Having recently covered the Queen tribute band, Killer Queen, where I chatted with Patrick Myers singing Freddie Mercury’s role. When I heard that a Bon Jovi tribute band also was coming to central Maine I was intrigued and got an interview with Ken Pittman, who will be covering the lead vocals of Jon Bon Jovi for the group, Living On A Bad Name (made up of Pittman; his 22-year-old son, Keith on drums; Ethan Brosh on lead guitar; John Miker on bass guitar; and Scott Poole on keyboards).

Calling him at home in the Brockton area of Massachusetts, I learned that the radio personality’s band had, in August of 2013, been called to see if they’d be willing to replace Bon Jovi at the New York State Fair due to conflicting performances that Bon Jovi had scheduled — out of all the tribute bands for that supergroup there was, the State Fair folks picked his band.

Pittman: It was a great honor — and since then, a great marketing tool.

 

Q: I can see where it would be. When did the band start up, what’s your history, so to speak?

Pittman: In 2010 there was a fundraiser for the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and it was called “Rock Me Amadeus.” It was a really fun event and they sold lots of tickets. Different organizations put together bands to perform—they had the police department throw together a band, they had the Mayor’s office throw together a band, the city council did a rap song that was really funny, and they asked the local media people to form a band and so we did. We had a sports writer who fiddled with the acoustic guitar and all that stuff, and it ended up being kind of surprising. The song selections (that weren’t mine) all turned out to be by Bon Jovi.  When I was a younger guy, I was in other bands, and they knew that and that’s why they asked me to be in the band. But what they didn’t know was that I could impersonate Jon Bon Jovi. I look like him somewhat from a distance, if you’re drinking under the right light, but I can sound like him. When I did karaoke back in the day, I noticed that I could sort of nail Bon Jovi, so when they picked songs by him we did them and they went over really well.

 

Q: Now I understand that you have a member of the your group that’s kind of a ringer, if you will.

Pittman: Well, there is one person in the band that was not in local media, but was an emergency fill-in for us because out guitarist could not make the show at the last minute. So they loaned us a guy who was going to be there already who happened to be this incredible electric guitar player from Berklee College of Music, he actually teaches there and his name is Ethan Brosh. He toured with Michael Schanker, formerly of The Scorpions and other guitar gods of the world like Ingvey Malmsteen and Jake E Lee of Ozzy Osbourne. He holds a lot of sway in that world.

 

Q: And he’s the lead guitarist doing Richie Sambora’s licks for Living On A Bad Name.

Pittman: Yeah, he’s been in there since the beginning, and actually it was his idea. When we were done with that show, he said, “You know, I think we could make a lot of money doing Bon Jovi just based on this reaction and what I’ve heard.” I had no idea it was going to go where it went. I’ve been known for jumping down rabbit holes to see how far they go, but this one turned out pretty good.

 

Q: What’s the membership now, other than Ethan?

Pittman: Well, in the first year we probably went through 18 to 20 players, it was hopeless, you know? But I got closer to Ethan so it’s kind of fun to laugh at our situation. I had five kids back then, six now, and my oldest son Keith is our drummer and he was 13 at that time and he’s been playing since he was four years old. I get to go on the road with him a little bit and spend time with him and show him it’s not all about tattoos and drugs and things like that. The guys that Ethan and I picked are all functioning professionals in their other jobs and they’re great musicians, as well. There’s another member of the group who’s not a musician but is a valuable and crucial part of our family, his name is Dave Emswiler and he’s our “fixer” as well as our stage manager. He’s very shy but we couldn’t do this without him!

 

Q: Have you ever performed at Somerset Abbey before?

Pittman: Never. Last year, though, we got a good sense for the size of Maine, we didn’t get to Madison but we were in Rangeley, we were in Sabattus, Caribou …

 

Q: Oh, wow! You were definitely up there!

Pittman: … Yeah, you’re not kidding! We did Bangor, Brewer and Biddeford — covering a lot of the B’s (chuckle) — but we are just amazed at the diversity of the communities in Maine and the size of Maine. I never realized it was so big. On the map you see it but you don’t realize until you ride it. Having been in 19 states now, I’ve got to say that Maine is right there with any of them in terms of how much they love their rock ’n’ roll, it’s a great rock state.

 

Q: Now with the plethora of material in Bon Jovi’s catalogue, how do you go about creating a set list?

Pittman: You know, that’s a good question. So we like to do a number of things, we like to make sure that we hit the deep cuts for the true Bon Jovi fans, that we also like to play. You know, I don’t think we’ve come across a song we don’t want to do. We also seek the most challenging guitar work that Richie Sambora has because we like to show off Ethan, and the band has really strong harmonies. We try to make sure we hit the big ballads, which is part of Bon Jovi’s success. We tip our hat to his endeavor into the country genre, and of course we hold everybody hostage with the big hits all the way to the end. And, as Bon Jovi traditionally does, we also stop the set in the middle of a song and we do some non-Bon Jovi like Def Leppard, Van Halen, Night Ranger, Ozzy, then we’ll swing back and finish the song and then come back with the hits.

 

Q: Sounds like folks there can expect a great night of solid rock ’n’ roll.

Pittman: No matter the size of the stage, they can expect the band to play as though we were on Madison Square Garden’s stage. We play the same way every night, we want everybody to know they’re in a true, authentic ’80s concert atmosphere there. It’s raw, by the seat of your pants, full-speed, nothing-left-behind kind of rock ’n’ roll. We have to balance that with accurate harmonies and carefully laid out ballads where people get that nostalgia from the records they bought back in the day. That’s really what they’re paying for.

 

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass along to the readers of this article, especially seeing you’ve never played in this venue before?

Pittman: Well, just that we are looking forward to getting back to Maine because we know they love their rock ’n’ roll up there. This year we’re going to the Caribbean, playing on cruise ships, and going out to Colorado, but really Maine has become our favorite place to play because people make it so rewarding for us!

___________________________________________

Next week, I’ll be chatting with Lynn Deeves about a show she and her two friends, Colleen Sexton and Trina Hamlin, will be presenting at Slates in Hallowell on the 24th of June—it’s the last show of the season, by the way! See you in seven!

Lucky Clark has spent 50 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.

Lucky Clark

Music In Review

340 Lovell Rd.

Sweden, ME 04040-5325

USA

Phone: (207) 647-2965

Email: [email protected]

Lucky Clark has spent 50 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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