Reunion Show to benefit the Jack McPhillips Memorial Fund
We’ll be taking part in this year’s annual Schooner Fare and Devonsquare Reunion Show March 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Portland. Tickets are $25. This baby has been running since I was six-years-old. I’ve been to the show several times, myself, and it’s going to be quite a thrill to take part on stage with my heroes. Somebody pinch me. Ouch! Not so hard.
Of course, Dave is family and has been playing at this show for years with the Dave Rowe Trio. This year, however, he’s taking me to the prom. What color dress should I wear?
Don Campbell will there, too, as well as a whole raft of other fine people. It’s all for a good cause: The Jack McPhillips Memorial Fund. Jack organized that first show, 33 years ago and now they do it every year in his name. The fund was established “to continue his mission of humanitarianism in local communities.”
I’m not sure I have the story completely straight, but the guys in Schooner Fare all used to be in Devonsquare before they went out on their own. At one point, I’m told. Devonsquare had something like nine members. Legend has it Tom, Chuck and Steve were goofing off in Tom’s camper before a show, singing “Fiddler’s Green” when they hit upon some cool harmonies and thought they might have something.
Below is how they told the story themselves. I borrowed it (blatant cut and paste job) from the Schooner Fare website.
STEVE–Early one evening in 1975, we were getting ready for a performance with a folk-rock group. Chuck, Tom and I were relaxing in Tom’s camper in the parking lot of the place we were singing. We were just sitting around fingerpicking guitars and singing some folk song–”Fiddler’s Green,” I believe. We very accidentally put together some harmonies and guitar styles that just set off sparks! We looked at each other and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this for a living?”
The three of us were interested in substantive lyrics and melodies that were singable, and by their nature familiar, and, therefore, would attract people by their very existence. From that session was born a fantasy that we test-drove six months later. At first Chuck and I decided to stay as a duet. Tommy was a full-time member of still another group and would join us whenever he could. Of course, Chuck and I kept our day jobs.
Our very first booking was on a Sunday night for $150. That was just great because Sunday was the only night Tommy had free to play with us at the time. And since the job was in Portland, we knew at least our relatives would come to see us. Thus we started to generate a following. Weekend jobs and local television all led to a chance for our first steady job at a place called The Holy Mackeral down on the pier in Portland.
TOM–First we did a demo. I was working part-time for a recording studio at the time and we went down there on Saturday morning and spent the whole day doing–what? five songs!
STEVE–The next Monday morning I made an appointment with the manager of this new club. When I walked in, all the workmen were still there and it was in a state of chaos! I finally found the manager in a liquor closet, sitting on a stool taking inventory. I actually got down on my knees on the floor and played the demo tape. He listened to it while he continued to take inventory. He said, “Yeah, that’s pretty good. Can you work Sundays?”
TOM–The “Mackeral” was an absolute phenomenon! I’d walk in to set up the equipment and could hardly get through–there were so many people. They were coming off the walls–they were swinging from the chandeliers! Sunday night at The Holy Mackeral with Schooner Fare became an institution.
CHUCK–You can find music on Sunday nights now in Portland. It was a revolutionary idea at the time. People knew if Schooner Fare was booked, Schooner Fare would be there! We never cancelled. I have seen people walk through rain and blizzards. They knew we would always show up, and as a result, we never played to an empty house.
TOM–We did this for fully a year, and I realized I would have to make a decision as to whether or not I wanted to play full-time with Schooner Fare. On St. Patrick’s Day when we were playing at the University of Maine, I announced to Steve and Chuck that in September I would be joining Schooner Fare and would give my notice to the other group.
CHUCK–I remember Steve and I looked at each other. We had always considered Tom to be a member of the group. But we found out that he really hadn’t made the commitment until that time.
TOM–Well, I had all those leisure suits, you know!
CHUCK–Yeah, Tommy had all those leisure suits with the big cuffs and fluffy shirts in pastels–and double knits!
TOM–Chinos, the whole works! We started strong in the fall and went for it, and we’ve been going ever since!
STEVE–Fortunately, we had developed a following and enough of a reputation so that we could work almost anywhere we wanted to in town–which led to other places out of town. Several of the places we played–the atmosphere was totally incongruous! There were a lot of places that did top-40 all week. If we would play their place every Sunday night, they’d take us because we mobbed the place. It was very exciting!
CHUCK–We continued as a weekend group for several years. I was the first one to leave my job as a state social worker to join Tommy at the recording studio. Steve was still teaching full-time.
TOM–I guess the next step was when we both gave up the studio. It was taking too much time away from promoting our own careers in Schooner Fare.
STEVE–That was during the summer. I remember I was in New York beginning my doctoral studies. I would hop the Amtrak, plane, bus or drive to meet Chuck and Tom in Boston, New Hampshire or Maine and we would sing for the weekend. Schooner Fare paid my rent in New York city!
TOM–And, of course, as time went on we found ourselves booked throughout the week as well as just weekends. Geographically, we have extended to the point where we now play all over, and get airplay on three continents.
CHUCK–We are very proud of our success and the music we play. Our fondest wish is that our audiences enjoy our performances as much as we enjoy performing for them.