The Stompers story begins in the fall of 1977 when friends Sal Baglio and Mark Cuccinello decided to start a band. Stephen Gilligan and Dave Friedman, the only people to respond to an index card posted on a music store bulletin board seeking musicians, arrived a short time later. On November 7, 1977, the musical neophytes played their first gig in Beverly, Massachusetts.
The act started out in area hang-outs like Cantone’s, Inn Square Men’s Bar (ladies invited), Jonathan Swift’s and The Rathskeller, where each gig was a rock and roll slugfest. It didn’t matter where the band performed. Show after show the faith of devoted followers mushroomed and the number of converted non-believers grew. The early Stompers all-out, work-horse performances became legend, but more importantly the purity of their music really stood out. It was believable, with feeling and conviction. Word of mouth quickly spread as the The Stompers reputation as high-energy, no-frills, infectious rockers soared.
As early as 1978, a rapid breakout for the Boston-based locals seemed virtually assured. Their naive excitement and their fresh interpretations of rock’s fundamental roots became contagious. One scorched summer day, the boys dragged all their equipment up to the second floor of an apartment building converted to a recording studio. The primitive space had no air conditioning and mattresses were tacked up on the walls for sound proofing. From this sweaty initial session, the show stopper “Coast to Coast” (backed with “I’m in Trouble”) was recorded and pressed as a vinyl single. The band received instant gratification when film-meister John Sayles included the track in his classic film, Return of the Secaucus Seven.
“Coast to Coast” launched a long string of unprecedented FM radio support for the band and New England quickly became aware of their mission. In a scant two-year period, an even dozen Stompers songs, including “American Fun,” “Summer Girls” and the ballad “Anymore,” were released and feverishly played and re-played on FM stations in fourteen states. Boston television also grabbed onto the momentum, by producing a two-hour concert special. This was incredible exposure considering that the subject of all this attention was an independent band, not signed to any kind of record deal. Despite this seeming handicap, virtually all shows became standing room only.
For the next three years The Stompers rise continued. Their die-hard fans followed them everywhere. The band played in every college, roadhouse, nightspot and concert hall in New England, consistently packing them in. The still unsigned group was also invited to share arena stages with many national rockers. A tour with the mighty J. Geils Band in the winter of 1980 certainly helped increase the bands popularity by playing in front of 20,000 people a night, something for which the Stompers have always remained grateful. Touring with The Beach Boys was also a most significant co-billing, as Brian Wilson had been one of Baglio’s life-long influences.
In 1981 the Stompers earned the right to compete in the “Rock to Riches” talent search at the Palladium in New York in April 1982. After winning the competition, Atlantic Records offered the band a deal for a single. However, Boardwalk Records also had reps in the house that night and offered a deal for a full album, which the band signed on to record. The mega-successful label wanted another Platinum record and they heard it in The Stompers. Boardwalk Records was quarterbacked by industry hit-maker and promotional genius Neal Bogart and he signed the band on the strength of their live shows. The effort was duly recorded and in the week of national release, the single “Never Tell An Angel” charted at number 86 “with a bullet,” quite an impressive initial showing. Industry standards virtually assure three weeks of upward mobility for any song so designated and the band’s success seemed guaranteed. Not so quick, band-fans. Bogart died on May 8, 1982 at the age of 39; Boardwalk filed for Chapter 11 (protection from creditors); and The Stompers debut album got lost in the bankruptcy proceedings.
1983 was both one of the roughest and most liberating years for the band. Cooch, a huge backbone to the band’s success, left the band in July. When Sal recruited his East Boston high school buddy, Lenny Shea to replace Cooch, Gilligan recommended an old friend of his, Jeremy Brown, to play piano. Suddenly, The Stompers were a five-piece act with a fuller, “wall-of-sound” rhythm section. The concerts were still blistering without ever being insincere or phony, and word of their rock and roll firepower continued to spread like a wild virus.
Polygram Records “bought” The Stompers deal from Boardwalk in bankruptcy court. The label had big plans for the album, which was re-titled One Heart For Sale, and included a single by the same name. Again, the release kicked-out white hot with great potential. The new/old album was “bubbling under” at #110, followed by the single “One Heart For Sale.” Like the Boardwalk fiasco, the timing of this LP was tainted by bad luck. The week of the release, Polygram, in a typical industry purge, fired their entire promotional staff and plans to support the album were scuppered.
In 1985, the band’s first conceptual music video, “East Side Girl,” was produced and released without major label support. It remained in heavy rotation on many of New England’s TV video channels for well over two months. The Stompers popularity built new momentum. The five-some was expanding to newer territories with great enthusiastic response.
In 1990, Fast Track Records released Unfinished Business, a collection of songs recorded five years earlier, but never released. For the next few years, the Stompers continued to play live shows to enthusiastic crowds, including their first appearance on Boston’s City Hall Plaza.
In the spring of 1994, Greatest Hits…Live was released. To celebrate, the band played a series of summer shows, highlighted by a return engagement on City Hall Plaza in front of 20,000 people. Following these shows, 17 years of playing together had seemingly come to an end. Until……
In the summer of 2000, the Stompers re-united and released Record Album, a 21-song compilation covering the years 1978-1986. They played sell out shows all summer long, giving their fans more of that high-energy rock and roll they had been missing. The Stompers have not recorded since 1986 yet continue to currently sell out shows filled with a multi-generation of fans.
Founder Sal Baglio has released several solo records including Loudah by his new band, The Amplifier Heads, released in November 2019. Sal also is a longtime member of 3 time Grammy Award winner Tom Hambridge’s touring band The Rattlesnakes.
(by David “Max” Segal, Mickey O’Halloran [RIP], Jay Lanney and Dave Doherty)
Published on December 28, 2012