Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Band Known as "Toolshed Jack"

What began in a "toolshed" has led to 21 years of making music.

By Megan A. Hepler

Toolshed Jack. You have probably heard the name, seen a reference to it online, or saw the name on banners advertising upcoming events.

Toolshed Jack (TSJ) has built themselves a reputation for engaging and entertaining audiences in Schuylkill County for over two decades. Not only did the band form in Mahanoy City, but all the members, both present and former, have ties to the county. The band is also beginning to expand its fame outside of the Schuylkill borders.

The founding members, Joel and Steve, came together in the toolshed at Steve Babinchak’s Mahanoy City residence in 1997. Together with members Mike and Chris, the band of four began playing shows in Mahanoy City that same year. At that point they called themselves Toolshed Jack and the Classics. In 1999, a fifth member of the band was added, Brian Todd, on keyboard and trumpet. In 2001, they dropped “and the Classics” from the name and became just Toolshed Jack. While several members of the band have come and gone since its foundation, almost all have remained for several years.

Brian Todd explained, “for a band that has been around for twenty-one years, we are surprised by how little of member “turnaround” there has been. On average, a member of Toolshed Jack stays in the band for more than five years.”

The five current members of Toolshed Jack come from a variety of background and musical experiences:

Joel is a Mahanoy City native. He is the only remaining founding member. He is a self-taught guitarist, with no prior music experience. He has been the lead guitarist since Toolshed Jack was formed.

Brian Todd began his music education at the age of eight on trumpet and became member of the Mahanoy Area High School marching and concert bands. Later, Brian Todd was a member of the Penn State University’s Marching Blue Band. During his college years, he also played in college concerts, jazz bands, and pep bands. He joined TSJ in 1999 to provide a fuller sound with vocals, keys, and trumpet.

Steve-O is a Shenandoah native. He originally joined Toolshed Jack as the acoustic/rhythm guitarist in 2004. In 2008, he switched to bass guitar. Before TSJ, Steve-O was a member of the bands Itchy Fingers, Onionhead, and Cool Daddy Groove. According to the Toolshed Jack website, Steve-O provides “a high energy stage presence for TSJ.”

Squeak Melusky had been a guest drummer for TSJ and became their full-time drummer in January 2018. He has substantial musical experience as a drummer. The Toolshed Jack website indicates that, “Squeak is a veteran of the circuit having played with national and local acts on drums for years.” He is also the drummer for another Schuylkill County band, Sapphire. He performs as a guest drummer for The Uptown Band and The Josh Squared Band.

Catherine “Cat” is also a new addition to the band as lead vocalist, since January 2018. She is formerly from New Jersey, but now resides in Tamaqua. While Cat is the newest member of the band, she has experience in vocal performance. Cat formerly sang in a St. Joseph’s University of Philadelphia acapella group.

Toolshed Jack’s members acknowledge that there have been many people that have helped them get to where they are today. “We wish to acknowledge first and foremost the ‘significant others’ of the members of Toolshed Jack, for without their help and support we could never do what we enjoy doing every weekend or so,” Brian Todd said. In addition, they thank soundmen Greg Semanco, Adam Weiderhold, and Mike Boyer for their work and help. They also recognize Joe Ciarvella for filling in on drums.

While Toolshed Jack is widely known in Schuylkill County, their goal is to also reach outside its borders and make a name for themselves in eastern Pennsylvania. Brian Todd noted that, “the band is well-known (as a cover band) within the county borders for many years, but has recently expanded its horizons within the past five years to play venues throughout eastern Pennsylvania for expanded notoriety.” Brian Todd further explained that people outside of Schuylkill County tend to assume they are a country band because of their name.

Toolshed Jack is Schuylkill County’s foremost party band. They perform at a variety of venues and events such as: bars, weddings, block parties, and festivals. The range of genres they can play is vast and include, but are not limited to, pop, rap, disco, rock, and even a little country.

Brian Todd further added, “from selections of today’s hits to every decade from the 60s forward, to rap and even a polka to show our Schuylkill County roots.”

Toolshed Jack prides themselves on being one of the leading cover bands in the area and fans seem to agree. In June 2014, Skook News ran a poll to determine the best band of Schuylkill County with Toolshed Jack come in at the top. Many locals that have experienced TSJ have nothing but good things to say.

After friends suggested TSJ, Kelly Herb had the band play at her wedding reception in 2011. “They played popular songs that kept our guests dancing and entertained all night long! They were so much fun!” Kelly said.

Lauren Lorent has seen Toolshed Jack approximately five times at block parties and private parties. “I always felt their stage presence was great. They really got the crowd excited during the songs,” Lauren said.

Toolshed Jack will be making appearances at a number of places in the area over the next several months.

June 9th: East End Fire Company Block Party, Tamaqua 
June 14th: Blue Mountain Ski Resort Patio Party 
June 16th: McAdoo Fire Block Party 
June 29th: Polish American Block Party, Shenandoah 
July 3rd: Punxsutawney Groundhog Festival, Punxsutawney PA 
July 7th: Pre Fireworks concert, Eagle Rock Resort
July 13th: Minersville Fire and Rescue Block Party 
July 22nd: St. Joseph’s Festival, Summit Hill 
August 10th: Delano Fire Company Block Party

To find out more on Toolshed Jack, visit any of the following links: