Local music fans invited on a journey to ‘Hooverville’

Special to the Coastal Point • Christine Weaver  : Classic rock band Hooverville entertains the crowd at Brew River Restaurant & Bar in Salisbury, Md., on July 25. The band will be one of the acts performing during Locals Under the Lights at the Freeman Stage at Bayside on Thursday, Aug. 27.Special to the Coastal Point • Christine Weaver : Classic rock band Hooverville entertains the crowd at Brew River Restaurant & Bar in Salisbury, Md., on July 25. The band will be one of the acts performing during Locals Under the Lights at the Freeman Stage at Bayside on Thursday, Aug. 27.

“Hooverville is amazing,” said Bill Fitzgerald of Laurel. “A friend told us about this band playing at Brew River in Salisbury, and we came expecting to stay for a short while. We enjoyed them so much we stayed until they finished. I’ll definitely look out for them when they play again.”

Hooverville is a highly talented four-man classic rock band with a bluesy sound that came together about a year ago. While each musician is exceptional and experienced, what sets Hooverville apart is the quality of their individual voices and their two- and three-part harmonies.

“They sound great, and their beat is perfect for dancing,” said Pat Foskey who, along with two friends, was scouting for a new band to play at Moose Lodge 654 in Salisbury, Md. “We have a band every Friday night, and these guys play all of our rock ’n’ roll favorites. I hope we can get them to come.”

The guys in the band are James Marquardt, rhythm guitar and vocals; Danny Beck, lead guitar and vocals; Al “Big Al” Cook, bass and vocals; and John “Taco” Wroten on percussion.

Marquardt arrived in Dover after driving from Seattle, Wash., a couple of years ago.

“I was in the service — mostly at Edwards Air Force Base — and then my brother got stationed at Dover. He liked Delaware a lot, so I decided to come out and see for myself,” he said. “I met Danny in church. We discovered we both loved guitar playing and became friends.”

In fact, Marquardt and Beck then got a place together and started song-writing, as well. They got so good that Beck’s father suggested they enter the 2014 Delmarva Folk Festival’s Folk Hero Competition. They won as an acoustic duo and, this year, are set to host the event.

Beck works for Fish Cleaning in Milford during the day, window and power-washing tall buildings. As his fiancée, Melissa Cullen, says, “He gets up high on ladders, even though he’s afraid of heights… But it pays the mortgage!”

“He’s shy in person, but when he is singing, that voice that comes out of him amazes everyone,” said Cullen.

Indeed, for many years, Beck thought of himself purely as a musician.

“When I first started singing, I didn’t hardly move and stared straight at the microphone,” he recalled. Now, his sound — a little grungy, a little raspy, but totally clean — comes roaring out, with eye contact and a knowing smile.

The more Marquardt and Beck played together, the more they realized their folk duo needed to evolve into a cover-playing rock band that could appeal to larger audiences, while still slipping in the occasional original. The band’s name, Hooverville, came from the shantytowns that evolved during the Depression.

“There was lots of music in those places, lots of good blues. People would be lost without music,” said Marquardt.

“Danny’s dad suggested we look up Taco, who is known in the area for being a class act, no-nonsense drummer,” he explained. “He played around the country for decades and fits our style perfectly.”

“I’ve been playing drums since I was 7 and turned professional when I was 14,” said Wroten. “It’s rare to be part of something this good right out of the box. James, Danny and I gelled. It just happened seamlessly. And when Big Al came on board, the bar was raised again.”

Cook is a big man with a big voice. He was in full throttle when Matt Gulden of Ocean City, Md., strolled past the stage at Brew River on July 25 and gave a doubletake.

“Man,” said Gulden, “that guy looks and sounds just like the great Warren Haynes… This band is awesome!”

Cook found his way to Hooverville via Facebook, where Marquardt had placed an “ISO” (in search of) for a bass player and, serendipitously, Cook was ISO a regular band.

“I’m thought of as the fifth member of Tranzfusion, as I cover for their bass player, Tommy Malaby, whenever he is away doing his rocket-science stuff,” said Cook. (Tranzfusion is considered legendary in the Ocean City music scene, still playing there, in Salisbury and even across the Chesapeake Bay, more than 30 years after they debuted on Delmarva.) “I’ve been a sound engineer around here for 15 years, as well as playing.

“Hooverville gives us the opportunity to make classic rock, classically different — especially with our vocals. We know which songs are right for each of our voices, and we bring in the harmony wherever it works.”

During the show, a couple of women walked in and sat at a table near the stage. Marquardt recognized them instantly from previous gigs as part of the loyal following that he lovingly calls “Hooligans.”

“Hey, friends — we’ve got fans in the house! It’s time for their favorite, the Beatles,” he said with a broad smile.

“Awesome sauce!” responded Kayla Jones. “We love these guys. They each have their own personality, and it makes us feel privileged to think they remember the songs we like best.”

“Mustang Sally,” “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” “The Joker,” “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “House of the Rising Sun,” “Wild Horses,” “Sultans of Swing”… If these songs from the past resonate with you, come out and give Hooverville’s treatment of them a chance. You won’t be disappointed — especially if you love to dance.

“We hope to make many new fans when we play at the Freeman Stage in August. It will be fun to perform on the same stage as some of our music heroes,” said Marquardt. “We are working on a special set just for that event.”

Hooverville’s performance will be part of the Locals Under the Lights concert on Thursday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. It is a free, open-air, bring-your-own-chair program. They can be “liked” on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Hoovervillemusic) and viewed online as part of the Milford Chronicle’s new project, “The Chronicle Sessions,” shedding a light on local artists.

To book the band or find out more information, contact James Marquardt at (302) 538-0088. To learn more about the Freeman Stage at Bayside, go to www.freemanstage.org.