Houlton group discovers you’re never too old to rock

5 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — In the summer of 1971, a trio of teachers decided it was far more fun to play rock and roll on their time off instead of grading papers and formed what would be one of the most popular local bands in that era.

Nearly 50 years later the re-formed group has rediscovered their passion for playing the songs they once loved.

Known as “Rock Renaissance,” the group was formed by bassist/vocalist Tim Humphrey of Hodgdon in 1973 and included David McGillicuddy of Houlton on drums, Scott Emack of Houlton on guitar, Neal Wetmore of Orono on guitar and Kathy Pond Evans of St. Albans on vocals.

The group developed quite a following, playing at the original Ivey’s Motor Lodge on Bangor Street and the Silver Fox bar located near the U.S-Canada border crossing. In their heyday, the band played two to three nights a week at Ivey’s Motor Lodge and then added in gigs at the Silver Fox lounge. 

Bob Frame later took over guitar and co-led vocals when Evans and Wetmore decided to step away from the band and the group took on a harder rock sound.

“Back then there were two distinctly different crowds,” McGillicuddy said. “Ivey’s had a different atmosphere, with a small lounge. He wanted us to play quiet. It was a good gig for us.”

“Henry Ivey’s favorite comment was ‘You want to turn it down a little boys,’” Humphrey added.

“It was a whole different clientele out to the Fox,” Emack added. “They wanted to rock and so did we.”

The original Rock Renaissance band from the early 1970s featured, bottom from left, Scott Emack and Tim Humphrey; and back, Neal Wetmore, Kathy Pond Evans and Dave McGillicuddy.
(Courtesy of Tim Humphrey)

At the time, the group’s repertoire featured songs from the Eagles, the Doobie Brothers and many more prominent acts from the 1970s classic rock genre. Many of those songs remain in the setlist today.

Humphrey, McGillicuddy and Emack were all teachers in the Houlton and Katahdin school districts. McGillicuddy taught music at Houlton High School and fondly recalls times when he would serve as the conductor at basketball games and then rush to get out to the Silver Fox in time for a gig.

“Sometimes I would have to let some of the high school drummers out early from games so they could go sit in for me until I got done,” he said. “The kids thought that was just the greatest thing ever.”

Playing at the Silver Fox, the group was able to leave much of its gear at the establishment, which made life much easier. McGillicuddy said that his pristine white drum heads, however, turned a stale yellow from all of the cigarette smoke in the air.

None of the four men ever thought they would still be playing music for crowds into their 70s. McGillicuddy, is the eldest of the bunch at 76, while Emack is 74, Humphrey is 73 and Frame is forever the “kid” at 69.

The group reformed three years ago at the suggestion of Sharon O’Donnell and Wilma Dobbins, who were listening to Humphrey play solo at Hidden Springs Winery in East Hodgdon. The two  women suggested he get the band back together to play and the wheels were quickly in motion.

“Most of us have still played music, just not together,” Frame said. 

Frame was more than eager to get the band back together. Humphrey first reached out to Emack, because he knew it would take a bit of convincing to get him to give up Friday and Saturday nights at home. Once he was on board, Humphrey called McGillicuddy, who was eager to join.

But there was a slight problem. “I didn’t have any drums,” McGillicuddy said. “I had given my drums to the high school to use. So I went out and bought an electronic drum kit.”

Response to the group’s return has been overwhelmingly positive. This past summer, they performed at the annual Potato Feast Days and also appeared in Patten for their summer concert series. The group also has a standing gig at the Hidden Springs Winery in East Hodgdon where they play the first Friday of the month.

“We may be on Medicare, but we can still rock,” Humphrey said.