It’s Only Rock & Roll: Reunion Band Smokes

If they want music, most high school reunion organizers hire a DJ.

Staples High School’s Class of 1970 has Smoke.

That’s the house band — made up of ’70 grads Mark Smollin, Chuck Boisseau, Steve Wall,  Pete Morgen, Marc Bailin and Jeff Dowd (’71) — who played at their past few reunions.

Their 50th was delayed by COVID for 2 years. But Smoke planned to get together for their final gig this past weekend, when the Class of ’70 (coincidentally, most of whom are now 70 years old) gathered at the Norwalk Inn.

As always, they came in a few days early to rehearse. But COVID is not yet over. The virus infected the band. They had to cancel.

It was a bitter disappointment, for them and their many classmates/friends/ fans/groupies.

But the Class of ’71 rode to the rescue.

They’ve got their own reunion band — called (go figure) The Reunion Band. (They also played a legendary Levitt Pavilion show, in 2019.)

The Reunion Band rocked the packed Levitt Pavilion in 2019, at a memorial concert for former member Charlie Karp. Comprised entirely of graduates of Staples High School’s Class of 1971, its members have played and recorded with — among many others — Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, Van Morrison, Smokey Robinson and Orleans. (Photo copyright Ted Horowitz)

When Smoke went up in ashes, Smollin asked Reunion Band front man/multiple Emmy winner Brian Keane for help.

There were many reasons not to: Brian’s looming movie scoring deadlines, his son coming to visit, no time to rehearse. And his partner and fellow band member, Bonnie Housner Erickson, was in the midst of planning her own (delayed) reunion.

But quickly, Brian and Bonnie said: Let’s put on a show!

It did not matter that the last time the Reunion Band played together was that Levitt gig. They’re pros.

They contacted 3 other Reunion Band members: Rob and Julie McClenathan, and Dave Barton. They could not get Michael Mugrage (previously scheduled engagement) and Bill Sims (in Vermont).

But they added some high-powered, non-’71 musicians: Leigh Sobel (SHS ’68, lead singer of famed Mandrake Root); David Giardina (SHS ’70), Tim DeHuff (SHS ’72), and non-Stapleites Tony  Aiardo and Arti Dixson.

Bonnie says, “Our collective belief of never turning down a comrade in need, coupled with our decades-long backgrounds as music and theater producers won out. It was ‘all hands on deck,’ making this happen for our friends.”

With no rehearsal — but plenty of professional chops — the Reunion Band rocked the Norwalk Inn. They played the music everyone loved (and that Smoke would have played). The Class of 1970 partied like it was 1999.

The Reunion Band at the Norwalk Inn. From left: Tony Aiardo, Tim DeHuff, Bonnie Erickson, Julie and Rob McClenathan, Leigh Sobel, Arti Dixson, Brian Keane. Not pictured: David Barton, David Giardina. (Photo courtesy of Mary Gai)

“The unexpected plus for me was that I saw so many people I hadn’t seen in years,” Brian says.

“When you go to reunions you only see those from your own class, but in reality we go to school with, and interact socially with, classmates a year or two younger and older too.

“I really felt badly for Smoke. I had played in school with many members. I knew how much they wanted to be there.”

As for the Reunion Band: They’re getting ready for their next gig. They play at their own reunion — the Class of ’71 — on October 1.

This time, they’ll even have a few days to rehearse.

BONUS TRACK: You don’t have to be a member of the Class of ’71 to enjoy this kick-ass reunion website (click here — then click “Flashback” from the dropdown menu).

And who designed it? The Reunion Band’s own Bonnie Erickson.

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

(“06880” appreciates donations from members of any high school class — anywhere. Please click here to help.)

4 responses to “It’s Only Rock & Roll: Reunion Band Smokes

  1. Vanessa Bradford

    Great coverage Dan…:I had the pleasure of listening to Tim Dehuff play at Black Rock Porch fest on Saturday afternoon and he was terrific. Used to follow him in the Westport music stream when we were both at Staples

  2. Having the Reunion Band step in to fill Smokes spot was incredible!! We certainly missed our guys from Smoke, feel better everyone, but it was great to have this very, very talented group perform to an unbelievable level on Saturday. Thank you Brian and Bonnie for bringing your gang together for the SHS Class of ’70. Seeing our ’68 and ’71 SHS schoolmates again was fantabulous!! Thanks so very much!! So great to see my Little League team mate Robbie McClenathan playing bass. I look forward to our next gathering, the Class of ’70 rocks, just like the “High School that Rocked” always has!!

    Tom Wall

  3. Cristina Negrin

    I considered going to this reunion rather than my own coming up as my friends were mostly from class of ‘70. I ditched the idea because of covid, travel/flight cancellations disaster so no. Moss you guys though 😘

  4. Bruce Fernie SHS 1970

    Bravo guys… sorry I missed the shindig!