To many local residents, one of the most familiar faces at the summer concerts on the town common is guitarist Charles "Kook" Lawry, who returns with Evolution on July 11 and with the Brian Maes Band on Wednesday, July 18.
Lawry's Lynnfield ties run deep. He is a member of the LHS Class of 1972 and established himself as a musician at a young age. Lawry reports that his family moved to Lynnfield back in 1956. His sister lives nearby in Lynn, and his 18 year old daughter, Haley, won the Lynnfield Idol competition in 2009 and occasionally plays at local establishments.
Kook got his first guitar at the age of 5 and started taking lessons at age 8 from Andy Greco, who at the time was reportedly one of the few guitar teachers in the immediate area.
Meeting up with some musicians from South Lynnfield in his early teens, the band "Captain Jack and the Delivery Boys" was soon born, playing at local summer parties for the most part. The band's singer was reportedly a delivery truck driver for a local muffin company, which helped bring about the name. Lawry said that some of his creative influences include Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck, a little Jerry Garcia, and later in his career, John McLaughlin.
As a junior at Lynnfield High School, Lawry played in a Chicago-type cover band that included some Berkley students and which played at venues such as Revere Beach and the Orpheum in Boston, where they opened for Buddy Miles. They opened a Bill Withers show at the University of Pittsburgh, and they also opened for Natalie Cole at UMass Amherst. Lawry's father had a chance to meet Cole and discuss jazz music with her, and the musician even offered Lawry the opportunity to play backup for her. However, he was still a junior in high school. "As much as it would have been a pretty good opportunity, it wouldn't have been a lifelong commitment," said Lawry. As a result, the cover band stayed together a while longer, but ended "with the realization that the money wasn't going to be very good."
In an interview this spring, Lawry said that he still plays for Evolution, which consists of other LHS alumni, including Don Walden, '72, and Gary Hall, '72, among others. The band kicks off this summer's concert series on Wednesday with a performance from 6 to 8 p.m.
A week later on July 18, Lawry will be on the guitar again when the Brian Maes Band returns for a show on the Lynnfield Common. A year or two ago, the Brian Maes Band toured with Deep Purple in Canada, and in November, they released a new CD called "Collateral Damage." Along with Lawry and Brian Maes, the band includes veteran saxophonist Michael Antunes, formerly of the Beaver Brown Band, Tim Archibald on bass, Mary Beth Maes on vocals and guitar, and Peabody native Tony DiPietro, who has been a drummer for much of his life.
Even before graduating from high school, Lawry was well on the way to becoming a professional musician. In fact, he was a year older than fellow LHS alumni Robert Ellis Orral, a well-known musician and songwriter in his own right, who was interviewed by Lynnfield Patch in November.
In his interview with Lynnfield Patch back then, Orrall recalled how in high school, he was a little bit afraid to approach Lawry to ask him to join his band, because Lawry had already acquired a formidable reputation as a guitarist. For his part, Lawry recalls how at LHS, he would sometimes "hear this kid banging on the piano in the auditorium," thinking that "he's getting good." During a chance meeting later, Orrall reportedly told Lawry that he had just made his first album. "Next time you do a record would you please call me?" Lawry says he asked Orrall, and soon after, the two were working with Dave Stefanelli and Don Walden with the band that was simply called Robert Ellis Orrall. Maes played keyboards for the band at a later point. Along with releasing three albums for RCA, Orrall's Wikipedia page says that some of the bands they toured with included U2 and The Kinks.
During his time with Robert Ellis Orrall, Lawry also recalled that he made his living from another kind of rock as well - he was a rock drill operator at a quarry in Peabody. "You don't have to go to the gym after work, that's for sure," he said.
Since 1990, Lawry has worked full time for Handsome Brothers Music, which creates music for marketing campaigns - including the well-known "Wa-wa-wachuset" theme for the nearby ski resort, done to the tune of "The Watusi." Lawry also occasionally has the chance to fly out to Las Vegas with other musicians to play at corporate functions, and he creates music packages that have been used on TV shows such as "This Old House."
In Lynnfield, Lawry has also given private guitar lessons since about 2003. "It's really been rewarding," said Lawry of his teaching, noting that one former student attends Berkley, while another now majors in audio engineering at UMass.
Teaching the guitar has also helped Lawry become more involved with efforts to support the fight against cystic fibrosis, which one of his students is battling. This spring, the Brian Maes Band headlined a cystic fibrosis fundraiser in Lynn, and Lawry has also donated some guitar lessons to the cause.
Lawry's students tend to range from early grade school to high school, but at the time of this interview Lawry also reported a group of local moms was taking lessons from him as well. "I specialize in getting them up and running and playing rock and roll fairly quickly," said Lawry. Along with teaching them the guitar, Lawry also advises aspiring music professionals to study business, to help them avoid being taken advantage of in the industry. "It's something I can grow old doing," said Lawry, "I do enjoy watching the kids get better as the years go by."
Editor's Note: For video of the Brian Maes Band performing on the Lynnfield Common during last summer's town concert series, click here.
A second clip from 2011 can be viewed here.