BEST BETS: Tommy Conwell to rock June Jam

Tommy Conwell, shown here performing at the former Baycenter in Dewey Beach in 2010, will play the 40th annual June Jam charity concert in Houston on Saturday. (Delaware State News file photo by Marc Clery)

Tommy Conwell has fond memories of June Jam and is ready to make some new ones on Saturday.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the charity music festival is bringing back old favorites, which include the reunion of local bands such as Hyde Park and Furious George along with Johnny Neel.

For Mr. Conwell, who gained fame with his Philadelphia-based Young Rumblers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it will be his third appearance at June Jam.

“I did June Jam once with my band the Little Kings and once with The Destroyers, George Thorogood’s band,” he said this week.

“We did all my songs with the Destroyers. I was smart enough not to do any of George’s songs. Those guys are just amazing. It was a great experience. The crowd loved it.”

This year he’ll perform with another one of his bands, The Sellouts, performing all of the songs he found success with and then some.

He had a No. 1 U.S. mainstream rock hit in 1988 with “I’m Not Your Man” off of the independently produced album “Walkin on Water.”

Other hits followed including “If We Never Meet Again,” “I’m Seventeen” and “Let Me Love You Too.”

The band’s national major-label debut came when Columbia Records released “Rumble” in 1988, followed by “Guitar Trouble” in 1990. A third album “Neuroticus Maximus” was recorded in 1992 but the band’s label then, MCA, chose not to release it.

It’s now available on his website, TommyConwellStore.com, under the title “Thanks But No Thanks.”

JUNE JAM LINEUP
Kategory 5
Main Stage at 12:05 p.m.
Junior Jammers
Second Stage at 1:20 p.m.
Hyde Park
Main Stage at 1:40 p.m.
Shades of August
Second Stage at 2:40 p.m.
Triple Rail Turn (formerly Philbilly)
Main Stage at 3:45 p.m.
Johnny Neel
Second Stage at 5:15 p.m.
lower case blues
Second Stage at 5:15 pm
Tommy Conwell
Main Stage at 6:30 p.m.
Furious George
Second Stage at 8 p.m.
Brickyard Road
Main Stage at 9 p.m.

Although he didn’t play with Mr. Thorogood at June Jam that year, he did tour with him back in the early 1990s.

“We went up and down the East Coast. We played the Spectrum, The Meadowlands at Brendan Byrne Arena. George was really funny and really a great guy,” he said.

Mr. Conwell said Mr. Thorogood was an early idol.

“I was already a blues fan but he was a big influence. I remember when I went to the University of Delaware, George used to come to The Deer Park once or twice a year. He would play at The Cellar in Wilmington. I heard ‘Bad to the Bone’ before it came out,” Mr. Conwell recalled.

“George is an absolute treasure to the state of Delaware and a gift to music.”

For a Philadelphia kid, playing the Spectrum, the former hallowed area arena, with Mr. Thorogood was a dream come true.

“I remember during the tour wanting to get these reissued Fender amps. So I called the music store once we got into Philly and ordered two of them with a credit card. The guy on the other end said ‘Where do you want them delivered?’ I said ‘The Spectrum,’” he said with a hearty laugh. “That was so cool to be able to do that.”

Mr. Conwell looks back on his time in the national spotlight with fondness. But rather than playing certain gigs or venues, he’s quick to point out the people he played with instead.

“The coolest part of the whole thing are the people I got to meet and open for. These were my heroes. David Bowie, Robert Plant, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray and Jimmie Ray Vaughn,” he said.

“Bruce Hornsby played on one of my records. Chuck Berry’s piano player Johnny Johnson played on one of my records. That’s the unbelievable stuff that you remember.”

Another career highlight was making his national television debut on “Late Night with David Letterman” in 1989.

“I got to play and sit down to talk. That’s like pulling double aces when you’re playing poker. That was amazing. At first (band leader) Paul Schafer was aloof but then he was nice to us. You just can’t believe where you are,” he said.

“You’ll do a gig in Hickory, North Carolina or Grand Rapids, Michigan — some town where they don’t know who you are and they wish you’d get out. It can get pretty depressing. But then doing something like Letterman evens it all out.”

After music, Mr. Conwell became a radio disc jockey and also a third-grade teacher for a time. He works in his family fencing business now.

He said the touring and the limelight was fun while it lasted but he doesn’t miss it.

“It was a lot of work. I still play but it’s not my main source of income. It’s a grind. It’s hard. I have a wife and kids and I made the switch to be around my kids more,”

“When you’re the lead singer, you’re constantly promoting. Now I don’t promote anything. I don’t care. If you know me, fine. If you don’t, that’s fine too. I’m not trying to get any bigger. But it can be brutal.”

And about that unreleased album …

“Who knows why it never came out? There are a million reasons why. A lot of times the old boss loves you but they get a new boss and they hate you. They probably just changed their minds. That’s showbiz,” he said wistfully.

Now free from the politics of it all, Mr. Conwell is looking forward to being at Houston’s G&R Campground for June Jam, where he’s scheduled to go on at about 6:30 p.m.

“We may lean a little in the blues direction but it will be my stuff. I know there are a lot of blues fans in Delaware and I love the whole June Jam tradition. We’ll have a few surprises. It will be fun. We’ll play it all. It will be all kill and no fill,” he said.

Kategory 5 will kick things off on the main stage at 12:05. Shades of August, Triple Rail Turn and lower case blues are also on the bill. Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band Brickyard Road will wind things up starting at 9 p.m.

Tickets will be available at the gate on Saturday. G&R Campground is at 4075 Gun and Rod Club Road in Houston.

Raleigh Keegan

Rebel Seed Cidery, the sister company of Harvest Ridge Winery in Marydel, will present an acoustic performance by country artist Raleigh Keegan Sunday at 6 p.m.

Tickets for those over 21 are $10 and includes one drink and $5 for those under 21. They can be purchased at RebelSeed.com.

Rebel Seed Cidery is at 447 Westville Road.

Heritage Winds

The Smyrna Opera House, at 7 W. South St. will host Heritage Winds, the woodwind quintet component of the United States Air Force Heritage of America Band or a free concert at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Heritage Winds offers programming that covers a wide array of musical styles. The ensemble embraces the full range of the quintet repertoire, while also exploring various instrument combinations.

Doors open at 1:15 p.m. This does not require a reservation. For more information, call the Smyrna Opera House at 302-653-4236.

Lisa Scott, left, and Tricia Massey will perform with the ecarte dance theatre Saturday night at Delaware State University. (Submitted photo)

ecarte spring concert

ecarte dance theatre will present its spring concert at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Education/Humanities Theatre of Delaware State University. The modern dance and contemporary ballet company will premiere nine works choreographed by artistic director Judith Engelgau, ballet mistress Tricia Massey, and company member Natascha Ward. Ruby Rogers, Emma Massey and Emma Hardy will represent the apprentice company with selections from the Young Choreographers Workshop.

The novice company, ages 4-12, will perform “Shen”, to traditional world music. They will also dance in “Send a Flood”, with musical segments from the soundtrack of “The Greatest Showman”.

Ms. Massey has choreographed “Steadfast Guide”, a two-part work to the music of Tom Walker, drawing on images from Thomas Merton. Natashcha Ward’s classical “Pointe Class” pays tribute to the long hours of training a dancer must undergo and the dedication involved.

“Living Light”, choreographed by Ms. Engelgau to the music of Zoe Keating, is an exploration of the gift of light beside moving water. Taking inspiration from “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats, “Slouching toward Bethlehem” is a modern/pointe work.

ecarte welcomes the visually impaired community by presenting a Sensory Seminar prior to the performance. All those interested in participating should call 302-674-4689 for further information.

Tickets, $15 adults, $12 students and senior citizens, may be purchased at the box office the evening of the performance. Group discount rates are available with prior request.

Band debuts in Milton

In 1985, Alexander Uskuraitis and Sky Brady were riding high on the success of their jukebox hit “Kensington Girls”. Time moved on for both.

Mr. Uskuraitis is now playing accordion with Media, Pennsylvania-based Lost Northern Tribe. Mr. Brady, who moved to Delaware in 1993, sang for the successful band Skinny Leg Pete.

Now 30 years later the two are joined to debut their new act Sky Brady and the Lost Northern Tribe in Milton Memorial Park Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The rest of the band is Wayne G. Harvey on bass and vocals, Frankie “Fingers” Luca on guitars and Stevie Ray “Ragnarok” Rongner-Cook on drums and vocals.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is the all-female “Oceans 8,” the suspense thriller “Hotel Artemis” and the horror film “Hereditary.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the faith-based film “I Can Only Imagine,” a remake of “Tomb Raider,” the animated “Sherlock Gnomes,” the coming-of-age film “Love, Simon” and the horror film “The Strangers: Prey at Night.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment