Townie Musicians "RIZZZ" among 2017 R.I. Music Hall of Fame Class
From Riverside Garage band to the Music Hall of Fame. EP Music Teacher John Baldaia also Honored
The popular rock band, "Rizzz", born in the early seventies with six East Providence residents, was selected as one of 10 inductees to the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame (RIMHOF). The Hall of Fame class of 2017 includes jazz drummer Artie Cabral; engineer/producer Phil Greene; sax player Dan Moretti; rock band Neutral Nation; producer, songwriter and musician Billy Osborne; the eclectic band Plan 9; jazz guitarist and educator Frank Potenza; influential Newport alternative band Throwing Muses; the Wild Turkey Band/Hometown Rockers and Ep's Rizzz, a fixture on the local scene in the 1970s.
Six of the 7 original Rizzz band members were graduates of East Providence High School. Non-Townie Joe "Klem" Klimek was from nearby Connecticut. Rizzz EPHS graduates are: Rick Couto 1969, Dave Tanury, Jerry Xavier and Kenn Reynolds, 1970 and Bob Weisberger and Jim Tait, 1971.
"I am humbled at the outpouring of congratulations on the recent induction of Rizzz into The RIMHOF," said David Tanury. "It's been an incredible journey, a long trip, getting here. Thanks to the board of trustees in choosing this year's class of inductees," Tanury added. Tanury marveled at the fact that even as the band gets older, they are still around. "I'm so glad that we, Rizzz, are all still intact after over 40 years! We are planning a chronological performance featuring all ten members, so please try to make this historic musical event (Awards ceremony on April 30th) in April," Tanury urged his followers.
Indeed after some 40 plus years of playing together, Rizzz, which disbanded in 1981, will reunite all 10 band members for an encore performance on April 30th at The Met. It certainly is shaping up as a show followers of Rizzz and all music lovers won't want to miss.
The Reporter recently sat down with Rizzz mainstay Dave Tanury in a coffee shop in his native Riverside. "I'm born raised and still living where I grew up in good old Riverside," said a reminiscing Tanury. The famed guitarist began teaching himself to play guitar when very young. Tanury was a member of the once internationally known Barrington Boys Choir. "As a choir member then I knew I loved to sing and had a good feel for music. I taught myself how to play the guitar and haven't stopped since," smiled Tanury.
Tanury rejects the notion that he was the band leader for Rizzz. "There really is no Rizzz leader, we were a band of 7 heads - truly a democracy. I had a vision of a band that would have multiple singers that could play anything we wanted in the clubs, instead of the usual top 40 tunes that most bands played, and it was met with great success," said Tanury. It was Rhode Island's original jam band. Close followers of Rizzz and the other bands that Tanury plays for will tell you that "Dave was and is the heart and soul of most bands he played with." Tanury is a prolific song writer and along with fellow Townie Jim Tait did most of the band's songwriting. Tanury and Tait are also extraordinary guitar players.
Rizzz began selling out the biggest clubs in the state and were soon joined by pianist Jerry Xavier. After a change in 1978, Tanury, Klem and Reynolds were joined by three new players, keyboardist, Riverside resident Paul Sauvageau, lead guitarist Richard Herzog and drummer Gary St. Germain. The new lineup didn’t miss a beat and leaned even more heavily towards originals by Tanury, Klem and Herzog.
The precursors to the Rizzz success may have been those classic "garage bands" popular in the sixties. Tanury and friends formed a band called Carpetbaggers and played at school dances at Riverside Junior High school. Their singing and music became instantly popular with local kids. The band morphed into what might have been one of East Providence's and then Rhode Island's most famous early local bands - The Yeomen. The Yeomen, featured Townies Tanury, Jerry Xavier, Alan Chadsey and Pat Leonard. The roots go back even further as Kenny Grover, Chadsey and Xavier were in the band 'Upsets', before The Yeomen.
About a year ago, Tanury was surprised with a knock on his Riverside front door. Standing there were some of the original Yeomen. "It was amazing! I was extremely thrilled to see the surviving members of my first real band, The Yeomen, as they came to the house that started it all. We had a great time remembering our high school years and the music we made almost 50 years ago. We reminisced about all the practices and gigs we played and times we had," said a sentimental Tanury. Al Chadsey lives in the Washington, DC area and has been a major restaurateur there for years. "We all wanted to see the cellar like the old days," said Tanury. "It brought back memories."
When they first got together in the sixties, The Yeomen were the most popular band in East Providence for CYO, church and school dances. "When The Yeomen were playing, it would be a full house with the police often turning away kids due to capacity of the church halls," said one former CYO organizer.
Frank Kingston Smith was an American radio disk jockey who worked extensively in Top 40 and oldies formatted AM and FM stations in major Northeastern United States markets for almost three decades. Smith was at WICE radio in R.I. in 1967-68. "Smith called us in '68 and arranged for The Yeomen to open for the Beach Boys in a Thanksgiving concert at the old R.I. Auditorium. We played a six-song set, it was awesome," recalled Tanury. The Yeomen also opened for national bands like Buffalo Springfield, Strawberry Alarm Clark and others. They were in demand on the big stage.
As The Yeomen began to graduate from high school, they moved on as some joined the service or went to college and jobs. "But the ride continued," said Tanury. For local band Rizzz, it all started in 1973 with Dave Tanury, Jim Tait, Rick Couto, Bob Weisberger, Kenn Reynolds and Joe “Klem” Klimek. Guitarists David Tanury and Jim Tait and drummer Rick Couto had a band called Powerhouse. "We played around Riverside at the time and really got solid as a band.” Powerhouse added bass guitarist Kenn Reynolds, harmonica and sax player Joe "Klem" Klimek and saxophonist Bob Weisberger to form Rizzz. The rest was history.
The Rizzz repertoire combined original songs by Tanury and Tait with the Soul/R&B, Jazz and improvisatory elements found in Jam Band Music (Santana, the Dead, the Allmans) and Roots Music/Americana (The Band, Little Feat, NRBQ). Much of this music was before either of these genres had a name and they hit upon a unique style which immediately struck a chord with the public (RIMHOF).
The band has remained friends throughout many of societies changes. "We have the benefit of member Rick Couto's great talent as a graphic artist. Rizzz had an edge that not many bands had. A RISD grad, Rick created all of the band's fabulous art work," said an admiring Tanury.
Famed music promoter Rich Lupo, a Brown University graduate, became synonymous with music in Rhode Island and beyond. "I was hoping some day to be able to get Rizzz to play at our club," he said in an interview years ago. Almost since Lupo began hiring bands, Rizzz has been involved. "Ever since day one, Rizzz has played at one time or another at Lupo's or The Met," said Tanury. Even after Rizzz stopped playing regularly in 1981, they have stayed associated with Lupo's or The Met in Pawtucket, R.I.
At one time Rizzz had hoped to gain a recording deal with Warner Brothers studio. Lowell George was an American songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, who was the primary guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the rock band Little Feat. George also briefly joined Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention as rhythm guitarist and nominal lead vocalist and then formed the band Little Feat. George was also a producer, and produced the Grateful Dead's 1978 album Shakedown Street, as well as Little Feat's records and other famous bands.
Lowell George sat down with Rizzz to produce recordings. The band was excited and they had hoped to realize a dream of recording music. Unfortunately the abrupt, untimely death of producer George in June of 1979, put a major detour in Rizzz's plan to record. The Townie born band never recorded as hoped since the loss of George. Rizzz basically disbanded in 1981, although still performing in mini-reunion shows.
This years' HOF induction ceremonies will take place over three days — April 23, April 29 and April 30th. The jazz and R&B inductions will take place at the Greenwich Odeum, 59 Main St., East Greenwich, at 2 p.m. on April 23rd. Being honored will be Cabral, Moretti, Osborne and Potenza. Tickets are $20 and will include a performance by all of the inductees, backed by a trio of pianist Tim Ray, Marty Ballou on bass and Marty Richards on drums. Tickets may be purchased at www.greenwichodeum.com.
The following weekend, April 29 and April 30, there will be two rock concerts at The Met, 1005 Main St., Pawtucket. On April 29 at 8 p.m., the first concert will feature Throwing Muses, Neutral Nation and Plan 9. On April 30th, the unveiling ceremony for all 10 Hall of Fame exhibits takes place at 2 p.m.; followed by a concert at 3 p.m. with Rizzz, Greene, and the Wild Turkey Band/Hometown Rockers. Hall of Fame Chairman Robert Billington said the ceremonies and concerts are “a virtual ‘who’s who’ of Rhode Island music history.”
Another prominent local musician, James Vierra, is a 1972 EPHS graduate. Vierra, a talented guitarist and vocalist himself has played with his good friend Tanury for decades with different bands including Tanoose, Contact, Uptown Rulers and more. "Over the years, I have had the pleasure and honor of performing with many RIMHOF inductees. There is one in particular that I want to give my special tribute to, Dave Tanury. I have been playing music David on and off for nearly 40 years," said Vierra. "Immediately, from day one, we became more than friends, we became brothers. I have learned many things from David, not limited to music, but about life in general," added Vierra. Vierra went on to say that Tanury has inspired many musicians in Rhode Island. "He is often a first call for live performance and studio work when serious guitar work is required. His induction to the RIMHOF is more than justified and is perhaps overdue," he added.
Today, in addition to playing some gigs with Rizzz and others, Tanury is a mainstay playing guitar and adding vocals to the immensely popular Brass Attack. Brass Attack is a ten-piece band featuring horns, a rhythm section, and a female lead vocalist. They perform the hits of artists: Tower of Power, Chicago, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Glen Miller, Van Morrison, Blood Sweat and Tears, and classic hits from the 1930's up to today.
Tanury also acknowledges the influence of 1970 EPHS graduate and former Townie band director, Jack McNamara. "Mac is about the best guitarist I've known," said Tanury. "Jack Mac was my first intro to another guitarist and he invited me to his rehearsal where I first met Jim Tait and Kenn Reynolds and that's history!" he added.
East Providence Music Teacher Also Honored
In an added twist, current Riverside Middle School chorus director, John Baldaia, is also a 2017 RIMHOF inductee. In 1975, guitarists John Baldaia and Paul Gaudette, bassist Pat Davis, and drummer David Bottai formed The Wild Turkey Band in Pawtucket. Their rootsy repertoire (Van Morrison, the Dead, Reggae, Blues) proved a hit and by 1977, they were on top of the scene. In 1978, after adding Peter Hadden on sax and Eric North on keys, they introduced originals by Baldaia and band mates into the mix and their fan base soon covered the entire Northeast. In 1980, Baldaia left the group to pursue a career in jazz and currently teaches music in East Providence. The Wild Turkey band eventually became the Hometown Rockers.
"I thank my parents for their encouragement and support of those early days playing music in my house when I was a kid and continue to feel blessed by the support I receive every day from family and friends. It's been a long, interesting ride and it continues," said Tanury.