By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Singer, songwriter and musician Tim Mello of Marlborough is back in his comfort zone, performing his compositions and cover songs for an appreciative audience. Family, friends and fans joined him March 25 when he performed at Sorentos Italian Gourmet in downtown Marlborough to celebrate his 50th birthday, which occurred two days later.
“It was a wonderful turnout and great having my family there,” he said. “I feel a lot better now at 50 than when I turned 30.”
Perhaps he inherited the passion for music from his grandfather, a trumpeter in the 1950s at Boston hotels with big bands and entertainment legends such as Jimmy Durante. For a young Mello, his first instrument of choice was drums.
“I developed a big interest in music in the early ‘80s,” he recalled. “I wanted to be a drummer in grade school. In eighth grade, I got into a local band called Fugitive.”
Mello continued performing with Fugitive as its lead singer while attending Marlborough High School, where he graduated in 1985. He soon began songwriting and learned to play guitar, so the band got another drummer. Along the way, he was nicknamed Captain Mello.
Fugitive appeared regularly at local venues including Roller Kingdom in Hudson, and competed in Battle of the Bands at Kelleher Field in Marlborough. They’d occasionally venture to Worcester for a gig at Ralph’s Rock Diner.
“I was underage, but everything was so different back then,” Mello noted. “Marlborough and Hudson were partying, rock-and-roll towns in the ‘80s. We were fortunate to be young guys into music then. That was really my heyday musically.”
Mello cherishes fond memories of the band’s most popular performing venue: his family’s home. He grew up at Mello Lane Turkey Farm, which operated as a business for over 50 years from the 1940s through 1990s. The farm was also where Mello developed his songwriting skills.
“All the kids in town would come to the turkey farm and hear us practice,” he relayed. “I wrote a lot of songs with my acoustic guitar on the farm. I’ve always been very into the blues and the Rolling Stones. Loving the blues probably stems from my grandfather playing trumpet. The Stones always had the honkytonk piano and horns with catchy riffs. I have a similar voice to Mick Jagger and songwriting style of John Lennon.”
Mello acknowledges that his entertainment idols might have influenced him more than musically.
“As a young guy I was trying to emulate not only the music, but the lifestyle,” he shared. “I ended up drinking a lot in my early 20s and it eventually caught up to me. For a long time I quit playing music because of the excesses. I was pretty close to dying from this disease. As I got older, the music again became more important than the lifestyle. Now, I’m five years sober.”
After studying at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting in 1989, Mello produced radio talk shows for several years. He’s now interested in returning to radio work, this time possibly involving blues music.
“I’ve lived a pretty colorful life and I’m really happy now,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes. Now, life is a lot better.”
Mello is also hopeful to book gigs at more venues where he feels comfortable such as Sorentos. There, he was joined at his recent birthday show by a special guest guitarist: his son Justin, 14.
“Justin loves music, particularly Led Zeppelin,” Mello said. “But Justin told me, ‘I’ll play the Rolling Stones for you, Dad.’ To be part of his life is amazing.”
Mello will perform Saturday, May 20, 8 p.m., at Sorentos Italian Gourmet, 128 Main St. in Marlborough.