Ex Home Depot Worker Propelled Into The Spotlight Thanks To Band's Founder
By Jeff Walker
Low Country Today
If this had been a young women's story it might present itself like a modern day fairy tale but since it involves a classic rock loving testosterone driven male it more resembles Bad Company's hit song 'Rock n' Roll Fantasy'. Similar to Mark Wahlberg's fictional character in the movie 'Rock Star' or Arnel Pineda's real life inclusion into the band Journey, Tommy DeCarlo's leap into lead singer for Boston reads like an everyman's dream come true.
DeCarlo would take over the reins in 2008 less than two years after the passing of legendary Boston vocalist Brad Delp. The most notable difference between 'Rock Star' and Pineda's two decades plus of singing live is that DeCarlo never fronted a band or sang in front of a large crowd outside the occasional karaoke night at the local bowling alley. A North Carolina resident and longtime fan of 70's and 80's guitar rock bands DeCarlo spent most of his early singing career performing in his living room.
"I'd come home from work, throw on the headphones and just start jamming to my favorite bands. Growing up as a teenager in the late 1970's and early 80's I was into all the biggest bands back then. Bands like Journey, Kansas, Styx, Foreigner, and .38 Special. I've always loved good rock n' roll music." Although he was inspired by them all he had a connection to Boston and Delp. "I loved his voice. There was just something about it. I'd sing along to radio back then."
DeCarlo regularly posted his Boston videos on MySpace over the years and recorded a tribute song to Delp after his passing, sending it to the Boston camp in hopes it would somehow be included in a memorial salute that was being held in Delp's honor. "I got a reply back saying thanks and I thought that was it." Several weeks later his life would change dramatically when Boston founding member Tom Scholz came a calling. "It sounds crazy but before I knew it I was on a plane to Boston to sing with Boston."
It wasn't long after that Scholz' offered DeCarlo a full time position fronting the band. "I'm not sure when Tom made the decision but I'm thankful I was given the opportunity. It's changed my life immensely. Tom is the heart and soul of the band. He worked alongside Brad all those years. Tom saw something in me. I must have done a decent job at the tribute because I'm still here."
Rather than experiencing an 'oh my god' moment early on with the band DeCarlo says the rush continues to this very day. "I have to pinch myself on a regular basis. It never hit me that I was singing lead for Boston. That feeling hits me every time I hit the stage." Six years later DeCarlo accepts his role in the band. "I might be the singer but truthfully Tom fronts the band. The rest of us are a nice supporting cast."
The current lineup in Boston includes a diverse group of musicians. Aside from Scholz, and DeCarlo the five member unit consists of ex Sammy Hagar guitarist Gary Pihl, self taught drummer Jeff Neal, and bass player Tracy Ferrie who gained popularity touring with Christian heavy metal bands Whitecross, Guardian, and Stryper. "It's definitely an eclectic mix. But we all share one thing in common and that is our love for Boston and our admiration for Tom."
For his part DeCarlo doesn't try to mimic Delp. "Brad was the best rock singer I ever heard. I tend to want to emulate that style but inevitably I bring my own style to the band. Tom is the heart and soul of the band and the music he helped create is why Boston is so big and still has such a strong following this many years down the road."
Boston hit the big time from day one with their self-titled 1976 debut album appearing more like a greatest hits release with 'More Than A Feeling' 'Foreplay / Long Time' 'Peace of Mind', Smokin' and "Let Me Take You Home Tonight' charting and becoming staples on classic rock radio stations. 1978's 'Don't Look Back' would continue their dominance with the title track reaching four on the singles charts. 'A Man I'll Never Be' and 'I'm Satisfied' rounded out the album.
Amid the rise of pop metal in the mid 1980's Boston hit pay dirt again with 'Third Stage' giving them three more Top 40 hits including their first number one in the power ballad 'Amanda'. DeCarlo says the body of the bands work is incredible. "It's definitely a sound track for a generation. Boston songs have stood the test of time."
Although there has been some harsh criticism since DeCarlo's joined the band he takes it in stride. "The good outweighs the bad. You're always going to have some negative comments."An eternal optimist DeCarlo prefers to look at the glass half full. "I was a fan first before I became a band member. I was in that audience so I know how it feels. I've been given a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Having several years and many concerts under his belt DeCarlo admits he still gets nervous. "It's all because I'm putting my voice out there. I want to do the best job for myself, for my band mates and for the fans. I want to perform right for everyone who is a part of the Boston family."
Family and close friends knew DeCarlo loved music but nothing could have prepared them for his transformation. "I think everyone was pretty shocked when it all went down. They all knew singing was a hobby but like me they didn't see this coming." DeCarlo's day gig prior to wailing for a classic rock juggernaut was as credit manager for his local Home Depot. "Obviously it's a little different than what I'm doing now. I had short hair back and just did my own thing. I like to think of myself as a full time musician now."
The road to rock n' roll notoriety has had its miscues for DeCarlo. Even at a young age teachers probably didn't understand his potential. "It started back in elementary school. I tried out several times for a lead part in the school choir. They would say I had a nice voice but it's too soft. I knew otherwise."
His rock n' roll voice eventually came into its own. DeCarlo recalls a time when he felt validated for his efforts from another of his early singing idols. "Kevin Cronin who is the lead singer with REO Speedwagon came up to me after a show and said 'Tommy you are really doing a great job'. That meant something to me. Here's a guy I grew up watching on MTV and listening to and he's praising me. I can remember Kevin standing off stage watching me perform thinking how cool is this."
Boston has been hitting the road on summer tours for the past seven years usually being paired with fellow 70's and 80's rock icons. When the band is not out on the road DeCarlo spends his time back in Charlotte. "I have my own band called DeCarlo with my son. We do a lot of shows in and around Charlotte. It's great to be able to play music with my son." Given his rise to fame he admits the band has a following. "We stand on our own. Of course they want to hear me sing Boston songs. We do a few with other classic rock songs and a few of our own."
Long before DeCarlo was aware he'd be grabbing hold of the brass ring he sensed he had something. "I don't know if it was desire or passion. But back in the day if Tom Scholz ever heard me sing Boston songs I sensed he would have said keep up the nice work. And if that ended it right there it would have been fine for me."
DeCarlo did get to meet Delp one time in the mid 1990's. "I was one of the lucky ones with a meet and greet pass. There must have been 30 or 40 of us backstage." Wanting more of an audience with his favorite singer DeCarlo hung around after. "I waited by the buses and got to speak with Brad again. I'm glad I got to meet him. He was so nice." Delp may be gone but DeCarlo says his spirit is present in the band. "Tom is the architect for the band and Brad was the voice. We still sense his presence when we are performing."
Through it all Tommy DeCarlo is the first to acknowledge Scholz for what he did over four decades ago. "What Tom Scholz did in the early 70's is playing a part for me in 2015. He's the mastermind behind it all. The staying power of the music is immeasurable. I'll look out at 10, 15, and 20 thousand people in the audience ready to rock to a Boston concert, and then I'll look over at Tom and think to myself, he's the reason we're here."
Charleston fans will have an opportunity to witness the magic and music of the legendary band Boston when they perform at Family Circle Cup Stadium on Saturday May 16th. Tickets are still available by visiting Family Circle Stadium box office on Daniel Island or for information call 800-677-2293 or 843-856-7900. Or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com/BOSTON-tickets/artist/734623