Local entertainers brave the off-season
Duke Ellington once said, “The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.” A few months ago I wrote about Paul Cullen, who entertained thousands playing bass with Bad Company, and has now moved on to master the subtleties of the nylon string guitar. Paul delights the Delaware shore with his own brand of mellow.
That same article sang the praises of local crooner Viki Dee, who went from fronting her dad’s stage band to mastering the digital technicalities of making her music portable. Armed only with her sparkling smile, a keyboard and a laptop, she easily fills any venue, large or small, with her signature sound.
But the music doesn’t end there. Other local players have adapted their styles to the unpredictability of resort-town entertaining - especially in the off-season. One of those performers is Sussex native Cathy Gorman. She stuck with her dream of entertaining while earning her degree in special education and teaching at Cape Henlopen High School. Despite time-outs for marriage and the upbringing of her two daughters, she’s now living her dream.
Cathy loves to bring the classics to assisted living facilities. She does a Marilyn Monroe set, a tribute to Doris Day and a medley of World War II songs - complete with an authentic WAC uniform. She says the response is amazing as the residents assure her that “music is the last thing to go.”
Her ’50s and ’60s repertoire includes Elvis, Linda Ronstadt, Etta James, Connie Francis, Brenda Lee, Leslie Gore, and her favorite, Patsy Cline. Cathy says she’ll never forget the night that the Shirelles called her onto the Blue Moon stage to sing their golden oldie, “Soldier Boy.”
Gorman performs every Thursday at the Seafood Shack on Baltimore Avenue, also gracing such places as Café Azafran, 1776 Steakhouse, Saketumi, Baywood Greens and even Outlet Liquors and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. She sells her new CD, “I Wish You Love” directly from the stage. After shows, she laughingly announces that the album is “available in a car near you!”
Sundays at Seafood Shack belong to pianist and singer John Flynn. John is one of the few bar entertainers to benefit from Prohibition-style laws that, even today, forbid alcohol in certain small towns. He grew up in Maple Shade, N.J., surrounded on all sides by dry municipalities. Maple Shade’s not-so-dry bars and taverns were popular destinations for out-of-towners looking to wet their proverbial whistles.
With bars and taverns comes music, and with music come talented guys like John. He started playing in a band at 16, eventually forming a group with his sister. The siblings played full time in Philadelphia and Atlantic City until 1987. John sold shoes and waited tables for a while, but it wasn’t long before he began to alternate between bartending and playing - often entertaining for hours after finishing his bar chores.
In 2000, he came to Rehoboth Beach to mix drinks at Harlow’s. Harlow’s became Partners, and Partners became Rigby’s, where Flynn remains a regular at the piano. His connection with Seafood Shack started when Shelia Savaliski - quite the vocalist in her own right - climbed up onto Harlow’s stage with John. One thing led to another (it always does) and eventually she and her partner Steph Dalee took over ownership of Seafood Shack. John also lights things up at the Brick Hotel, Café Azafran and Aqua Grill.
In the late ‘60s, when I played rock ‘n’ roll full time at Jack and June Fisher’s Hideaway Lounge in Ocean City, Rehoboth was a musical ghost town - save perhaps for bandleader (and old friend) Sammy Ferro at the Henlopen Hotel. “Mr. Rehoboth” and his boardwalk combo are gone, but resourceful players like Paul, Viki, John and Cathy honor his legacy by keeping Rehoboth singing year-round.