Last week, I chatted with an AC/DC tribute band and this week it’s a cover band with the title, TICKLE! — the final group to perform at the City of Augusta’s Waterfront Concert Series on Wednesday, Aug. 1, at Waterfront Park from 6 p.m. to sunset. In reaching out to contact a member of the group to interview, I wound up chatting with the band’s manager, James Whalen, who proved to be an affable gentleman when reached at his Portland home on Thursday the 12th of this month.

Q: Well, this is a first for me in that I’ve never interviewed a manager before, it’s usually a band member, if you know what I mean.

Whalen: Well, I was talking with Clay and he and I are really good buddies and we work really well together. The band always jokes that I’m like the fifth Beatle in the group because I do sound for them every show so that we can have consistency in how we sound. They do play some night clubs still, but we’re really focusing on being a function band, because we don’t do any original tunes. It’s all covers and it’s all dance music. We have, I think, three openings for the rest of the year on Saturdays for weddings, but we’re booked until 2021.

Q: Oh, my word!

Whalen: I’m fielding questions about weddings for 2021 and 2022 now, and I’m like it’s just too far away. But, I guess with a track record of 10 to 12 years and counting, we’re doing pretty good.

Q: And that was one of my questions, actually: How long has TICKLE! been around? What is it about this group that grabbed your attention?

Whalen: Clay is a cool guy. He’s an older dude, retired from working for the airlines and he’s from Memphis, Tennessee. He’s got one of the coolest singing voices I’ve ever heard or worked with. I do a lot of function bands when they come up to the sate and TICKLE! is one of my favorite bands still — I’ve done around 400 shows with them.

Q: Good grief!

Whalen: And we’ve never had a bad show, I’ve never seen the guys have a bad show — it’s amazing. Even when everything’s going haywire we pull it together and everybody’s smiling at the end. It’s a good group of guys to work with, for sure.

Q: So how many are in the band — five?

Whalen: There’s five in the band and then me. I do all the behind-the-scenes stuff. The band is made up of Clay Plunk on lead vocals; the guitar player is really good — his name is Matt Leo; then we’ve got Mike Boilard on bass; Colin Kolmar on drums; and we have a keyboard player named Kyle Friday, who also sings background vocals. Almost everybody sings so we get these nice, thick harmonies. We’re doing Top 40 pop music, so what you hear on the radio is very over-produced, and then to try to do it live. I’ve seen a lot of bands that use tracks in the background, but we do everything live.

Q: How far afield does the group go in performing?

Whalen: We really just stick to Maine. There’s been a handful of times where we get down to Massachusetts for weddings and stuff, but typically our clientele is based here in Maine.

Q: I noticed on your website that the listing of songs they cover is pretty substantial and it’s just a partial listing, at that. Do they keep learning and adding new material?

Whalen: The list is kind of always changing. For a while in the winter we were trying to do one rehearsal a month but all of the guys are either in other projects or have a career or have a family, wife and kids. It’s a really hard thing to schedule rehearsals. It’s a bummer, actually, but once every two months they’ll learn probably five or 10 songs, and of those new songs, two or three will probably be keepers. They try to stay up with what is fresh on the pop radio charts and sometimes those songs only last about two weeks. It’s a really hot song at first, and then it doesn’t stand the test of time at all. And like I said before, a lot of the stuff is really over-produced so it’s hard to TICKLE!-fy it.

Q: Oh, I’ve been meaning to ask, have you guys ever done the City of Augusta’s Waterfront concert series before?

Whalen: I believe we did it last year.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to get across to the folks reading this?

Whalen: Just about our website (, which we’ll be updating very soon — that’s about it.

Lucky Clark has spent 49 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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