Romero Brothers band celebrates fortieth anniversary in Darien
DARIEN — Pete deLisser was stoked when he got a gig playing at a party at Smith College back in October 1976. The only problem was he didn’t have a band.
Luckily, the junior varsity lacrosse coach at Greenwich High school had a plan. He rounded up a few of his musically inclined players and created an impromptu group.
“We went up there almost as kind of a joke to see if we could get away with it,” deLisser said. “It turned into a big success and they wanted to hire us back.”
The gig turned out to be the unlikely start of the Romero Brothers, a jazz/blues/soul band named for a fake identity deLisser used with one of his friends when they tried to convince people they were brothers. Now, the group is reuniting at The Goose in Darien on Oct. 22 to celebrate their fortieth anniversary as one of Fairfield County’s most popular musical groups.
The Romero Brothers has played with over fifty different musicians and has had three distinct “lives” as deLisser, who now lives in Florida, puts it. The group shifted every several years as new members joined and new singers headed the group.
“It actually changed with different versions to some degree, but the idea in the beginning was to be sort of a horn driven swing and rock and roll band,” deLisser said. “That was in the beginning but from that, it mutated into some funk styles and also a lot of classic Motown.”
The band has been headed by the likes of Richard “Cookie” Thomas of groups like The Royal Kings, Haywood & Jeannie Gregory and Sophia Scarpelli, owner of Sophia’s in Greenwich who was also the original vocalist of the band and will be performing at the reunion.
Offshoots of the band have also kept the members active years as the group shifted and spread out throughout the country. Faker Five, one of those spinoff groups, plays in the area frequently and includes Steve Townsend of Darien, drummer for the group and one of the original members of the Romero Brothers.
“We formed this other band to keep ourselves because we like to play,” Townsend said. “We’ve kept it going playing related material, but not with the vocalists. That’s what kept the spirit of the band kind of playing when the Romero Brothers are not active.”
Townsend, who works in radio and advertising, has played with the band and other groups throughout Fairfield County consistently over the past 40 years.
The Romero Brothers will celebrate its fortieth anniversary, on Saturday, Oct. 22 at The Goose in Darien.
The Goose American Bistro & Bar is located at 972 Boston Post Road in Darien. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 203-656-2600.
Spinoff groups are just one of the ways the band’s members have managed to stay active over the last four decades. As members, have moved throughout the country, the group has had the opportunity to play in various locations. When deLisser and his wife moved to Sun Valley, Idaho in 1988, the band would fly out there for a week and play various gigs deLisser booked. They played at “The Mint,” a nightclub owned by Bruce Willis and recorded one of their four albums out there, a CD called “The Romero Brothers: Swinging with Haywood and Jeannie Gregory.”
“Playing Sun Valley was a huge highlight,” Townsend said. “Bruce Willis was very supportive of the band and we played in The Mint which he owned at the time. He put us up in house he owned, that was really, really exciting.”
Over the past several years, The Romero Brothers have been significantly less active as a group. But reunions like the upcoming one at The Goose is a way to allow the group to stay active and together. Most of the members have been playing while they’ve been apart and the group is so experienced together, they don’t even need to rehearse beforehand. Together, they dive right into playing their original songs, as well as their own versions of classic tunes.
“The reality of it is that the band is really a group of lifelong friends at this point,” deLisser said. We sort of have a shared experience that’s irreplaceable. If we don’t see each other for five years and we show up same place with our instruments, it’s like no times passed at all.”
The reunion is also a way to celebrate the impact The Romero Brothers has made on Fairfield County. The venue choice is a nod to the fact the group played at the grand opening of The Goose when it opened in 1979 under a different name.
“You run into people and they’re like ‘oh you played my wedding,” Townsend said about the group’s presence over the years. “You make an impact in people’s lives and they remember.”
Like many of the other members’, Townsend’s dedication to performing has fluctuated as he’s gone from high school student to college student to dad of two, but his love of music keeps him and others a part of the group.
“I try not to [perform] too much,” he said. “I like to have nice balance because my job can be demanding. But once those lights go up and that first note hits, you’re energized again.”