By: John Marks
Fort Mill Times

LAKE WYLIE -- With what he's been through the past five years, it's a wonder Tommy DeCarlo is only coming out with an album and not a big budget movie.

Then again, it isn't just any album.

The 48-year-old Steele Creek resident is the lead vocalist on four of the dozen songs on the newest Boston album, which goes on sale today, Dec. 3. "Life, Love & Hope" is the first Boston release since 2002. It will be the sixth album - not counting a greatest hits release in 1996 - for the band known for its classic rock sound and singles "More Than a Feeling," "Don't Look Back" and "Amanda."

It's also the first original album featuring DeCarlo, who began performing and touring with the band in 2007.

"The unmistakeable Boston sound is within this record, and that's a wonderful thing for the fans," DeCarlo said.

Boston began with Tom Scholz and Brad Delp, who put out an album in 1976 that became an all-time best-selling debut of its kind. When Delp died in early 2007, the band had an extensive following including DeCarlo, who at the time worked at The Home Depot in RiverGate shopping center. DeCarlo uploaded a couple of tribute covers in honor of Delp to Myspace. Soon he heard from someone claiming to know the band; the person asked if DeCarlo's performances could be passed along to Scholz.

"I never thought in a million years they'd ever hear it," DeCarlo said.

But they did. Remaining band members flew DeCarlo in for the tribute concert, where he performed two songs. And Scholz noticed how similar DeCarlo's voice is to the late lead singer's.

"I came off the sales floor and went straight out onto the stage floor," DeCarlo said.

DeCarlo still performs with Boston, but earlier this year started the band DECARLO with son Tommy DeCarlo Jr. and local drummer Dan Hitz. The band plays around town, including stops at Lake Wylie Bowl N' Bounce and the Baxter area of Fort Mill. DECARLO will be performing at 9 p.m. Friday at Bowl N' Bounce.

"He does a great show out here," said Bowl N' Bounce owner Darrin Skinner, who believes DeCarlo's story has "got to be one of the best-kept secrets around here.

"I feel like more people need to know about it."

DeCarlo is hopeful the Boston album momentum will stir up interest in DECARLO. Fans of the classic rock sound won't be disappointed in the local group's feel, he said.

"We do play some of the Boston songs along with a lot of other bands," DeCarlo said. "We tend to play the most popular songs from the most popular bands."

Though he's "become accustomed" to hearing his voice backed by a band he long-idolized, DeCarlo is pumped to put his mark on an original Boston album, rather than sing familiar covers. According to the band's website, the new songs still have the same Boston sound. Even some of the same equipment that produced the band's songs for more than 30 years was used.

"I intentionally stayed close to the early Boston style on some of songs, even using the same amps and instruments," Scholz said via the site. "On others I let my imagination run wild."

Imagination run wild - if it isn't the name of a new album in the works, maybe DeCarlo could use it for his own story of fan to leading man.

"I never would've imagined it," he said.