Clas­sic rock

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By KARIE SIM­MONS Special to the Post

Ne­wark’s Club Phred stands the test of time

It’s 8 p.m. on a Tues­day night at the end of a quiet sub­ur­ban cul-de­sac near Hockessin, but it’s any­thing but quiet in­side the home of Fred and Louise Daw­son – head­quar­ters of lo­cal rock band Club Phred.

As Louise Daw­son pulls open the front door, she cracks a smile and points to a set of stairs lead­ing down to a fin­ished base­ment.

“Just fol­low the mu­sic,” she says. “You can’t miss them.”

Down the steps lies Fred Daw­son’s man cave, a 1,700-square­foot space pep­pered with high­top ta­bles and a pub-style bar in the cor­ner. The walls are adorned with mu­sic mem­o­ra­bilia and in front of a black, floor-to-ceil­ing cur­tain that serves as the band’s dra­matic back­drop stand the mu­si­cians them­selves: Daw­son (Hammond B-3 or­gan), Mark Sisk (gui­tar and vo­cals), Gae­tano “Vince” Vin­ciguerra (sax and vo­cals), Brian Scott (gui­tar), Brian Dar­ing (bass), Kathy Lay­field (key­board and vo­cals) and Jim Palmer (drums). They’re prac­tic­ing one of their cover songs and it feels like you’ve hap­pened upon a se­cret, un­der­ground rock con­cert.

Club Phred has come a long way since 2002, when it started just as a Tues­day night hang­out in Daw­son’s base­ment. He said he and Sisk knew each other from Ne­wark Morn­ing Ro­tary Club and told Dar­ing to come by with his bass and amp to jam out. It didn’t take long be­fore they formed a sev­en­mem­ber band and be­came what is known to­day as Club Phred, a name Daw­son swears he did not sug­gest.

As the story goes, for­mer Ne­wark Post pub­lisher Jim Streit – a friend of Daw­son’s – used to call the man cave “Club Phred,” and even had a ban­ner made with the name that he hung on the back wall. Daw­son said the group was sit­ting around try­ing to come up with an of­fi­cial name for their band, when they looked over at the ban­ner and some­thing just clicked. He ad­mit­ted he was re­luc­tant to name the band after him­self, but de­cided to go along with it.

“Since ‘The Bea­tles’ were al­ready taken,” he joked.

Club Phred has played more than 300 shows over the past 15 years, in­clud­ing clos­ing night at the Stone Bal­loon, on a cruise ship from Philadel­phia to Ber­muda dur­ing a nor’easter and for crowds as big as 20,000 dur­ing Philadel­phia’s an­nual Walk to End Alzheimer’s event at Cit­i­zens Bank Park. The band has also played sev­eral times at Ne­wark’s an­nual Fourth of July fire­works.

“It’s a blast,” Palmer said, pun in­tended.

Sisk said his fa­vorite show was at the Stone Bal­loon on his birth­day, when they played the song “Ten­der Years” from the movie “Ed­die and the Cruis­ers.”

“I re­mem­ber be­ing on that stage and think­ing, ‘Heaven’s go­ing to be anti-cli­matic,’” he said.

Over the years, Club Phred has played with a hand­ful of fa­mous mu­si­cians like Mark Farner, lead gui­tarist and singer of Grand Funk Rail­raod; Felix Cava­liere, lead singer of The Ras­cals; Gary Brooker of Pro­col Harum; and Paul Shaf­fer and the World’s Most Dan­ger­ous Band, best known for be­ing David Let­ter­man’s house band for 33 years.

“We’ve touched great­ness many times,” Daw­son said.

Mem­bers of the World’s Most Dan­ger­ous Band once showed up un­ex­pect­edly while Club Phred was re­hears­ing for a gig at Ho­tel duPont in Wilm­ing­ton. They whipped out their horns and started play­ing along, shock­ing Dar­ing and his band­mates. They quickly prac­ticed a few songs to­gether and then played the gig, which was a mo­ment he said he’ll never for­get.

“That was like an all-time, never-get-out-of-your-brain kind of thing,” Dar­ing said.

For Sisk, the best Club Phred mem­o­ries are when they’re just jam­ming out to­gether.

“If we never see an­other celebrity, I’ll be happy do­ing this, too,” he said.

“I just like see­ing peo­ple have a good time and if I can be any part of that, I’m all for it,” Scott added.

Club Phred mostly plays cov­ers of songs span­ning across decades, from “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Mor­ri­son to “I’m a Be­liever” by The Mon­kees to “The Mid­dle” by Jimmy Eat World and “Takin’ Care of Busi­ness” by Bach­man–Turner Over­drive. Al­though they play a lot of clas­sic songs, Daw­son said the band tries to “Phred-ize” them, mean­ing they tweak the song to make it sound slightly dif­fer­ent than the orig­i­nal. He said it’s im­por­tant for Club Phred to have it’s own unique sound on even the most well-known tracks.

It’s also im­por­tant for the band to give back, he said. Over the years, Club Phred has played at fundrais­ers and for dif­fer­ent char­i­ties that have raised a to­tal of more than $5 mil­lion. The band even played at the Down­town Ne­wark Part­ner­ship’s fundraiser that raised money to paint the CSX bridge above Capi­tol Trail in Ne­wark.

“This isn’t our job. We all have real jobs,” Scott said. “This is just for fun.”

“I mean, what the heck? We have a tal­ent, why not use it?” Dar­ing added.

With 15 years in the bag, Daw­son said Club Fred is far from over. The plan is to keep the band go­ing for as long as pos­si­ble, mostly be­cause they’re all hav­ing such a great time to­gether they don’t want to stop.

“It’s the most fun we can have with our clothes on,” Daw­son said.

Our Town is an oc­ca­sional se­ries that ex­plores the peo­ple, places and tra­di­tions that make Ne­wark unique. Send sug­ges­tions to jshan­non@ches­


From left to right: Mark Sisk, Fred Daw­son, Gae­tano “Vince” Vin­ciguerra, Brian Scott, Brian Dar­ing, Kathy Lay­field, and Jim Palmer of Club Phred.

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