By Jim Sullivan
---- — It’s been three years since the Newburyport High School Class of 1970 held its 40-year reunion, and the featured band is still going strong.
“Music for me, I can’t escape it,” said Jim Grenier, one-half of the acoustic duo Stellwagen. “When you’re 61, you’re not playing football anymore, but music you can do till you’re 90.”
That 40-year reunion was actually a three-day-long event with one of the nights dedicated to music. Grenier and fellow classmate Buddy Lauder cobbled a band together to play the hits of their day.
“We invited classmates to show up to play the piano, drums, whatever they wanted to play,” Grenier said. “So we put together a kind of ad hoc garage band and played some of the old songs that we used to play back then. And people went absolutely nuts.”
The crowd liked the band so much that the word got to then-Newburyport Public Schools Superintendent Marc Kerble, who thought that another show might make a good fundraiser for the Music for Music Foundation, which helps music programs in the schools.
“These guys who all got up onstage with us, all learned to play their musical instruments when they were in fourth and fifth grade,” Grenier said. “That’s where we all started. The (music program) touched all of us on that stage. If we didn’t start playing in school, we probably wouldn’t be playing today. Once you get to the high school, there’s so much more going on. You’re not just going to pick up a trombone. So when (Lauder) said we were all going to do a show to raise money for the music program, we were all in.”
The next thing they knew, Grenier and Lauder had put The Reunion Band back together, playing hits from the 1960s and ’70s, for the first “Walk Back in Time” show. This year’s version will feature hits from groups like The Beatles, the Bee Gees and The Doors at the Elks Lodge in Newburyport on Saturday.
“The theme is to go back in time to when we were young, carefree and bold,” Lauder said. “What better way than playing those great cover tunes of the ’60s and ’70s?”
This year’s Reunion Band includes Lauder on vocals, along with Newburyport and Triton alumni. Current NHS music instructor Steve Cohen will be on drums. NHS Class of 1967’s Fred Hopper plays lead guitar, and 2005 graduate Jamie “The Music Man” Welch plays bass. Triton’s Ben Eramo will be tickling the ivories, and current NHS senior Daniel Alvarez de Toledo will be on keys.
Joining The Reunion Band onstage will be Stellwagen and The Shadows, which features NHS alumni John Hill (’67), John Lowell (’67), Rick Eck (’67) and Teddy Stanwood (’66), who have been playing together for the last 40 years.
Currently in its third year of operation, the Music for Music Foundation has managed to fund the inclusion of a music teacher at Nock Middle School, paid for music lessons for 60 fifth-graders and awarded two $1,000 scholarships for NHS seniors who wish to continue in music.
“It’s kind of like going to a high school dance, except there are no chaperones,” Grenier said of Walk Back in Time. “And it’s kind of like a time machine. We really try to capture the feeling from back then.”
If you go
What: Walk Back in Time, a fundraiser for the Music for Music Foundation
When: Saturday, 6 to 11 p.m.
Where: Elks Lodge, 25 Low St., Newburyport
How much: Tickets are $25 in advance at Denise’s Flower Shop, 35 Pleasant St., Newburyport, or $30 at the door.