Old school of rock

Performers stay forever young through their music

Performers stay forever young through their music

June 26, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play.

So did Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

It was the 1960s and the music - and the musicians - inspired a generation of young people to pick up a guitar and learn how to deliver a few scorching riffs.

For some, it was a passing fancy. For others, being in a band was part of who they were.

Decades later, many of those guys still are performing - hitting the stage on weekends with energy and attitude.

In the alternate universe known as rock 'n' roll, musicians are forever young.

Such is the case in the Tri-State area, where guys who loved the idea of being in a band as youths can't imagine doing anything else as adults.

"This is who I am," said 54-year-old Lew Palladino, who plays guitar for The Rhythm Kings, a Hagerstown blues band. "I've been playing the guitar since I was in the third grade. And I don't see any retirement in my future. It keeps me young."


Palladino said he loved music as a child and always could sing on pitch.

But what he really wanted to do was play the organ.

"I begged my dad, but we didn't have a big house," Palladino said. "So I went with the guitar."

The year was 1963, and Palladino already could see his future.

For five years, Palladino took lessons from Odie Palmer, a local music instructor who played with Patsy Cline's band.

"He was a country player by choice, but he didn't try to steer you in that direction," Palladino said. "He was a good all-round player who wanted to give his students a well-rounded view of music."

One year, Palmer took three students, including Palladino, and started a small band.

"It was my first taste of performing with a group, and I loved it," he said. "In fact, two of us played together for years."

As a teenager, Palladino said he listened to and was influenced by the music he heard on the radio.

"I loved Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears," he said. "They had super players."

But what he really was drawn to were the guitar-driven bands.

"Some of the people I liked listening to didn't have the radio hits, but were tremendous guitar players," he said. "I didn't always go for the mainstream groups or the ones that have had commercial success."

Palladino said the first big band he played in was the Fantastic Flames, a rock 'n' roll band whose name still brings a smile to his face.

From the mid- to late 1970s, he played with a band called City; from the late 1970s to 1990s, he was with Shooting Star; and from the 1990s to today, he has been with The Rhythm Kings.

"We're a guitar-driven trio," he said. "While we're billed as a blues band, we're not strictly blues. We do some dance stuff, some pop and rock, some funk."

Palladino said the group also performs original pieces, penned by himself and fellow band mate Bob Tantillo.

"We've found our niche," he said. "When people come to see us, they know what they're going to get. We're a blues-rock band as a core."

Palladino said he still loves playing in a band and doesn't mind being on stage for three hours a night.

"When you've got a great crowd, you feed off their energy," he said. "We have a decent following and a lot of people who have come out over the years to support us."

When he's not performing, Palladino teaches guitar at St. James School and Carpenter's World of Music.

"This is all I do. My total package is music," he said. "I can't imagine doing anything else."

'A special feeling'

Ray Clark started playing the guitar when he was 7 years old. He also took trumpet lessons, but the guitar was his first love.

He remembers playing in a grade school band, and his first gig was playing a sixth-grade graduation.

During those early years, Clark said he was influenced by Eric Clapton - "I was a big fan" - Billy Preston and Steve Winwood.

In junior high school, he was part of a band called The Reks and played a lot of songs by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

"We thought we were so good, we auditioned for the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour at WTOP television near Washington, D.C.," Clark said. "Our parents loaded up our gear, we got to the studio and had to hurry to set up. The producers really rushed us to get to the next act - tap dancers. Unfortunately, we didn't make the cut."

In high school, Clark was a member of the Martinsburg High School Band. He also was part of a group called 4th Chapter.

"This was my first serious band," he said. "My father had had a heart attack at the age of 58 and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. So I tried to make extra money for the family by playing with the band."

In the 1970s, Clark and longtime friend and previous band mate Jim Lockard organized another band, Razmus.

"We played a circuit of about eight to 10 clubs, changing the set night after night," he said.

But Clark stopped playing after he had children.

When his children got older, Clark, who now plays keyboard as well as guitar, returned to music, eventually resurrecting the Martinsburg, W.Va.-based Razmus with the help of Lockard.

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