South County’s Ten Rod Ramblers call their shows a “folk rocking good time,” where they perform covers from folk rock artists like Bob Dylan, the Eagles, Van Marrison, Willie Nelson and “everyone you like from that era.” The North Kingstown natives have become a popular act in South County and are performing every week through Halloween, at least.
Ten Rod Ramblers formed in 2009 when singer-guitarist Phil Auger met bassist Joe Petrarca and lead guitarist Jeff Shea. United by their love of ‘60s and ‘70s folk rock, their lineup was completed when Phil attended the WUMB Summer Acoustic Music Week in New Hampshire. There, he met Sally Sisto, who plays banjo, mandolin and performs the band’s harmony vocals. In addition to musical influences, the newly formed quartet found they had similar personalities and senses of humor – everything clicked for them.
The group spent a year of their collective free time rehearsing, while also performing for coffee and tips at Java Madness Coffee House in Wakefield. Playing for free coffee is a perk second only to playing for free beer, but as the band tightened their sound, they stretched out and became regulars at South County locales such as the Breachway Grill, Oak Hill Tavern and the Carriage Inn & Saloon. As their popularity grew, an endorsement from a well-respected local favorite certainly didn’t hurt. “Gil Pope is one of us at this point,” Phil says. “He sits in when.ever one of us can’t make it (which can be often). Gil is a local legend for his music and plays out quite a bit in South County bars and restaurants and is versatile on guitar, bass, mandolin and vocals.”
Folk, rock and folk rock have a strong following in South County, not to mention all of Li’l Rhody. Ten Rod Ramblers released cover albums in 2009 and 2010 to support their shows, and continued to gather a steadily growing fan base along the way. The love that locals, both performers and fans, have for the music continues to bring the community together. Not only does it offer them an opportunity to share that common love, but also gives them a chance to see each other in a new light. “We love North Kingstown and have played up and down Post Road and regularly for the Wickford Summer Concert series,” Phil says. “Many in town know me as the Superintendent. It’s nice to see their reaction when they see this different side of me.”
It’s their passion for music that keeps bands like Ten Rod Ramblers going. Their first year of rehearsing happened while each member led their daily lives and held down other careers. “My day job is working as Superintendent of the North Kingstown School Department,” Phil says. “Joe works for LaSalle Academy as a bus driver, Sally is self-employed processing medical records and Jeff works as a computer manager for an electronics company. We all have a passion for the music and love gigging on weekends.”
In an era where established stars like Gene Simmons say that rock is dead, it’s daunting for a band to try to make a go of it. The days of copycatting the latest trends and getting signed to multi-album deals for millions of dollars are, if not gone, scarce. Nowadays local artists perform mostly for their love of it, and newer bands have to evaluate their goals. “Do it because you love playing and enjoy the company,” Phil says. “If you get into weekend bar gigs for the money, you’ll be disappointed fast.” The advantage of this is that the bands who remain, like Ten Rod Ramblers, will be the passionate ones who have honed, and continue to honor, their craft.
Money is important, money is great, but artists still perform for the sake of displaying their art. Music brings people together as few other things can, and the evidence is seen at shows such as the ones Ten Rod Ramblers, as well as countless other bands, play. “We’ve played some great beach parties and other private functions, but I would say we just enjoy playing most when the audience gets into it and sings along,” Phil says. “We invite all to come on and see a show. We have a core group of Rambler fans who keep coming back for more and they always comment about how much they love this music they grew up with. It really is a folk rockin’ great time.”
Ten Rod Ramblers
The Breachway Grill
Oak Hill Tavern