It was early in the evening, right around suppertime, when I arrived at the Harmony Café in Manville to see Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) tribute band Kelly and the Poor Boys.
When I walked in, they were raring to go – Dana Blake on drums, Jason Carpentier on bass, Sal Chinappi on the keys, Robbie Ray Poisson on lead guitar, and Eddie Donovan on rhythm guitar. And of course Kelly Gray Donahue, the female lead vocalist with the long, pink scarf tied to her mic stand.
After the show, we got to chat about their favorite Creedence tunes, bar fights and more:
LuzJennifer Martinez (Motif): How did you practice during lockdown?
Jason Carpentier: We probably sneaked one practice in every couple of weeks. We maintained social distancing at Dana’s house for practices.
Kelly Gray Donahue: We started The Creedence Tribute in January of 2021. And I would be in the corner, like “Don’t come near me!”
LJM: Do you play full-time?
Robbie Ray Poisson: I work a day job at International Packaging and I’m a first shifter. I can play gigs relatively easily and not disrupt my schedule.
Dana Blake: Sal and I have it easy; we’re both retired.
KGD: I work during the day too. I work in biotech and my position will become more remote. That will make it much easier with Thursday or Friday night gigs.
LJM: That’s quite a change, going from biotech to rocking out.
KGD: It’s my alter ego. When I tell people I work with that I sing in a band, they are quite surprised.
LJM: How long have you been singing?
KGD: I’ve been singing for about 10 years. I met these guys through The Stones tribute band The 19th Nervous Breakdown. They had a female vocalist who was not available for a few shows, so I jumped in.
JC: Kelly’s pretty fearless. We gave her a week and said ‘’We need someone to help with these gigs,” and she was right there.
LJM: What are some other bands that you like?
JC: Robbie likes the heavy stuff. I’m a fan of that but I also listen to The Monkees and The Bee Gees.
RRP: I do enjoy The Monkees but I’m into Jethro Tull and Alex Cooper. It depends on my mood.
JC: It’s a challenge when you are a tribute band because after you play the songs 500 times, you hope to still like the songs.
LJM: What are your favorite Creedence songs?
KGD: I like “Tombstone Shadow” and “Old Man Down the Road.”
RRP: “I put a Spell on You” is my favorite. I also like “Low Tide” because I play very little guitar on it, so it’s almost like taking a break.
Eddie Donovan: I’m with Robbie on “I put a Spell on You.”
JC: That one’s a challenge for us. It’s got a lot of nuisances to it and it’s a longer song. It definitely keeps us on our toes when we play it.
LJM: Do the songs have open rights?
JC: We don’t really have to pay for the rights to perform the songs because the venues that we play at pay ASCAP or BMI. It’s like a blanket fee.
However, if we were to record songs and try to sell them, that becomes our responsibility.
ED: Beatlemania was actually sued in the ‘70s for being a tribute act and they won their case, which paved the way for all tribute acts to continue.
JC: Tribute bands still get sued on occasion but it has to do more with logo infringement than the music itself.
LJM: What are some audience reactions when you play?
ED: The groupies are overwhelming most times.
DB: The sarcasm is palatable!
Sal Chinappi: We have to carry big sticks!
DB: The funniest thing I’ve seen so far happened yesterday. There was a bar fight during one of Kelly’s favorite tunes.
KGD: Yes, during “Don’t you wish it was true.” It’s such a happy song, and a bar brawl was getting ready to break out. It was halfway through the second set.
DB: I think Robbie said it best yesterday: the guy with the flip-flops who landed on his ass should have figured out he was on the losing side of things.
ED: He deserved it for wearing flip-flops.
RRP: People seem to enjoy the act. With Creedence, everybody’s gonna have a favorite song.
SC: The fact that a woman is singing and it’s coming out good, they listen to it. I think having a different approach to it, with Kelly as a front, really blows them away.
LJM: What are the takeaways you want for your audience?
JC: We just want them to have a good time. We’re glad people are showing up and responding to the music. You can put us in a closet and if people are there, we’ll be there.
RRP: I agree; if people are having a good time and they can keep the bar fights to a minimum, it’s a great time. That’s all I care about.
KGD: We’re creating an experience. In one of our earlier gigs, there was a woman who said she danced to Creedence at Woodstock.
JC: Everyone has a connection to Creedence somehow. Whether you just found the music or your parents listened to it, it’s a connection. And it’s lasted for generations; we’re talking 50 years.