Howard Howie Rego (1950-2019)
One of Bermuda’s star musicians who performed in what was dubbed “Bermuda’s answer to the Beatles” has died.
Howard “Howie” Rego, a gifted drummer, was 69.
Rego’s music career took him from being a teen heart-throb to working with Sly and the Family Stone and Peter Frampton at the height of their 1970s fame.
As drummer for The Savages, he helped build an enthusiastic following among island rock fans and thousands of “college kids” from East Coast universities and he co-wrote with bassist and singer Bobby Zuill what some musicologists consider a classic example of “garage rock” and proto-punk, >The World Ain’t Round, It’s Square.
Rego died last Saturday and a private funeral was held yesterday.
The graduate of the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston worked abroad as a session musician for more than 20 years.
He returned to his homeland and formed several bands on the island and turned his hand to teaching music.
The long-haired, svelte rocker, who had a flamboyant stage presence, provided a foundation for all his bands, with a throbbing pulse and great crashes of cymbals.
After the break-up of The Savages at the end of 1966, Rego eventually made his way to Boston, Massachusetts, and New York City, where he was introduced to many famous musicians and served a stint with albino rock guitarist Edgar Winter.
Bermudian drummer Andy Newmark, who was making his name on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time, got Mr Rego a slot on Broadway for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, behind Meatloaf.
Tours followed with jazz and rhythm and blues icon Michael Brecker, a neighbour and friend, and Englishman Frampton, who had shot to stardom in the wake of the success of his seminal album, Frampton Comes Alive.
The Frampton band performed before arena audiences as big as Bermuda’s population until the disco revolution took the air out of his sales.
Rego told the Mid-Ocean News several years ago: “Every time my career needed a boost, Andy would pop up out of nowhere and set me with up something interesting.”
It was a call from Newmark that got Mr Rego a one-year gig with the mercurial funk genius Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone.
Mr Rego said their first meeting was nerve-racking.
He added: “The audition consisted of Sly asking me to sit down behind the drums and play to some of his recorded music.
“He liked what he heard, and said, ‘prepare yourself, we are going on tour in the next couple of days’.”
But Mr Rego had to turn down an offer from Swiss pianist Joe Zawinul of the jazz fusion supergroup The Weather Report to take the job.
He said: “I often wonder where I would be today if that call had come in first.”
The Savages formed in 1962, with the amalgamation of The Fugitives, guitarists Paul Muggleton and Jimmy O’Connor, and The Gents, Rego and bassist and singer Zuill.
Mr Rego was just 12 years old, three years younger than the others.
The Mount Saint Agnes Academy pupil had been encouraged from age 8, by his father, a grocer and amateur musician.
With his friend, Roddy Marshall, credited as an influence on the band, Mr Rego saw the The Vanilla Fudge, with its wild man drummer Carmine Appice, live in Newport, Rhode Island. Mr Rego said: “Our music immediately departed to a funkier, R&B sound.”
With businessman and producer Eddie DeMello at the helm, The Savages recorded the local hits No, No. No, No, No and She’s Gone over the space of two years.
Fans lined the streets to see standing-room-only performances at what is now the Hog Penny on Burnaby Street in Hamilton, Elbow Beach and other venues around Bermuda.
The band met or played with The Young Rascals, Tiny Tim, The Doors, and at The Scene Club in New York with Jimi Hendrix.
They also allowed Desi Arnaz Jr, an actor and musician, to sit in at Mr Rego’s drum kit at the Hog Penny, watched by his superstar mother, actor Lucille Ball.
By this time they were also known in the Caribbean, where they performed for large crowds in Barbados and Antigua, where they shared a stage with The Wailers, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston.
Musician Tony Brannon said last night that Barbadian musician friends still fondly recall The Savages’ tour.
The band split up at the end of 1966, but Live and Wild, recorded in February that year at The Hub, a club in the Hamilton Princess in front of an adoring and raucous crowd has survived the decades.
Collectors now pay hundreds of dollars for the grungy record.
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