Friday, August 31, 2012

Tommy Conwell's Young Rumblers | First Concert [3-Man] February 24, 1984

The debut performance of Tommy Conwell's Young Rumblers at the Skid Row Beach Party, University of Delaware in Newark, February 24, 1984.*

Songs from the set list include:
- Rumble
- Workout
- Million Pretty Girls
- Walkin' on the Water
- Sweet Little Rock 'n' Roller

Vintage Interview with Tommy Conwell about his infamous 3-man band

Q: Tell me about the early garage band years starting the Young Rumblers.

A: “The Young Rumblers' first gig was February 24, 1984, at Bacchus, the on-campus club at the University of Delaware. There were a bunch of bands, and we went over pretty good, but of all the bands on the show, our picture was on the cover of the widely read school newspaper the next day. We ended up being in that paper a lot that first year, and I really think it helped get people into us.
The band was me, Chaz Molins on bass, and Mark Walls on drums. Mark quit after that first show--I forget why--and my old roommate Brad Fish became the drummer. After about six months Chaz was replaced by Paul Slivka, who I had played with in a jazz group, and six months or a year later Fishy quit 'cause it was just too brutal. We worked!
We played anywhere we could get paid, and we were getting a lot of jobs. It was definitely full time, and rough. We played 3 or 4 sets a night, traveled up to 3 1/2 hours to a job, and worked 5 or 6 nights a week. My larynx was a bloody nub! My fingers were literally split open; I used to put crazy glue on them to close them up so I could play, but when a string went in there, as they did frequently, it hurt! I didn't care, I was gonna rock every where we went! I took it personally, and there were no excuses.”

[Interview courtesy of M
arc Pelletier's tribute website]
*Note: This performance does not include
the band's encore of the beach classics “Hawaii Five-O” and “Walk, Don’t Run.”

Sunday, August 26, 2012

An Interview with Drummer Jim Hannum

The following is an excerpt from an article originally found on

Jimmer rode shotgun on drums and silently commanded the Young Rumblers' hard-drivin’ rhythm section from 1984 to 1991. After his subsequent departure, Jimmer joined up with another former Young Rumbler, Chris Day, and played in Delaware Valley clubs from 1991 to 1996.  Today, Jimmer still drives his beloved Harley Davidson and plays drums in a Delaware-based band called Wrekkadge.

What were your thoughts after performing on national television at the American Music Awards in February 1989?

I was completely star struck. It was a night like no other! I sat behind the Judds in the audience. We were talking to Axl Rose right before we went on stage to perform. It was great meeting the guys from G' n R.

How did you join the Young Rumblers?

Paul Slivka (who I have known since we were in the 9th grade) and I were in a band called The MIB (Men in Black)…..(p.s. Will Smith was not the frontman!). We were playing around the University of Delaware area, which at the time had a big punk scene. Tommy was attending school at the University and had seen us play. Tommy asked us to join his band. Paul had joined the band before I did. One night I received a call from Paul who was doing a gig with Tommy at the Ambler Cabaret when their current drummer had car trouble and could not make it to the show. Quickly I got my gear and went to the Ambler Cabaret. The club was packed. I nervously setup my drums and we played. That was my first Rumbler show and from there I became a permanent member of the band.

When did you first recognize the Young Rumblers were special?

Tommy had a huge draw and I knew it was going to be big! When Chris Day (guitarist) and Rob Miller (keyboardist) joined around ‘86, I recognized that the band could go all the way. It sounded much fuller after that.

I once read that you played drums with the cymbals facing upside down. Why?

An article once said that I played the symbols in reverse order. This is partially true because my setup is unconventional. Basically it's a left-handed setup that I play right-handed. The symbols were off position, but not up side down.

What was the relationship between the Hooters and the Young Rumblers?

Dave Uosikkinen, drummer in the Hooters, and I are good friends and he was in the studio to make sure I didn’t screw up. He made me nervous, so I played good.

What is your reaction today when you listen to some of the vintage Young Rumblers?

It was often difficult to capture the live sound on the records. I liked our live sound.

Who are your favorite bands?

U2, Third Eye Blind, Foghat (who we played with one night when I was playing in Chris Day’s Band), Beatles and Patti Loveless (who is a country performer).

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jail House Rock (live) - Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers in Boston, 1990, perform a cover of Elvis Presley's "Jail House Rock." Promoting Guitar Trouble. Recorded live on 104.1 WBCN.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Haddon Heights - Tommy Conwell concert images

Concert images from this evening's performance at Haddon Heights with Tommy Conwell.

Image by K. Sell on Facebook. (1)
Image by @karschsp on Twitter. (2)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Teacher's Skills Are As Solid As Rock

Philadelphia Inquirer | October 18, 1997
By Daniel Rubin

It's a glorious Friday afternoon, and the twenty-four third graders return from recess like Superballs shot from a cannon. They can't sit still for spelling. Social studies seems hopeless. The rookie teacher turns to a favorite weapon.

"OK, folks,"' says the gravel-voiced man in a buzz cut and rep tie, "it's time for Multiplication Rock." When the cheers die down, he has one foot on a desk, balancing a second-hand guitar he bought for such moments. The class starts chirping in unison math facts buried painlessly in the catchy tune.

"Two times two is four. Two times three is six." The teacher stays in the background, but he can't help throwing in a tasty chord or lick.
The third graders at Enfield Elementary have former rock star Tommy Conwell for their teacher.

He's Mr. Conwell these days - a 35-year-old beginner, and the Springfield, Montgomery County, school's only male classroom teacher. On weekends, he can be found playing around town with his band, the Little Kings. Weeknight gigs are a thing of the past. So are limousines.

Ten years ago, New York record-company execs were lined up outside his shows at the 23 East Cabaret in Ardmore, checkbooks in hand, hoping to throw money at the lanky blond rocker and local guitar hero.

"Conwell is all attitude,'' wrote an Inquirer reporter in 1987, "black boots, spiked hair, Billy Idol sneer, snarling guitar.'' He was also described as unfailingly polite, patiently signing autographs and drawing cartoons for fans, his respectfulness ingrained by the nuns of Bala Cynwyd.

Columbia Records reeled in Tommy Conwell and his Young Rumblers for big bucks, and they made two albums. Eventually, Conwell realized he was more of a performer than the songwriter the labels were looking for.

After MCA, his last big record company, dropped him four years ago, he thought about his prospects and decided that the money he had saved would allow him to go back to school full time. Last December, he graduated from Chestnut Hill College, where he was used to being the only guy in the room.

Now he's the only adult in a room full of 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds who have to raise their hands to go to the bathroom. The kids don't remember his salad days, but their parents do.

"The first thing their parents tell me is, 'I saw you at the Cabaret,'" says Conwell, who lives in Chestnut Hill and has a 3-year-old son. If he wanted some compartmentalization in his life, events conspired against him: On the first Monday of the term, his latest record - Sho' Gone Crazy! - got reviewed in the paper.

"The word gets around,'' he says. "Some of the parents are my age. When I first dreamed about being a teacher, I knew having a rock-and-roll past might be a positive or a negative. Some just might not like it. If that happens, then I'll have to convince them."

Screenshot from PRISM interview [Tommy Conwell and the Little Kings Live at the Chameleon, 1997.

His blond hair is now shorn to a dark nub he rubsconstantly as he decides which way to go with his students. He always wears a tie. Usually he's in a suit - "makes me look more like a principal,"' he says, cracking up. 

Some of the lessons from the music world have helped the novice teacher, who student-taught at Enfield last year. For social studies, he had his pupils write a song about Johnny Appleseed, sung to the tune of The Star-Spangled Banner. They made up one about Miss Rumphius - a character in a Barbara Cooney book - to the tune of Barbara Ann. 

Conwell's class is known around school as the one that gets to do the most singing. 

"I wish I could have him again next year,"' says Edgett Hilimire, 9, who was wearing a jacket and tie yesterday, like his teacher. The boy was also wearing punkish red nail polish. ("I love this kid," Conwell says.) 

"I've never really had a boy teacher before,"' says Emily Walker, 8. "It's sort of neat. It's sort of funner." 

Principal Warren Mata knew nothing of Conwell's roots when they met last year. Mata knew only that during the interview, Conwell handled every question designed to plumb his knowledge and resourcefulness. 

"He was incredibly prepared to be a teacher," says Mata, 42,who lived in Montana and North Jersey during Conwell's 1980s rise. "I wasn't here during the rock-star era of his life. To me, he's not that person. He's a person who has come well-equipped."' 

There is barely an inch of white space on the walls of Mr. Conwell's room, the surfaces covered by posters and drawings, lists and instructions. Step two in The Writing Zone tells how to make a draft: "Write a messy copy." 

The guitar stands in one corner, an upright piano in another with sheet music for "High Hopes'' and "Swinging on a Star.'' Against the far wall, Conwell has built a stage, with shimmering green curtains from his days on the road. 

Over the blackboard a bright sign says "Showtime." And over that: "You never know what you can do until you try." 

"It's great," says Conwell. "It's a great age and I'm very much in love with the kids. I'm just nuts about them. It makes it easy to come here every day. It makes it easy to work hard. The hours I'm putting in are just more than I would ever imagine, but it's not drudgery. It's inspired work. Your heart is in it. My heart is in it." 

He laughs as he says this. "I must say, I'm still a rookie, so I'm figuring it all out. And there's a lot to figure out." 

The real challenge, he says, is directing all the energy and ability levels he finds in one room. "As a musician, my biggest job has been to create excitement in the audience. Here, this is not the primary goal." He laughs again. 

"I have to manage kids' moods - there's a wide dynamic range. And there are times, many times, when everyone needs to be silent. Managing that is a trick." 

The way he greets his young rumblers after their midday recess suggests he's not having any jitters. 

"We don't shout. We enter quickly. We don't talk right now. Take a seat. Put your desk in position for a test. Take out your spelling notebooks," says the man whose diploma - posted by the door - reads Thomas Edward Conwell, bachelor of science. "We have work to do."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tommy Conwell | Sundown Music Series

Update: Thanks to flipp022 for posting the full concert on YouTube. At 29:27, Tommy performs a cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' American Girl.


Don't forget this week...Tommy Conwell with guest Georgie Bonds on Wednesday, Aug. 8. 

The Sundown Music Series is held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday nights at the McLaughlin-Norcoss Dell in Haddon Lake Park in Haddon Heights, NJ.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Guitar Man (live) - Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers

A rare cover of Jerry Reed's "Guitar Man" performed live by Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers in Boston, promoting Guitar Trouble in 1990. Recorded live on 104.1 WBCN at The Paradise.