John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band rock the PPAC as part of their ‘Cool Summer Nights’ series


When it comes to talking about the history of rock & roll in Rhode Island, you have to mention John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band. They originally started out in 1973 while harnessing their sound in various bars and venues throughout the Northeast region while reaching the next echelon of stardom during the following decade. That’s when hits such as “Tender Years”, “C-I-T-Y” and  “On The Dark Side” were released and they’re still fan favorites to this day. On July 13 at the Providence Performing Arts Center located on 220 Weybosset Street in Providence, these legends are going to be taking the stage as part of the venue’s “Cool Summer Night’s Series”. Fellow Rhode Island Music Hall of Famers Steve Smith, who is actually Cafferty’s cousin, & The Nakeds are going to be kicking the night off at 8pm.

Cafferty and I had a talk ahead of the show about the band’s beginnings on the road, the longevity of their biggest hit, having songs be part of various films and his thoughts on coming back to the PPAC.

Rob Duguay: You and the Beaver Brown Band built your following by starting out in Narragansett and performing around the Northeast in cities such as New Haven, Boston, Asbury Park and New York City. What are your thoughts on that experience when you were first cutting your teeth? Would you say that it was a lot more difficult back then in the '70s to network with various venues and promoters?

John Cafferty: Well, to be honest, we had a ball doing it. We were young guys in our early 20s and we were a college age band. The legal age at that particular time to get into the clubs was 18, so the clubs were full of college kids every single night of the week. Not that everybody was drinking, but everybody could get in so we worked five, six, seven nights a week some weeks while playing four, five or six sets a night. We did that for a decade before we made any records or anything.

We had so much fun doing it and we learned our craft. They say that you need to put in 10,000 hours into something until you’re good at it and at that point we might have put in 15,000.

RD: That’s amazing. A lot of casual music fans know you and the band from your 1982 hit single "On The Dark Side" off of the soundtrack to the film "Eddie & The Cruisers", which still gets played on mainstream radio today. When it comes to the longevity of the song and its ability to transcend generations, what are your thoughts on that? Did you ever think that it would become a hit and have this lasting impact?

JC: When I first wrote it, I never even thought it was a song for a record. I thought it was just a musical skit for a film and we were trying to come up with elements they needed for the screen. The fact that it became our biggest hit and our longest lasting hit is amazing to me, number one, and number two, it is fun to have a hit record, I can tell you that.

RD: It’s honestly one of my favorite songs.

JC: What about it makes it one of your favorite songs?

RD: I love the horns, I love the energy that comes through the guitars. The whole structure has an upbeat emphasis that’s very energetic, it makes whoever is listening want to dance around and move around to it. It’s what makes rock & roll great, in my opinion.

JC: Yeah, it can take over a room once it gets going.

RD: Absolutely. You’ve also done a bunch of other soundtrack work, which includes the song “Heart’s on Fire” for “Rocky IV” and a few other things. When it comes to writing music for this format, does your mindset change at all knowing that it’s going to be for a film rather than for a record?

JC: Basically, our goal is the same, we’re just trying to write music and trying to make records. How those records are used after we finish them is something that’s not always in our control. The director of a film who likes one of our songs puts it in a film and he puts it in a scene either in the background or the foreground because he feels that it enhances what he’s doing. That’s not something that we’re doing creatively, that’s something they’re doing with something we’ve created. I remember Stephen King once told me that he wasn’t really fond of all the movies that were made out of his books.

He wasn’t very fond of the way that the stories were told, but then he came to the realization that he doesn’t make movies, he makes books. What somebody else does with his books and his stories is different from what he did with them. He did his job and he’s a great writer and he said to me the same thing, “You don’t make movies. You make songs, you make records and your job was done when you made the record, so what somebody else does with it almost has nothing to do with you.”

RD: That’s a good perspective to have. Last year, you guys released three singles with "Send A Little Message To You", "Blue Moonlight Drive", "Day In The Sun'', which are all off of an upcoming album you’re going to be releasing. “Day In The Sun” is also another soundtrack song due to it being part of the Peter Farrelly directed comedy “Ricky Stanicky” that stars Zach Efron and John Cena, so how did that come about?

JC: Peter asked me if I had any new stuff, I sent him “Day In The Sun” and he really loved it. He put it over the credits at the end of the movie, all three and a half minutes of it, it was so great. Both Peter and Bobby are wonderful, they’ve shared their success with a lot of the hometown people whether they’re musicians, they’re actors, they’re extras or they’re technicians in the film industry. They always sort of share what they’re doing with a lot of the local artists.

RD: Yeah, it is great when their films have at least one Rhode Island thing going on with them. Has your approach to recording changed over the years with the advancement of digital equipment or have you always preferred to go the analog route?

JC: We record digitally now, but we used to have a 24-track recorder and we also recorded in 24-track studios. Now, you can cut a lot of that stuff outside of a recording studio while using the studio for other things, more detailed stuff like mastering and mixing.

RD: When it comes to this upcoming show at the Providence Performing Arts Center, you and the band made some history at the venue back in 2021 for being the first to headline an in-person show since the COVID-19 pandemic, so what are your thoughts on coming back there?

JC: We’re so lucky to have such a beautiful performance facility in Providence and in Rhode Island. The PPAC is a jewel of a theater and it’s just beautiful. I went there as a kid to see shows, I went there the other day to see a show and they do such a wonderful job so it’s an honor for us to be there. Lynn Singleton, who is the President of the PPAC, he’s an old friend of both myself and my cousin Steve Smith who is playing in the show as well from way back in the college days, so he’s given us the honor of playing there a few times. When we first had a hit record and we were on tour back in the ‘80s, we didn’t play locally for probably a year and a half because we were supporting two back-to-back albums that had hit songs on them. When we came back, we played two sold out shows at the PPAC and it was unbelievable.

It’s such a thrill to be coming back, the place always brings great memories and we love being up on that stage. We’re going to be inviting all of our friends to a night out at the theater, so to speak, and it’s going to be great. It’s going to be a fun show, we have a lot of big hits to play and we have some new stuff that we’re going to do.

music, Beaver Brown, PPAC


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