By CHRISTOPHER TREACY
Some folks get involved in music to try and get famous. Real musicians, however, are motivated by the craft.
John Cafferty is of the latter variety. He formed the Beaver Brown Band in 1972, cutting his teeth in barrooms along the East Coast for a decade before his brush with the big fame machine came along. It was an offer to record the soundtrack for the movie Eddie & the Cruisers (1983), and it certainly boosted his profile.
Curiously, neither the film nor the soundtrack did all that well upon initial release, but subsequent airings on HBO rejuvenated interest and sent the album up the charts. It went on to sell over four million copies, and the ensuing string of hit singles, including “Tender Years,” “C-I-T-Y,” and “On the Dark Side,” has helped keep him and his band on the road ever since.
But it’s the sense of purpose he derives from making music that got him started. And, fifty years on, it’s what keeps him going.
Case in point? A fundraiser he’s playing on Saturday, August 14. It’s an outdoor show at the Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus, Mass., and it benefits an organization called Rockin’ 4 Vets, formed in 2015 to assist veterans dealing with PTSD and substance abuse through live music events. Cafferty has appeared at a half dozen of these events, both by himself and with the band. The show on the 14th is of the latter variety, featuring sax player Michael Antunes, who turns 81 the week prior.
“We like to get involved in doing things that help to make peoples’ lives better,” Cafferty said during a recent call from his Rhode Island home. “Music is a giving thing. When I go see someone play, and they’re delivering the right way, it lifts my heart up and makes me feel better… always has. And I have that ability to do that for other people, so do my friends, and it’s a gift. So, when asked to pitch in, we have a tendency to say yes.”
Cafferty says he originally met Rockin’ 4 Vets founder Jim Tirabassi through bluesman James Montgomery, a mutual friend who helped Tirabassi, who used to do larger shows with artists like Foghat, The Outlaws, and Badfinger, start his organization. As a disabled vet with a passion for organizing events, Tirabassi launched Rockin’ 4 Vets to see if he could deliver a better return to the non-profits of his choosing.
“This is the very beginning of the first foray into doing live shows again,” Tirabassi said over the phone. “I’m also on the Board of Veterans Assisting Veterans (VAV), and they’re doing a unique thing, bringing a dozen vets down to the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial Wall in D.C. this September. We started this project a year and a half ago but had to halt it because of COVID, so it’s a long time in coming. This concert fundraiser is one of the final parts of putting this trip to D.C. together for these guys.”
This show is one of Cafferty’s first since the lifting of COVID-related restrictions on large gatherings. A tour itinerary is coming together that will keep him and the Beaver Brown Band busy well into next year, assuming the mounting threat of viral variants doesn’t shutter venue doors once more.
“Our schedule just started,” he said. “We did a couple of spring shows in New Orleans, private ones, not open to the public. But we just started playing to crowds this past weekend at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. We had a year and a half off. But we huddled up together when we could, safely, and continued on making music and writing songs. I felt pretty safe when we played this past weekend, but I tried not to extend myself unnecessarily. I believe in the vaccines.”
Tirabassi is erring on the side of caution.
“Anything we’re planning right now will be outdoors,” he explained. “I know folks want to get back to indoor shows, and I understand that, but I think it’s wise to avoid that right now. I will certainly have masks available at this show so that people can feel as comfortable as possible.”
Cafferty isn’t looking ‘on the dark side’ with regard to the pandemic. Instead, he’s focused on the good it brought out in some of us.
“This was an unimaginable situation we’ve been through,” he said. “If someone told you the week before that it was gonna happen, you wouldn’t have believed it. And then it did. But the world and the individuals in it found a resilience they didn’t know they had. When things were dark, people stood up and helped one another, protected one another… people were willing to put themselves on the line. Look at these essential workers — talk about heroes!”
“With these veteran events we do that Jim puts together, we’re also honoring and celebrating heroes, people who put themselves on the line. That’s who the vets are, putting themselves out there for the sake of everyone else, and they deserve everything we can give them.”
John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band will perform as part of a Rockin’ For Vets fundraiser event at Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus, Mass., on Saturday, August 14, from 1 to 5 PM. Click HERE to purchase tickets.