Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rodeo Joe (live) - Tommy Conwell's Young Rumblers

Tommy Conwell's Young Rumblers perform "Rodeo Joe" live at The Ambler Cabaret in possibly late 1985. (Year not confirmed).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Q & A with Walti Huber - "I'm 17"

Walti Huber is a Swiss musician now living in Germany, a folk singer-songwriter known for his original style, combining psychedelic and authentic interpretations to modern classics. 

As one reviewer of his last album [under the name of Jetsam] stated:
One can mentally get caught up in the labyrinthine structure (of his performance) that a German with an Irish accent singing English songs who also writes about French impressions...however, one will listen and find technically correct, honest and beautiful music. 

Walti was kind enough to answer a couple of questions for Audio Rumble about his cover of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, "I'm 17."

DJ Caterina: Hello Walti! I am an admirer of your cover song version of Tommy Conwell's "I'm 17." Why did you want to perform the song? What made you interested in the song?

Walti Huber: That's a good question. We have had the song in our program now for about 10 years -- a local record seller recommended Tommy Conwell's Guitar Trouble CD.

My wife and one of my daughters (she was then 12 years old) sing with me in the band JETSAM, so I thought it would be a good idea to wait until Céline was 17 and then she could sing the song. 

In the meantime, Céline is now 22, still sings with us, but has her own career. [Watch Céline Huber – Wings of Love].

As for "I'm 17," I am still performing this great song, being 61 now.

I like the song mainly for its wit and the feeling it gives to me reminding me of those rebellion years – and sometimes I still feel a bit like that after all these years. Also it's great fun to watch people smile about this old guy, who sings this 'angry' song with a big twinkle in his eyes. 

Musically it is a perfect piece, straight on, simple and resolved - is this the right word? - with a good timing and despite the words, very optimistic. 

Last, but not least, I'm a great fan of Bruce Hornsby, who played on the track as a studio musician. The only thing I never understood is that "I'm 17" never had a big airplay in Germany/Switzerland – so it´s JETSAM's turn to be the distributor around here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Little Sister (live) - Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers perform a cover of Elvis Presley's "Little Sister" live at Gatsby's (Penn State) on April 10, 1987.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

American Music Awards 1989 - Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers

Tommy and the Young Rumblers perform "Love's On Fire."

The following is a recreation of many similar conversations DJ Caterina has had in reference to a certain video performance clip. Names are fictitious to protect the innocent, except for DJ Caterina. Because if you don't know me by now, you will never never never know me...

John Doe: Hi, DJ Caterina! Do you have a copy of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers performance of "Love's On Fire" at the American Music Awards in January of 1989? Can you post it?

DJ Caterina: Hi! Thanks for asking! Great question and a highly popular request around awards season. Yes, I own a copy. No, I can't post it.

John Doe: What?!!

DJ Caterina: Well, "John" -- if you must know -- here's the story. Video of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' performance of "Love's On Fire" has been posted to YouTube several times by many others - but not by me, DJ Caterina. And each time the video makes an appearance, it has been forcibly taken down by those who own the copyright. 

In summary, you will not find an embedded post of this video on Audio Rumble.

John Doe: Ah, man. I really was hoping to see that

DJ Caterina: Yeah, sorry to disappoint you. It's an awesome video. Quite a shame, really.

Hand of Fate [live] - Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers recorded live in Amsterdam at The Paradiso on March 10, 1989 - VARA Radio - performing the Rolling Stone's Hand of Fate.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Satisfaction Guaranteed - Tommy Conwell's Young Rumblers

Left to right: Paul Slivka, Tommy Conwell and Jim Hannum

Satisfaction Guaranteed
Article from Delaware Beachcomber by Sean Rojas
[Date unknown, possibly 1985]

Talent is not something that can be acquired. It may be tuned or refined, but someone is born with it; practice and discipline bring it out. Some people can practice all they want and never be great, but people like Tommy Conwell that have talent just fine tune it.

Tommy is a young man with a future in the music business. He is 23 and when it comes to music, he is much older than his years. He plays his guitar with talent. Tommy used to play with the rhythm and blues band, Rockett 88. This is where he learn­ed to be the showman that he is.

Tommy says, "Mark Keneally of Rockett 88 taught me a lot. He has a great amount of energy, and so do I, but he taught me how to channel it for the most. 1 didn't calm down. I'm just more constructive." Conwell started playing for Rockett 88 when he was at the University of Delaware as an English major. Once he started playing, he left school.

When queried about his educational future and his parents' thoughts on the situation he replies, "Finish? I hope not. I hope I won't have to if the music does well. When I left school after three years, my parents didn't like me quitting, but they got used to it pretty quickly when I started making more money than I ever had before."

At the time, he hadn't been playing the guitar too long, only since ninth or tenth grade. When he was younger, he had taught himself how to play the piano. He learned some boogie-woogie, tried his lips at the trumpet, and used to buy harmonicas all the time. Then he tried his hand at the bass because it seemed less complicated as the multi-fretted guitar. The guitar didn't come until high school.

At first Tommy's playing was something fun, just something to do. As he started to get bet­ter, he began to play with friends and turn the music into something constructive. Tommy comments, "It happens if you play enough, you start to make money. I kept a good perspective throughout; I always wanted to be in a band that had a name, but I didn't get caught up in a fantasy. It wasn't a surprise when money started coming in, but it wasn't something that I took for granted."

He reflects, "It was fun at first, you know, playing around anytime you want, but then I started playing with Rockett 88 and things began to change. I still had a great time, but it began to be work. I began to have doubts; they seem to spring from hard work. I think everybody has that problem at one time or another. It wasn't until I left the band that I real­ly lost that feeling. It didn't really have anything to do with the band, it was me. After I left them, I sat around for awhile and that's when I realized how much I needed to play. So I got these guys (The Young Rumblers) together."

This band, Tommy Conwell's Young Rumblers, has only been together since Feb. 24, 1984. They started with a good momen­tum and have increased it throughout the past year and a half. The band now is Tommy on hollow body electric guitar, Jim Hannum on drums, and Paul Slivka on bass.

Tommy expounds on the future. "The guys in my band are really good players. As a mat­ter of fact we're looking to cut an EP in the near future. We're just doing some recording on our own now, something that lets us know how we sound. Our record will come out on a small label like Antennae Records, but we have some really good producers lined up. I can't say who, but they're well known in the Philadelphia area."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Guitar Trouble Press Release

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers 
          Anyone who’s kept an eye and ear open on the career of Tommy Conwell knows that no matter how the chips fall, you can always count on one thing from this intense, Philadelphia-bred young rocker – he’s never going to stray very far from the country and city blues roots of his music. 

          Whether it’s the tear-ass opening assault of “Guitar Trouble,” title track of the new album on Columbia Records, or the stripped-down harmonica-soaked confession of “Didn’t Want To Sing the Blues” (with guest Rod Piazza of the Mighty Fliers on harp) to name two obvious examples, you’d have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to realize that Tommy Conwell is a bluesman, first, last and always. 

          “I love the blues, you know what I mean? The early version of the Young Rumblers started out as a blues band, a 3-piece called the Boogie Boys. We would play whole albums, like Chuck Berry’s Great Twenty-Eight; his London Sessions is my favorite album. Then we’d do a John Lee Hooker song or Muddy Waters, or we’d work in Slim Harpo, serious stuff!” 

          Guitar Trouble, produced by Pete Anderson (conspicuous credits: Dwight Yoakum, Michelle Shocked) is one of those rare moments when a band is able to grab hold of its influences, deliver them with resonance and authority, then move beyond those sources to show understanding on a broader plane. More than its predecessor, 1988’s Rumble, the new album is even truer to the sound of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers. 

          After the opening “Guitar Trouble” (“I’ve always been comfortable starting the show with a fast song, like a whirlwind, I don’t know why”), the set moves to “She’s Got It All,” one of two songs that Anderson brought in from Milwaukee songwriter John Sieger (Semi-Twang), the other being “Do Right.” “Let Me Love You Too” is one of three tunes that Tommy penned for the new album, a conscious attempt at writing an “up” road song that happens to have a funny lyric besides, “…like, I know you’ve got a boyfriend,” says Tommy, “but let me love you too.” 

          “I’m Seventeen,” the first single (and another Conwell original) is, if not the greatest rock dedication in modern teen history, then a surefire top 10 contender:  “I’m 17 and I don’t know / I guess I’m just a UFO…”  Who’s the adult here, anyway? The possibilities are endless. Tommy thought enough of the song to reprise it in stripped-down, acoustic “demo” fashion to close out the album. (And check out guest Bruce Hornsby’s Garth Hudson/Bandstyle licks on the organ.) The video was directed by Gus Van Sant, of Drugstore Cowboy renown. 

          “Nice ‘n Naughty,” co-written with Robert Cray’s producer Dennis Walker (who wrote “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” for Cray), features some readily identifiable piano riffs by guest Johnnie Johnson, known for his years with Chuck Berry. Next, the aforementioned “Didn’t Want to Sing the Blues” is one of three new cuts co-written with Marci Rauer (the others being “Rock With You” and “Good Love Bad”); the Philadelphia-based songwriter collaborated earlier with Tommy on “I’m Not Your Man,” his first Columbia single from Rumble, and that LP’s gospel-soaked “Gonna Breakdown.” 

          Before the album ends with part two of “I’m Seventeen,” the Rumblers deliver a real gem, a ballad entitled “What Once Was” by near-forgotten Nashville Underground songwriter Tim Kreckel (from his Sluggers collection). “As soon as I heard it,” says Tommy, “I knew I wanted to do it.” Just like that, complete with George Benson-flavored guitar solo. 

          As a stubborn and meticulous as Tommy Conwell is about his music, his desires are simple and straightforward: “First I wanted to be Charlie Parker on guitar,” he muses of his early jazz and bebop years, “and then all I ever wanted to be was Jimmie Vaughan,” reflecting on the former lead of the Fabulous Thunderbirds (a band Tommy can never praise enough.)
          What does Tommy want now? In true, understated blues style he begins to think out loud, “Right now is a very hard time for musicians who want to play music and play their instruments live – so I’d really like to contribute something, to contribute in the biggest way that I can, to keeping it all alive. 


          Tommy Conwell was born and raised in suburban Philadelphia. Brought up in a supportive family, he remembers music always being an influence. “I remember the first record I ever bought was ‘Wipe Out’. I remember it because I went to the shop with my buddy who bought ‘I Never Promised You a Rose Garden’ and all the guys were laughing at him.” 

          Tommy got his first guitar in 9th or 10th grade and taught himself to play; soon after, he picked up an electric. His first group, the Elastic Band, had the distinction of playing an outdoor concert at Tommy’s high school. 

          “I was real ambitious when I first started playing,” recalls Conwell, a bonafide guitar junkie. “I wanted to be the best, the best guitar player. So I said to myself what’s the hardest music? There was a lot of jazz in Philly, and that type of music was a challenge. Plus, it felt right. Traditional jazz was something I felt I could do and no one else was doing it.” 

          He first encountered the real blues when he entered the University of Delaware at Newark. “I saw blues as a liaison between jazz and rock. I was really into punk, which I loved for the performance, drive and party of the music, and jazz which I felt just emoted from the guitar. Blues seemed like earthy rock ‘n roll with a lot more improv. 

          While at school, Tommy joined Rockett 88, an established grind-it-out-six-shows-a-night blues bar band, as a sideman guitarist. It was during that year and a half that he feels he got his “chops.” He also began turning the heads of local music scene insiders. 

          Tommy Conwell formed the Young Rumblers in February, 1984. By the fall, the lineup had solidified with Delaware musicians Paul Slivka on bass and Jim Hannum on drums. The Young Rumblers quickly became regulars on the mid-Atlantic music scene, consistently filling night clubs to capacity and clearly affecting the audience. Their stature grew to the extent that eight of their shows were eventually broadcast live, including a TV simulcast from Veterans Stadium on Labor Day, 1986

          That same fall, the Rumblers’ lineup expanded with the addition of a rhythm guitarist and keyboardist. Soon afterwards, the new group went into the studio with former Hooter Andy King, who co-produced the first album by Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, Walkin on the Water. An independent regional release, the LP sold over 70,000 copies and received heavy airplay on Philadelphia radio, as well as on numerous AOR, CHR and college stations across the country. 

          Walkin’ on the Water also included early versions of four songs redone for the band’s Columbia debut: “I’m Not Your Man,” “Love’s On Fire,” “Everything They Say Is True,” and “Walkin’ On the Water.” The album attracted the attention of record companies and national media, ultimately resulting in deal with Columbia Records in May ’87. 

          The summer of ’87 found the Rumblers opening for Squeeze, Robert Palmer, Pretenders, Bryan Adams and David Bowie. By October, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers had been profiled in Rolling Stone; a month later, they received the “Most Promising New Artist” award at the first annual Philadelphia Music Foundation Awards show. 

          As a musician, Tommy Conwell is influenced by a wide variety of artists. He cites Charlie Parker and Jimmie Vaughan as major influences, then goes on to name Chrissy Hynde, (Pretenders), George Thorogood, the Sex Pistols, and the Ramones. Tommy’s innate talent strikes all who come in contact with him, but is something he develops without dwelling upon it. “From the start,” he says, “I think that my best asset is that God made me different from everybody else. Everyone has that asset, but not everyone chooses to use it.” 

          The musicians that complete the Rumblers’ sound are best described as intense perfectionists. Jim Hannum’s strong drums and obvious love of the stage pervade each performance. A passionate music lover, he and Conwell often grill each other on new music. Paul Slivka’s steady rock bass playing shows control and technique that have developed strongly over the years. Billy Kemp is a guitarist from Baltimore who paid his dues in Nashville. Rob Miller adds depth to the overall sound on keyboards and guitar. “He’s the analyst of the band,” laughs Tommy. “It’s great because we didn’t have that before. He forces us to look at other areas, to evaluate in a technically musical sense. I’m just interested in the magic. Rob is my other half, plus he’s a very, very talented musician.” 

          The July ’88 release of Rumble got off to a fast start when “I’m Not Your Man,” the debut single, hit the #1 spot on the Billboard Report’s “Hard 100” the same week the band opened its first headlining tour of the U.S. The first 7-week leg featured a number of special radio events, including a 98-Rock lunchtime concert live from Baltimore’s inner harbor; a WBCN/Boston live broadcast following the station’s annual fireworks display; a big outdoor show at the infamous Dallas Alley hosted by KTXQ’s Redbeard; and a night at the Seattle Paramount as part of KISW’s “Rising Star” series. 

          The rock press caught the fever: “Subscribers to the ‘sweat first, message later’ school,” wrote Tom Moon in the hometown Philadelphia Inquirer, “this band had made a record like few in recent memory…” The single also benefited from a hot promo video directed by David Hogan. It was filmed at the 23 East Cabaret in Philadelphia, and documented the Rumblers’ grass roots popularity at the site of many an early gig. 

          The touring turned into a 6-month trip that included a European itinerary in the bargain, shows in Sweden, Norway, Holland, Italy, Germany and England. Meanwhile, a second single and video (“If We Never Meet Again”) took the band through the beginning of 1989. They got one of their biggest breaks in January when they played live on the 16th annual “American Music Awards”; that same month they were seen on “Late Night with David Letterman.” And who can forget their appearance in February with Arsenio Hall, on the show that included Don King and Mike Tyson? 

          Perhaps their most curious trip was to Japan, where Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers got to experience first hand the phenomenon of ‘ajuku’, where thirty to forty bands line Yoyogi Street in Tokyo on Sunday afternoon and just rock the joint. “They all had little generators, and they’re playing right next to each other so you had to stand right in front to hear ‘em.” 

          All of which is to say that wherever Tommy Conwell is, guitar trouble can’t be far away. “When I started the Rumblers,” he reiterates, “I wanted it to be a punk blues band – like the way the Stray Cats were a punk rockabilly band, and the Specials were a punk reggae band, and James White and the Blacks were a punk James Brown band. 

          “I don’t know if I ever pulled it off,” he wonders. “But I’m still trying to mold blues and punk into something where they both stand up, and where they can embrace other things. But it’s been a long time, and things are different now. It’s evolved into whatever the hell the Rumblers are, you know?”

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tommy Conwell - Acoustic at The Blockley | 1/31/2013

Tommy Conwell, Jeffery Gaines
          Tommy Conwell's anticipated January 25 acoustic appearance at the Blockley was postponed due to snow. So everyone waited another six days until the gods deemed the weather appropriate and Tommy Conwell and Jeffrey Gaines eventually made their appearance on Thursday, January 31. 
          Reports are that Tommy also performed a long-lost demo that DJ Caterina mentioned to him at his appearance at the Electric Factory. The song is "Time's Gonna Make It Right" - written by Tommy Conwell and Jules Shear. Back in the 80s!