By Brian Aberback
Tracy Ferrie vividly remembers the first time that he heard the band Boston.
It was 1976 and the then 10-year-old Elkhart, Indiana native was at his parents' roller rink when the instantly memorable, soon-to-be rock classic "More Than a Feeling" emanated from the sound system.
"I remember the day we put the Boston record on," Ferrie said. "I'm skating around the roller rink thinking, ‘this is unbelievable. I've never heard anything like this.'"
More than 35 years later, Ferrie is playing bass on Boston's summer tour, performing "More Than a Feeling," "Peace of Mind," "Amanda" and other classics to sellout crowds. Boston plays this Saturday at the Mark G. Etess Arena at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
"It's been fantastic," Ferrie said by phone of playing with Boston, which is led by guitarist and keyboardist Tom Scholz. "It's a high energy show.
"You see a very diverse age range and it's wonderful to see people singing along to every word to every song. The fans are excited to be there and I'm excited to be there."
Ferrie said he also loves the fact that Boston is in-sync both on- and off-stage.
"The band gets along great," he said. "A lot of bands on their day off, they don't even want to see each other. If we haven't seen each other in a few hours it's like, ‘let's go have dinner or do something.' There's a lot of camaraderie."
Boston's summer 2012 lineup also includes guitarist Gary Pihl; singer, percussionist and keyboardist Tommy DeCarlo; vocalist-guitarist David Victor; and drummer Curly Smith.
The band is excited to return to Atlantic City. The last time Boston played America's Playground, in 2008, they were greeted by a three-story high billboard of themselves and quickly gathered their cameras to capture the larger-than-life image from their tour bus.
Pihl shared another Atlantic City anecdote from the 2008 tour and hinted at some surprises in the set for fans attending this Saturday's concert.
"I went jogging on the boardwalk and a couple of fans yelled, ‘we're coming to your show, please play ‘Smokin,'" Pihl said by email. "We'll be playing "Smokin" again this time, and some songs we haven't played for a while."
This will be Ferrie's first time playing Atlantic City, but not New Jersey. He said his favorite Garden State experience was playing the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park as the bassist for Christian metalers Stryper.
"It's such a famous venue," Ferrie said of the club that helped launch Bruce Springsteen's career. "Playing there definitely left an imprint in my mind."
Ferrie has worked with a long list of top musicians in genres spanning rock, pop and country. He has performed in 25 countries and played for Pope John Paul II with Christian pop singer Rebecca St. James.
Ferrie played on two Stryper albums and also performed in Stryper singer-guitarist Michael Sweet's solo band.
Boston and Stryper have an interrelated history. Sweet played with Boston at a benefit show in 2007 and toured with the band in 2008. Scholz, in turn, performed on Stryper's cover version of "Peace of Mind," a track on which Ferrie played bass.
Ferrie met Scholz and Pihl when the Boston duo joined Stryper onstage at a 2008 benefit concert. Based on that performance, and a strong recommendation from Sweet, Ferrie was asked to take on bass duties for Boston this summer.
Ferrie said he eagerly embraced the role of playing Boston's challenging music while providing back-up and harmony vocals.
"Tom recorded the majority of the bass lines on Boston's albums and they're excellent parts," Ferrie said. "Each bass line is like a song within a song. It's a challenge to play those parts and to sing over those parts, and I'm happy to step up and deliver."
"It's most excellent to hear the bass lines that I recorded played note for note," Scholz said in a press release. "(Ferrie) has a great touch, and a contagious energy onstage."
Ferrie has been honing his musical chops since he began playing the tuba in fourth grade. It was difficult not to play an instrument at school. Elkhart is known as the school band instrument capitol of the world.
"There were four or five companies that produced band instruments," Ferrie said. "Saxophones, trombones, clarinets, tubas, all that stuff."
In high school Ferrie's school music director and mentor encouraged him to take up guitar, upright bass and electric bass, and to pursue music as a career.
"If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here," Ferrie said. "He suggested that I go to Berklee College of Music in Boston. I hadn't even heard of it."
In addition to attending Berklee, where he met his wife, Ferrie also studied at the Music Institute of Technology in Los Angeles. Ferrie, his wife and their four children reside in Cape Cod.
Now Ferrie is returning his mentor's favor. When he's not on the road, Ferrie teaches bass and guitar. He said he is grateful to impart his knowledge to young people.
"When someone comes to me for lessons, I show them the tools they need and how to use them," Ferrie said. "I've got some guys, they're the stars of their schools now and I remember them playing their first note with difficulty."
IF YOU GO: Boston, 8 p.m. July 21, Etess Marina, Trump Taj Mahal, 1000 Boardwalk at Virginia Avenue, Atlantic City. Tickets are $39.50, $59.50 and $79.50. Call 800-736-1420 or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/0200487DEE7DAC6F?brand=trumptajmahal.
By Brian Aberback