Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers - October 5, 2013 - The Blockley

WXPN Welcomes
Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers
Saturday, October 5, 2013

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm (event ends at 2:00 am) - Philly time!
Get your tickets!

Friday, August 9, 2013

WMMR - Tommy Conwell Special

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9]

WMMR aired the Tommy Conwell Special, hosted by Cyndy Drue, in August 1988, the night before the release of 'Rumble' - the national debut album of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers on Columbia Records.

Cyndy Drue | #Rumble25

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9]

Thanks to Cyndy Drue, Philadelphia radio icon and television personality, photographer and voice-over artist for her words about the 25th anniversary of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' release of "Rumble." 

From 1983-1996, during her tenure at 93.3 FM WMMR, Cyndy Drue hosted and produced "Street Beat" an hour-long weekly show featuring new and original music from area artists. It was the first of its kind in Philadelphia and gave valuable radio exposure to many artists. 

Cyndy is quoted as saying that Tommy Conwell "... (was) the first Street Beat graduate to make a success of himself."

A Rumble of Rock and Blues: Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers Major-label Debut

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9]

A 'Rumble' of Rock and Blues

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' major-label debut

by Tom Moon
Inquirer Popular-Music Critic

(Philadelphia Inquirer - August 8, 1988)

The most revealing moment on
Rumble, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' major-label debut that will be released today, comes near the end of Side Two with "Tell Me What You Want Me To Be," a chugging, locomotive jump written by Conwell and veteran songwriter Jules Shear.

As an electric guitar scratches out the Morse code rhythm, Conwell sings of a drifter, scattering details between episodes of bluesy guitar contemplation. When the conclusion arrives -- in the form of the country-fied chorus:

"Well, there is no happiness being this free \
Oh Lord, won't you tell me what you want me to be?" 

-- the character's trials, formerly hinted at in the vocals (and explored in the guitar solos), become blindingly clear.

The song is no longer a trite character play. It is an expression of something that has nearly vanished in the sofa-cushioned world of contemporary rock and roll: desperation. This is a last-ditch plea. Conwell's voice cries out for help from anywhere -- even, perhaps, from the TV evangelists. The guy's in trouble.

Such a call for guidance is common in blues and gospel and other American music forms, and "Tell Me..." tells all about Conwell's intentions. It is an evocation of that crossroads where the bluesman collides with the "break down these walls" attitude of the rocker, and both sojourners walk away fundamentally changed.

That kind of collision happens all over
Rumble, with varying degrees of success. Conwell and his band, a Philadelphia institution since shortly after its formation in 1984, have earned a reputation playing music that channeled the raw emotion of rock through a more refined understanding of the blues and gospel.

Subscribers to the "sweat first, message later" school, this band has made a record like few in recent memory. Rumble, on Colulmbia, is a real rock-and-roll record, but not a ponderous one. It's hooky, but not gushy. It's direct, but not blunt. It's cocky, but not pretentious.

Unlike other blues-derivative bands that have won success walking these fine lines -- the Fabulous Thunderbirds, for example -- the Rumblers take the rock side of the mix seriously. Conwell has the look of a budding teen idol. The band oozes attitude -- in the grooves, where it counts, not (as yet) in the marketing campaign, the way many budding metal bands do.

Some of the familiar originals have titles like "Walkin' on the Water." As performed on the new album, they contain the strident backing vocals and crunching guitars found more often on rock epics than the blues.

But on Rumble, even the most frothy pop has twinges of blues sensibility. Shear's "If We Never Meet Again" sounds at first like a soft-strumming-acoustic-guitar pop song in the mold of the Eagles. Conwell, going against what is expected, complements his chiming vocals with melodic, occasionally weeping lines of slide guitar that give the love lyrics a regretful spin.

These touches are everywhere: The four-measure instrumental segments that interrupt the verses of Love's On Fire contain evidence of Conwell's ear for knotty, fresh-sounding lead lines. Likewise, the conversation between Conwell's voice and his guitar on the interlude of Gonna Breakdown reveals the guitarist to be a student of the blues-rock of the mid-'60's, one capable of translating those riffs into a decidedly contemporary setting.

Longtime fans of the band will note considerable development since the independently produced 1986 LP Walkin' On the Water, which sold 70,000 copies in regional release. Four songs from that effort -- the single I'm Not Your Man and "Love's On Fire," "Walkin' on the Water" and "Everything They Say is True" -- come off sweet rather than sour. In addition, he has become a more confident vocal personality: He can adopt an ice-cold sneer or a bluesman's growl effortlessly, without apologizing for the new-found assertiveness.

The Rumblers have developed as well. Keyboardist Rob Miller, who joined the band just before the Walkin' sessions, contributes percolating organ chords that are integral to the intensity of almost every song. Paul Slivka and Jim Hannum, the bass-drums team, know instinctively when to dig in and when to evaporate; their interplay gives Conwell lots of room to emote, and the songs a necessary structure.

In live performance, Conwell and the Rumblers have long adapted a simplicity of presentation that comes from blues and early rock and roll. The production of Rumble, handled by veteran Rick Chertoff (Cyndi Lauper, The Hooters), had to capture that in the studio, and did. Chertoff is professionally invisible in the mix, committed to getting the sound of the band rather than the sound of him producing the band, a common production trip.

That makes Rumble more lively than man-rock albums -- it exhibits a live-performance energy and a cohesiveness that often gets lost on other records under layers of needless padding. The only flaw: While the guitar tracks are slap-you-in-the-face close, there are moments when Conwell's guitar should be allowed to stretch. Chertoff, perhaps mindful of the hit-singles potential of some of these songs, might have clipped the engaging guitarist too close to the vest in a few spots, denying Rumble's audience the chance to experience an inventive guitar voice.

Then again, listen to the three blues choruses Conwell blisters on "Workout," and recall the words of one of his idols, the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker: "If you can't say what you have to say in three choruses, you can't say it." 

On that solo and throughout the Rumble, Conwell says exactly what he sets out to say.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

David Uosikkinen | #Rumble25

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9]

A statement from The Hooters' drummer and In the Pocket bandleader David Uosikkinen for the #Rumble25 celebration!

"For me, Tommy Conwell is to Philly what Stevie Ray Vaughan is to Austin, Texas. He picks up a guitar and gets up on stage and great things happen..."
~ David Uosikkinen

Chicago Tribune Concert Review - October 1988

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9]

Conwell And Young Rumblers Offer An Exciting New Wrinkle On 1st Tour

October 12, 1988 | By David Silverman, Entertainment Writer, Chicago Tribune

Tommy Conwell walked on stage Tuesday night at the Park West looking as though he had just crawled out of bed. 

His band, the Young Rumblers, looked rumpled at best. 

This was not what was expected from a new band on its first big-city date, away from their home turf. Then again, a lot of what Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers do is more than unexpected. 

While most new bands seem to be on an endless search for that "new sound," Conwell and the Rumblers have reached back, to the roots of rock and blues. The result is a brand of Rust Belt music, with shades of George Thorogood and Bob Seger, that is gritty and alive. 

After selling out shows in and around their home in Philadelphia, Conwell and the Rumblers are on the road for their first westbound trip. Riding high on the release of their album, "Rumble," their Chicago stop marked the midway point of the tour. 

The long trip has taken little of the steam from the band. They were explosive. 

Drawing mostly from "Rumble," Conwell suffered briefly from his overdramatic presentation of some nuts-and-bolts rock anthems. But he made up for it with a guitar talent that only comes from devotion and a true love for the instrument. 

His story is familiar. He cut classes in high school to play the guitar. He says he knew one day he`d play for a band and be the best. Conwell's diligence paid off in a style charged with innovation, yet respectful of the music`s basic structure. 

What gave Conwell the freedom to display his solo talents was the excellent backup work of the Rumblers. With a tight rhythm section, consisting of Paul Slikva on bass and vocals and Jim Hannum on drums, a class rhythm guitarist in Chris Day and keyboardist Rob Miller, Conwell had little to fear. If these guys didn't look young enough to be in high school, you'd think they'd been playing together for 10 years. The coordination between Conwell and Day was extraordinary. Although Day used to deal solely in heavy metal, he and Conwell steamrolled through blues, Southern rock and some offbeat rhythm and blues with authority. 

It was their ability to traverse such a wide range of music, from ballads to break down, that makes Conwell and the Rumblers so appealing. By the middle of the evening, those who hadn't heard of the band were sure to remember them. Those who knew what to expect probably got more than they had bargained for. 

What lies ahead for Conwell and the Rumblers is uncertain. They still rely on a number of covered singles, and Conwell's songwriting talents are still untested. But what they are learning on this first road test will surely add to their next release. 

For now, they represent one of the brightest new pure rock bands to come across a Chicago stage in some time.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Jules Shear - If We Never Meet Again

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9]


"If We Never Meet Again" is written by Jules Shear and appears on Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' first national record release, Rumble.

In the book, Songs Without Rhyme: Prose By Celebrated Songwriters, Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter Rosanne Cash gathers a select group of songwriters and creates a unique volume of work.

Convinced that songwriting is a literary form unto itself and that those who dedicate their careers to this endeavor are unappreciated as writers, Cash asked thirteen writers, including David Byrne, Paula Cole, Shawn Colvin, and Jules Shear, to join her in compiling this book. With the premise that songs are an accomplished form of storytelling, Cash requested that each author use one of his or her own songs, characters, or themes as the basis for a new prose piece.

Excerpts from the book: Jules Shear and "If We Never Meet Again."

(On the origins of the song from a movie script)

"...I felt like I knew the music part before I even wrote it. Before it escaped, I captured it on my Walkman, singing the only words I had. “If we never meet again/if goodbyes remain unspoken.” I sat on the floor of my apartment, stared out of the window at a tree on East 11th
Street, and tried to become this kid (in the script).

...A record producer whose taste I respected heard it and said, “I’d jump out of a plane holding onto just that song.” He wanted to record it with a newly signed act from Philadelphia with high hopes and lots of money behind it. I said sure."

…this song wasn’t meant to be the big song in a movie. It wasn’t destined to be a huge hit on the radio, either…Tommy Conwell from Philly [and others] would do a version of “If We Never Meet Again
listened to intently by a small group who found their relationship to the song all the more special for its privacy.”

News of Delaware County - Dealing with the Pressures [Part 2 of 2]

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9] 

Tommy Conwell speaks out on allowing musical growth, while attempting to keep ego under control 

By Jay Friel
Entertainment Editor 

Selling out. 

Giving into the pressure applied by the big record companies to change your music in order to make it more marketable to a larger fraction of the record-buying public. 

Whenever a local act signs with a major record label and then puts out the first album with altered songs, local “rock purists” cry foul. They claim the artist is “selling out,” compromising his or her music in order to make more money and satisfy the “fat cat” record executives up in the penthouse. 

When Philadelphia-area acts like Robert Hazard and John Eddie released new versions of old songs, this accusation followed in a hurry. 

But are these claims valid or even fair. Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers’ Columbia debut “Rumble,” contains five older songs that have been re-worked. Now whether or not you prefer the older or the newer versions the questions remains; why were the changes made? 

Was it pressure from Columbia to make the Rumblers music more mainstream? 

“Believe it or not no,” answers Conwell firmly, “they didn’t say anything, not a word.” 

Although Conwell doesn’t necessarily agree that other artists were definitely forced to change their music, he insists that the Rumblers were not, and in addition, that their case was different. 

“We were lucky, we had 13 record companies asking us to sign with them. So we were able to say to them all, “Well, if we come to your label you’re going to let us do whatever we want, right?” 

“That was part of our deal,” he continues, “and that was really nice. I never talked to anyone from the record company except when we were going around deciding who we wanted to be with. 

“The songs from the last album that we put on the new record are changed. (But) I’m real happy with them. And a lot of people ask, “Why do you change things?” The answer to that is because I want to. That’s growth. Why keep doing something the exact same way? 

“The reason you change something is to try and make it better. If you re-do it in the same way, there’d be no point to it.” 

Variations in the music are not the only changes a big record company contract can cause. What about the personalities and attitudes of the artists? Sudden pressures and mushrooming popularity can turn even the nicest people into egotistical, spoiled “stars.” 

Is Conwell worried about such a fate, and how does he plan to deal with the inevitable pressures? 

“People are you can treat you so differently,” Conwell says cautiously. “It’s really hard. I always keep in mind that we’re not really that famous yet. But it can be hard at times because so much of it is on you, on the individual. 

“’How secure am I with myself?’ Because if I’m really secure with myself, other people aren’t going to bug you. But you know you have good days and bad days. And on those days I know how to protect my privacy so that I’m comfortable. But I always try to keep in mind that I don’t want to do it at someone else’s expense if I can help it. Just try and be considerate. 

“It’s like if there’s a kid that wants to meet you, or something, you just try and remember what is was like when I was a kid and I wanted to meet someone. It can be a big deal.

“Of course some people can really push it. Some people can ask too much of you. It’s just a day-to-day thing. You have to be as normal as possible, even when some people don’t treat you normally. 

“And the scary thing is that sometimes you get so used to being treated differently, that you’ll go someplace and people will treat you normally and you’ll be the weird one. And that’s when it hurts, when you can’t even interact in normal social situations. 

“I haven’t experienced that too often. But hey, I’m in show business and it’s a ‘funny’ business. I have to know when to put my out and when to back off. Because I have to be comfortable, too. 

“I can’t please the world. You just can’t please everybody, and if you try to please everybody, you’re really nothing but a sap.” 


Rumbler Tour In the Works 

Promotional trip will be first step 

By Jay Friel
Entertainment Editor 

The required step after releasing a national album is to tour – bring the act out to the people to encourage record sales and increased interest in the band. 

For Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, this step is even more important and necessary, because playing live is what this band is all about. The thinking being – if the record itself doesn’t sell the fans on the band, a live Rumblers’ concert will. 

With that in mind, Tommy Conwell tried to look into his rock ‘n’ roll crystal ball to see what awaits his band.

“I think in September we’re going to go around the states on a promotional tour,” Conwell says with a look in his eye suggesting he considers this step to be a highlight of the whole record-release process. 

“This tour would be a lot of meeting people and doing shows. And that’ll be just by ourselves. It’ll probably be 10-12 cities, just meeting the major markets. And who knows, maybe we’ll do the same thing in Europe or something to that effect. And then, God willing, we’ll do some kind of extensive tour. “I’m really psyched to get on the ‘bus.’ 

I’m just really psyched to go on tour. To me, that’s a real dream come true. They say that it gets to be a real burden and you can’t wait to come home, and that’s probably true, but just going out is going to be a real mind blower.”

Rumble: A Rock-Solid Debut | Makings of a 'Rumble'

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9] 

Articles: "A Rock-Solid Debut" and "Makings of a 'Rumble,' the first of a 2-part interview with Tommy Conwell.

Review: A Rock-Solid Debut
By Jay Friel
Entertainment Editor

News of Delaware County, Wednesday, August 10, 1988

It was a long time coming, but “Rumble” was well worth the wait. 

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers’ first effort for Columbia Records is an unpretentious 10-song package that effectively captures the straight-ahead, bare-bones music that made this band a local favorite. 

Kudos to producer Rick Chertoff, whose credits include the Hooters’ “Nervous Night” and “One Way Home,” and Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual,” with keeping things simple – no effects or filler – and letting the Rumblers do what they do best – play honest, emotional, raw rock. 

The record also highlights Conwell’s collaborative songwriting abilities and ever-improving singing voice, as well as adds to the solid reputation of a fine rhythm section – bassist Paul Slivka and particularly drummer Jim Hannum, whose powerful poundings drive all the Rumblers’ numbers. 

Guitarist Chris Day and keyboardist Rob Miller (formerly of Robert Hazard and the Heroes and the Hooters) add new touches throughout the record, and contribute consistently fine backing harmonies. 

And of course, the one element never questioned with this band – Conwell’s hot guitar – remains the focal point. 

The album contains an even balance of new and old songs (five each), as well as a good mix of the usual raucous Rumblers rockers with a couple slower, almost ballad-like tracks. 

 A juiced-up version of “I’m Not Your Man,” the album’s first single, leads off the record with a gruff rap by Conwell before jumping into trademark crunchy guitar and rough vocals. 

This version of the song has been significantly beefed-up from the version that appeared on 1986’s independently-released “Walkin’ On the Water.” This is the opposite of a trend that had appeared to take hold of other local bands after signing with big record companies. The new version sharpens the edge instead of deteriorating into tamed pop. 

Other tracks from the first album, “Love’s On Fire,” “Everything They Say Is True” and “Walkin’ on the Water” aren’t changed as much, but do contain alterations, such as more prominent keyboards on the latter two, but the total elimination of the piano intro in the former. 

The LP’s second track, “Half a Heart,” sounds like a Hooters song – and there’s a good reason. The punchy keyboard-and-rhythm guitar beat comes from the collective mind of Hooters’ Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian, who wrote the song with Conwell and Chertoff. Unfortunately all the minds didn’t help, and this is probably the album’s weakest effort. 

The album’s tastiest tracks are the Sly Stone-inspired “I Wanna Make You Happy,” from funk songwriter/producer Kae Williams, and an older tune – a particular favorite over the years in the clubs – “Workout.” 

The album’s most beautiful cut, “If We Never Meet Again,” demonstrates clearly that Conwell can sing a slow song, as well as belt out his more traditional blues-rockers. This track also offers acoustic rhythm and slide guitars, a new touch for the band on vinyl. 

Jules Shear wrote this hook-filled track (as well as co-writing “Tell Me What You Want Me To Be” with Conwell), and his lyrics are evident. 

If we never meet again / If goodbyes remain unspoken / I won’t glorify our past / but our bond remains unbroken. 

 The gospel-influenced “Gonna Breakdown” was written by the team of Conwell and Philadelphia-based songwriter Marcy Rauer (they also collaborated on “I’m Not Your Man”). This track starts slow but progresses into some of the nastiest guitar licks on the album, as well as some soulful to-the-limit vocals by Conwell. 

 “Tell Me What You Want Me To Be” contains a strong country flavor and that Bo Diddley beat that this band performs so well. 

 A chuckle from Conwell at the conclusion of “Walkin’ On the Water” appropriately closes the album. 

All in all, Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers have scored with a rock-solid debut album that contains some sparkling moments. 

The foundation has been effectively laid for a band with a bright future. 


Makings of a ‘Rumble’  

Tommy Conwell comments on the recording of the Young Rumblers’ first national album

First of 2 parts

By Jay Friel
Entertainment Editor 

“Rumble,” Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers’ aptly-titled debut album for Columbia Records hit the record stores yesterday. 

The album, and the band, have been the objects of a recent media blitz, both locally and nationally. At last count, “I’m Not Your Man,” the LP’s first single, was receiving airplay on almost 150 radio stations across the country. 

This is all pretty heady stuff for a group of young guys who have been striving for this day for years. But is it what they expected? And how do they feel looking back over the long recording process? 

Look no further than their leader – Tommy Conwell. 

 “It was high pressure and hard work,” Conwell says in the Ardmore offices of Cornerstone Management. Although totally at ease, he thinks carefully before speaking, choosing his words cautiously. 

 “And it was a long time happening. It was a series of goals, the first of which was writing the songs. And the second of which was recording them, with a lot of smaller goals involved in the recording process. It was an eight-month process of intensive work and pressure. 

“There’s a lot at stake. There are a lot of people involved, some I know and love, and other people who I have no idea who they are who have a lot invested in the project. And that all adds to the pressure.” 

Conwell, like Columbia and Cornerstone artists the Hooters, seems to thrive on pressure, much like a great athlete. 

 “But you know, pressure’s not a bad thing,” Conwell continues, “because that’s what makes you get better. Without pressure, there’s a lot less growth.
 “Ultimately what I had to do then and have to continue to do is forget about it. I have no control over that. I cannot control anything but myself. So today, for this one day, I’m going to try and do my work. I’m going to write, and I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do one day at a time, and have faith that what has to get done will get done. And it does. 

Conwell and the Rumblers perform and carry themselves with a great deal of confidence. But Conwell confided that there are always doubts in the back of one’s mind when taking on such an immense project as the recording of a national album. 

“I had to get comfortable with the fact that the record was only going to be us,” he explained in all honesty. “We were going into a great studio, had a great producer (Rick Chertoff), and were recording a national album.” 

“Somewhere in my head I was expecting it to sound like someone else, like I sound in my dreams,” he laughs. “And in reality it doesn’t sound like I sound in my dreams, it sounds like I sound in real life. And that’s good enough I now realize, and that’s all you can ask for and all you would expect. 

“Something else that hit me along the line was that I could do it. That was another great realization. That was another thing I wasn’t really sure of. I guess somewhere I was sure, but somewhere I wasn’t. 

 Just the realization that, ‘My God we’ve been working on this for six month.’ I was writing for four months and we were recording for two. And we’re doing it. We’re making a record that we’re going to be proud of.’ 

And the band is proud of the record. Producer Chertoff, whose credits include the Hooters’ two Columbia albums as well as records by Cyndi Lauper and Patty Smyth, has captured the honest, raw sound of the band. 

“I think it sounds a lot more like the Rumblers than the last record did (1986’s independently-released “Walkin’ On the Water),” Conwell says, the words flowing much more freely now. 

“And I like the last record. I just think it really sounds like us. It crossed my mind that maybe when we got in the studio it might stop sounding like us. Rick (Chertoff) might encourage me to do things I don’t normally do. But none of that happened. It’s just us doing our thing. And I’m comfortable with that: A. because I know it’s honest and B. because, hey, I’m glad that our producer and myself have enough confidence in us to put it out just like it is.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chestnut Cabaret Flyer - Very First Concert on National Tour

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9] 

An announcement flyer for Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, 1988. Promotion of the first show on their national 'Rumble' tour.

Following the 'Rumble'

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9] 

Dave Maybaum and Tommy Conwell - the 80's!

The first time I ever saw Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers was at Drexel University in Philadelphia. My buddy went to Drexel and told me that I had to check this band out! They were only a 3-piece band at the time and when I heard them I was BLOWN away! 

To me, I thought Tommy was like a cross between Stevie Ray Vaughn and George Thorogood. I started seeing the band every chance I got. 

Of course, I was still a fan when the Young Rumblers became a 5-piece band and released “Walkin’ On the Water.” I heard they would be the opening act for David Bowie and Squeeze at Veterans Stadium in 1987 – and there was no way I was going to miss this show! The band was phenomenal and Tommy was, of course, fantastic as usual! 

While watching Squeeze play the next set, I saw Tommy walking around! I called him over and introduced him to my girlfriend, who would later become my wife. She put her hand on her heart and she told him that he was amazing! She was star struck! By this time I must have seen him 20 to 25 times. 

On the day that Rumble was released, I bought it as soon as my favorite record store opened. Then I drove to my girlfriend's house in New Jersey so we could listen to it together. We cranked it up and started dancing to "Workout" – one of my favorite tracks. 

Loved seeing the Young Rumblers on the American Music Awards, being introduced by Rod Stewart and playing guitar in the audience aisle…as LL COOL J was cheering him on! 

Tommy eventually disappeared from my musical landscape, but then he turned up in one of my favorite bands of all-time, Buzz Zeemer – but that's another story for another day! Thanks for allowing me to share my memories of Tommy Conwell. I miss those days. They were a blast!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

I'm Not Your Man - Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers (Live on Arsenio Hall)

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9]

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers perform "I'm Not Your Man" live on The Arsenio Hall Show, February 3, 1989.

[Guests: actress Annie Potts of Designing Women, boxer Mike Tyson with boxing promoter Don King and rock group Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers]

Friday, August 2, 2013

Touring With the Young Rumblers

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9] 

Thanks to Luke Ostertag – a member of the Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers road crew – for sharing an anecdote about his overall experience touring with the Rumblers.

Columbia Records Press Release - January 1989

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9] 

From the Columbia Records Press and Publicity Department:

For Immediate Release 
January 20, 1989 

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers To Play At American Music Awards: “If We Never Meet Again” Is Second Single and Video from ‘Rumble’ LP 

Columbia recording group Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers, whose non-stop touring schedule takes them to California this last week of January, are set to perform live on the 16th annual “American Music Awards,” the 3-hour special to be broadcast on the ABC-TV network next Monday night, January 30th, 8-11 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific). 

The Young Rumblers have been touring actively since the release of Rumble last summer, their first album for Columbia, produced by Rick Chertoff. With the overwhelming success of their second single, “If We Never Meet Again” – top 10 Most Active in R + R (Radio and Records) this week – Conwell has added even more followers. 

Upcoming dates in California include The Stand in Redondo Beach (January 25th), Bachanal in San Diego (26), The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano (27), and The Stone in San Francisco (February 1st). In addition, a live taping is scheduled for the Arsenio Hall Show on Friday, February 3rd, with guests Don King and Mike Tyson. 

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers comprise Tommy Conwell on vocals and guitar, keyboardist Rob Miller, guitarist Christopher Day, bassist Paul Slivka, and drummer Jim Hannum.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers - 'Rumble' Press Release

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers' Rumble. [July 9 - August 9]

Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers 
- Biography - 
Columbia Records Press and Publicity

Philadelphia’s Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers play their music with one goal in mind – to keep it honest, with a distinctive edge. It has been this edge that’s taken Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers from the trenches of local rock to the brink of national acclaim. Rumble, their aptly-titled debut album for Columbia, grabs hold of the raw intensity and honesty that characterize both Conwell and his music. 

Each of the ten tracks on Rumble exhibits a straightforward approach to rock ‘n roll that is deftly meshed with touches of blues, pop, funk and gospel. The record is raw rock and pure pop; each cut as infectious as the one before. Rumble was produced by veteran Rick Chertoff, whose credits include Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, Hooters’ Nervous Night and One Way Home, the Outfield’s Play Deep, and Patty Smyth’s Never Enough – which features Tommy’s guitar solo on the single, “Isn’t It Enough.” 

Uncharacteristic of many bands, Rumble is true to the sound of the band. There are no special effects or filler orchestration to detract from what is a distinctive rock ‘n roll album. What is most apparent is the startling clarity of the vocals and musical arrangements. Most importantly, says Tommy, “Rumble sounds like us.” 

This message is brought home on the opening “I’m Not Your Man,” a bluesy rocker that was Tommy’s first collaborative effort (with Philadelphia songwriter Marcy Rauer, who also wrote the gospel-soaked “Gonna Breakdown” with Conwell) that is also the LP’s first single. In between, Tommy’s passionate singing and the band’s well-crafted harmonies provide the album’s cohesive strength, starting with “Half a Heart,” a collective effort from Conwell, Chertoff, and Hooters Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian. 

“If We Never Meet Again,” described by the singer as “a real loving song,” was penned by Jules Shear; he and Tommy co-wrote “Tell Me What You Want Me To Be” with its strong Bo Diddley beat. Another collaborator is fellow Philly rocker Robert Hazard (composer of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”), who joined with Tommy on two songs, “Love’s On Fire” and “Everything They Say Is True,” the latter employing a “Texas trick” of playing the guitar directly into a Lesley lamp generally used for organs. 

Kae Williams is a funk songwriter/producer who provided the working groove for “I Wanna Make You Happy”; Chertoff and Conwell completed the lyrics to the song, which the singer says is “very much inspired by Sly Stone, with a ‘Family Affair’-type vibe to it.” The album closes with “Walkin’ On the Water,” an old Rumblers number brought up to date, also a bit of church/gospel feel in the background vocals. 

Working with producer Chertoff proved a positive experience. “Some people think producers force the artist to do what they want or think will sell, but Rick is just the opposite of that. He tried to get me to be my best, which is a very important goal, and the amazing thing is that he succeeded. We had a true artist/producer relationship. He pushed me to do things that I might not have done without him, but that were inside me.” 

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

“I was real ambitious when I first started playing,” recalls Conwell, a bonafide guitar junkie from the start, who remembers staying home from school or cutting classes with only one thing in mind: playing guitar. “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 an established grind-it-out-six-shows-a-night blues bar band as a sideman guitarist. Although the position wasn’t the one he aspired to, 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. Almost immediately the Young Rumblers became a fixture 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 performances have already been broadcast live, including a television simulcast from Veterans Stadium on Labor Day 1986. 

That same fall, the Rumblers’ lineup expanded with the addition of rhythm guitarist and vocalist Chris Day, and keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Rob Miller, formerly with Robert Hazard and the Heroes, and the Hooters. Soon afterwards, the new group went into the studio with now-former Hooter Andy King, who co-produced Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers’ first album, Walkin’ On the Water. An independent regional release, the LP has 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 LP attracted the attention of record companies and national media, ultimately resulting in a deal with Columbia Records in May 1987. The summer of ’87 found the Young Rumblers opening for Squeeze, Robert Palmer, Pretenders, Bryan Adams, and David Bowie. By October 1987, 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 as his all-time biggest influence, but also includes Jimmy Vaughan (the Fabulous Thunderbirds), 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. Rhythm guitarist Chris Day’s musical background is anchored in hard rock, and provides a creative balance with the leader’s often blues-oriented lead. Initially, however, it was Day’s stage presence and performance that drew Tommy to him. 

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 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 songwriting collaborations on Rumble are a natural extension of the process that started on Walkin’ On the Water. “Collaborating has helped me as a songwriter,” Tommy asserts. “After awhile, it’s lonely writing songs by yourself. It’s a lot more fun writing with someone else. When you write on your own, you’re thinking; when you write with someone, you’re talking, and there’s something nice about that. I’ve been real lucky in that all the people I’ve worked with are great writers.” 

Although Tommy Conwell has achieved a degree of stardom in his own right in the mid-Atlantic region for some years now, noticeably absent is the arrogance or attitude often witnessed in new up-and-comers. Sincere, amicable, and unaffected by the national recognition that looms ahead with his first Columbia LP, Tommy is as real as his hard-hitting music. Yet with his music, he is stubborn and meticulous. 

As Rumble hits the streets, he is very excited to say the least. “This LP really captures what we’ve come up to over the past four years, and I’m really proud of that.” 

“I can’t wait to tour,” he adds. “That’s when I’ll know we’ve really made it, when we’re playing in California to a happening crowd. But right now I try not to have expectations. I’ll work hard today and take the results as they come.” 

With its mix of musical prowess, raw energy and intensity, and a sound that transcends characteristic boundaries, Tommy Conwell’s new album packs a potent punch. No doubt, this band’s time has come, and there’s no telling how big they will become. Just put your ear to the ground and feel the rumble.