pop band has had some issues with Firefly in the past. They had to cancel their gig in 2012 so that frontman Michael Angelakos could undergo treatment for his bipolar disorder.

And in 2013, their set was cut short due to allergies suffered by Mr. Angelakos, which made him unable to sing.

This year’s Firefly Music Festival is set for June 21-23 at the Woodlands of Dover. Headliners include Panic at the Disco!, Travis Scott and Post Malone.

For more information and tickets, visit FireflyFestival.com.

Now showing

New in theaters this weekend is the suspense-thriller “Us” and a 20th anniversary edition of the film “Cruel Intentions.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is “Aquaman,” Jennifer Lopez in “Second Act” and the acclaimed films “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Stan and Ollie.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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