John Cafferty is an American rock musician, best known for his work with the band The James Gang. Cafferty was born in 1940 and started playing guitar when he was 14 years old. He released his first single “She’s Got You” in 1968, with the album of the same name following in 1969.
John Cafferty is an American rock musician. He has released 10 albums and written 22 songs.
What comes to mind when you hear the name “John Cafferty” is highly dependent on your origins. If you’re from Rhode Island or the surrounding Eastern Seaboard, you’re familiar with Cafferty as the leader of the Beaver Brown Band, a hard-working group that’s been rocking small and big venues with their rough but impassioned blue-collar sound since the mid-’70s. If you’re not familiar with Cafferty, you may recognize him as the voice of Eddie Wilson, the tragic rock & roll singer portrayed by Michael Pare in the blockbuster film Eddie and the Cruisers. Cafferty had been playing rock & roll since he was 15 years old when he joined Beaver Brown in the mid-’70s, and after regional success with an indie single, they broke big nationally when they were chosen to contribute music for the 1983 film Eddie & the Cruisers. On the basis of two smash songs, “On the Dark Side” and “Tender Years,” the film’s soundtrack went triple platinum, and John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band issued their official debut, Tough All Over, in 1985. While the album was a financial success and provided another big song, “C-I-T-Y,” their following album, 1988’s Roadhouse, was not. Despite the fact that their recorded career faded, Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band maintained a strong regional following and were a successful live act in the decades after.
Cafferty, who was born and raised in North Providence, began his musical career while he was in junior high, when he and several pals formed the Nightcrawlers, a teen garage band. The Nightcrawlers developed into the East-West Blues Band, which performed a regular stream of concerts at school dances and teen clubs throughout the state until the band disbanded after high school graduation. Cafferty met with an old buddy, drummer Kenny Jo Silva, who was performing in a band called the Luvin’ Kynd, while at Rhode Island College; Silva’s band had recently lost their lead singer, and he asked Cafferty to fill in. The Luvin’ Kynd had disbanded by 1972, and Cafferty and Silva decided to start a new band.
Cafferty and Silva assembled a band from some of the best players on the Rhode Island club scene, including Gary “Guitar” Gramolini, bassist Pat Lupo, keyboardist Bobby Cotoia, and sax player Paul Jackson, who were all influenced by the hard-edged, soulful sound of the J. Geils Band, the rhythms of classic R&B, and the swaggering style of vintage rock & roll. Beaver Brown, who got their name from a can of paint, spent almost a year refining their sound in a temporary practice room in Providence before performing their first performance in the spring of 1973. They were soon full-time touring, establishing a reputation as one of Rhode Island’s tightest and most crowd-pleasing groups. In 1977, Paul Jackson departed the band, and Michael “Tunes” Antunes, a veteran of New England rock and R&B bands since the early 1960s, joined on sax.
With Beaver Brown’s final lineup in place, the band’s popularity grew throughout the East Coast and into the Midwest, and the group released their debut single, “Wild Summer Nights” b/w “Tender Years,” in 1980. The self-released 45 was well-received and sold over 10,000 copies in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Cleveland. Despite the single’s success and the band’s impressive live draw, Beaver Brown struggled to land a record deal, owing in part to their stylistic resemblance to Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band, which was more of a case of shared influences and Cafferty’s natural vocal resemblance to Springsteen than anything else. Producer Kenny Vance was recruited in 1982 to oversee the music for a film version of P.F. Kluge’s rock & roll book Eddie and the Cruisers, and he hired Beaver Brown to create the sound of the fictional band. Cafferty and Beaver Brown re-recorded both sides of their single, as well as a few of their finest original songs and a handful of rock & roll oldies for the film, and Antunes was cast as the band’s saxophonist.
Eddie and the Cruisers was a box office flop when it was released in 1983, but the soundtrack CD did well among Beaver Brown’s East Coast followers, and the record was re-issued when the film started airing on HBO. The Eddie & the Cruisers soundtrack, which featured John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band, went triple platinum thanks to the hit singles “On the Dark Side” and “Tender Years,” and Scotti Brothers, the Sony-distributed label that released the soundtrack, quickly signed Cafferty and Beaver Brown to a record deal. Tough All Over, John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band’s first real album, was released in 1985 and included two Top 40 singles: “C-I-T-Y” and “Tough All Over.” Cafferty & Beaver Brown, on the other hand, produced their second album, Roadhouse, in 1988, which was badly received by radio and sold poorly, and in 1989, they impersonated Eddie and the Cruisers for the soundtrack of Eddie & the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives. Both the film and the music CD failed at the box office, and Scotti Brothers disbanded shortly after. Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band continued to contribute songs to popular films such as Rocky IV, Cobra, Jersey Girl, and There’s Something About Mary, but the band was unable to secure a new record deal, and to add insult to injury, Scotti Brothers reissued Tough All Over and Roadhouse as “Eddie & the Cruisers” albums in the 1990s, as well as releasing an album of previously unreleased live material witho
While the group’s fortunes as recording artists had deteriorated, they remained a powerful live act, performing and touring on a regular basis. Many lineup changes occurred due to career and health issues (unfortunately, Bobby Cotoia died of liver illness in 2004), but Cafferty, Gramolini, and Antunes anchored the band in the 2010s, and they continue to headline frequently in New England and throughout the nation.
John Cafferty is a singer and songwriter. His music has been described as blues, jazz, country, rock, and soul. He has released 10 albums and 20 singles since his debut in 1978. Reference: john cafferty on the dark side.
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