When the Del Fuegos came down to Boston from New Hampshire in 1981, they had a universal mission familiar to hundreds of bands before or since — to make it big in the city. Now, 30 years later, the band's two-night reunion this weekend at the Paradise Rock Club is for a much more personal purpose: to raise money for the Arlington-based Right Turn organization, an innovative out-patient treatment center founded by a nationally renowned addiction specialist who also happens to be the Del Fuegos' drummer, Woody Giessmann.
BACK IN THE DAY Slow to hop on the reunion train, the Del Fuegos (left to right, Tom Lloyd, Warren Zanes, Dan Zanes, and Woody Giessmann) were encouraged by a good cause — and a call from the Zaneses’ mom.
Unlike many other bands of their generation, the Del Fuegos have yet to take an earnest ride on the reunion train. All four members have been off on their own rewarding paths since the band broke up more than 20 years ago. But with Right Turn hoping to raise money to open a sober house to serve the growing needs of its community, and Hope Butterworth — mother of two of the Del Fuegos, Dan and Warren Zanes — asking her boys to help the cause, the band felt compelled to come together and lend a hand and a song. Butterworth, herself involved in charitable work through the Friendly Kitchen in Concord, New Hampshire, was particularly grateful for Giessmann's assistance in counseling a family member.
"I thought, how often does my mother ask me to do something?" says Dan by telephone from a Brooklyn recording session for his Grammy-winning project, Dan Zanes and Friends. Zanes is now best known for his popular children's music — an unlikely change of direction that the singer/guitarist admits he never would have seen coming in the Del Fuegos era. Back then, it was he and the band who were the babies.
"Everybody seemed like they were about 12 years old at the time," says Dan, who is 50 this year. "All I know is that when we got there, everyone said, 'Oh, you shoulda been here a couple of years ago. It was incredible then. It's not so good now. You should have been here when the Underground was open. You should have been here when Mission of Burma was playing every weekend.' " Some things never change.
Luckily the overachieving Del Fuegos — who, in addition to Dan Zanes and Giessmann, also featured Dan's brother Warren on lead guitar (now a writer, college professor, and solo artist who also served for a time as the Vice President of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and bassist Tom Lloyd (a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering Science who has worked with homeless youth) — had more than their share of good will and fortune on their way up.
In a career that spanned the '80s, it was their lean, soulful charisma and sense of agitation (an appropriate contemporary equivalent would be, perhaps, Spoon) that made their audience's asses shake and led the group to their deal with Slash Records in 1984. But according to Dan, a little help from home never hurt. "I can speak for everybody and say that we were grateful for all that we were given when we started out and all the support that we received from people in Boston."