On Stage: Not just a forecast, RAIN comes to Miller

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


This week’s entertainment schedule is loaded with theatrical productions at venues in Philadelphia and all around the suburbs with shows at the Miller Theater, The Playhouse on Rodney Square, Candlelight Dinner Theater, People’s Light and the Annenberg Center

This weekend, “RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles” returns to Philly by popular demand, presented by Ensemble Arts – the new presenting brand of the Kimmel Cultural Campus and The Philadelphia Orchestra. Running now through May 11 at the Miller Theater (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.ensembleartsphilly.org), this show features an electrifying journey through the iconic eras of Sgt. Pepper and the Magical Mystery Tour, covering songs from the early years all the way to Abbey Road.

Every year, there is a parade of new tribute bands on the entertainment scene offering their interpretations of music by bands from the past such as Pink Floyd or the Grateful Dead and, at times, even current acts such as Bruce Springsteen or Genesis.

Tribute bands and rock singer impersonators are omnipresent – and they come in all shapes and sizes. Their most favorite targets are Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

Some are worth listening to. Some are pretty bogus. Some range from downright laughable to pitiful.

But there are a few that take their mission a lot more seriously than others — especially one particular Beatles tribute band called RAIN.

On February 7, 1964, the Beatles stepped off a plane from England and put their feet on American soil for the first time. It was a truly historic moment in the history of rock music.

On February 7, 2004, exactly 40 years later to the minute, “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles” walked off the Concorde in Seattle to a group of over 7,000 screaming fans and performed live all of the songs the Beatles played on their three consecutive Ed Sullivan appearances in 1964.

Obviously, RAIN is the real deal.

The group’s award-winning live Beatles show “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles,” formerly known as “The Beatles Experience,” features performances by the look-a-like, sound-a-like band that has been paying homage to the Beatles for more than 40 years.

RAIN performs the full range of The Beatles’ discography live onstage, including the most complex and challenging songs that The Beatles themselves recorded in the studio but never performed for an audience.

Additionally, there are updated sets that include LED, High-Definition screens and multimedia content.

The group features Steve Landes (John Lennon), Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Alastar McNeil (George Harrison), and Dylan Verge (Ringo Starr).

When RAIN played the Academy of Music in 2018, it was the 50th anniversary year of the release of one of the most popular Beatles albums of all time – “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

The show will celebrate beloved hits from both the “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Sgt. Pepper” albums, as well as classic Beatles favorite hits from the past.

“For this show, we’re focusing on ‘Magical Mystery Tour,” said Landes, during a recent phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “And we’re also playing a lot from ‘Revolver.’

“We’re also playing some things we haven’t done before. Whenever we take a the next production on the road, we’re always trying to bring something new.”

Flash back to January 2006 when RAIN first visited Philadelphia for a three-day run at the Academy of Music as part of the Kimmel Center’s “Broadway at the Academy” series.

The group featured Steve Landes as John Lennon, Joey Curatollo as Paul McCartney, Joe Bithorn as George Harrison, Ralph Castelli as Ringo Starr and Mark Lewis as the band leader/manager.

Landes is an area native who grew up in Lansdale.

“The band started in 1975 in Los Angeles,” said Landes, during a phone interview 15 years ago from a tour stop in Edmonton, Alberta. “The group played its own music but the guys in the band at the time were also Beatles fans.

“So, they threw a few Beatles songs into their set and replicated them note-for-note. There was no tribute band genre at the time. Fans knew they wouldn’t hear the Beatles play again so they persuaded the group to become a tribute band.”

Not long after that, “Beatlemania” opened on Broadway and was an instant success. The Broadway production served as a source of talent for RAIN. Landes was originally in “Beatlemania” prior to joining RAIN.

“Mark Lewis was the founder of RAIN,” said Landes, who attended North Penn High in Lansdale. “Whenever band members left RAIN, Mark would call ‘Beatlemania’ to get replacements.

“All of the group’s current members came into the band in the early 80s – except me. I’ve been in the band for the last seven years. Prior to that, I was in ‘Beatlemania’ for four years.”

Ironically, Landes didn’t play in rock bands when he was a teenager.

“I always wanted to be a musician,” said Landes. “My parents bought me my first guitar when I was 10. I was pretty much self-taught.

“I was still a kid when ‘Beatlemania’ came to the Shubert Theater in Philadelphia. I saw that show and thought – how cool would it be to do that.

“When I was 17, I went to New York to audition for ‘Beatlemania’ and I got hired. That was my first real pro gig. I did New York and L.A. and a couple national tours.”

Landes has always portrayed John Lennon – in ‘Beatlemania” and with RAIN.

Now, he is the group’s elder statesman. He has been with RAIN 25 years – right around the ages of the Beatles when they were conquering the world.

“Talking about age – the funny thing is that when you look at the Beatles – they were 23 or 24 when they were on Ed Sullivan,” said Landes. “They were young and fresh-faced, but they had this world-wise look about them. There was something about them way beyond their years.

“They wrote intelligent, introspective lyrics. They were like 40-year-olds when they were 28. They matured early. By ’66 and ’67 – the Sgt. Peppers era – they were men. I don’t know how to explain the difference. They had seen the world and experienced a few things.”

And now, so has Landes and his RAIN mates.

“Playing for more than 20 years with RAIN has been amazing,” said Landes. “After time, you realize that it’s something special to play the music you’ve loved all your life – and to play it well.”

Video link for “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles” – RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles.

The shows at the Miller will be at 7:30 p.m. on May 9 and 10, 2 and 7:30 p.m. on May 11.

Ticket prices start at $41.

“RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles” will also visit the American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, www.AMTshows.com) on May 12 at 7 p.m.

Other shows this weekend at the American Music Theater are “An Evening with David Foster & Katharine McPhee” on May 10 and Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone on May 11.

Little Women

The acclaimed Broadway show “Little Women” will visit Delaware for a four-day, five-show run now through May 12 at The Playhouse on Rodney Square (1007 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware, www.BroadwayInWilmington.org)

Based on the beloved classic novel, this charming all-new production from Big League Productions, Inc. is filled with stunning music and a powerful story cherished throughout time, offering a wholesome theatrical experience perfect for all generations.

Embraced internationally, “Little Women” has been praised by critics and audiences alike for its ambitious portrayal of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless, captivating story. The musical presents an engaging and uplifting theatrical journey filled with heartache and joy, adventure and personal discovery amidst the never-ending quest for everlasting love.

“Little Women” is a coming-of-age novel written by American novelist Louisa May Alcott, originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. The story follows the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—and details their passage from childhood to womanhood. Loosely based on the lives of the author and her three sisters, it is classified as an autobiographical or semi-autobiographical novel.

The novel has been said to address three major themes: “domesticity, work, and true love, all of them interdependent and each necessary to the achievement of its heroine’s individual identity. Alcott created a new form of literature, one that took elements from romantic children’s fiction and combined it with others from sentimental novels, resulting in a totally new genre.

One of the key roles in the touring musical – Marmee March – is played by veteran actress Aaron Bower.

“The music has a very modern twist but it’s not a pop musical,” said Bower, during a recent phone interview from a tour stop in Colorado Springs. “It has attractive music.

“The musical follows the book. It’s very close to the book. It’s about a female writer — and women in the 1860s not having opportunities. It’s also about loss and losing loved ones.

“The major themes are love, family, feminism and loss. Loss is a very big point – how to deal with the loss of a loved one.”

Bower talked about her character.

“Marmee is the mother of four girls,” said Bower. “Her husband is off fighting in the Civil War, so she is in charge.

“She’s very selfless. She really lets these girls explore their imaginations and that enables their self-confidence.

“I like that she loves to play. She is a mother and a father figure. She also is in plays with them in town.”

Bower was born in the Midwest and now lives in Florida when she’s not out on tour.

“I grew up in Kansas City and graduated from the American Music and Dance Academy,” said Bower. “It’s a good school and I really wanted to live in New York.

“I started doing professional theater in Kansas City and did it from when I was 11 until I was 18. I was off to New York City.”

Bower also has a local connection.

“I used to live in Reading a few yeas ago,” said Bower. “My husband was working in the Northeast and he was living in Pennsylvania. Now, we live in Jupiter, Florida.

“‘Little Women’ started rehearsal in New York in January. The tour started in February. We’ve done a lot of split weeks and one-nighters. This leg, we have a lot more split weeks – three- and four-day runs.

“People tend to really love this show.

Video link for “Little Women” — LITTLE WOMEN MONTAGE.mov – Google Drive.

The show at The Playhouse will run from May 9-12.

Ticket prices start at $50.

The Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) will host Opening Night for “Moon Over Buffalo” on May 12. The play’s run will continue through June 16.

“Moon Over Buffalo” is a 1995 comic play by Ken Ludwig set in Buffalo, New York in 1953. This play marked the return of Carol Burnett to the Broadway stage after a 30-year absence.

This madcap comedy by Ken Ludwig centers on George and Charlotte Hay, fading stars of the 1950s playing Private Lives and Cyrano de Bergerac in rep in Buffalo, New York. On the brink of a disastrous split-up caused by George’s dalliance with a young ingénue, they receive word that they might just have one last shot at stardom: Frank Capra is coming to town to see their matinee, and if he likes what he sees, he might cast them in his movie remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

“Moon Over Buffalo” relies heavily on situation comedy for its humor, as well as some sexual innuendo and a little slapstick. The actor who plays George, in particular, must be able to deliver a highly physical performance; George engages in a mock fencing match with Charlotte, a wrestling match with Howard, and a stunt fall into the orchestra pit.

The action and dialogue are fast paced, as the characters are constantly bickering or frantically trying to resolve some confusion. It bears numerous similarities to Ludwig’s previous farce, “Lend Me A Tenor” — period timeframe, Northeastern city, drinking-and-womanizing male star, justifiably jealous wife, young stage manager desperately trying to keep things together, important person(s) in the audience, at least one character who’s passed out and is believed missing, non-actors forced to go onstage, etc.

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.).

Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $70.50 for adults and $35 for children (ages 4-12).

Now through May 19, People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, www.peopleslight.org) is presenting the regional premiere of the Obie Award winning play “Hurricane Diane” by Pulitzer Prize finalist Madeleine George.

The comedic romp with a mythological twist is a hilarious parable of climate reckoning and liberation set in an unassuming Monmouth County, New Jersey cul-de-sac.

Directed by People’s Light Associate Producing Director Molly Rosa Houlahan, “Hurricane Diane” features actor Rami Margron in the lead role, performing alongside Suli Holum, Teri Lamm, Shauna Miles, and Julianna Zinkel. The play runs through May 19 with 21 performances presented on the Leonard C. Haas Stage, a 340-seat performance venue housed in an 18th-century stone barn.

“Hurricane Diane” made its world premiere at Two River Theater in Red Bank, New Jersey, in 2017, then went on to run off-Broadway at New York Theatre Workshop in 2019.

The play centers on Diane, a permaculture gardener with swaggering charm. She also has supernatural powers thanks to her secret identity: the Greek god Dionysus. After settling in a modern-day New Jersey suburb, Diane sets out to recruit the mortals for an environmental revolution that would restore Earth to its natural state.

George’s Obie Award-winning comedy is a hilarious story that blends ancient myth, climate revolution, and Real Housewives of New Jersey drama.

Tickets start at $42, including fees.

The Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble, a Philadelphia-based ensemble that centers the work of women in tap through performance, education, and community outreach, will present their Spring Concert Series at Harold Prince Theatre at the Annenberg Center for Performing Arts (3680 Walnut Street, ​Philadelphia, www.ladyhoofers.org) on May 11 at 2 and 7 p.m.

The ensemble will perform innovative and original tap choreography by several accomplished choreographers, including a world premiere by Sarah Cook Flynn.

The Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble is composed of 30 professional and pre-professional tap dancers, including the group’s First Company and Apprentice dancers. Additionally, local college tap groups will be invited to perform through an adjudicated process.

The Artistic Director is Kat Echevarría Richter, a tap dancer, choreographer, educator, and dance historian. Another dancer with dual duties is Katie Budris, who is the company’s Managing Director.

“I’ve been with the Lady Hoofers since the beginning in 2011,” said Budris, during a recent phone interview from her home in Sicklerville, New Jersey.

“Kat formed it as part of Philly Fringe. The group got invited to perform in Philadelphia’s City Hall in April 2012. It got a grant for a performance at City Hall.

“I performed in the second ever Lady Hoofers show. Since then, we have built quite an extensive repertoire.”

The 2024 Spring Concert Series features innovative choreography by Caleb Teicher and Lisa La Touche, audience favorites by Katie Budris and Kat Echevarría Richter, and a world premiere by Sarah Cook Flynn.

Of note, the concert will feature Flynn’s world premiere set to the jazz standard “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” A renowned choreographer, Flynn has performed in an international concert tour for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, “The Nutcracker on Broadway,” “Home for the Holidays: Gregory Hines Live,” and “Tap Explosion with Savion Glover and Ted Levy.”

According to Flynn, “I’ve had this piece in mind for The Lady Hoofers for years. Working with layers of sound, space, and physicality is really exciting for me as a choreographer.

“I designed the short but playful piece to be a nod to pioneering women in tap and also a teaching tool for future generations of the company. It requires incredible teamwork and listening, patience and finesse, style and panache to ‘play’ this brilliant interpretation of Harry Connick, Jr.’s song and to capture the spirit of the Savoy Ballroom.”

Budris said, “‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’ is a very challenging piece. Harry Connick, Jr. takes a lot of liberties with tempo.

The footwork goes right along with the instruments. We’re pulling in some of the historical energy of the Savoy Ballroom. It’s a fun, high energy piece.”

The Lady Hoofers will also perform original choreography from past guest artists, including Caleb Teicher, and the mainstage premiere of Lisa LaTouche’s “Honey Somethin’ Blues,” which she set for The Lady Hoofers in a series of rehearsals over COVID.

“There are about 18 numbers in this weekend’s show,” said Budris, who is a Senior Lecturer of Writing Arts at Rowan University. “It runs about 90 0minutes with an intermission.

“We’re doing about 12 numbers that are pretty typical of our Spring Concert. We also try to include two new premieres each Spring Concert.

“There is a resurgence in tap – live, TV, films – and we’re part of that resurgence.”

Video link for Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble – https://youtu.be/5bfdgIwBpEU.

The shows on May 11 will be held at 2 and 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20 and $30.

Highly acclaimed blues and jazz vocalist Madeleine Peyroux will be performing at the Annenberg Center’s Zellerbach Theatre (pennlivearts.org) on May 12.

Peyroux is on tour in support of her highly anticipated ninth album, “Let’s Walk,” which will be released on June 28th via Thirty Tigers.

“Let’s Walk” is her most diverse, intimate and bold work as she shares thoughtful and revealing views on personal and societal concerns. Peyroux offers hope through understanding and community by using one of our most unifying means – music.

“Let’s Walk” is Peyroux’s first record in which she co-wrote every song with longtime collaborator Jon Herington. As evidenced from her new single “Please Come On Inside,” Peyroux has empathy and wisdom to impart.

Stylistically, “Let’s Walk” may be Peyroux’s most varied yet cohesive collection thus far. She incorporates elements of jazz, folk, gospel blues, Americana, chamber pop, Latin rhythms, and a little playful humor into the mix. The songs are interwoven around contemplative, observational and confessional narratives, making it the deepest and most substantive album of her illustrious catalog.

As a teen performing on the streets of Paris, Peyroux exemplified attributes akin to legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. This garnered the attention of Atlantic Records, which lead to her breakthrough debut album in 1996 — “Dreamland” — which sold around 200,000 copies. This record featured a bevy of noted jazz artists (Marc Ribot, Vernon Reid, Cyrus Chesnut, Charlie Giordano, Greg Cohen, Kenny Wollesen, Regina Carter, Leon Parker, Leon Parker, and James Carter) and drew praise for her unique interpretation of blues and jazz standards.

Peyroux’s follow-up albums in 2004 “Careless Love” and 2006’s “Half The Perfect World” (via Rounder Records, produced by Larry Klein) received critical acclaim and went on to achieve gold certification. Peyroux has continued to cut a low-key, if no less lauded, career path.

Video link for Madeline Peyroux – https://youtu.be/SajU_pSOhSY.

The show on May 12 will start at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $59 and $69.

Debra Devi is a multi-talented modern woman. She fronts a blues/rock band, is an author and has composed music for film and television.

On May 11, Devi will make a return appearance at Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985,www.jameyshouseofmusic.com).

The concert is sure to be a pleasurable experience for both the band and the audience.

Jamey’s is one of the premier music clubs in the Philadelphia suburbs and Devi is one of the most talented young blues/rock guitarists on the East Coast.

Devi plays powerful blues-rockers and blistering psychedelic jams flavored with her soulful voice and expressive guitar playing.

Devi’s new live EP, “Jamification Station Vol. 1,” captures her Jersey City band at full throttle. The EP reached #5 on the Relix/Jambands.com Top 30 Radio Chart and then stayed on the chart for three months.

Devi, who has lived all over the country, has called Jersey City home for the last six years.

“I was born in Florida — in Jacksonville– and then grew up in Milwaukee,” said Devi, during a phone interview from her home in North Jersey. “Growing up in Milwaukee, I was exposed to a lot of Chicago blues.

“I went to high school in Milwaukee and then got a degree in economics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

“I always wanted to be a writer, but my parents wanted me to choose a more practical career. I had a journalism minor at the University of Wisconsin and then got into Columbia University for grad school where I majored in journalism.

“I put it to good use. When I first was living in New York, I was a little punk rocker in the East Village. I also played in different kinds of bands. I had been playing electric guitar for about six months.

“I always loved the blues, so I started writing and singing my own songs. It was more 70s blues/rock than punk.”

Devi’s self-produced debut, “Get Free” (True Nature Records/Redeye), received raves from Vintage Guitar, Jambase, Marie Claire (Italy) and Guitar International.

“My guitar playing is very influenced by Chicago blues,” said Devi. “The first show I saw was Son Seals and Koko Taylor at the Metropole. I try to do what Son does – not play a lot of notes but just play the right note.

“Blues has been a guidepost ever since. Blues taught me what I know about music.

“My band and I play blues/rock with improvisation – with jamming. We love to improvise. People love that spontaneity.

“What is exciting today is the jam band scene. They’re taking flight from improvisation. I’m one of the few females in the jam band scene.”
Devi has opened for Joan Osborne, Jesse Malin, Ana Popovic, Sarah Shook and the Disarmers, Uprooted (Michael Glialiki) and Marshall Crenshaw. In 2023, she co-headlined the Haverford Music Festival with Joe Louis Walker and The Bongos, and the East Pete Blues Festival with Greg Sover.

Gov’t Mule bassist Jorgen Carlsson joined Devi on her previous EP, “A Zillion Stars Overhead.”

“I released that album in April 2020 – not a good time to do that with the pandemic just starting,” said Devi. “My most recent album is ‘Jamification Station Vol. 1.’”

“Jamification Station Vol. 1” is a live EP culled from Devi’s livestream show, “Jamification Station,” hosted by American Blues Scene. Four tracks capture Devi and her band at full throttle, from catchy “Home Again” to a blistering rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic.” Also featured is a soulful blues-rocker, “Get Free” and uplifting Southern-rock tune “The River.”

The EP was released on June 20, 2022. Musicians on the recording were: Debra Devi – vocal, guitar; Kevin Jones – bass, background vocal; John Roccesano – drums, background vocal; and Martin Schmid – keys, background vocal.

All songs recorded live by Roccesano at Silver Horse Sound in Hoboken, New Jersey except “The River,” which was recorded live by Corey Zack at The Cocoon in Jersey City. It was produced by Devi and Roccesano, mixed by Roccesano and mastered by Fred Kevorkian.

“We did 27 Livestream concerts during the pandemic,” said Devi. “Right now, we’re mixing ‘Jamification Station Vol. 2’.

Devi is the author of the popular book, “The Language of the Blues” (foreword by Dr. John) which won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. The book is blurbed by Bonnie Raitt, Joe Bonamassa, Hal Willner, Ministry singer Al Jourgensen, Ed Sanders, Bob Margolin and Jimmy Vivino.

Devi composes and performs songs for film and television, including “Tenderness” (Laura Dern, Russell Crowe), “Getting Off” (Christine Harnos, Brooke Smith), “Driven-Tim McGraw” (VH-1), “Fight LIke a Girl” (Maureen Shea, Kimberly Tomes).

Her screenplay “The South Bronx Entrepreneurship Club” is a Big Apple Film Festival semi-finalist, adapted from the book “Goodbye Homeboy: How My Students Drove Me Crazy” and “Inspired a Movement,” which she co-authored with former special education teacher and Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship founder Steve Mariotti.

Devi is truly a modern-day Renaissance woman.”

Video link for Debra Devi – https://youtu.be/WSWFDitPX2Q.

The show at Jamey’s on May 11 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 online advance and $30 at the door. The show will also be available on pay-per-view at a cost of $15.

On May 10, Jamey’s will host the Mark Newman Band.

Newman is a well-traveled and in-demand professional whose musical prowess has taken him around the world several times over. He has worked alongside many soul, blues, and rock greats including John Oates (Hall and Oates), Jim McCarty (The Yardbirds), Willy DeVille (Mink DeVille), Sam The Sham, Bobby Whitlock (Derek and the Dominos) and Sam Moore (Sam and Dave).

The show at Jamey’s on May 10 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 online advance and $30 at the door. The show will also be available on pay-per-view at a cost of $15.

“Jazz at Jamey’s” will be presented every second and fourth Thursday, and “Anything Goes” every first, third and fifth Thursday.

Every Sunday, Jamey’s presents “SUNDAY BLUES BRUNCH & JAM” featuring the Philly Blues Kings. On the second Sunday each month, the featured act is the Girke-Davis Project which features club owner Jamey Reilly, Roger Girke, Glenn Bickel, Fred Berman and John Colgan-Davis.

Colgan-Davis will have a busy weekend.

On May 11, Colgan-Davis and his band the Dukes of Destiny will headline a show at Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org).

The Dukes of Destiny, who have been treating fans to live performances of top-flight blues and soul music for almost three decades, are back in action with a lineup built around John Colgan-Davis (harmonica, vocals) and AC Steel (guitar, vocals). Colgan-Davis and Johnny Never also perform frequently as the Two Johns.

The Dukes of Destiny, a long-time Philly band, have established a tradition of playing shows at the Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org). It started in February 2017 and will continue this year with a show this weekend.

In 1985, five young, local musicians got together and began playing old blues songs in a rambling three-story house in Philadelphia. They decided to take the act on the road as The Dukes of Destiny, a name they got from a matchbook cover urging the reader to “Be the Captain of Your Own Destiny.”

At first, The Dukes of Destiny played house parties in Germantown, generating interest by word of mouth. A gig at the now-defunct Taker’s Café in Germantown launched their public career, and 30 years later, they are still playing some of the hottest, most danceable blues and old school soul in the Philadelphia area. Today The Dukes of Destiny reign as Philadelphia’s longest-lived and best loved blues act.
There have been changes in the act: guitarists left and came back, bass and sax players moved and or left the band, and sadly, singer and founder Steve Brown died in March of 2000. But the approach and commitment of the band has remained constant for 30 years, resulting in a band with a unique tightness and an original approach to the music.

With a mix of powerful original songs and unique arrangements of blues standards, The Dukes of Destiny continue to grow and develop as they share their music through countless live performances and recordings.

The current line-up also features Hammond organ ace Glenn Bickel, drummer Michael Rourke, and organist Ray Adler.

A few years ago, the Dukes’ lineup went through a major change when vocalist Aryl Wolters retired from the band. As a result, Colgan-Davis had a dual role with the Dukes.

“Now that Arlyn is gone, I’m doing the majority of the singing,” said Colgan-Davis. “I was singing before Arlyn so now it’s back to the roots.

In addition to performing at most of the clubs in the Tri-State area, the Dukes of Destiny have performed at the Pocono Blues Festival, the Waterfront Jam at Philadelphia’s Penn’s Landing, the State Street Blues Stroll in Media, the Bucks County R’n’B Picnic, the New Jersey Folk Festival and the Longwood Gardens Summer Concert Series.

“For the past few years, we’ve had great years,” said Colgan-Davis back in 2019. “We played places we had never played before – like the Philadelphia Folk Festival. We also played places we really love like The Kennett Flash and the West Grove Friends Meeting.

“We played the Phoenixville Blues Festival and the Paoli Blues Festival. We really love playing The Kennett Flash. And we love our Chester County crowd.”

Audiences that like to get out of their seats and dance are a big part of the Dukes of Destiny live experience.

“We get all kinds of dancers at our shows,” said Colgan-Davis. “We’ve been playing a lot more festivals. We’re back on the festival circuit. I love playing festivals for a couple reasons. You get a whole bunch of people playing together. That takes me back to the 60s and the be-ins back then.

“Sun Ra had said the message that music is the healing force of the universe, and you feel that at festivals. And kids get to hear real music played by real people. With a band like us that plays off the crowd, a festival show is a real exciting thing.”

Colgan-Davis’s introduction to the blues came when he was in high school at Central High in Philadelphia and saw the Stones performing with Howling Wolf on the “Shindig” TV show. Howlin’ Wolf, whose real name was Chester Burnett, was an American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player who was one of the premier Chicago bluesmen.

“When I saw Howlin’ Wolf on that TV show, I jumped up and said — this is what I want to do,” said Colgan-Davis. “I started playing blues when I was 16. My dad gave me a grab bag for my birthday and a harmonica was in it.

“I started listening to blues records a lot — players like Muddy Waters and James Cotton. I was really into Chicago blues of the 1950s and 1960s when I started. Then, I got into guys like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. One of the first bands I played in was a Philly blues band called Sweet Stavin’ Chain.”

Sweet Stavin’ Chain were a white blues group with horns led by the late, great Danny Starobin on guitar.

A while later, the Dukes of Destiny became the main musical vehicle for Colgan-Davis. At first, they played house parties in Germantown, generating word of mouth interest. A gig at the now-defunct Taker’s Cafe in Germantown launched their public career.

“The Dukes got together in the mid-1980s,” said Colgan-Davis. “Steve Brown started the band, and it began with that gig at Taker’s Café. Steve died of pancreatic cancer in 2000 and I’ve been the leader ever since. Steve has always been in my mind. We did a tribute concert to him a few years ago and we still do some of his favorites in our set.

“We have a whole range of music in what we can play — everything from Chicago blues to old-school soul. What’s great about the Dukes is that we’re a band. We use each other’s strengths.”

Video link for the Dukes of Destiny – https://youtu.be/j5fM0sugB5w.

The show at Kennett Flash on May 11 will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

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