- Associated Press - Sunday, July 13, 2014

SOMERS, Conn. (AP) - The 1980s were a great breeding ground for, among other things, high school rock bands starting up in the basements of family homes. Thirty years later, few bands are still rocking. The Savage Brothers Band is an exception.

Four brothers - Tom, Mark, Steve, and Mike Savage - founded the band in 1984 in the basement of their Windsor Locks home. One month later, they were playing live gigs in Hartford and Manchester and gaining a steady following.

The band recently celebrated its 30th anniversary at Joanna’s Café and Banquet Hall in Somers, adding one more show to its roster of more than 5,000. The group currently consists of Tom (saxophone, vocals, flute), Mark (trumpet and vocals), and Mike Savage (drums), as well as Frank Cook (lead guitar), Keith Kruser (vocals, keys, guitar), and Les Haley (bass and vocals). Steve Savage left the band two years ago to pursue other interests.

The June 6 celebration at Joanna’s drew a sold-out crowd of at least 400. Had it been held at a larger venue, that number could have easily been doubled, Tom Savage, the band’s manager and eldest member, said.

“But this isn’t about the money or attendance numbers, as much as it is to say ‘thank you,’” said Tom, 51, who has two daughters and lives in Somers.

Aside from band fandom, Tom is grateful for the support he’s received from the community. Last summer, he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and liver. This past fall, the field hockey team at Timothy Edwards Middle School in South Windsor, where Tom teaches music and directs several of its student bands, raised $5,500 to benefit the St. Francis Hospital Patient Care Fund for those undergoing cancer treatment.

Amazingly, Tom’s condition has not prevented him from singing and playing music, nor teaching it.

With the cancer at stage 4, his doctors are unsure exactly how long Tom has to live; it could be months or years, he said. He uses this uncertainty as motivation to perform at the highest level on stage and in the classroom.

“The cancer could get me whenever, but music is an outlet that pushes me to keep going,” he said. “The band will go on.”

And teaching has been his lifeline.

“Teaching is very rewarding for me, it helps me forget about the cancer,” he added. “I want to get kids to understand the important place music has in our society.”

The other members of the Savage Brothers Band also work other jobs. Haley, 45, of Mystic, is a freelance musician; Cook, 44, of Windsor Locks, works for UPS; Kruser, 45, of Agawam, Massachusetts, is a consultant with ATC Audio in West Springfield and plays with another band, Guitar Dudes; Mark, 49, of Windsor Locks, is a computer technician; and Mike, 46, is a private music instructor in Windsor.

The Savage Brothers Band, which plays weddings as well as concerts, is thankful for a strong fan base throughout Connecticut. The band has more than 6,500 fans on Facebook and hordes of dedicated followers who attend its concerts.

“We knew 90 percent of the people at (the 30th anniversary) show,” Tom said. “It’s a privilege to have a business in which you know so many people who believe in what you do.”

The fans at Joanna’s Cafe were a good mix of originals and newbies, but all were equally ecstatic to be celebrating the band’s milestone.

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