Peter Newland looks pretty buttoned-up these days, except for the small diamond stud earring he wears. Yet he’s transformed when he takes out his guitar and sings, sounding like the rock musician he was and, at age 63, still is despite his day job in sales.
Newland founded the Springfield-based rock band Fat in 1968. A Valley favorite, the band played locally and toured with Grand Funk Railroad, Little Richard, Bonnie and Delaney, Johnny Walter and Robin Trower. After the success of its first album, “Fat,” the band toured as the opening act for the Allman Brothers.
Newland’s goals have changed since then.
Now, he wants to use his music to help support efforts that address hunger, violence prevention and education in the inner city. “I love Springfield and always have because that’s where my band was born. Springfield has always embraced me, in victory and defeat,” he says.
|I have a new quest: to use my music for the renaissance of the city.|
He is organizing a concert, “Fat’s Jam 4 Springfield,” scheduled for 8 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Paramount Theater. Most of the members of Fat will join The James Montgomery Band and NRBQ’s The Spampinato Brothers in a benefit for Springfield’s Open Pantry.
Newland sang and reminisced about his song “Heroes,” which he wrote for the soundtrack of a locally-produced movie. “It’s about what we went through in the 60s, the dreams and goals and plans we had,” he says.
In the song, he asks, “How can dreams die so?” The dream was for the band to become famous. It took years for him to come to terms with the idea that fame was not in store.
“I have a new quest: to use my music for the renaissance of the city,” he says. And as he sings, “My dreams they may be humble but they still shine.”
Fat – guitarists Michael Benson and Jim Kaminski, bassist Guy DeVito, drummer William Benjamin and vocalist and songwriter Newland – met at Holyoke Community College. After their debut album, “Fat,” was released by RCA in 1970, the group performed at Madison Square Garden, The Capital Theatres and the Strawberry Fields Festival.
RCA did not pick up their option for a second album, but FAT continued to enjoy regional popularity in Springfield, Boston and the Berkshires. They formed an Indie label, Dream Merchant Records, and produced their second album, “Footloose.” After that, FAT recorded an album for Atlantic Records, but the album was never released.
In the mid 1970s, Kaminisky left and was replaced by Christopher Newland on guitar, and William Benjamin was replaced on drums by William Perry.
Newland disbanded the group in 1985.
“It was a difficult period,” he says.
He went on a musical odyssey from New York to Los Angeles to Mississippi to New Orleans, settling in Nashville, where he lived and wrote for several years. To help pay the bills, he got a job in sales at Dell Computers in Nashville.
A Monson native, he wanted to return to Western Massachusetts. He now lives in Sixteen Acres with his wife, Sandra, and works in sales at Catuogno Court Reporting and StenTel Transcription Services at One Monarch Place.
For Newland, his passion for music is still very much alive. Now he’s found a way to leverage his passion for the good of the community.
Tickets for the Paramount Theater benefit are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. They are available at www.jam4springfield.com or by calling 877-725-8849.
Ronni Gordon | http://runnerwrites.blogspot.com/
Photos from the Fat archives