|Conwell poses with fans, circa 1989|
A December 1990 Chicago Sun-Times article featuring Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers.
Conwell rumbles into the Met
December 7, 1990
By Jae-Ha Kim
When I first saw Tommy Conwell's teen-idol face, I thought here was a guy who could win over the Tommy Page crowd with no problem.
When I first heard him sing, I was shocked by what came out of that mouth.
Make no mistake about it. Conwell is nobody's pretty boy. He is a serious musician who happens to have a youthful, not-so-serious outlook on life.
Conwell and his band, the Young Rumblers, will perform bluesy pop from their latest album, "Guitar Trouble," at 11:30 tonight at the Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark. Tickets, $6, are available at Ticketmaster outlets (559-1212).
The Philly-based guitarist, now 28, maintains a rebellious streak that most adults outgrow. His enthusiasm both in conversation and in his work is remniscent of a teen. In fact, his latest single, "I'm Seventeen," chronicles a teenager's angst with such unabashed clarity that I am tempted to believe the lyrics were yanked from a high school student's diary.
Probably not his own journal, though. Conwell's own adolescence didn't include much rock 'n' roll. He says he despised the popular music of the '70s and opted for George Benson and Charlie Parker over Styx and Supertramp. He even dreamed about becoming a jazz musician . . . until the Sex Pistols thumbed their pierced noses at the rock establishment and Conwell discovered punk rock.
"Punk rock was really great because it was (in-your-face) music, and for a 17-year-old, there's nothing better than that," Conwell said. "It's also a good type of music for a kid who is just getting into playing in bands, because you can be a lousy musician and still make great music."
Conwell's earnest music, particularly his guitar playing, saves him from being just another magazine-cover pop star. On record, his music sounds more sanitized than it does live, where his vocals take a backseat to his frantic playing.
For a would-be rock star, Conwell holds some pretty career-masochistic views. He actually wants the Metro filled with people who have no idea who he is. His reasoning for this? If fans are there, they'll enjoy whatever he does. Winning over people who don't know the difference between him and Tommy Shaw, now that would be a challenge he'd like to meet....