STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
One of the most enduring bands to emerge from the Philly music scene, The Melton Brothers, featuring Dale Melton (keyboards and vocals), Dennis Melton (bass and vocals), Fred Berman (drums) and their latest addition John Lilley (guitar), have been delivering a unique blend of swing, R&B, country roots rock and blues to multiple generations of fans throughout the U.S. and abroad for decades.
Known for their infectious original compositions and interpretations of standards, The Melton Brothers earned a loyal following and praise from the music critics. Their highly visible presence saw them hit their peak in ‘70s and ‘80s flourishing in the Philly concert scene gracing the stage of area clubs, colleges and concert halls. Opening for music icons B.B. King, Muddy Waters, The Chambers Brothers, Buddy Miles, Procol Harum and The Kingsmen among many others, The Melton Brothers earned the respect of their music peers, engaging audiences with their memorable live performances.
Securing opportunities performing on WHYY-TV and the USA network expanded their creative reach. They soon became regulars performing at the historic Main Point, Grendel’s Lair, Periwinkle’s, Guthrie’s, the Cabarets and John & Peter’s. Decades later they can be seen performing at the Tin Angel, Puck Live, Chaplin’s Music Cafe, The Kennett Flash, Andy’s and The Mainstay, not to mention local and regional concert series.
The Hooters’ John Lilley, a long time friend and fan, started sitting in with the Melton Brothers on a whim launching what has turned into a rewarding creative outlet for the veteran guitarist.
“I’ve known the Melton Brothers for 40 years,” recalls Lilley, from his home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “Back in the day when I was playing locally I had a band and they had their thing. They were doing this cool jazz, swing, blues type of stuff. I used to see them all the time but I never played with them. I was at a wedding a few years back and they had the Melton Brothers playing there. Then they invited me to bring a guitar and an amp and sit in with them and I said, ‘Sure, it would be fun.’
“So I got on stage with them and I said, ‘Let’s just turn this thing up. Let’s not be safe, let’s have fun.’ It was great. I really enjoyed playing with them. I kind of brought this other element to them and kicked it up a notch. This was maybe two or three years ago. Then we talked on the phone and said how much fun it was and they asked me if we could do this again. I said, ‘Of course, that would be fun.’ So, they booked a couple gigs at some local places. We just started rehearsing and learning the songs. It’s been a lot of fun. Both those guys are incredible players. We are very intuitive with each other. It’s a different kind of Melton Brothers. These guys have been playing around forever. It’s got a bigger edge to it. We challenge each other musically.”
A departure from his high profile work with The Hooters, Lilley is excited to have the opportunity to stretch is expansive guitar prowess.
“The Hooter thing is the greatest thing that has happened to me,” says Lilley. “I grew up playing all different styles of music but people know me as what I do for The Hooters. I do so much more. I’m a jazz trained musician and get the chance to really play out with this kind of thing in a different way than I do with the Hooters. I really have a great time playing with these guys. We have a set, we have songs we play and sometimes we never know where the songs are going to go. We just take these departures and they come back at you and you go, ‘Wow that was great!’
“It’s really fun and really cool and we have a great time,” adds Lilley. “There are a number of songs that are main stage for them. They pay a lot of jazz, blues, swing, standards, and original songs. I play a lot of guitar solos and a lot of notes (laughs). It’s a lot of spontaneity.”
“I wish my Hooter fans would come out and see this because it’s a whole different thing,” says Lilley. “I would like that to happen.
I get to play all the jazz solos that I don’t get to do in the Hooters.”