Beaver Brown Band
Beaver Brown Band
From their roots in the nightclubs of Rhode Island, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band have attracted an audience nationwide. Cafferty’s songs range from soul to rock and role—he blends the elements of a sixties sound with those of eighties rock ’rï roll and brings them on stage with aplomb.
Although Cafferty had been playing the guitar since he was thirteen, he did not plan to become a professional musician. He wanted to be a lifeguard, and as he became more practical he decided to study art. When he started college, he and other musicians he had known since high school formed Beaver Brown, as the band was then known: saxophonist Michael Antunes, keyboardist Robert Cotoia, guitarist Gary Gramolini, bassist Pat Lupo, and drummer Kenny Jo Silva.
They made a reputation for themselves locally as a good roadhouse band. Hoping to get local airplay, the band cut a single on Coastline Records called “Wild Summer Nights,” with “Tender Nights” on the flip side. The record did get played by major stations in the East and helped to make the band popular on the circuit from Virginia in the south, north to Boston. But a major record deal did not follow, which Cafferty attributes to the non-commerciality of the band’s sound and the slump in the record business in the late 1970s.
The Beaver Brown Band has often billed itself as a working-class band—every week the band would try to earn a week’s wages for playing music. And they did not lack interested listeners. One listener in particular changed the course of the band’s career. Kenny Vance heard the band perform at a bar in Greenwich Village and remembered it four years later when he was hired as the music producer for the film Eddie and the Cruisers, a low-budget film about a fictional rock band. The band members found it exciting to work in a movie studio, though it was difficult to watch their music being lip-synched by actors. When Eddie and the Cruisers was released in September of 1983 it flopped, but when it was later shown on HBO (Home Box Office cable television), it was a hit and the Beaver Brown Band bounded into prominence. The soundtrack sold almost two million copies in only six months. It was a top ten album on record charts and the single “On the Dark Side” reached the number one spot on Billboard’s “Top Rock Charts.” And as often happens, the top single engendered a video that was number one on MTV for a number of weeks.
The exposure allowed the band to cut an album of its own material with Scotti Brothers— Tough All Over. Cafferty often focuses on the vicissitudes of blue-collar Americans, and this album is no exception. It includes the vignettes “Dixieland,” a gospel-sounding song about Frost Belt refugees in the South, “Small Town Girl,” a love song, and “Crystal Blue,” a heartbreak ballad witha Tex-Mex influence, as well as the rock and roll tune “Voice of America.” Two of the songs became Top 20 hits: “Tough All Over” and “C.I.T.Y.”
Cafferty likes songs that tell stories, and in writing the twelve that make up Roadhouse, he tried to capture the emotions of everyday life. “I guess I was thinking a lot about our story and how we started out. I was thinking a lot about winning and losing and putting yourself on the line and taking risks.” Penned over three years, the songs on Roadhouse seem to symbolize the struggles the band has had to succeed. “Bound For Glory” is about a man full of optimism, “Victory Dance” about being on the sidelines waiting for that golden opportunity, “Song and Dance” about repeatedly hitting dead ends but always trying again. On the album’s second side “Penetration,” “Wishing Well,” and “Customary Thing” trace a path toward emotional committment. The final cut, “Road I’m Running,” seems to sum up all that precede it. The character confronts all that has happened in his life and decides that life if worth living, “Wherever it leads, I’ll follow this road I’m running.”
Some critics of John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown have called the act a clone of Bruce Springsteen,
Full name of group, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band; formed as Beaver Brown in Rhode Island by guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter John Cafferty during mid-1970s; members also include saxophonist Michael An tunes; keyboardist Robert Cotoia; guitarist Gary Gramolini; bass guitarist Pat Lupo; and drummer Kenny Jo Silva; performed in East Coast Clubs during late 1970s and early 1980s; performed music for motion picture soundtracks of Eddie and the Cruisers, 1983, and Eddie and the Cruisers II, 1989.
Addresses: Fan club —Beaver Brown Fan Club, P.O. Box 3999, Centerdale, RI 02911–0199. Publicist— Epic Media Relations, 51 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019.
though the band had a sound similar to that of “The Boss” before Springsteen was nationally known. Cafferty attributes these similarities largely to similar musical experiences. “I think that with a lot of the bands in the Northeast, there seems to be an influence of the early rhythm and blues from the fifties and sixties, probably because a lot of that music came out of the New York area and we were close enough to pick up the New York stations,” he told Gavin Report writer Ron Fell. But Cafferty also admits that in the songwriter arena he was definitely influenced by Springsteen, who he says “has given us a lot of advice and encouragement over the years, especially with me as a songwriter. When I first started writing songs,” Cafferty told Fell, “I had a lot of questions about how to become a better writer, and he was always a great writer and he took the time to help. We’d just talk about our favorite records and what was a good song and why.”
Like many popular singers of the eighties, Cafferty put his talent to work to aid charitable causes. He and the band put on a special benefit concert for high school students to put across an anti-drug message and performed at the United Nations for the CARE/Sport Aid global run to raise money for the world’s sick, hungry, and homeless children.
In an era of motion picture sequels, it is no surprize that Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives was released, in the summer of 1989. The movie was panned by critics and the soundtrack did not repeat the success of Eddie and the Cruisers.
Eddie and the Cruisers (movie soundtrack), Scotti Brothers/CBS, 1983.
Tough All Over, Scotti Brothers/CBS, 1985.
Roadhouse, Scotti Brothers/CBS, 1988.
Eddie and the Cruisers II (movie soundtrack), Scotti Brothers/CBS, 1989.
Cash Box, July 20, 1985.
The Gavin Report, May 17, 1985.
Orlando Sentinel, July 23, 1988.
Plain Dealer, October 22, 1984; May 30, 1988.
Providence Journal-Bulletin, December 29, 1986; October 27, 1989.
ROCK Magazine, February, 1985.
San Antonio Express-News, July 30, 1988.
Tulsa Tribune, August 9, 1985.
Tyler Courier-Times, July 22, 1988.
—Jeanne M. Lesinski
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