By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
East Boston/Marlborough – Music is amplified in the DNA of singer-songwriter and guitarist Sal Baglio, an East Boston native now residing in Marlborough.
With a strong following since the 1970s to ‘80s in Boston’s music scene as The Stompers’ frontman, he and the rock-‘n’-roll band are enjoying a second wave of popularity. Concurrently, he’s performing and recording his original music.
“The first memories that I have are of music,” Baglio shared.
A 9-year-old Baglio would rush home from school to hear the “Beach Boys Concert” album. After receiving a four-track tape recorder as a Christmas gift, he began composing songs at age 12. He was impressed when his older brother attended The Beatles’ 1969 concert at their hometown of East Boston’s Suffolk Downs.
“Once The Beatles hit, I’d walk up and down the streets, and in every cellar there was a band playing,” Baglio recalled. “In junior high and high school, I played with different bands around town.”
After graduating from high school in 1974, he learned the music business while working on the road with top-40 bands. He also learned about Boston nightspots where bands performed original music.
Baglio and drummer Mark Cuccinello formed The Stompers in 1977 with bassist Stephen Gilligan and keyboardist Dave Friedman. Soon afterward, they worked regularly at Boston-area colleges and clubs as well as Hampton Beach, N.H.’s Club Casino (now known as Casino Ballroom).
The Stompers’ radio airplay began in 1978 with their debut single, “Coast to Coast.”
Following stints as opening act, they performed their first headlining gig in 1979 at Paradise Theater (now known as Paradise Rock Club). The Boston Globe raved, “Baglio is a guileless straight-talker with an authentic soul for rock ‘n’ roll. He plays with an urgency reminiscent of the very best from Little Richard to Bruce Springsteen, and he has to be one of the most exciting emerging talents in the area.”
While appearing at Paradise twice yearly, The Stompers performed every two months at The Channel.
“The Channel was a huge, cavernous club,” Baglio explained. “Playing there Saturday nights to 1,700-plus people going crazy made for a fun time.”
Opening for the J. Geils Band’s 1980 holiday tour, The Stompers rocked New England arenas.
Between local gigs throughout the 1980s, The Stompers periodically toured with the Beach Boys. One concert culminated with Baglio accepting Carl Wilson’s invitation to join him singing “Barbara Ann.”
“A highlight of my career was Carl asking me to come up onstage with him during an encore,” Baglio recounted. “It was a rock-‘n’-roll fantasy come true!”
When Cuccinello left The Stompers in 1983, the band recruited drummer Lenny Shea and pianist Jeremy Brown. (Current drummer is Dave Fox.)
Boston Globe readers voted The Stompers #1 band in New England three times from 1981 to ’86 and in the top three the other years.
Since the late-1990s, they resumed a more frequent performance schedule after a friend of Baglio’s made him aware of a Stompers’ album selling for $60 on eBay. Additionally, the band’s songs are featured on the movie soundtracks of Adam Sandler’s “Grown Ups” (2010) and “Grown Ups 2” (2013).
Performing original music solo as The Amplifier Heads, Baglio released the CD “Loudah” in November 2019, and a three-song EP “The Man with the Sun for a Head” in June 2020.
“It’s solo material, but I use ‘The Amplifier Heads’ name because I like to present as a band,” he explained. “I usually have a drummer, occasionally a bass player, and different musicians here and there.”
The Amplifier Heads’ shows in Liverpool this past May were canceled due to COVID-19. Likewise, some Stompers’ gigs got rescheduled. Baglio appreciates entertaining their longtime fans.
“There are people who bring their kids to our shows – and in some cases, their grandkids,” he said. “The band represents to its audience a period of time that they want to remember.”