By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Larry Bastien served for 37 years as chief dispatcher with the Marlborough police and fire departments. When he retired Aug. 10, 2016, residents commented on the Marlborough Police Department’s (MPD) Facebook page that they’ll miss hearing his calm, deep voice on the scanner.
Now, audiences will be able to hear him sing as frontman of Larry Bee & the Buzz. The band will officially debut Friday, June 30, 9 p.m., at Speakers Night Club, 19 Weed St. in Marlborough.
An invitation was extended to the public via a Facebook event page: “Come celebrate Larry Bastien’s rock ‘n’ roll rebirth as he leaves the world of 911 dispatching. Larry has assembled a fantastic lineup of likeminded musicians to form Larry Bee & the Buzz. All you in ‘scanner-land’ recall the sweet baritone of Larry’s voice. Come hear that voice redirected into the full fusion of an early Eric Burdon-esque cornucopia of sound.”
“I’ve always had an interest in music,” Bastien shared. “Even as a young child, driving along on Sunday afternoons with the family and listening to ‘50s tunes on AM radio.”
In 1979, Bastien began working at the former Central Fire Station at 91 Main St., now occupied by the business known as the Vin Bin. In 1992, the city’s Public Safety Communications Center became based at the MPD, 355 Bolton St., where Bastien worked until his retirement.
“There was a personal self-satisfaction knowing that a steady hand is on the tiller,” he said. “I knew how to allocate resources so that we could try to minimize the loss of life and property, and protect the citizens of Marlborough. I had a lot of fun with co-workers and the public, but the fun got put off to the side when it was time to work. Then, you’re dealing with people’s lives.”
While still on the job two years ago, Bastien started musically collaborating with Mickey Grasso, then an emergency medical technician and firefighter with the Marlborough Fire Department. Grasso worked his last shift Jan. 18, 2017, after serving with the department for 43 years. He’s continuing his 10th year as lead guitarist and backup vocalist with The Missy Maxfield Project.
“Mickey and I got together and recorded a couple of old songs that we like,” Bastien relayed. “We thought they came out really well.”
From there, they recruited more bandmates including former Marlborough fire alarm operator Tom Brodeur on drums. In 2010, Brodeur competed with Pete Dale & The Dealmakers and was named Best Drummer at the 10th annual Fortune Battle of the Corporate Bands, presented by the National Association of Music Merchants and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Bass guitarist Mike Ferro brings to the Buzz his skills acquired while performing with a number of local bands. Paul Izzo is keyboardist for the Buzz, as well as for the Woodstock tribute band LoveFest.
“Everyone in our band has a vast wealth of wealth of rock-and-roll knowledge because we actually lived it,” Bastien noted. “We’re all in that age group when lots of high school boys in the 1960s were in a band. We’ve got powerful inspiration from doing this before.”
First responders are also represented in the upcoming gig’s opening act. Angry Tony & the HomeWreckers features Environmental Police Captain Anthony Abdal-Khabir on harmonica, and Officer Pat Hogan of MPD on rhythm guitar and vocals, along with Billy Claire on lead guitar and vocals, and Mark Johnson on drums. Claire and Johnson are also known as bandmates of The Allens.
Bastien noted that among his musical inspirations of yesteryear are The Animals, Elvis Presley, The Rascals and The Rolling Stones.
“Our band’s song list is culled from our own personal experiences,” he said. “We’ve got some rock-and-roll nuggets that will take people on a nostalgic ride.”