Four veteran musicians combine with one vivacious vocalist to set fire to a classic rock repertoire in a band aptly named Smokin’ which makes a two-night stand in Baldwinsville this weekend.
Anchored by bassist Al Wolf and drummer Jan Fetterly, Smokin’ sizzles with the instrumental wizardry of keyboardist Bob Lindberg and guitarist Frank Rhodes. In the 1960s, Wolf and Fetterly performed with the seminal Syracuse rock’n’roll group Sam & The Twisters while Lindberg and Rhodes each played with Carnage and later The Limit.
In the late-1970s and early-’80s, singer Janice Wilson lived and worked in Colorado where she fronted a band named Ontario. Theater and dance work in Colorado, Tennessee, New York and Pennsylvania provided opportunities for Wilson to work with professionals such as actress Jean Stapleton and Philadelphia TV personality Jerry Blavatt. After relocating to Central New York in the 1990s, Wilson sang for ten years with the JR Band, and now she relishes the chance to sing with Smokin.’
“I really like being in Smokin,'” she said, “because it’s a band where I can exercise my diverse background.”
Billing themselves as “The Hottest Classic Rock Band in Central New York,” Smokin’s musicians consider it their mission to perform rock music from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and present it with a touch of 21st-century technology. Although many other groups play classic rock, “We strive to make it sound as authentic as you remember it,” said bassist Al Wolf.
Smokin’ plugs in at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday Feb. 9 and 10 at the Fireside Inn on Route 370, just west of the Baldwinsville business district. Admission is free; 638-0214. The quintet returns to the Fireside March 10 and on March 24 will perform at Wacky Wyatt’s Tex-Mex BBQ 85 E. Genesee St. where admission is also free; 635-0144.
Smokin’ boasts one of the widest repertoires of rock covers in CNY. They play everything from “Walk Don’t Run” to “Walk This Way,” from “Hanky Panky” to “Sugar Sugar,” from “Kansas City” to “California Sun,” from “Cocaine” to “I Wanna Be Sedated.” The quintet cooks up some country tunes too and can play every dance-craze theme you can imagine, from “The Hokey Pokey” to “Hava Nagila.”
While Smokin’s best known for its oldies, the band also covers contemporary artists such as Keith Urban, Pink and Sheryl Crow. The group pays homage to the 1980s’ New Wave scene with songs by The Go-Gos, The Romantics and the B-52s.
The 12 tracks on Smokin’s new disc, “Hot Stuff,” reflect the band’s commitment to a diverse but always danceable set list. After opening with Wilson crooning Buddy’s Holly’s “It’s So Easy,” the disc alternates vocalists as Fetterly predicts a “Heartache Tonight.”
Even though it’s Fetterly singing lead, Wilson’s right there beside him, adding a backup vocal that growls with emotion. Such teamwork is Smokin’s trademark. Wilson follows with Gloria Gaynor’s disco-era anthem, “I Will Survive,” solidly supported by Lindberg’s synthesizer. In fact, the keyboardist rises to several challenges, fingering a clever outro on “Unchain My Heart,” bringing a blues-piano feel to “Who’s Your Daddy?” (both Fetterly vocals), before adding synthesized strings to Wilson’s version of the timeless ballad, “Since I Fell for You.”
Then Lindberg takes to the microphone himself to sing an enthusiastic “At The Hop,” with his band mates adding hot harmony vocals. Rhodes’ guitar work also spices up the recording, with a searing lead on “Heartache Tonight” and brief but tasty fills on “It’s So Easy” and elsewhere. For his vocal contribution, Rhodes sings the somewhat obscure but nonetheless rivetting “Rock’n’Roll Ruby,” a rockably standard replete with reverb. Recorded at SubCat Studio in Skaneateles, “Hot Stuff” also features Wilson doing the Rod Stewart title track, and Fetterly getting funky on “Givin’ It Up for Your Love” and “Play That Funky Music (White Boy).” The disc’s most dynamic track is Wilson’s uninhibited embrace of Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman.” “Hell yeah,” indeed!
Smokin’s Sammy Hall of Famers
As members of Sam & The Twisters, both Al Wolf and Jan Fetterly — Smokin’s rhythm section — were inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Fame in 1994. In the early 1960s, Sam & The Twisters issued two now-rare 45 rpm records Fooba Wooba John and Baron Daemon’s Transylvania Twist, to this day Central New York’s best-selling records ever. Later that decade, The Twisters evolved into The Livin’ Ennd. Shortly thereafter Wolf dropped out of music for some years to pursue a career in education. But he never buried his music roots.
“I participate in Smokin’ on a higher level than ever before,” he said.
Fetterly continued on with the Livin’ Ennd and later formed The Cobblerockers. From 1993 through early 2006, The Cobblerockers appeared at nightclubs, casinos and resorts throughout New York and played scores of Thursday night parties at its namesake Cobblestone Tavern in Liverpool.
In March 2006 Fetterly joined Smokin.’ Now Fetterly has yet another new band, the Ol’ Rollers, actually comprised of the three original members of The Cobblerockers. Anyhow, the Ol’ Rollers make their debut Feb. 21 at what may become a regular mid-week gig from 6 to 9 p.m. at Scheibl’s Lounge (a.k.a. The Bar at 105), at Sertinos Caf (c), 105 First St., in Liverpool. Smokin’ also has a date scheduled in Liverpool, on April 27 at the historic Le Moyne Manor. For band information, visit smokintheband.com.