ROCK AND ROLL BAND: DeCarlo, a Charlotte band featuring Tommy DeCarlo, lead vocalist for Boston, performs at the Fillmore Charlotte as part of a luncheon benefit on May 24. (Don Muret/Staff)

DeCarlo the band expands reach nationally

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tommy DeCarlo’s brush with fame encompassed a decade as lead vocalist with Boston and he’s now spreading the gospel of the band’s original lineup with his own group, DeCarlo.

As the outdoor concert season heats up this summer, DeCarlo the band dipped indoors for a minute. They performed a luncheon showcase of mostly Boston covers at the Fillmore Charlotte on May 24, tied to Loaves & Fishes and Friendship Trays, two charitable organizations feeding local families in need.

As of late May, DeCarlo, booked by WME, had dates confirmed for festivals in Missouri, New York and Texas, with more shows to be announced in the coming weeks. 

In addition to Tommy DeCarlo, his son, Tommy Jr., plays lead guitar and keyboards. Brett Nelson plays bass. Drummer Christian Sturt, and rhythm guitarist/vocalist Payton Rose Velligan, are recent graduates of UNC-Charlotte and UNC-Greensboro, respectively.

Before the Fillmore set, Tommy DeCarlo, keynote speaker for the event, shared with the audience his background, a keen interest in music and the back road he took to becoming a key member of Boston, the rock group that took the country by storm after their first album was released in 1976.

The story of DeCarlo’s path to the national stage has been told multiple times, mostly at the local level, but it’s an amazing venture worth a rehash.

In 2007, DeCarlo was employed as a credit manager at Home Depot in Charlotte. Brad Delp, Boston’s lead singer, had died that year. DeCarlo, a huge fan of the group, wrote a song in tribute to Delp, and at the suggestion of his daughter, Talia, Tommy recorded an MP3 of the tune and posted it on MySpace, the old social media channel. In addition, he sent MP3s to Scholz through an email provided by another person who heard them on MySpace.

At about the same time, Kim Scholz, Tom’s wife, discovered DeCarlo’s MySpace page featuring DeCarlo versions of Boston tunes. Tom Scholz heard the renditions, which set the wheels in motion for DeCarlo to try out in a sense during a tribute show for Delp in 2007. The performance went well and DeCarlo was hired permanently for Boston tours stretching from 2008 to 2017.

“How do you explain it?” DeCarlo said, visiting with VenuesNow after the luncheon. “I don’t know. One of the funny things about Boston is they were my first band. I had never been in one before. Musicians come up to me and ask what it’s like to be on the road with a major rock band, a chef that travels with you and five tour buses. I tell them I don’t know any different, because that’s all I’ve ever done.”

SMOKIN’: Tommy DeCarlo performs with Boston during a benefit show at TD Garden in 2013. (Getty Images)

There is some explanation. As a young child in upstate New York, DeCarlo sang along to his parents’ 8-tracks of Bobby Vinton and Engelbert Humperdinck while sitting in the back seat of the family station wagon on vacation trips. Over the years, DeCarlo taught himself to play piano and sing, but always considered himself a “closet musician,” performing karaoke at bowling alleys before joining Boston at age 42.

In 2012, with Boston still an active touring entity, DeCarlo formed his own group, including his son, playing gigs around Charlotte. They played a mix of classic rock covers with a few DeCarlo originals. Over the past year, DeCarlo the band has expanded its reach across the country, appearing on dates with Foreigner, .38 Special, Styx and Bret Michaels.

The current status of Boston, meanwhile, is unknown after its last tour six years ago, according to DeCarlo. 

“That’s a great question for Tom (Scholz), and if you can get hold of him, I would be impressed,” DeCarlo said. 

That’s OK. DeCarlo remains focused on DeCarlo the band. In 2022, he released a solo record, “Dancing in the Moonlight,” one year after producing an audiobook titled, “Unlikely Rockstar — The Tommy DeCarlo Story.” 

Moving forward, with aging baby boomers craving the old school music of their youth, WME is responsible for booking DeCarlo appearances at festivals and supporting slots. 

“It’s nice that someone has recognized us and thought we could do something more on a national level,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ve arrived, but I feel like we’re getting there.”

It’s been quite the Quixotic journey. Tommy Sr. and Jr. attended their first Boston concert together in the 1990s while living in Florida. They sat in the cheap seats in the upper deck at the back of the arena. At the time, it was all DeCarlo the father could afford to pay for tickets. Little did they know that 11 years later, the seats for their next Boston show would improve dramatically. While Tommy Sr. performed on stage, his son stood off in the wings, watching his father sing the songs he loved growing up.

“Tom Scholz wrote the best songs ever written and I do everything I can to replicate that music live, especially the vocals of the late, great Brad Delp,” DeCarlo said. “I love that we have a younger group of musicians doing it. It’s amazing that at their age, they know this music really well, which says a lot about their parents, which is cool.” 

Tommy Sr., 57, is also thankful for Tommy Jr., 32,  and his assistance with deciphering new technology in the music world.

“When we’re not on stage, he’s the first one I reach out to whenever I’m struggling with today’s recording software,” DeCarlo said. “Nine times out of 10, he’ll figure out the problem after I’ve long since given up.”