As anyone who has seen their show knows, there’s nothing monotonous about the Fabulous Dialtones, the 9- to 10-piece rock-and-roll band that will embellish the Bethany Boardwalk bandstand this weekend for the seventh straight year.
The group, now in its 11th year together, will again put on a two-night performance, with a full ensemble Saturday — complete with horn section — then a more relaxed evening on Sunday, with an acoustic show, offering soothing melodies.
The group originated over a decade ago while working together at MCI. Word of a handful of guys getting together and jamming out quickly spread around the office. Before long, more friends were contributing their time and talent to the group, and their mutual experience in telecommunications eventually yielded their name, the Fabulous Dialtones.
Most of the members shared a common love and appreciation for music throughout their younger years, from singing and playing in garage bands, high schools and colleges, and church choirs.
“I don’t think any of us really took the whole thing seriously at first,” admitted Tony Bardo, guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist in the band. “But now we’re having a ball with it.”
Every show put on by the Dialtones gets everyone involved.
“We all have families of our own and like to keep everything in the show fun for all the people who come out,” said Bob Divine, who contributes his talent on rhythm, electric and acoustic guitar, as well as vocals. “During the show, you’ll see our wives and kids out there, too. We’re all very family-oriented, and it shows in the crowds that come out.”
At one point during the night, children are invited up on stage to help out with percussion. “I think the kids have a really good time when they’re up with us, playing in a rock-and-roll band,” Divine added.
He added that neither he, nor numerous others, ever thought he’d turn something like this into the success that it is today. “At first, my daughter would say, ‘Dad, what are you doing?’ But, now, our kids love coming out,” he said. “We’re actually considered ‘cool.’”
In addition to Bardo and Divine, the Fabulous Dialtones comprise Larry Dowdy, Cliff Greenblatt, Bob Holladay, Alan Jones, Dave Spiegelthal, Perry Warden, Peter Warren, and Gil Wilshire. This weekend, they will be joined by special guest guitarist Bob Loschiavo. Most of the band members work or have worked with telecommunications, and with federal government contracting.
“It’s a great feeling when we’re out there,” said Divine. “It gives us an opportunity to have fun and exercise our artistic side.”
“All of us will come together once a month or so, get away from everything, and do it just for ourselves,” said Bardo. “We’re taking on something that gives us and everyone around us a fair amount of pleasure.”
With such a prominent reputation and growing number of fans, the Dialtones are proving that they can please any crowd, no matter what.
“People come out to hear us because we have different kinds of music,” said Divine. The Dialtones cover all types of rock, spanning four decades. “We have even been known to incorporate some Motown into the songs we play,” he added.
When the band first started, they covered three songs, which quickly expanded to 20, then 50, and 100. Before long, the group could perform more than 200 different, yet recognizable, titles.
Since their start, the Fabulous Dialtones have accumulated quite a fan base, which attends shows regularly. “When we began, we didn’t anticipate the following of listeners that we have now,” Bardo said. “It surprises and amazes us how much support we get from everyone.”
“We’ve been told that people have planned their vacation schedule to be here to listen to us,” said Divine. “It’s really charming to hear something like that. We’re just out there playing together to have fun. I like to think that we’re starting the trend or going along with the trend of middle-aged guys doing what we love to do,” added Divine.
Most of the songs the band began with were soft rock and easier listening. “We realized that people want something they can dance to,” said Bardo, who decided to incorporate the horns into the band, similar to the group he played with while attending Virginia Tech.
Songs on the set list run the gamut, from Steely Dan; the Beatles; Grand Funk Railroad; and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; to the Eagles; Chicago; and much more. Names like the Doobie Brothers, America, Simon and Garfunkle, and Bob Dylan can be found on the band’s acoustic line-up.
“Every time we come to Bethany, we like to bring something new,” said Divine. “People listening can be pretty sure they’ll hear some stuff this weekend that we haven’t played here before.”
Bethany is by no means the only place to find this collection of talented musicians. They average 10 to 12 gigs a year, playing at bars, weddings and many charity events around the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. areas, funding organizations such as the March of Dimes, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Children’s Diabetes Foundation.
The band has even performed at well-known venues, including Hard Rock Live in Orlando and House of Blues in New Orleans. In New Orleans, the band even opened for Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh of the Eagles.
No matter where their music takes them, though, there’s something about the Bethany boardwalk that seems to be bringing them back.
“The bandstand is definitely one of our favorite places to play,” said Divine. “It really has to be the best venue to be at. We get to see the huge crowd of people with the beach and ocean backdrop. That’s really as aesthetic as it can be.”
Listeners are encouraged to grab seats early Saturday and Sunday night, as they quickly fill up at the bandstand on the Bethany Boardwalk when the Dialtones are in town. The band will hit the stage both nights from 7 p.m. until dark.