Local Rhythms – Mad Beach Band brings it back home

Picture 1If you were looking for the face of Sunapee/Newport music, it would probably be Pete Merrigan.  As the saying goes, he’s been on the scene for as long as we’ve had one.

When opening a dry cleaner, tacking a dollar bill to the wall makes it official.  If it’s a bar or restaurant, booking Pete Merrigan achieves the same validating effect.  He’s played everywhere.

When I started coming here to do weekend radio in 1980, one of the first things I spotted in the M106 studio was a 45 by the Mad Beach Band.  The Claremont station was officially playing “Champagne Ladies,” but I became partial to the B side, a slice of countrified fun called “Sweet Potato Pie.”

I played it on my shows and didn’t get fired – times were different then.

When the Mad Beach Band performed at the Newport Opera House in 1981, I met my future wife – 28 years later, we’re still together.  I didn’t meet Pete Merrigan until 2004, and one of the things I remember from that night was two patrons thanking him for his song selections, swearing it had gotten them dates.

Maybe he just has that effect on people.

The original Mad Beach Band got together in late 1970’s Florida, a meeting of the musical minds between Jimmy Buffett sideman Harry Dailey, Merrigan and his musical partner Pete Shackett, and harp player T.C. Carr.  When head Parrot Buffett  stopped by some of their shows to jam, they became something of a sensation down south.

Though the band members eventually went their separate ways (sadly, Dailey died in 2003), they’ve stayed friendly, and in 2008 they reunited for a show in Madeira Beach, Florida.  On Saturday, August 1, the reunion heads north to the Newport Opera House.

Tonight (Thursday, July 30) Pete helps open the new backyard “clam shack” addition at Casa del Sol in Ascutney.  Most of the reunion band – Carr, Lenny Austin, Dave Williamson, Vinnie Seplesky and Bryan Austin – are expected to stop by.

Friday is rehearsal night.  Afterward, the band will likely repair to Newport’s Salt hill, run by Joe Tuohy.  Joe’s parents operated the Shanty in Sunapee, where Pete Merrigan played in his early days.  Joe’s brother Josh, who runs the Lebanon Salt hill, recalls falling asleep on a pile of down jackets there once while Pete played “Dust on the Saddle.”

On Sunday, Pete will be back at the original site of the Shanty, which is now Digby’s, performing his regular deck show.

A few things remain constant – one of them is Pete Merrigan.

Another constant is lots of things to do in our lovely little neck of the woods, including:

Thursday: Acoustic Coalition South, Hartness House – Here’s something new. An acoustic open mike series that’s been running for years in Woodstock and Quechee comes to Springfield, Vermont, hosted by Mark Koch.  The Hartness House is a beautiful old mansion with tons of charm, which I’m sure will blend very well with the tune-swapping sure to occur.

Friday: Roadhouse, Imperial Garden – A good-time, fun rock and roll band who does a kick-ass (or should I say KA?) version of Foghat’s “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” which is almost good enough to make me forget Cold Blood’s horn drenched take on the R&B classic.  Mainly because Lisa Miller can belt it out.

Saturday: Adam McMahon, Sophie & Zeke’s – This guy’s got a serious touch on the guitar. whether playing acoustically or on a Stratocaster, which he’ll probably be using tonight.  It’s a dance party, after all.  Adam specializes in blues, but he’s got more tricks than that up his sleeve.

Sunday: Amy Gallatin & Stillwaters, Sunapee Mountain – The annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen fair begins Saturday, and today’s musical guest, at 1, 3 and 5 PM, is a very talented bluegrass player with an equally enjoyable band.  You’d think in this day and age they’d change the orgnization’s name to “Craftspersons”?  Oh, well.

Monday: Second Wind, Digby’s – Terry Ray Gould is just as ubiquitous as Pete Merrigan these days, playing Farmer’s Markets, cafes (farewell, Green Acres!) and open mikes like this one, which features a prize at the end of the night and a friendly vibe.

Tuesday: Gerry Grimo, Elixir – The leader of the East Bay Jazz Ensemble plays the newly revived small plate club, which features music five nights a week.  White River Junction is quite the destination, with three great music venues, the nutty Main Street Museum, and the renowned Northern Stage theater program.

Wednesday: Arthur James, Salt hill Pub – Blues night on the green, with a guitar man who’s long been a fixture at the Newport ShP location.  Each Wednesday welcomes a different band, check the club’s web site for details.