2002-08-28 / Front Page

George Theiss Band ready for return to Stone Pony

Freehold guitarist-singer
has been a regular on
local scene for decades
By clare marie celano
Staff Writer

George Theiss Band ready
for return to Stone Pony
Freehold guitarist-singer
has been a regular on
local scene for decades
By clare marie celano
Staff Writer

George TheissGeorge Theiss

The George Theiss Band is back. Not that the band was ever completely out of the music loop, but according to veteran guitarist and vocalist George Theiss of Freehold Township, the band which has been around for more than 20 years has not played with as much frequency as he would have likes.

That’s about to change.

The George Theiss Band will be headlining a show at the Stone Pony, Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, on Aug. 31. Theiss’ appearance will signal two things — the band’s first gig at the Stone Pony in more than a year and the beginning of Theiss’ efforts to put together a new band.

Theiss said his new band will feature some of the same original music he plays now, but will move ahead by including some new music. The band plays 90 percent original music, all written by Theiss.

"I write all the music and the lyrics. When I present it to the band, then I get their input," he said.

Theiss said he’s looking forward to putting together a new band and he’s going to make sure it’s the best.

"I want it to be as good as it can possibly be, the best band I ever had," he said.

When asked to describe the music his band plays, Theiss said they play music from Van Morrison, Jackson Browne and Billy Joel as well as some R&B, classic rock and pop in addition to the original music written by Theiss.

Theiss "founded" the band in 1979, but his music career began way before that.

Taking a trip back in time, the guitarist-singer went back to the beginning.

As a young teenager, he said, he tried taking guitar lessons.

"I tried it once," he said, laughing. "I played something, and the teacher said to me, ‘Hey, can you show me that again?’ "

Theiss explained that the teacher had the technique but apparently lacked style. Theiss, on the other hand, had style but needed to learn technique. He stopped the guitar lessons and managed to figure out the technique on his own.

"I put a record on, I listened to it, I played it and did it over and over and over again until I got it right," he explained.

Theiss, 53, who was born in Newark, moved to Freehold Borough at the end of seventh grade, having previously lived in Millstone and Freehold Township. He talked about his musical career with fondness and a touch of amusement as he remembered some of the details, like the first band he ever formed.

"I was about 13 or 14. The band was called The Five Diamonds," he said, laughing. "We used to dress up in raincoats with black diamonds that we had painted on our backs. Nobody else really played an instrument, we were just really ‘hanging out.’ "

Next up were the Sierras. This band had members who actually played instruments and had several appearances at the Elks Club on Main Street, Freehold.

According to Theiss, the Sierras eventually evolved into the Castiles, a neighborhood band Theiss formed when he was around 15. This band spurred Theiss’ own career and also gave birth to the borough’s most famous native son, Bruce Spring-steen, who joined the band after it formed.

The Castiles stayed together for three or four years, bringing Theiss to the age of 18.

Next on tap was a band called The Rusty Chain. Theiss laughingly commented that when he started with this band it had "a great Beach Boys sound." When he was finished with it, "It sounded more like Steppenwolf." Theiss said everyone left that band except one man, Roy Smith, who Theiss said still works on music with the band.

Actually Smith works out of the music industry with Theiss as well, doing what they both do every day — carpentry.

Theiss said he left The Rusty Chain and joined a band called Doo-Da.

"It was a little like the Grateful Dead. I changed things around a bit, added a harder edge and made the music a little ‘heavier,’ " he said, adding that Doo-Da sang background for the group the Platters for a short time.

After this, Theiss said he took off to Asbury Park where he ran into Tommy La Bella and John Lurachi, two current members of the George Theiss Band. He also met Steven Schaeger. They formed a band called Cahoots. They played some R&B and a little rock from 1975-79. Originals from Theiss’ repertoire were also played.

In 1979, the George Theiss Band was born. Over the years the band has played at places like the Capital Theater in Passaic, Crazy Horse, a club in New Rochelle, N.Y., and the Stone Pony. The band also frequented a club in Red Bank, Big Man’s West, which was owned by Clarence Clemons, the saxophone player for Springsteen’s E-Street Band.

Band members Eliott Bauer, drums; Tony Amato, keyboards; John Lurachi, bass guitar; Tommy La Bella, saxophone; Billy Walton, guitarist; and Theiss are busy rehearsing for the Stone Pony gig and are having a great time getting ready.

Somewhere during the music career and carpentry work, Theiss managed to find the time to fall in love and marry his wife, Diana. The couple, who have been married for more than 30 years, live in Freehold Township where they raised their two children, Justin, 33, who works in the technology field in New York, and Carrie, 27, a member of the United States National Guard, who is training in the medical field at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.

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