L-R; Candle Brothers Phil Russo, Pat Guadagno and Frank Sabo are joined by Rich Oddo and specal guests, as they celebrate “45 Years of Harmony” in Supper Club style, this Labor Day weekend.
Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ) and The Link (Long Branch, NJ), August 29, 2019
When word got out that those famous Brothers were due in Asbury Park, the waterfront became a supercharged hive of activity, as crews erected a custom-built stage, traffic was diverted from streets and sought-after parking spots, and the cameras rolled for the benefit of a fervent international fan base.
Well, okay, the superstar siblings were The Jonas Brothers, and the occasion was this past Sunday’s video shoot for the MTV Video Music Awards. But even as other Shore locales prepare to close the books on another summertime season, this coming Labor Day Weekend serves merely as a gateway to an action-packed Local Summer in Asbury Park — and another band of Brothers will help sound the keynote.
While the various members of The Candle Brothers are “family” in band-name only, the musical combo boasts a degree of fraternal solidarity that would make the figurative Mama Candle proud — and this Sunday, September the First, the veteran musicians celebrate “45 Years of Harmony” with a special retrospective concert, upside the space-age boardwalk landmark that is Tim McLoone’s Supper Club.
In a year of golden anniversaries (Woodstock, moon landing, Miracle Mets), that 45-year milestone might appear a bit less momentous, but for Pat Guadagno, it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to reconnect once more with some of his greatest and longest-running colllaborators — and, as the Monmouth County musical mainstay adds with a laugh, “we’re not sure if we can make it to 50!”
As legend has it, The Candle Brothers were born full-grown one night in 1974, when Guadagno and Frank Sabo were harmonizing on Everly Brothers songs at Merri Makers Magnolia Inn in Matawan — and a lounge patron referred to them as “The Candle Sisters…because they always go out together” (“guess you had to be there”). Well, the playful name stuck, sort of, and when the duo joined forces with fellow singer-musician Phil “Red River Russo, it was as The Candle Brothers that they sought out gigs at whatever bar, bistro, back deck, boardwalk or beachtop bandstand would have them.
These days, those Candles blowouts are down to an average of one per year, a state of affairs that dates to Sabo’s having relocated to Florida (‘maybe the secret to a successful musical marriage is living so far apart”). But even as Guadagno continues to navigate a solo career as a master entertainer who can command any room — from the iconic Count Basie Theatre (home now to the singer’s annual big-band Bobfest birthday salutes to Mr. Dylan), to the most intimate corners of your favorite friendly neighborhood watering hole — this Candle Brothers show represents a significant slice of living history, for a singer who’s been very much a part of it.
Having grown up in a household with “parents who were really into music,” young Pat took equal amounts of inspiration from seeing Sammy Davis Jr. at the Garden State Arts Center, as the Rolling Stones at Convention Hall. The future professional musician was there in the audience when the Freehold area teen band The Castiles played the Marlboro YMCA (“I knew then that their guy Bruce on guitar was something special”), — and he had already seen both Jimi and Janis, by the time that he (almost) made it to Woodstock.
“Me and my buds Tom and Charlie sent away for seven-dollar tickets that never came…so we never went,” he recalls of that weekend in August 1969; adding that “I wanted to go because I wanted to see Bert Sommer,” in reference to the late folk singer who’s been called “the forgotten man of Woodstock.”
As for the Candle boys, the little group of “saloon singers” from Jersey burned themselves into the memory of some huge audiences nationwide, with the help of a particular oldie-but-goodie.