About Watkins & the Rapiers
We play mostly original music, written by the band’s four songwriters. It’s Americana music, folk music with a beat, exploring many genres, rather than calculating a sound to fit a marketing category.
We had our first performance in January 1996. At the time, we weren’t a band, but friends who took turns hosting a weekly hootenanny / jam session with other musicians. The date, at the Rose & Crown, was arranged by our crowd’s mandolin / fiddle player, but the opportunity came up too quickly, and he was unable to participate. So Scott Regan asked the mandolin / fiddle player from his band, the Water Street Boys, to join us that night. Always up for a musical challenge, Bruce Diamond accepted. He raised us to a new level, and the next thing we knew, we were the bar’s Wednesday night band.
For that first job, bar manager Will Taggert had taken out an ad in advance, before he knew who would perform. He called the band Watkins and the Rapiers, the name of his own band from his teenage years in England. (The name derived from an inexpensive electric guitar from the 1960s, the Watkins Rapier.) We didn’t have a name and figured taking on the bar owner’s choice was good politics. And that’s how we became Watkins & the Rapiers.
A few months into the gig, Bruce invited his old band mate, drummer Marty York, to sit in. Soon he was a regular, and our original six-member lineup was in place. We played about a year of Wednesday nights before we had a practice. It was fun, like bowling night, Bruce noted. We played a wide-ranging repertoire, including many original songs along with covers by the likes of Donovan, Steve Earle, Roger Miller, the Morells, John Prine, Jonathan Richman and the Troggs.
We began to practice only after we decided to record a CD of some of our original songs. That CD, Play Along with Watkins & the Rapiers, was recorded and released in 1997.
By 1999, accordionist/guitarist/songwriter Rob Goodwin was preparing to move to Bozeman, Mont. To capture more of our growing repertoire, we recorded our second CD, Whatever Happened to Watkins & the Rapiers.
What happened was that we eventually took a hiatus, and reformed in 2002, performing at pubs and coffeehouses in the Rochester area. We built a new repertoire, and in 2006, returned to the studio to record about two dozen songs, half of which are on our third CD, It’s Christmas, Baby!, released in 2006. The rest of the material will come out soon.
In 2007, we added full-time members: Steve Piper, a singer-songwriter who plays guitar with the band, and Rick McRae on trombone and keyboards. You can see video clips of the band in this format at wxxi.org/onstage/Watkinsmedia.html.
Band Member Bios
Tom Whitmore (bass, guitar, mandolin and vocals) — One of the band's three songwriters, “Whit” has performed for more than a quarter century, including a stint as lead guitarist with the Syracuse-based quartet, the Sputniks, which included two other Regan brothers, Phil and Craig. Has an excellent repertoire of campfire sing-alongs. Day job: telecommunications executive.
Scott Regan (guitar, percussion and vocals) — The older of the two Regan brothers is another of the band’s songwriters. He was a finalist in the Rounder Records songwriter contest, circa 1991. Co-founder with Colorblind James of the Water Street Boys, an Upstate New York jug band that has been active for more than two decades. Also performs solo. Has recorded two other CDs, one solo, the other with the Water Street Boys. Day job: radio disc jockey.
Kerry Regan (bass, guitar, harmonica and vocals) — Another of the band's songwriters, he has played in rock and bluegrass bands and solo in New York City and Upstate New York. Featured Saturday night performer at the “Toy Bar” in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in late 1980s. Led the Electric Mudpies, who received radio airplay in major markets in 1991. Once interviewed Bobby Goldsboro about his use of a portable fax machine. Day job: marketing and public relations writer.
Bruce Diamond (mandolin, fiddle, bass, keyboards and vocals) — One of the band’s main soloists, he also contributes to many song arrangements. Bruce has toured with the New Dylans (Red House recording artists), jammed with Walter Cronkite and played with countless other bands while living in Rochester, Boston, Martha's Vineyard and the New York-Connecticut area. He’s currently also a member of the Flipsiders. Day job: music instrument dealer and musician.
Marty York (drums, percussion, washboard and vocals) — A 20-plus-year veteran of the Rochester music scene, Marty has played in dozens of bands over the years. His earliest performances included lip-synching to Alvin and the Chipmunks as a seven-year old and playing drums on Roger Miller songs at a sixth grade spaghetti dinner. Marty says his career highlight was meeting Ed Begley, Jr., Spinal Tap’s original drummer. Day job: dental lab manager.
Steve Piper (guitar, clarinet and vocals) — Steve Piper is a songwriter and performer who has two solo CDs. His style is roughly in the folk/country tradition, but he also loves Mozart, Stravinsky, Satie, John Coltrane, Hank Williams, Sandy Denny, Miles Davis, Merle Haggard, Capt. Beefheart, Johnny Hartman, those Texas people like Townes Van Zandt, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Guy Clark, Al Strehi and others. He also photographs and draws. Day job: photographer. Photography Web site: www.gelfandpiper.com/ Solo musician Web site: www.stevepipermusic.com/
Rick McRae (trombone, keyboards) — Rick's escapades with the trombone have been multifaceted. He has performed in blues, rock, orchestral, chamber, salsa, klezmer, African-based, and experimental ensembles. He has recorded and performed with They Might Be Giants, and bands devoted to the music of Frank Zappa, Sun Ra and John Zorn. Once he played 2 gigs on the same day-- in New York City and Toronto. And he has also played trombone while neck deep in a Maine lake. In addition to Watkins, Rick also plays with the Outer Circle Orchestra, BioCentrics, and whoever wants him to sit in during open mic night at the Flipside Bar & Grill. Day job: music librarian.