— The Rockets formed nearly three decades ago and developed a loyal following in the region. The years have brought changes. On Friday night, they'll launch a local reunion show.
Nick Casciano saw Billy Stott at Parx Casino a few years ago, and the conversation soon turned to music.
Both men were original members of the Rockets, a venerable band formed in 1984.
Today, Casciano plays for the popular Heartbeats while Stott manages the Rockets.
“We should have an original Rockets reunion,” Casciano told Stott.
The reunion took place in November 2010 at Whiskey Tango, and a good time was had by all. The crowd numbered more than 1,200.
“It was very successful. The place was mobbed. It was really cool. We took the clock back twenty-five years,” Casciano said.
Still, there were Rockets fans who did not know of the reunion or couldn’t make the date.
So, the Rockets will hold another reunion on Friday night at the Buck Hotel. Four generations of band members will play on two stages, in the banquet room and the tavern area. In all, there should be about 30 performers.
“It should definitely be fun,” Casciano said.
The original Rockets featured Stott, Casciano, Chris Leggerie (all Archbishop Ryan High School graduates), Bobby Munyon (North Catholic) and Bob Hamilton (Cardinal Dougherty). Hamilton, a bass player who grew up in Lawndale/Crescentville, will come in from South Carolina for the big gig.
The Rockets have always played cover music. It was strictly oldies in the beginning before adding in rock and pop.
The band expanded to seven pieces to include horns when the music of Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire became a big part of the Rockets’ act.
Casciano, of Somerton, was the lead singer during his years with the Rockets. He left in 1990 to join the Heartbeats.
While he and the others have moved on, Stott has remained as the longtime manager.
“God bless him,” Casciano said. “He’s been able to keep the band working and successful. It’s been a household name for a very long time, especially in Northeast Philadelphia. The Rockets are and always will be a Northeast Philly-based band.”
Tom “Tiny” Callan was part of what is considered the Rockets’ second generation. He was lead singer from 1990 to 2001. Today, he’s a member of Midnight Hour.
Callan loves the idea of a reunion.
“I was honored and privileged to be asked to do it,” he said.
The first reunion attracted longtime fans, their children and grandchildren and others. The fan reaction was overwhelming, Callan recalls.
“It was a humbling experience. It was a great night all around,” he said.
Stott, whose Starfield Entertainment manages a dozen bands, sees the Rockets as the Rolling Stones of cover bands, performing along the East Coast. It’s a guaranteed fun experience, he said.
The band manager hopes the reunion brings back good memories for performers and fans. It’ll also be an opportunity to hear the current Rockets.
“They are really, really hot now,” Stott said.
To get ready for a return to the stage, the Rockets have been rehearsing at Wyld Studios, on State Road in Holmesburg.
Stott was on keyboard and saxophone during his playing days.
“The saxophone is not like riding a bike,” he said. “I hope our voices have stood the test of time.”
Looking back to the first reunion, Stott said it was neat to participate and observe the crowd sing and dance along to the music. It took them back to an easier, carefree time of less responsibility.
“It was exceptional. The ones who came were people in their forties and fifties reliving their youth,” he said. “Memories are important to people.”
The Rockets, according to Stott, played more than 300 performances a year from 1986-98. The venues varied. Members would join fans on ski trips and at Dorney Park.
Some of the more memorable spots included the Waiting Room, Roosevelt’s and Route 1 Café in the Northeast; The Barn in Bensalem; Kitty’s and Moore’s Inlet in North Wildwood; and La Costa in Sea Isle City.
Sundays, more than any other day of the week, seemed to draw the most loyal crowds.
“Those Sunday nights were legendary,” Stott said.
Stott said there will be music to satisfy everyone’s tastes. He said people, especially those who hate their jobs, go “insane” when they hear Bang the Drum All Day.
Fans might hear Build Me Up Buttercup in one room and Getting’ Jiggy With It in another. They can listen to Bachman-Turner Overdrive and the music of yesteryear or Pitbull and the sounds of today.
“People will hear everything from Frankie Valli to Katy Perry,” Stott said. ••
The Rockets reunion will take place Friday at 8 p.m. at the Buck Hotel, at 1200 Buck Road in Feasterville.
Tickets cost $13.
For more information, call the Buck Hotel at 215-396-2002, visit www.rocketsband.com/reunion or check out the Rockets Reunion 2012 page on Facebook.