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Mark Tomeo's Impressive Career

Apr 26, 2017 10:34AM ● Published by Erica Shames


Mark Tomeo is a Grammy Award nominated guitarist from central Pennsylvania, who performs with rock and country bands as well as working solo jazz gigs.

Originally from Boston, MA, Tomeo began innocently playing along with

  Kingston Trio records at around age 10. A few years later he watched The Beatles first U.S. appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and joined the revolution. “It felt like the scene in the ‘The Wizard of Oz’ where the house falls in Munchkin Land in black and white, then Dorothy opens the door into a world of technicolor,” Tomeo says. “One minute it was still the crew-cut 50s; the next, everyone had flowers in their hair.”

An electric guitar was shortly procured and Tomeo never looked back. He found himself playing in pickup bands in friends’ garages and basements. The turning point came a little later when he and a couple of middle-school friends found themselves playing a classmate’s birthday party. After ripping through the hits of the day and all the Fresca they could drink, the birthday girl’s mom gave them each $7. “I can still see the five and two singles she put in my hand,” he said. “And the only thought in my head was ‘you get paid for doing this?’”

Once the careerist aspects became clear, all bets were off. Wide wale corduroys and bright shirts appeared in his closet. Visits to the barber ceased. Grades plummeted. He learned songs by wearing out records.

He was the kid at all the high school dances but never danced because he was always in the band. He learned to fingerpick from the legions of Boston-area folksingers who trooped through a local coffeehouse, a college-aged Bonnie Raitt among them. He spent some years in college indifferent to the coursework but playing music non-stop.

In the early 70s, he joined a hotel lounge band, spent a couple years with no fixed address, played hundreds of gigs and honed his technique before stopping in Springfield, IL, where he helped a friend open a music store, taught guitar lessons, did setups and repairs, and played country music in Midwestern honkytonks. He also added the pedal steel guitar to his arsenal and from Springfield it was an easy hop to Nashville where he took lessons, played demo sessions and saw up close how the really good country players worked their magic.

After a few years of that, Tomeo returned to Boston with the unlikely goal of finding a modern rock or pop band that would take him on as a steel player. It was 1980 and synth-pop bands with stupid names and silly haircuts were all the rage. But one band was playing an odd mix of new wave and country using synths and electronic drums as well as mandolin and fiddle. They were also writing original songs in hopes of landing a serious record deal. And they were looking for a pedal steel player who could rock.


 It was written. Tomeo became the missing link member of Rubber Rodeo, amping up their live shows and indie released records, garnering lots of press, barnstorming across the country playing a weird blend of modern and traditional music that critics labeled “country-punk,” “cow pop,” or “home on the radar range.”

In 1983, the band inked a major label record deal with Mercury/PolyGram and a debut album, north American and UK tours, and a video presence on MTV followed. For a year and some they toured with hitmakers including the Stray Cats, Thompson Twins, Berlin and Psychedelic Furs.

Their album and single releases went into the Billboard charts but managerial upheavals at PolyGram and changing musical tastes stalled the band’s career. The album was released the same month as Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” which sucked nearly all the oxygen out of the national music room causing Rubber Rodeo to be overlooked at the moment it most needed attention. The band received a Grammy nomination for best video in 1985 but lost to David Bowie (for “Let’s Dance”) and fell apart later that year.

Tomeo had married a Pennsylvania girl and with their young son, moved to Danville and attempted to join the human race. He packed his guitars in a closet, worked odd jobs and did newspaper writing until a new acquaintance persuaded him to come out of retirement. “I originally stared playing because I loved the sound and feel of a guitar,” he said. “That got lost in the careerism, so I took a Zen approach deciding that if I were going to play, I’d do it for the sake of playing and not worry if there were 10 people or 10,000 listening or if there was $10 or $10,000 at the end of the night.”

Since then, Tomeo has played and recorded with Davy Jones, the Monkee who settled onto a horse farm in Beavertown; The Badlees, Pennsylvania’s great alternative hope; Darcie Miner, Harrisburg’s answer to Avril Lavigne (who really coulda been a contender); and numerous others.

He began taking jazz guitar lessons in 2005 out of both a desire to achieve a new level in his playing as well as to have a style befitting a mature person. “I want to perform right up until they have to pry my cold, dead fingers from the neck of my guitar, but I don’t want to be the geezer rocker who embarrasses his kids,” Tomeo says. “So I’ve worked out a routine where I can play by myself but still sound musically robust, not have to haul a lot of heavy gear, and still satisfy a roomful of my contemporaries.


 

 

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    Youth Studio Art II for Grades 4.5 YS12, Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, January 27 - March 17 10...


  • Intro to 3D Printing

    02/10/2018
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    Intro to 3D Printing: Saturday, February 10th 1-3 p.m. Learn about 3D printing and 3D modeling....


  • The 135-year-old Berlin Philharmonic is consistently ranked as one of the best orchestras in the ...


  • February 10, 2018 | 7:00pm Treat your Valentine to a concert featuring Nashville Recording Chr...


  • Books Undone

    02/11/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/12/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Adobe InDesign

    02/12/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Adobe InDesign DES 154, Monday & Wednesday, January 29 - February 28 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit,...


  • Illuminated Letters

    02/12/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Illuminated Letters CE 206, Monday, January 29 - February 26 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $195 Matt Chapma...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/13/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Homeschool Art Studio Ages 6-13

    02/13/2018
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Homeschool Art Studio Ages 6-13 YS 40, Tuesday, January 30 - March 20 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m....


  • Books Undone

    02/13/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Homeschool Physical Education

    02/13/2018
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    Students engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity through a variety of enjoyable game...


  • Business Practices for Creatives

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Business Practices for Creatives DES 200, Tuesday, January 30 - April 3 6 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., 1 c...


  • Intro to Social Media Marketing

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Social Media Marketing SM 101, Tuesday & Thursday, January 30 - March 1 6 p.m. - 9 p.m...


  • HTML5 & Website Design

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    HTML5 & Website Design DES 155, Tuesday, January 30 - April 3 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit, $475 ...


  • Drawing (Portrait & Figure)

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Drawing (Portrait & Figure) CE 91, Tuesday, January 30 - March 20 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $245 Evan ...


  • Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media

    02/13/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Acrylic Painting and Mixed Media CE 238, Tuesday, January 30- March 6 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $215 Ju...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/14/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Homeschool Hangout

    02/14/2018
    11:00AM — 01:00PM

    Every other Wednesday 11-1p.m. during the school year beginning Jan. 17th-Apr. 25th.Parent/child ...


  • Books Undone

    02/14/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Adobe InDesign

    02/14/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Adobe InDesign DES 154, Monday & Wednesday, January 29 - February 28 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credit,...


  • From a graffiti artist in the favelas (slums) of Brazil raising awareness about domestic violence...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/15/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Books Undone

    02/15/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • iMAKE

    02/15/2018
    04:30PM — 05:30PM

    This a-la-carte class series offers both art and science projects for children ages 6-12. String ...


  • Intro to Video Production & Short Film

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Video Production & Short Film DES 178, Thursday, February 1 - April 5 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.,...


  • Design Principles & Typography

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Design Principles & Typography DES 150, Thursday, February 1 - April 5 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., 1 credi...


  • Intro to Social Media Marketing

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Intro to Social Media Marketing SM 101, Tuesday & Thursday, January 30 - March 1 6 p.m. - 9 p.m...


  • The Art of Felting: 2-D Composition

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    The Art of Felting: 2-D Composition CE 239, Thursday, February 1 - March 22 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $...


  • Oil Painting

    02/15/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Oil Painting CE 169, Thursday, February 1 - March 22 6 p.m. - 9 p.m., $245 Michael Allen Ex...


  • "The Blues Show"

    02/16/2018
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    What does "blue" mean to you? Make work that shows it -- the color blue, Blues music, blue in th...


  • Music Together Family Classes

    02/16/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Runs for 8 weeks on Fridays Session A: 10-11am Session B: 11:15-12:15pm Music Together® is a f...


  • Books Undone

    02/16/2018
    11:00AM — 07:00PM

    Books become the canvas for contemporary artists in this national juried exhibition. Exhibition i...


  • Homework Happy Hour Tutoring

    02/16/2018
    03:00PM — 04:15PM

    Fridays 3-4:15 p.m. during the school year beginning Feb.9th.  Bloomsburg University Education...


  • The 5th annual Destination Blues Music Festival comes to 18 venues in Columbia and Montour Count...



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