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Thomas McClary's Commodores Experience at Beacon Park, 3 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Thomas McClary isn't part of the Commodores anymore. But he still likes to let people experience the group's music.

So the guitarist -- whose songwriting credits for the band include "Brick House," "Too Hot Ta Trot," "Slippery When Wet" and others -- has formed Thomas McClary's Commodores Experience, playing the hits and more, as well as new material he plans to release later this year. Though McClary left the Commodores back in 1983 he still feels pride in what he did with the band and its music, and he's happy to be sharing it all these years later...

McClary says his goal with the Commodores Experience is to present "the authentic Commodores sound" as well as the kind of high-energy performance the group delivered back in the day. "The response we've been getting all around the world is amazing. Just having a younger version of the Commodores and introducing our new stuff as well, it's just a great show, and we have all ages and all races and all cultures coming out for it. I'm really thankful that (the Commodores) were able to communicate songs that generated the hearts and the souls of people. That's the only way I think it has survived and just stood the test of time."

Formed at Tuskegee Institute (now University) in Alabama during 1968, the Commodores were signed to Motown during 1972, famously opening for the Jackson 5 on its first tour. McClary, 69, says by phone from his current home in Orlando, Fla., it was "really, really cool" to be part of the famed label, which the Commodores remained with through the mid-80s. "You've got to remember how Motown ushered in an era that was historical and gave a platform for African Americans in particular to showcase talent that was unheard of. It was hits after hits. You had Diana Ross, of course, the Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas, the Temptations, the Miracles, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Jackson 5...just a bombardment of hits. To get a record deal, period, was amazing. To get one with Motown? Come on, man -- for us that was unbelievable."

McClary says he'd love to see a reunion of the Commodores key lineup of the late 60s and 70s but with tense relationships between the various parties -- including three founding members who remain in the official band -- he's not holding his breath for that to happen. Lionel Richie and I, we talk all the time. Ronald (LaPread, bassist), Lionel and I did a show in New Orleans and in New Zealand and Australia just to kind of test-drive what the climate was as far as a reunion, and I think a lot of people would like to see it happen. We've got some challenges with a couple of guys, but I like to throw that blanket of love out there and hopefully one day they'll go, 'Y'know what? Maybe we should do this.'"

Thomas McClary's Commodores Experience performs Saturday, Aug. 17, at Beacon Park, Grand River and Cass avenues in Detroit. Admission is free. Festivities start at 6:30 p.m. DTEBeaconPark.com.

Web Site: www.DTEBeaconPark.com

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