Roots rocker goes solo, while Johnny’s Dance Band is back
By Denny Dyroff, Correspondent, The Times
This weekend, there will be two local concerts featuring acts that have their roots in straight-ahead rock-and-roll — no art rock, no electronic dance music, no hip-hop but rather just pure, unadulterated rock.
One features Marshall Crenshaw, who will be performing at the Flash in Kennett Square on May 9. Crenshaw’s musical influences include soul, classic songwriters, early British rock and Buddy Holly (whom he portrayed in the 1987 film “La Bamba”).
The other features a Philadelphia-based band that started making music more than a quarter-century ago in the City of Brotherly Love — Johnny’s Dance Band, which is performing May 10 at Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville.
Crenshaw, who last performed at the Flash in April 2013, tours solo most frequently and other times with a band.
“I play shows occasionally with the band the Bottle Rockets,” said Crenshaw, during a phone interview Tuesday from his home in upstate New York. “More often, it’s just me by myself.
“I’ll be playing solo at the Flash because it fits there. This is my third time to play the Flash. It’s a great place. I like it a lot. It’s fun to perform there because it’s such a classy place.”
Crenshaw, who has established a reputation as a talented singer-songwriter, rarely tours and only does a handful of live dates each year.
“I don’t really tour anymore,” said Crenshaw, whose eponymous debut album was released in 1982. “I usually do only about 50 shows a year and spread them out over the whole year. “I think it might be a little more this year. It works better for me the way that I do it.
“When my kids were little, I established this level of activity so I could be home a lot. I was happy with that. They’re grown now but I’m still happy keeping that level of road activity.”
Crenshaw’s latest endeavor is a subscription-only service that addresses the recent changes in the music business by cutting out the middle man (the record company) and distributing new recordings directly to fans.
Fans will have access to a steady stream of new tunes via a series of exclusive three-song 10-inch, 45 RPM vinyl EPs on Addie-Ville Records — six of which the artist plans to release over a two-year period. In addition to the vinyl discs, subscribers will also receive a download card for digital versions of the EP tracks.
Each EP consists entirely of newly recorded, never-before-released material, including a new original Crenshaw composition, a classic cover tune, and a new reworking of a time-honored favorite.
“The latest EP always comes out on Record Store Day,” said Crenshaw. “I just released ‘Red Wine’ last month. It’s the fourth in the series of six. ‘Red Wine’ is the A-side and the other side has a cover of an old James McMurtry song called ‘Right Here Now.’
“The B-side also has a great version of my 1991 song ‘Hey Delilah.’ This mix is a lot different than the album version. The demo version was great with jungle-like drums. My longtime fans will really like to add this to their collections.”
The format for the release of his new music also played a major role in the EP project.
“The vinyl thing is very important,” said Crenshaw. “I think vinyl sounds best. It’s definitely superior to digital. The sound is friendlier to the nervous system. I’ve always been partial to vinyl.”
Crenshaw will perform at 8 p.m. on May 9 at the Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, www.kennettflash.com). Tickets are $25 in advance and $29 day of show.
Johnny’s Dance Band had its start in Philadelphia in 1969 — the same year that the Woodstock Festival brought rock music to a whole new plateau. In 1972, JDB recorded its first album and soon was getting airplay on WMMR. From 1975 until 1979, Johnny’s Dance Band was the biggest local draw in the Philadelphia tri-state area.
The band got signed to RCA Records’ Windsong label. Unfortunately for the local musicians, it was a union that never really worked out. By the end of the 70s, Johnny’s Dance Band ceased to exist.
A little over three decades later, JDB rose from the dead and, once again, began drawing fans to shows to hear the band’s rocking and fun songs. In January 2013, JDB played an unrehearsed show at Dobbs in Philadelphia and that was the catalyst.
“We did a reunion that was supposed to be a one-night stand,” said Tony Juliano, during a recent phone interview. “We didn’t expect anything more. It was just for fun. But, the reaction was more than we expected.
“We had a packed house with no advertising — just word of mouth. The crowd reaction really took us off-guard. They were singing along and having a great time. At this point in our lives, we never expected anything like that.”
Juliano, a guitarist, and Courtney Colletti, another guitar player, are the two original members in the current line-up. They are joined by bassist Ron Ward, drummer/vocalist Ray Cardona and vocalist/keyboarist/guitarist Arlyn Wolters.
“Courtney and I have been musical associates for 45 years now,” said Juliano. “Ever since the first year, we’ve always seen eye-to-eye. The other three members all joined last summer.
“After the success of the reunion show at Dobbs, we decided to take it one gig at a time — one month at a time. We want to keep doing it as long as it stays fun. We’re playing to packed houses and it’s our peer group.
“We’re in communication with our fans. They’ve told us quite clearly that they like their old favorite JDB chestnuts but they also want to hear our new songs. We still do songs that are heavily laced with satire and other songs are just straight-forward good songs.”
Johnny’s Dance Band will perform on May 10 at 8 p.m. at Steel City Coffeehouse (203 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, 610-933-4043, http://www.steelcitycoffeehouse.com). Tickets are $16 in advance and $18 day of show.