By L. Kent Wolgamott
Lincoln Journal Star

In 2007, Tommy DeCarlo was working at a Home Depot in Charlotte, North Carolina. Seven years later, he's the lead singer of Boston in the middle of his third tour with the ‘70s classic rock band.

A devoted fan who came to Boston's attention after he recorded a tribute to the late vocalist Brad Delp, DeCarlo doesn't dwell on the thought that he's living the dream of singing with his favorite band -- until the lights come up for a show, and he realizes what he's doing.

"It's something I don't think much about until I'm up on stage," DeCarlo said. "Early on it was definitely overwhelming. At times, when I'm getting up on stage with the band and see a sold-out crowd, it hits me again."

DeCarlo likely will see a sold-out crowd Friday when Boston and the Doobie Brothers stop at Pinewood Bowl. The audience will see a guy dedicated to doing his best to sing the songs that he grew up loving.

"I started listening to Boston when I was 12-13-14 years old," the 49-year-old DeCarlo said. "Then I became a fan of the classic rock of that era -- Foreigner, Journey, 38 Special, that kind of thing. But I really loved Boston and the vocals of Boston. Brad Delp was that voice. Brad was my favorite singer. He's the reason I became a singer."

Born in Utica, New York, DeCarlo sang around home and at parties as a teenager -- "That was pretty much my hobby when I wasn't playing baseball, playing sports." But he gave up singing in his late 20s to raise a family.

But when he heard of Delp's 2007 suicide, DeCarlo was inspired to write a tribute song to his favorite singer and record it on some cheap home equipment.

"When I heard of the passing of Brad Delp, I thought I'd start singing again and maybe record some karaoke versions of Boston songs," DeCarlo said. "I posted them on a MySpace page, which eventually Kim Scholz (wife of Boston founder Tom) found. Tom heard them.

"Then I was invited to come up and sing with the band. It was like watching a baseball game on TV and saying, ‘I can pitch in the Major Leagues,' and then the phone rings and they say, ‘Come out and do it.' I was shaking in my boots."

That was in 2007 when he sang before 4,000 fans at a tribute concert for Delp in Boston, which turned out to be something of an audition for the band.

"I had a feeling that if Tom Scholz heard me sing, he would not be disappointed, and if he decided to continue with the band, what an opportunity it would be for me," DeCarlo said. "That's what it's turned out to be. I've gotten the phone call for the last three tours."

DeCarlo joined Boston for its 2008 and 2012 tours and is back on the road with the band this summer. He sounds enough like Delp to get the job done. But he knows that, for some, Delp can never be replaced.

"There's always going to be some that are going to want Brad to be singing," DeCarlo said. "I feel that same way. But unfortunately, he's not. I have to step up and do the best I can. I want to perform these songs to make Brad proud."

What is DeCarlo's favorite song to sing? Maybe "More Than a Feeling" or "Rock & Roll Band" or "Feelin' Satisfied"?

"In my opinion, every Boston song is my favorite song," he said. "It does something to me. It fills me up with a lot of joy and happiness to sing any of the songs. I remember after rehearsal -- this was back in 2012 -- I looked at Tom and said, ‘Tom, I've got to tell you, I love singing your songs.'"

DeCarlo takes his responsibility seriously, working each night to prove himself to Scholz, the rest of the band and the audience listening to him sing the classic songs.

"I sing a fair number of the songs on the setlist. It's important for me to make them proud. The music is awesome music, but it doesn't come easy. Not everybody can do it. I feel blessed to make a pretty good run at it and sing the music the way I remembered it and, in turn, it makes a lot of people happy."

It makes DeCarlo happy as well, even if he sometimes can't believe he's now a part of Boston.

"I feel very much a part of the band; all the band members make me feel that way," he said. "I also feel very fortunate, having never done this before. These are iconic songs everybody remembers. It takes a group effort for us to perform them the way they need to be performed. So in that way, I really feel like part of the band. But it's still pretty amazing."