DeJoy’s homecoming a Shelton summer blast
For Dale DeJoy, SummerFest is more than a benefit event, it is a homecoming.
The Shelton native makes the return to the city which he called home up into high school to display his musical skills along with two other top bands and a variety of food for SummerFest, an event he helped launch years ago, on Sunday, Aug. 18, from 3 to 9 p.m. at Riverwalk. The rain date is Aug. 25.
“This is going to be amazing,” said DeJoy, who is on vocals and guitar with his band, Hey Nineteen, an 11-piece tribute to the 1970s icon, Steely Dan. “It is going to be a real treat to mingle with some old friends, then be able to get on stage and entertain everybody. That is going to be a great thrill.”
SummerFest will also feature John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band; Hey Nineteen, the Steely Dan tribute band; and the Rico Monaco Band with Tito Puente, Jr., along with an array of food trucks, a beer garden and additional entertainment to fill in the band change-over times.
The concert will benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Lower Naugatuck Valley as well as Chakulla & The Hunger Bus. Attendees are asked to bring nonperishable food which will be donated to the Spooner House food pantry.
“People are getting three great bands for the price of one, and the cause is fantastic,” said DeJoy, adding that he and his three brothers grew up in the Valley Boys Club.
DeJoy’s family has been a staple in Shelton since his grandfather planted stakes in the city in the 1930s. His connections run deep, with the DeMarcos the longtime owners of Shelton Hosiery Mill prior to its sale years ago.
DeJoy and his family first lived on Hillside Avenue, but moved to a Meadow Street home after the death of his father, a member of the doo-wop group, The Classmen, who suffered a brain aneurysm while working at the old BF Goodrich site. HIs father was only 23, and DeJoy was barely 2 but already influenced by his father’s musical talents.
“I was only a year and a half old then,” said DeJoy, adding that his father was already a pop star at that point. “I started taking piano lessons when I was 4 1/2 years old and then I started with guitar at 11. It’s all I ever wanted to do, later I went on to Berklee College of Music and graduated in 1984.”
With his trip to Shelton looming, DeJoy recalls his time with family - like his uncle Joe, who was a self-made famous sculptor; to how a neighbor, Frank Zahre, saved his life when the family’s Meadow Street home caught fire when he was barely school age.
“I remember jumping through the flames,” said DeJoy.
He also recalls how a certain Constance Monaco married into the family, which brought DeJoy together with her younger brother, Rico Monaco, another Shelton resident at the time who is also a popular musician who will be taking the stage at SummerFest.
“Rico and I had always been close,” said DeJoy, noting that Rico was a couple years behind him at Elizabeth Shelton Elementary School.
In Shelton, DeJoy honed his guitar skills with guitar teacher Paul Baker, of Dexter Drive in Huntington, even joining a band and playing at the eighth grade dance at Shelton Intermediate School, his first paid gig.
During DeJoy’s freshman year at Shelton High, his family moved to Blue Hill, Maine, where he continued his musical journey, playing with fellow musicians at a recording studio that was a converted chicken coop in the town — a coop known as the Henhouse owned by Paul Stookey — better known as the Paul from Peter, Paul & Mary.
While his love of music never waned, DeJoy’s life took him out of Maine to Wakefield, R.I., with a more corporate turn, owning his own mortgage company. But when that failed, his wife, Elaine, whom he first met in the halls of Shelton schools, told him to turn to his first love — music.
“I was enjoying playing a Thursday night gig at a beach bar called the Ocean Mist, which is actually on Esquire’s top 10 list of beach bars in the country, here in Rhode Island,” said DeJoy. “I was playing with five guys and kept bringing on Steely Dan songs to cover and my drummer said ‘why don’t we just do a Steely Dan tribute?’ Now, we have an 11-piece band. I think our first gig was in May 2013, where we sold out a 410-seat house and it’s all been kind of fantastic since then.”
DeJoy said when he started playing guitar at 11, Steely Dan came out with their first record.
“The music was different and more progressive than your standard rock and roll,” said DeJoy. “It piqued my curiosity. Years later, as I progressed in my guitar playing, I wore out Steely Dan records learning not just the chord changes but the solos. It was also well within my vocal capabilities because we are not talking about Josh Groban, we are talking Donald Fagen, it was much easier for me to handle that kind of vocal.”
But it is not just DeJoy with Shelton connections. The Rico Monaco Band, headed by Monaco, also from Shelton, is a Latin rock band that has toured the world, won multiple awards, performed with many national acts, and released seven records.
John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band is an American rock band from Rhode Island, which began their career in the 1970s and achieved mainstream success in the 1980s, largely through their music in the film Eddie & The Cruisers. DeJoy and Cafferty live in the same Rhode Island town now, and that was when he learned Cafferty’s in-laws are from Shelton.
“This SummerFest is all about reconnecting,” said DeJoy, adding that having Tito Puente, Jr. playing as well brings back memories of when DeJoy mixed with Tito Puente, Sr. three decades ago.
DeJoy and his musical companions all love entertaining the masses, he said, and the joy they all bring the crowd while supporting nonprofits in the process, makes it all worth while.
"That is the whole joy of it — that circle of positive energy, you put it out and it comes back, you put it out and it keeps coming back,” said DeJoy. “It is a marvelous endeavor to play live music.”
Tickets are $40 each, $45 at the gate. Performances are from 3 to 9 p.m. People can bring their lawn chairs, blankets and coolers. For event details, visit www.SummerFestCT.com or contact Elaine DeJoy at firstname.lastname@example.org.