Saltwater Portrait

Tim Laushey: Drummer and bandleader

August 12, 2014

Like the Baltimore Colts Marching Band that played for years after the Colts left until the Ravens arrived, the Conrad High School Alumni Marching Band still plays, although the school closed in 1978. The Conrad Band was started by Mark Alexander and organized by drummer Tim Laushey. In 1985, the band won first place in the Saint Patrick’s parade in Dublin, Ireland. They still perform at Conrad class reunions.

About 20 years ago Laushey also started the Caesar Rodney Brass Band, made up of friends, students, some Conradians, some pros and some novice. This year the band marched in the Memorial Day parade in Roslyn, Pa.

Laushey was born in Lancaster, Pa., and moved to Wilmington in1961. His parents were both professional musicians. His father, Bob, played trombone for the Les Brown Orchestra, and his mother, Lois, played marimba for the Fred Waring Orchestra. His parents had him take piano lessons for five years until he heard Gene Krupa playing drums. He has been playing them ever since. He took lessons and in high school studied with Ralph Razze and played in the Conrad band. After high school he attended Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mass.

Laushey credits Krupa with inspiring him to become a drummer as well as Conrad Director Dave Casto and his Dad to make music a career. Hanging on the wall in his studio are “Gene Krupa Jazz Association” (fan club) membership cards that he acquired when he was 10. By age 15, he was catching Krupa performances live. He spent four or five days at Atlantic City’s Steel Pier in 1965, watching Krupa’s quartet. Krupa grew friendly toward the youth who kept showing up day after day, and gave him his address. Laushey visited Krupa at his home in Yonkers, N.Y. shortly afterwards, and again several years later.

Laushey recalls one day on the Steel Pier, when a big band played opposite Krupa’s quartet. It was Lee Castle’s Jimmy Dorsey Band. “I remember watching the drummer set his drums up and saying, 'Wouldn’t it be neat to play in a band like that.’ Now I play drums in and manage that band when they’re on the East Coast. Not many people get to come full circle like that.”

Laushey really got his playing start in Wilmington, playing with such local mainstays as the Rhythm Doctors with his dad, Sis Saulter, and Phillies organist Paul Richardson. The 1970s brought the disco sound to nightclubs, but Laushey was lucky enough to land a job in the show band at The Continental Safari in Chadds Ford, Pa. and stay with the big band-style of music.

From there he went to the Sportsman’s Club in Delaware County, Pa. where for seven-and-a-half years he worked seven nights a week from 1 to 5 a.m. At these clubs his skills were sharpened working with Johnnie Ray, The Platters, Enzo Stuarti, Tiny Tim and Al Martino.

In 1979, Lloyd Johnston, a Wilmington musician and contractor, called Laushey for his first “big time” job. The first time he played the theme song “Contrasts” with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, he knew where his music would take him. It wasn’t the 1940s, but the interest in that music was there.

Starting with Ronald Reagan’s Inaugural Ball in 1980, and again in 1985, the list of show business legends that have had Laushey behind them reads like a Who’s Who: Lee Castle and the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Ray McKinley, Warren Covington, Charlie Spivak, Sammy Kaye, Bob Crosby, Les Elgart, Tex Beneke, Bob Eberele, Vaughn Monroe, and Johnny Desmond lead the list of bands that he played in while these great musicians were still performing.

Laushey has traveled with Dorothy Lamour, Patty Andrews, Morey Amseterdam, Julius LaRosa, Al Alberts and the Four Aces, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Frankie Laine, Helen O’Connell, Billy Eckstine, and Mickey Rooney. It was also in 1980 that he played his first engagement for Boscov’s Department Store. After 35 years and 38 store openings, he became musical director for all openings, including two last year. On land is not the only place where music has taken him. He has performed on The Royal Viking Sea, The Bermuda Star, The Queen Elizabeth II, Disney’s Big Red Boat, and the Raddison Seven Seas.

At that time, Laushey split his time between the Nelson Riddle Orchestra directed by Christopher Riddle, and the tribute to Benny Goodman Orchestra, directed by Everett Longstreth. He played “Sing, Sing, Sing” every night with the Goodman band as tribute to his inspiration and teacher Gene Krupa.

If this isn’t enough, there were several bands under his leadership at both inaugural balls for former Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner in 2001 and 2005. He visits Rehoboth often when not playing drums. He met his wife, Sue, at Conrad High School. They were married at Quillen’s Point VFW in 2005. They each have two children from previous marriages and three of the four are musicians. They are Amy, Denny, Kiersten, and Melissa and also five grandchildren.

The Tim Laushey Orchestra

The Tim Laushey Orchestra has been playing the Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach bandstands for more than 25 years.  In Rehoboth they started playing for Bill and Ruth Hayes at the old Bandstand and continue now for Cory Groll at the new Bandstand. They usually plays in Bethany on the Friday after the Fourth of July and in Rehoboth on Saturday.

When the club scene changed to disco and many of the big bands were dying out, Laushey formed his own. The band usually consists of 15 musicians, most of whom played in other big bands, such as Stan Kenton, Warren Covington, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Sammy Kaye and Bob Crosby.

Laushey says it makes a difference when band members have played together so long. Elliott Jacoby played saxophone in the orchestra until he was 96 years old. Most years they play “Sing, Sing, Sing” because of all of the requests. Watch a performance of it online by googling “Tim Laushey Orchestra, Sing, Sing, Sing, Rehoboth Beach Bandstand.”

During each concert, a group of six from the orchestra form a Dixieland band and play a few songs of that type of music. Laushey also likes to interact with the band members, audience, and Groll, asking questions about the music being played, telling jokes, and teasing the band members. His first question every year is, “Are there any Conrad High School alumni here?”and there usually are. The band members come from as far away as New York, where they start their carpooling. The orchestra plays about 15 gigs each year.

The Tim Laushey Trio

The Tim Laushey Trio consists of Laushey , Bill McGrady, piano player, and Bill Stumm on bass. They have played together for 45 years. The trio is the most active of Laushey’s groups. In 2004, he added the very popular “Diamonds” to his list of entertainers that call him when on the East Coast. Their 50s and 60s Rock & Roll allows the trio to play their hits “Little Darlin’” and “Silhouettes,” along with many of the tunes that were popular during that time. The trio accompanies the Diamonds about 40 times a year. They also accompany Shirley Jones about 50 times a year. She is now 80 years old.

The trio plays in Rehoboth for the annual Jazz Festival at Dos Locos on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and at Just in Thyme on Friday and Sunday evenings. They also play for the Rehoboth Community Unity Celebration at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center on the first Sunday in December.

Saint Joseph’s University Pep Band

The Saint Joseph’s University Pep Band enters its 20th year under the direction of Tim Laushey. Starting many years ago as just a “bass drum,” the Pep Band has grown into a popular and respected group of musicians not only in the Atlantic 10 Conference, but through the many venues that it has performed around the country. The “Hawk Band” has a unique makeup of SJU alumni, friends of the Hawks, and at the heart of the band, the students of Saint Joseph’s. In 2008, Sue was hired as Tim’s assistant because it grew so large.

The band has played its signature arrangement of the National Anthem on national television, and has had guest conductors such as comedian Bill Cosby, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, and even the “Hawk” mascot himself. At the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City, NBA great Bill Walton went out of his way to compliment the band. During the men’s basketball team’s exciting run to the NCAA Elite 8 in 2004, the band was featured on local Philadelphia television stations and even appeared in the Xbox game “March Madness 2005”.

Playing at both men’s and women’s basketball games makes for a very demanding season; however, it also promises a very exciting and emotional time for all involved. This year, the band performed during both the men’s and women’s NCAA March Madness tournaments.

Paradiddle Productions

What does it mean?  It is the name given to a technical exercise performed on a drum, consisting of an alternating pattern using both left and right hands. There are many types of paradiddle. Sounds reasonable for a drummer. Paradiddle Productions is the name of the company Laushey set up to run his music business.

Anyone can hire the orchestra, a seven-piece band, the Dixieland group, the trio, a quartet, or arrange to take drum lessons in the few hours he has left each week at Music and Arts in Wilmington. Purchase a CD of the orchestra playing at the beach from: Paradiddle Productions, 19 Hawthorne Ave., Wilmington, DE 19805, or contact 302-453-0900 or