This story was published in Jan. 5-11, 2006 edition of Worcester Magazine. For the original article, click here.
As a long-time member of the legendary J. Geils Band, bassist Danny Klein was the group’s anchor. While guitarist Jay Geils, singer Peter Wolf and harpist Magic Dick wowed crowds with their dynamic histrionics up front, Klein held it all together with solid bass lines and a rock-steady pulse.
After the band broke up in the early ’80s, Klein drifted out of music. He spent time cultivating his other passion, cooking. Out of the limelight, he quietly became a chef, working at various New England restaurants.
A few years go by. One night Klein stops at a local nightclub to hear his old friend Babe Pino. A short time later, he’s back in the game. He and Pino go way back. Cue in a little history here: The J. Geils Band was started in Worcester. “Jay, Dick and I went to Worcester Tech [WPI],” Klein says. “We did an acoustic blues or jug band-type of thing. The band was called Snoopy and The Sopwith Camels. We used to play The Why-Not Coffeehouse.”
After school, Klein says the trio left town to pursue music. “Jay and Dick left school earlier than I did. I went to Worcester Junior and B.U. for a semester, but we were all roommates. We moved to Boston in 1966 and we came back and played Worcester a lot.”
If fact, The J. Geils Band played in frathouses at WPI and Clark. They were also in rotation at Tammany Hall and Sir Morgan’s Cove. One triumphant night around 1970, they headlined a bill with B.B. King. A local group called Maxwell Street, featuring the Pino brothers, with Babe on harp and Kenny on guitar, opened the show. “Yeah, I forgot about that show,” Klein says. “Babe had to tell me that, years later.”
Now, flash forward through the glory days of Geils, back to when the Pino brothers and Klein reconnect: “I was living in Fitchburg when I started playing with Babe,” Klein says. “One day, Kenny stopped in. He had just finished his stint with Johnny Copeland. He was then playing with Debbie Davies. They needed a bass player and I said, sure.”
Klein spent a few years on the road with Davies, often talking to Kenny about forming their own band. When they eventually left Davies, they called Babe and StoneCrazy was born. (They went through a string of drummers before hooking up with Mark Hyghland, who was known for his work with Duke and The Drivers.) After kicking around New England and New York for the past few years, and rarely performing in Worcester, StoneCrazy makes its return to town with a CD release party next Saturday night at Union Blues.
The album is a self-titled release called StoneCrazy. Jay Geils produced the disc and Seth Justman (from The J. Geils Band) also lends support on keys. Al Wilson plays organ and Keisha Gwin sings backup. Along with covers by Joe Hughes, Delbert McClinton, Earl Forrest and Mack Rice, there are four originals. They also do “Homework,” by Otis Rush, which was an early favorite of The J. Geils Band.
StoneCrazy is essentially a blues band with a heavy emphasis on the Texas style fostered by Freddie King, Joe Hughes and Johnny Copeland. It is a guitar-driven sound that Ken Pino revels in. And while the harmonica isn’t known as a part of that sound, Babe is a powerful player; that simply transcends any limitations of style.
Klein says, StoneCrazy is a quartet of seasoned veterans with nothing to prove. “I just love it now. It’s always nice to have your own band as opposed to just being a sideman. I realize that the business is so much different than it used to be. I’m not going to make a great living doing it. I do a little restaurant stuff on the side. I do miss the roadies though — almost as much as the money.”