Thursday, April 4, 2013

Young Rumblers Keep Cruisin' - November 23, 2002

The following is an excerpt from articles originally found on

 "The 80’s are back!”

... roared Tommy Conwell to those out to celebrate the anniversary of the legendary Stone Balloon in Newark, Delaware. The Young Rumblers reunion lineup included frontman Tommy Conwell, guitarist Chris Day, bassist Paul Slivka, drummer Jimmer Hannum, and a stand-in keyboardist.

(Relaxing after the gig, Tommy commented, “It would have been nice if Rob Miller could have attended. He’s in California. Rob always seemed to improve the quality of our live performances.”)

Despite the absence of Rob Miller and years of separation, the band showed no visible signs of musical decline or indifference to the songs from their past. The Young Rumblers appeared to be inspired by a glowing acceptance from the crowd who came prepared to dance, sing, and party. After each song, Tommy, with beat-up Telecaster in hand, warmly acknowledged dozens of familiar faces like his buds from Skid Row at the University of Delaware

Chris Day, decked out in black leather and clutching his weathered Stratocaster, performed his own cabaret by mugging and posing for any girl. At one break, Tommy and Chris Day jokingly struggled to recall the names of their former Rumbler roadies in attendance. Who else acknowledges the roadies these days? 

Rumble sold 300,000 copies -- which are all in my mother’s basement!” Tommy exclaimed. Tommy’s set list seemed primed to showcase the Rumble album in particular, with a focus on songs rather than guitar jams and blues covers. 

The Young Rumblers ignited the evening with rocker-friendly originals including “Here I Come,” “Half a Heart,” “Love’s on Fire,” and “Everything They Say is True.” Like fine Bordeaux, which gets better with time, “Half a Heart,” caught me by surprise with a very catchy riff and inspired back-up vocals. Tommy dealt with one heckler named Wolfman, who kept shouting for “Roadside,” by saying, “Here’s a song better than that!,” and launched into “Gonna Breakdown.” 

“That’s Dr. Harmonica on harmonica,” Tommy joked as Delaware’s blues legend took to the stage to close out “I’m Not Your Man.” Only problem was that his harp was in one of the many pockets on his leather jacket that he had trouble locating. However, with weapon in hand, Dr. Harp played to the delight of all. Even twelve years later, Tommy found himself covered in cigarettes during the intro to “Walkin’ on the Water.” As expected, “Workout” was punctuated with Tommy jumping off the stage and slowly maneuvering through the crowded pit of fans. The only songs from the set list that never appeared on a Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' album were “Cruisin’ Slow” and the 1956 Jimmie Roger's blues classic performed by Chris Day called “Walkin by Myself.” 

“If you remember this song, you are OLD!” Tommy tells the crowd before launching into the highlight song of the evening- “Cruisin’ Slow.” I always thought this Rumbler tune showcased their secret formula of youthful bravado, catchy guitar riffs, and riveting back-up vocals. Why Columbia chose never to include that gem on an album I will never understand. Who cares! It sounded fresh in 2002. The band cut the set list short due to the dreaded 1 a.m. last call in Delaware and closed with “If We Never Meet Again” -- exiting stage left quickly. 

Bassist Paul Slivka was the last of the Rumblers to leave the stage, slapping hands with his loyal admirers. Jimmer Hannum ended the night with his old brown cowboy hat on head and a huge smile on his face. 

The Young Rumblers partial reunion reminded me that Tommy Conwell indeed blossomed from his garage band days in Delaware and developed a catalog of catchy songs that have become timeless. Even amid all the good fun at the Balloon, it was nice to see the Young Rumblers originals stand up after so much time. In Wolfman’s last quote on this website, “They’re back!” 
Cheers to Jim Baeurle, owner of Stone Balloon, and opening acts Lauren Hart, John Faye’s Ike, and Andy King’s Jack of Diamonds.
~ November 23, 2002

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