Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"…one of the great guitarists in America, Philadelphia’s own Tommy Conwell…"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fine Times Magazine - Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers Feature

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers on the cover of Fine Times Magazine

Tommy Conwell
I’ll Rumble 4 Ya!
Two new band members and a debut LP bring the Young Rumblers to the brink of local stardom

By Kate Cericola
Fine Times Magazine, January 1987

Walking on the Water

     Looking down on the crowd at Scandal’s, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers can barely see anything beyond the waving mass of hands. Perhaps there’s a babe or two licking her lips in wanton earnest, eyes glued to the huge Guild that protrudes from the rather scrawny guy in the larger-than-life leather jacket, but Tommy Conwell is kind of busy right now.
     The amplifiers in the tiny club, off the main strip in Ocean City, are cranked to 11 (that’s one louder than 10), forcing each driving beat of Jim Hannum’s bass drum to gently fan the hair on every head within three feet of the speakers. Paul Slivka’s ubiquitous bass line guides the ruckus at a full-throttle velocity that keeps everyone on the floor jumping like a pack of rowdy Young Rumblers.
     Conwell dips the neck of his guitar into the crowd, chains dangling from his wrist, sweat dripping onto the hands that reach up, attempting to capture some of the magic that seems to flow from the body onstage. With Conwell’s arms slung around this old comrade,  and the name “Steve Jones” etched in the wood above the E-string are barely discernible.
     Conwell returns to his mike, his whole body moving in synch with the right hand that drives his rhythm, as his raunchy rock ‘n’ roll voice kicks the words, “I want to smoke cigarettes and drink too much” into the mob. “But I believe in miracles, but do you believe in me? Let’s go walkin’, walkin’ on the water…”
     His only fault is easily forgiven. He suffers from the incurable Musicians’ Curse: the ugly jamming face. With the combination of the hair, sprayed upward into stiletto-esque points, and the facial contortions, Conwell could almost pass for Billy Idol.
     The tough-guy boots leave the stage, Conwell lands on the floor of the bar, and he goes walkin’. On a platform amidst the dancers, he plays the hulking instrument behind his head, as his hair falls limp with the weight of his perspiration. Wrenching noises spew from his amp. Sure it’s loud, but that’s rock ‘n’ roll. And while crowd-walking is the oldest trick in the book, the fans like it well enough.
     The guitarist seems relaxed – somewhere deep inside him a voice is saying he never really has to return to the stage, but he does. He likes getting down ‘n’ dirty with the audience. He wants to be involved, where the action is – with the babes. But it’s got to end sometime.
     Tonight they will take no prisoners. Arming themselves with grinding raw energy and a handful of rock ‘n’ roll tones, they will beat their audience into submission. But when the Rumblers leave the stage, the patrons will hunger for more.
     It’s not a bad gig for this little bunch of ruffians. After all, they’ve only been together for two-and-a-half years. In that time, they’ve risen to the top of the local band heap – even opening for established recording artists and playing stages (the Mann, the Tower, and JFK Stadium) many local bands will only experience from a seat in the audience. With their first album, Walkin’ on the Water, in area stores, they seem destined to follow in the footsteps of their older siblings, the Hooters. 

Everything They Say Is True
     Like his music, Tommy Conwell lets his rough edges show. When he’s not onstage, you’ll still find him in that leather jacket – worn, old comfortable. His blond hair still juts toward the sky, but rather than stiff it seems soft, as if it’s kept up there by the residue of shows gone by. The boots are missing – he sports a pair of old sneakers.
     His concerns are simple: his music, his responsibilities to Cornerstone, and a worry that his longer hair in the latest batch of publicity pictures makes him look like Daryl Hall. He’s a bit aloof, perhaps even cocky, but occasionally his comments warrant shy laughter from the rising star.
     Although he’s 24, Conwell was still an infant as recently as two years ago, according to manager Steve Mountain. “That was the great part,” Mountain says, “because he’s always been tuned in. He never learned any of those bad habits that you’ll find with bands who have been together longer.”
     Almost from the start, Cornerstone has been there to hold the hands of the Young Rumblers, who were willing to learn everything their management could teach them. And while two-and-a-half years more seem like a short time to some, the first Rumblers album has been anticipated for more than a year.
     The first thing Conwell learned was how to be a musician rather than a manager. “I’ve always considered myself a leader,” Conwell says. “I guess when everyone else was standing around looking stupid, I would just make a decision.” Before Cornerstone,  Conwell booked gigs, drove the truck, set up and collected the money at the end of the night. Since Cornerstone now handles all this and more, Conwell has only his writing and performing to be concerned with.
     “I feel I can have faith in them,” Conwell says. “I don’t have to be looking over their shoulder all the time thinking “OK, when are you guys going to screw up?”, which I’ve heard a lot of people do. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about managers, and I have yet to see any of that.”
     Next, Conwell began taking voice lessons in New York and more recently a class in performance, whose graduates include Cyndi Lauper and the Hooters.
     His biggest challenge, he says, is writing. “That’s about having faith in yourself. It’s the biggest test of self-confidence because you’re being vulnerable and you’re setting yourself up to be knocked down.”
     His lyrics are straightforward, rebellious: “I’m not your man, ‘cause you’re looking for a hero/Baby, it ain’t me.” He claims they don’t have to be meaningful, universal, or world-conscious. They can be, but for now they’re just things that are important to him.
     “I’m like music for the less discriminating palate,” he says. “My music is not always so clever or calculating. You don’t have to be in tune to what’s happening to dig the Rumblers. If you like that raw energy, that spark…”
     Although they were originally dubbed a “rockabilly band,” perhaps because they were a three-piece with a hollow-body guitar, Conwell finds the notion ridiculous. “I consider us more of a blues band than rockabilly,” he says. Those blues influences give the Rumblers their flair, allowing Conwell to play off his audiences and improvise.
     “I like rock ‘n’ roll,” Conwell says. “Some places you go, they call heavy metal ‘rock ‘n’ roll.’ Like ‘We like rock ‘n’ roll…like Iron Maiden.’” He laughs. “Rock ‘n’ roll to me is screaming – like Gene Vincent or ‘Come Go With Me’ by the Del Vikings. That’s fun.
     “I like the spontaneity and the rough edges. It’s vital to have some mistakes. That just proves that there are human beings playing. I never liked music that didn’t sound like a band – Tears for Fears or Eurythmics. It sounds like a Pepsi commercial! Pop is fine – Hall and Oates or A-Ha. But I can’t do it.”

Million Pretty Girls

     It was Halloween [1986], and the Stone Balloon was hopping when Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers took the stage. They bounced around with the same enthusiasm, but there was something different. Gone were the rugged looks of street punks. Well, they still had the same sharp-looking hair, but their leather jackets and boots were missing. Instead, the boys were wearing house dresses shang-haied from Good Will.
     “We aren’t girls,” Conwell insists, “we were just wearing dresses.”
     Beneath the giant guitar, Conwell’s little white knees stuck out as he rocked the bar. Even the crew were wearing dresses, and Conwell and the Rumblers repeatedly tried to force them onstage by knocking things over.
     The crowd was loving it, as usual. A few girls may even have caught a peak up a Rumbler dress if they were lucky.
     “Girls are funny,” Conwell says. “Sometimes someone wants to punch you out because their girlfriend likes you, which is hysterical, because you couldn’t give a shit about their girlfriend and she’s all googly-eyed over you.” How he handles the situation: “Bouncer! Management You’re pretty protected. Plus you’ve got all those friends in the audience. I’ve always had more people for me than against me…maybe I’m wrong.” He laughs.
     “I’m not trying to make fools out of these girls,” he says, “but it’s interesting for us because we’re just your average guys.”

Do You Still Believe in Me?

     To the ear of a true Rumbler fan, Walkin' on the Water, co-produced by Conwell and Hooters bassist Andy King, may seem like a slap in the face. For the price of the nine-track, 12-inch vinyl disc, one will find added keyboard patterns wandering behind the customary rock of the Rumblers. The rockabilly stigma has become obsolete, with the recent additions of guitarist Chris Day (formerly of the John Alexander Band) and keyboardist (and ex-Hooter) Rob Miller.
     Conwell is confident that any shock will subside. “I got a lot of resistance from the other guys in the band,” Conwell says of the keyboards. “There was a fear that ‘Wow, we’re not the Rumblers anymore.’ And we’re not – we’re the new Rumblers, so screw the old Rumblers. Rest in peace, it’s been nice knowing you. If the old Rumblers hung around for another two-and-a-half years, I don’t think I’d like them that much. I think I’ve had about enough of that crap. It was really great, but it’s like anything. It gets old after a while.
     “We were always three guys trying to sound like six guys, and sometimes it showed in our energy. There’s something novel about that. Now we’ve got the new guys, so we don’t have to sound like six guys. We can just relax.
     At some point you have to think about consistency in your sound and your music,” he continues. “Not that you have to think about it, but somehow, when you’re straying too far off the mark, you know it. Like when you bring in a tune that you wrote, and it starts sounding like ELP [Emerson, Lake and Palmer] or some crap, then you know you’ve gone a little too far.”
     This was not a problem when turning the Rumblers into a five-piece band. “I knew I was doing the right thing,” Conwell says. “I didn’t care what the other guys thought because I’m the one who’s going to have to live and die with it.”
     Bringing the new Rumblers together was no easy task.  Conwell, who for fun takes busman’s holidays to see live bands, searched for a year before he found the right players. He admits to watching other bands, all the while pondering who he might be able to steal. Just prior to recording Walkin' on the Water, Day and Miller were inducted into the Rumblers.
     Miller was originally auditioned for guitar, but Conwell laughs “he was probably too good for that, so we stuck him on keyboards so he wouldn’t make me look silly.”
     For the new songs on the album, Conwell was lucky enough to collaborate with local hitmakers Eric Bazilian, Rob Hyman, and Robert Hazard (Bazilian and Hyman receive no songwriting credits, although they helped write a bridge for “Walkin' on the Water”).
     Next, Conwell spent a week in hiding with Andy King at a house in West Virginia. They wrote “Here I Come” and arranged a few new versions of old songs. Conwell says he feels he and King are “old battlemates” after living with him for a week and working together in the studio.
     “He understands what I’m trying to do musically,” Conwell says. “He didn’t try to force anything down my throat. I’ve been told producers can change your sound, and that would scare the shit out of me. But Andy didn’t want to change our sound, he just wanted to capture it.”
     The Rumblers spent October and November working 12-hour days at Studio 4 in Philadelphia. While the studio environment has a tendency to make less-seasoned musicians choke, Conwell says for the Rumblers it was simply a matter of control.
     “You have to remember what you’re doing,” he says. “Most people feel pressurized because they’re putting out money and it’s a one-shot deal. Live performance is a one-shot deal, too – it’s just easier to forget.
     “A lot of times when I was recording, I would just imagine all the people in front of me…especially the girls,” he laughs.

I’m Home

     Robert Palmer was waiting for the opening act to finish their set at the Mann Music Center. Onstage, three little guys were trying to make themselves sound like six. Not that the audience could tell – they all sat in their designated seats watching the Rumblers strut their finery. It can all be very intimidating, but not for the Rumblers. They’re comfortable – they’re home.
     “You get onstage because it puts you in a position to give to people, not to receive.” Conwell says.  Playing the bigger stages is easier for the band because they don’t have to work as hard to gain the audience’s attention. At clubs, it’s different – people are drinking, guys and girls are trying to pick up or be picked up, everybody is walking around.  At the Mann there are no distractions; the Rumblers won’t have to jump off their amps to say hello. Occasionally there’s some crowd-walking; but not too often. Conwell laughs, “You don’t want to blow away the headliner, you know?”
     The best moments are still in the clubs, though: a great night with an eager crowd, playing their favorite tunes with magic flowing from Conwell’s fingertips to the strings of his Guild.
     “That’s what it’s all about,” he affirms.” And if there’s a mistake, tough shit. It’s flowing through you. That’s what qualifies me to be so lucky. My job is to let magic flow through me, to express energy, and feel it.
      “Sometimes I walk around like Mr. Humble, thinking we’re just a lucky bunch of guys. But when a door is opened for you, you have to walk through. And we’re a band who walks through doors. If I seem confident, it’s because we waited two-and-a-half years to make this album, and I’m glad because I like it. And I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true…”
     He laughs again. “Well, maybe I would.”

Love's On Fire - Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers (45 single)

Tommy Conwell on the
cover for Love's On Fire; b-side is Tell Me What You Want Me To Be. Purchased from Holland.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers Opening Act at Electric Factory

Reviews for Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' opening act gig at The Electric Factory on Thanksgiving Eve have been coming in -- DJ Caterina has graciously received the following highlights:

- Jim C. said, "Tommy was great! He really looked happy to be playing in front of a Philly crowd again! He sold his first release "Walkin' on the Water" on CD for the first time and autographed them. He played every song from that release except “Million Pretty Girls” (which bummed me out a little because it’s a great tune!). …Chris Day was jamming pretty good, and Paul, Rob, and Jim played their usual solid parts in a great show!"

- Tommy M. at MySpace captured some great concert shots (including the great picture above) and made the statement: "Tommy thinks that the Young Rumblers oughta tour the world!"

- Smallest Mom Ever on MySpace: "Tommy was perfect--this was the best concert yet. i had so much fun. they rocked the house!"

- (Note: These videos have been set to private.) See some brief clips from the concert: Love's On Fire, I'm Home and I'm Not Your Man. Courtesy of teachrMom on YouTube.

- Mark Tassoni Photography has some great images, too!

DJ Caterina stayed in Dallas for Thanksgiving weekend with her family and friends -- selfish, I know!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tommy Conwell and Young Rumblers – MTV Walk On, 1988

An interview with Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, featuring Chris Day and Rob Miller. Promotion for Rumble, 1988. With Adam Curry.

Tommy rocks every party - including the one happenin' at the Electric Factory next week!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

WMMR Gobblaroo 2008

Get ready to party in the town that rocked the nation - Phi- Philadelphia - PA!"

It's the concert of the year --
WMMR Gobblaroo 2008 featuring The Hooters with Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.

Go to LiveNation.com and order your tickets.
It’s gonna be a great show!

Get your party started early with some ‘old-school’ videos from The Hooters and Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Buzz Zeemer: Tommy Conwell's role in the band

Buzz Zeemer talks about Tommy Conwell's role in the band. Featuring Frank Brown, Tommy Conwell, Ken Buono, Dave McElroy in 1996.

Conwell calls himself "Just another guitar player..." Just another guitar player? DJ Caterina doesn't think so.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Magazine feature article on the release of 'Rumble' by Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers.

Cheers | Made In Philadelphia

A quick rundown of the fruits of various hometown labors, all either coming soon or available in finer stores everywhere:


Rumble, the debut album of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, on Columbia Records. It's produced by Rick Chertoff and features collaborations with Robert Hazard and Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman of The Hooters. Conwell says, "I'll miss Philadelphia when we tour the country this fall, because we're so deeply rooted here. There's no guarantee that we'll be playing larger places, but it'll be nice to come home."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

DJ Caterina was really rootin' for the Phillies in the World Series this year -- yes, even all the way from Dallas! So congrats, Phillies, for a fantastic win! To celebrate the victory, DJ Caterina is sharing a picture of Tommy Conwell singing our nation's National Anthem at a Philadelphia Little League game in 2006. Image courtesy of Dennis H.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Promotional video of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers aired before concert featured on local Philadelphia TV in 1987 at the Spectrum. Interviews with local Philly DJ Joe Bonadonna and Tommy Conwell. And there's even footage of The Hooters singing Day by Day!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008

Buzz Zeemer - "Crush" (Live)

Buzz Zeemer performs "Crush" live at Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia, 1996.

"The hook on 'Crush' is so infectious you want to loop it over and over and play it forever."- Bruce Warren [Philadelphia Weekly, June 1996]

Frank Brown on vocals, Tommy Conwell on guitar and vocals, Dave McElroy on bass and Ken Buono on drums.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Update 06/16/10: Remix videos are no longer available on Photobucket....darn.

An awesome Tommy Conwell collection of images and video, courtesy of urbanluvr1 at Photobucket.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Buzz Zeemer Interview - 1996

A 1996 interview featuring Buzz Zeemer's lead singer and songwriter, Frank Brown, who talks about the "three-minute, thirty-second" pop song and how it fits into the band's mold. Also Tommy Conwell, Ken Buono and Dave McElroy.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

TCYR at Theatre of Living Arts - TIcket and Press Pass

Ticket stub and press [photo] pass for Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers concert at Philadelphia's Theatre of Living Arts. 
Concert date: March 23, 1989. 
Courtesy of Eric Hartline.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Image courtesy of Justin A. Leigh.

Tommy Conwell will be performing live at Ameritage Bistro, Friday, Sept. 12 -- in the heart of downtown Wilmington!

Click here for more details.

Reservations recommended
: Call 302.427.2300

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tommy Conwell | 1987 Image

Tommy Conwell, at the IFC Dance Marathon at Penn State, Feb. 1987. Courtesy of xnedski on Flickr.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tommy Conwell & Chris Day - 1989

Tommy Conwell and Chris Day, Young Rumblers concert in January 1989.

Image courtesy of Sandy Kinden.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I Remember a Special Moment by Cyndy Drue

The following is an excerpt from an article originally found on www.mpprojects.com/tc.
          One of my most memorable events was the record release party for Walkin' on the Water, held at the Chestnut Cabaret on Monday, December 29, 1986. Everybody was there for a reason! Aside from a few possible groupie-types, everyone there had something to do with the cause. The Chestnut Cabaret filled up quickly on that special night. I went with Buzz Barkley and it was on the way there that we talked about him being a part of Street Beat as the music news informant. He was about to start writing for the South Street Star so it made sense. Street Beat, the original local music show I hosted and produced for WMMR for ten years had just begun in February.
L to R kneeling: Promotion Director Jack Quigley, Pierre Robert, Larry Richman,Tommy, Program Director Ted Utz (holding album), Research Director Donna Bailey, Cyndy Drue. L to R standing: Music Director Erin Riley, YR's Guitarist Chris Day, Drummer Jim Hannum, Promotion Assistant Ray Koob, not sure of her position - just say staff member Dalin Pavey, Street Beat Correspondent and Beru Revue Keyboardist Buzz Barkley, YR's bassist Paul Slivka, YR's Keyboardist Rob Miller. [Photo credit - Scott Weiner]
          There was a true sense of family in the room. When Joe Conwell, “the famous one” as Tommy called his brother, walked into the room pushing the disabled Mr. Conwell in a wheelchair, I got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I didn’t know whether I’d be able to talk to this man whom I had read about in the Daily News, whom Joe referred to as the real strength in the family. I wanted to talk to him – I just didn’t know if I’d be able to get past the emotion. But later I did. He and his wife were sitting alone and I approached them, introduced myself, hoping they’d heard of me, which they said they had. Mr. Conwell was a little hard to follow but he was excited. I told them this must be a proud moment. Mrs. Conwell said she’s just happy for Tommy.
           Walkin' on the Water was playing on a great sound system all night and I couldn’t stop moving to it. I think it was hearing it there and being there that made me realize I loved it. During dinner I sat with Lou, Tommy’s cousin who worked for him as a roadie, Buzz, Greg Davis and Paul Slivka of the Rumblers.

           About 9 o’clock Tommy made his speech. He stood on the Chestnut Cabaret’s stage in a red light with an orange print suit. One hand in a pocket, completely at ease, he began. He told a story about how his voice teacher told him about a caterpillar. It was walking on a rug, crossing different colors, wandering all along what this rug was about. It seemed to have no order or design. Soon, the caterpillar became a butterfly, and it flew above the rug. It saw the colors and how they went together to form a pattern and he saw that there was order to the rug. He sees the Young Rumblers as entering the butterfly stage. And they are being rewarded. Everyone who works hard eventually is rewarded. The room was perfectly quiet throughout his speech. I was impressed. Tommy was serious and slow, thinking his words out carefully sometimes looking up into the air for his thoughts. He then thanked all the people, and pictures on the stage followed.

           All of the Hooters were there, most of Beru Revue, Tommy’s roommate from Dynagroove, Don Van Winkle, Eddie Bader and Ian Cross from Bricklin, and John Kuzma, among others. I left about midnight with Jack Quigley, WMMR’s Promotion Director.
          Tommy’s manager Steve Mountain’s closing words to us were “wait – in ten years – the book – you’ll be in it!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Robert Hazard [1948-2008]

Robert Hazard, Philly rocker, dies at 59

Click image to see Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers perform Love's On Fire. (Inset: Robert Hazard, 70's-era)

Robert Hazard, Philadelphia musician and composer of Cyndi Lauper's #1 song "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," died Aug. 5, 2008.

In a Billboard magazine article (10/28/1995), author Dan Delvea discusses a bit of Philly's past in "Diverse Acts, Indie Labels Discover Freedom in Philly"
"....the Hooters, Robert Hazard and Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers made [Philadelphia] a mainstream rock outpost in the '80s."
Robert Hazard and Tommy Conwell collaborated on two songs for the Young Rumblers: Love's On Fire and Everything They Say Is True.

Both songs were featured on two releases by Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers: the 1986 indie-album, Walkin' On the Water, and the band's 1988 national major label debut on Columbia Records, Rumble.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

100 Best Philly Albums of All Time - Rumble

A list of the 100 Best Philly Albums of All Time, according to this Philadelphia Weekly 2004 article, includes Rumble by Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers at No. 100. Good catch! The description of the song "I'm Not Your Man" is a bit incorrect [he doesn't want to be introduced to the parents, right?], but nice that the authors also included the band Flight of Mavis (Buzz Zeemer association via Frank Brown) in their Honorable Mentions list.

100. Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers
Rumble | Columbia, 1988

It's true: He and the Young Rumblers were the king of all bar bands, and that would hurt any rocker's credibility. But Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers were truly beloved in the '80s, mostly because this University of Delaware grad had a strong sense of what worked for the live crowd. That charisma is partly what attracted the attention of Columbia Records for this major label debut, which featured the hit "I'm Not Your Man," about a regular Joe who realizes he'll never be the kind of guy who gets introduced to the parents. The band never went far nationally, but Conwell remains a strong supporter of the Philly music scene as the host of Loud and Local on WYSP.

Philadelphia Weekly, Sept. 22, 2004.
These picks were written by: Jeffrey Barg, Patrick Berkery, Ainé Ardron-Doley, Julie Gerstein, Collin Keefe, Johnny Loftus, Ken Micallef, Ramsay Pennypacker, Liz Spikol, Michael Tearson, Suzann Vogel, Steve Volk and Tim Whitaker.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Bottom Line Cabaret ticket stub, 1988

Ticket stub from a Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers concert at The Bottom Line in NYC on Oct. 4, 1988. 

The appearance of the Young Rumblers occurred over two nights, Oct. 3 and 4.

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers
Opening Act | William Shaw
All Seats $12.50

*October 4 concert was broadcast live on WNEW-FM.

Image courtesy of tommyconwell.com.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Conwell Rumbles Into the Met | Chicago Sun-Times article

Conwell poses with fans, circa 1989

A December 1990 Chicago Sun-Times article featuring Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers.

Conwell rumbles into the Met
December 7, 1990
By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times

When I first saw Tommy Conwell's teen-idol face, I thought here was a guy who could win over the Tommy Page crowd with no problem.
When I first heard him sing, I was shocked by what came out of that mouth.

Make no mistake about it. Conwell is nobody's pretty boy. He is a serious musician who happens to have a youthful, not-so-serious outlook on life.

Conwell and his band, the Young Rumblers, will perform bluesy pop from their latest album, "Guitar Trouble," at 11:30 tonight at the Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark. Tickets, $6, are available at Ticketmaster outlets (559-1212).

The Philly-based guitarist, now 28, maintains a rebellious streak that most adults outgrow. His enthusiasm both in conversation and in his work is remniscent of a teen. In fact, his latest single, "I'm Seventeen," chronicles a teenager's angst with such unabashed clarity that I am tempted to believe the lyrics were yanked from a high school student's diary.

Probably not his own journal, though. Conwell's own adolescence didn't include much rock 'n' roll. He says he despised the popular music of the '70s and opted for George Benson and Charlie Parker over Styx and Supertramp. He even dreamed about becoming a jazz musician . . . until the Sex Pistols thumbed their pierced noses at the rock establishment and Conwell discovered punk rock.

"Punk rock was really great because it was (in-your-face) music, and for a 17-year-old, there's nothing better than that," Conwell said. "It's also a good type of music for a kid who is just getting into playing in bands, because you can be a lousy musician and still make great music."

Conwell's earnest music, particularly his guitar playing, saves him from being just another magazine-cover pop star. On record, his music sounds more sanitized than it does live, where his vocals take a backseat to his frantic playing.

For a would-be rock star, Conwell holds some pretty career-masochistic views. He actually wants the Metro filled with people who have no idea who he is. His reasoning for this? If fans are there, they'll enjoy whatever he does. Winning over people who don't know the difference between him and Tommy Shaw, now that would be a challenge he'd like to meet....

Saturday, July 12, 2008

TCYR Ticket Stub | 1988

1988 ticket stub. Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers performed at The Stone Balloon, Nov. 26.

Tommy Conwell performs tonight at 8 p.m. for the Florence Township Patriotic Celebration Day in New Jersey -- right before fireworks!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Long Live Rock - The Dipsomaniacs with Tommy Conwell

A cover of The Who’s “Long Live Rock” by Tommy Conwell with backing band, The Dipsomaniacs. This is rock 'n roll!

From the CD “Who's Not Forgotten, FDR's Tribute to The Who” - a collection of twenty-one songs recorded by a "who's who" of the best power-pop/indie-rock bands from the New Jersey/Philadelphia area.
Thanks to everyone for the inspiration -- and keep rockin, Tommy!
  • Tommyconwell.com
  • Karyn, Sam the Sailor and the HotWingsJones’ boys at MySpace
  • The great Sandy Kinden
  • Dipsomaniacs.net

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rock Tracks - "I'm Not Your Man"

A mention of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers in the book, "Rock Tracks: Album Rock 1981-1995 and Modern Rock 1988-1995." 

Listed under the Top 40 Album Tracks is "I'm Not Your Man" on Billboard's Album Rock Tracks in 1988.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tommy Conwell's Guitar Heroes - Rolling Stone Magazine

Issue 536 · October 6th, 1988

"Tommy Conwell's Guitar Heroes" is an article from Rolling Stone Magazine, October 1988. Full text below:

Tommy Conwell's Guitar Heroes

         Tommy Conwell allows only a select few to take a knife to his guitar (a 1969 Guild X500). He started the practice a few years ago when he and his Philly-based band, the Young Rumblers, began opening for big names. "Whenever we opened up for someone who meant a lot to me, I'd ask them for their autograph," he says. His collections includes engravings from Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Dickey Betts, John Lee Hooker, Steve Jones, Johnny Ramone, Chubby Checker and Chrissie Hynde.
          These days Conwell is signing a few guitars himself: his fans bring theirs to his shows. He and the Rumblers have just started touring to support their debut album, Rumble. Meanwhile, Tommy, the Rumblers and the guitar are on display in the video for the catchy "I'm Not Your Man."
          The largest signature on his Guild is Hynde's. "She had to make hers bigger than the other guys," Conwell says. "And when she was finally done carving it in with her own knife, she still wasn't satisfied. She said 'How about if I put my eye liner in there?' Her famous eye liner."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers | Guitar Picks

A cool collection of guitar picks from various Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers shows up and down the East Coast -- the 80's!

Collection courtesy of the late Sandy Kinden.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

93.3 WMMR - 40 Years

93.3 WMMR celebrates its birthday this month...rockin' Philly for 40 years!

DJ Caterina joins the month-long celebration with:

Happy Birthday, WMMR!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Love's On Fire - Philadelphia television, 1986

A performance of Love's On Fire by Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers on local Philadelphia television, 1986. Promoting the band's independent album on Antenna Records, "Walkin' On the Water."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

If We Never Meet Again

Yahoo! Music has a copy of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers'
If We Never Meet Again music video. Identified incorrectly as The Rumblers
, this video is an edited version of the song.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings Review

DJ Caterina left a review of Tommy Conwell and the Little King's Hi-Ho-Silver! on iTunes:

“Kings' Sophomore Release - Good to Great..."
The liner notes on the Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings sophomore release Hi-Ho-Silver! ends with a statement of gratitude to all the artists "who showed us how great a band can be and gave us good stuff to steal."
But there's really no 'stealing' going on in any of these covers -- just some great interpretations of some rock, jazz and blues classics. Hi-Ho-Silver! is a tribute to the many styles of music that have influenced the Little King's leader, Tommy Conwell, since his 80's hey-day with the Young Rumblers, right up to Hi-Ho-Silver!
The CD title takes its name from a line in "Honey Hush," a cover of Big Joe Turner’s 1953 #1 hit that spent eight weeks at the top of the R+B charts. Turner’s 1987 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Induction cites him as “among the first to mix R+B with boogie-woogie, resulting in jump blues - a style that presaged the birth of rock and roll.” It's no wonder that Conwell makes this song his rollicking own.

Conwell kicks off H-H-S with a cover of Don Covay’s “Bip Bop Bip,” a true homage to the original, and a reflection of Conwell’s deep musical roots. “Roll With Me, Honey” pays tribute to a version by Etta James -- except she sang, "Roll with Me, Henry -- and “Sonnymoon For Two” is a Sonny Rollins cover. The one Conwell-written track, "Smarty Pants," is a well-crafted guitar rock-blues jam that sits well with the rest of the tracks.

Conwell’s version of Joan Jett and the BlackHearts “Make Believe” is more feminine and sweet at the chorus than the BlackHeart’s comparatively masculine original from their 1981 debut album. This same sense of fun resonates throughout the CD, including on a cover of The Queers’ “Punk Rock Girls.”

"Without Love (There Is Nothing)" -- an Elvis Presley gospel hymn -- is re-imagined into the more powerful "Without Love (I Am Nothing)." With only Conwell's vocal and an acoustic guitar, the result is spare and memorable. Some might say the song is misplaced in this compilation, but to the Conwell faithful, it is a resounding reminder of his talent and musical gifts.

I'm Not Your Man by Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers played at the end of the Cool Vibes Acoustic Diner Radio Program show on April 25.
Tune in.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Everything They Say Is True - MTV (live) 1988

Left to right: MTV VJ Adam Curry, Chris Day, Tommy Conwell and Rob Miller

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers -- only two! Chris Day and Rob Miller -- perform "Everything They Say Is True" on MTV with the leather-clad host Adam Curry. This was the 80's!...The Young Rumblers were promoting "Rumble" in 1988.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Charlie Gracie documentary - "Fabulous"

Tommy Conwell appears on this clip for the Charlie Gracie documentary entitled, "Fabulous."

The Charlie Gracie documentary "Fabulous" chronicles the life and career of Rock and Roll Pioneer and Guitar Virtuoso Charlie Gracie. Charlie knocked Elvis from the top of the charts with his #1 monster hit "Butterfly". He went on a world tour and appeared frequently on televison programs including Ed Sullivan. He influenced some of the greatest rock icons of all time including: Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Van Morrison and Graham Nash. The film features interviews with: Graham Nash, Andy Williams, Peter Noone, Fabian, Frankie Avalon, The Dovells, Danny and The Juniors, Bill Haleys Comets, Jerry Blavat, Paul Moore, Tommy Conwell, Soul Survivor and several other music industry notables.
Documentary DVD available at: www.characterdrivenfilms.com.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, Empire Rock Club, 1986

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, circa 1986.

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers recorded live at the Empire Rock Club, Philadelphia, USA on December 19, 1986. Hear the Tommy Conwell interview with WMMR at the link below.

Disc One
1. Interview with Tommy Conwell - Post-concert with radio station 93.3 WMMR
2. Here I Come

3. Love's On Fire
4. Walkin' On the Water

5. Do You Still Believe in Me
6. I'm Home
7. Everything They Say is True
8. Cruisin' Slow
9. Tonight's the Night

Disc Two
1. I'm Not Your Man

2. A Million Pretty Girls
3. Possibilities
4. Workout

5. I Believe I'm in Love with You
6. Satisfaction Guaranteed
7. Downtown Train

8. Space Cowboy
9. Demolition Derby
10. It's Your Life
11. I Knew the Bride
12. Run Run Rudolph

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sho' Gone Crazy Music Review

A review of Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings' Sho' Gone Crazy released in 1997, courtesy of Debbie Gayle Rose, Middle Tennessee State University.

Rockabilly fans can celebrate a practically perfect album in Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings' Sho' Gone Crazy. The music starts fast and furious, and it never really slows down. To top it off, the quality of the music, lyrics and performances is as fine as anyone could ask for. The liner notes claim this is Tommy Conwell doing music on his own terms; in that case, he should always be allowed to do music on his own terms if it is going to be as fine as this.
From the first number, "Pony Time," the pattern of lively, hopping fun reminiscent of the '50s is set. "All God's Children Wanna Rock" bops along and proves that if they don't beforehand, they certainly will when they hear this song. "Moaning," despite its sad-sounding title, is a moving musical number that will tear up the dance floor, starring the sassy sax of Darryl Ray Jenkins. The funny, snappy lyrics of "Bad Haircut" keep the pace and add even more light and levity to the proceedings, as does "Going on Down Here." "Want You to Feel Good" mixes Conwell's fine vocals with that snappy sax for an unforgettable swing. "Mashed Potatoes" brings in a slight change of style without slowing the pace, but does not fail to show off its rockabilly roots. Heart and soul is poured into the performance of "Let Go," and I defy anyone to keep their feet still while this one rocks along. "Get Down" is a fine, frisky, frenzied tune that sweeps all in its path along with it.
Continuing the crazy, swinging pace is the solid song "Betty Jean." "That's All" is another fine number with just the right feel to it. You have to love the sax in "Bottle Woman," a smooth, sweet swing. I knew they would eventually have to slow down, but not by very much -- or not so that you notice a great deal with "It's Raining." It's a sad ballad of lost love and rain, nostalgic in feel, but fresh and lively. "Boogie Picking" is the ultimate in truth in advertising, and these boys do not give their instruments any rest in the final song on the CD.
The group consists of Conwell on guitar and vocals, Jenkins on tenor saxophone, Pat Coppa on bass and Paul Ramagano on drums. They should all take several moments to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. It is not often that a CD comes along with every song a winner and played with such skill and obvious love of the genre.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

More Than A Kiss - Tommy Conwell

More Than A Kiss is a song written and performed by Tommy Conwell. Music from the original motion picture soundtrack, Shout (1991). 
From the 1991 Shout Movie Soundtrack
Hollywood movie producer, Don Hehmanand, asked Tommy Conwell to contribute two songs to an upcoming film starring Jon Travolta. For movie buffs, the flick was Gwyneth Paltrow’s debut.

Tommy wrote two songs, “More Than a Kiss” and “Devil Call Me Back Home.” The first song was recorded in Los Angeles with Tommy on vocals backed by Stray Cat alums, Brian Setzer and Lee Rocker. The other song was recorded with blues legend Otis Rush on lead vocals with Conwell, Setzer, and Rocker.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

1987 Philly Music Hall of Fame: The Hooters, Tommy Conwell

          Interviews of Eric Bazilian (with Rob Hyman) of The Hooters and Tommy Conwell at the Philadelphia Music Foundation's Hall of Fame, April 16, 1987. Mini-performance of "Rock Around the Clock" by The Hooters at end of segment.   
          The PMF inducted 10 music legends into its Hall of Fame: Marian Anderson, Pearl Bailey, Chubby Checker, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Haley, Mario Lanza, Bobby Rydell, Bessie Smith and Leopold Stokowski.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Rumble [1988] - Rolling Stone Magazine Review

Rolling Stone Issue 540 · December 1st, 1988

Review of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers first national album, Rumble - December 1, 1988 issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

Record Ratings per editors of Rolling Stone


Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers

★★★ [3 stars]

          Philadelphia's Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers are a strong, dynamic live band. Coming out of the scene that produced the Hooters and Robert Hazard, Conwell is clearly the pick of the pack. His best material is engaging , spry and witty, and his band can build on traditional rock motifs without succumbing to them.
          But then why is much of Rumble disappointing? The band comes on steaming in the kickoff cut, "I'm Not Your Man" (a spirited, sometimes hilarious recasting of the ideas in Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe"), but too often both Conwell and his support sound stuck in the Beaver Brown Purgatory for Derivate Bands. There's a bit of Keith Richards guitar here, a splash of Max Weinberg drums there, a torrent of David Bowie phrasing over there. The production is clean and unobtrusive, but that clarity often serves to underline the indecisiveness of the arrangements. Whenever Conwell and the band seem about to sail into uncharted waters -- say, on the rampaging "Workout" -- they stop themselves and return to the riffs they grew up on.
          The album has some fine songs, particularly "I'm Not Your Man" and the simmering ballad "Gonna Breakdown," but the compactness and muscularity of the best ones leave you longing for more.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Benefit Concert at Springfield High School

What: Benefit Concert to raise money for the Save Darfur Fund
Where: Springfield High School
Who: Rocker Tommy Conwell and comedian and impressionist Joe Conklin
When: Friday, Feb. 1. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the performance will begin at 7 p.m.

  • Tickets may be ordered by sending an e-mail to concertfordarfurtickets@gmail.com.
  • Cost is $7 in advance or $10 at the door, and proceeds will be donated to www.savedarfur.org.
Read the complete article from the Springfield Sun:

Springfield High School's global studies course have made the people of Darfur their own special cause. Outraged by the slaughter of black Africans at the hands of Arab militias, the students are acting locally to raise awareness of the violence and raise money for the refugees. "People are being murdered. People are being raped," Courtney Bagwell, a senior in the global studies class, said this week in an interview. "It's horrible to learn about."

To help in their small way, the students will present a concert at their high school featuring rocker Tommy Conwell and comedian and impressionist Joe Conklin.

Conwell and Conklin are friends of Bagwell's mother, Suzanne, and Conwell taught at Enfield Elementary School and Springfield Middle School in the late 1990s. The seniors walking the hallways today were his elementary and middle school students back then, Conwell said Wednesday in an interview.

"I'm so proud of all the kids involved, especially Courtney, since I've known her since she was a very little girl," he said. "I love 'em, and I'm really happy that they're doing something of service."

For the benefit concert, Conwell will sit in with a student rock band, in addition to playing solo.

Courtney Bagwell said she asked Conwell for his participation to appeal to what she called an "older crowd" – meaning people old enough to remember the 1980s. The students on the concert committee assumed that the demographic would have a little money to spend, she said.