Based in New England, Rock Hearts is a band of gifted music veterans that recently charted with the debut single, 99 Year Blues, from the forthcoming album, Starry Southern Nights. The album was produced by Ned Luberecki.
This group has an interesting backstory; a tale woven together by moments of serendipity. Here are just a few chapters of that story.
Alex MacLeod grew up hearing his dad, Sandy MacLeod, talk about all the great New England pickers he picked with in the ’50s and ’60s including Bob French, Sam Tidwell, Bob Tidwell, Dave Dillon, Dr. Richie Brown, Tex Logan, Joe Val, the Lilly Brothers and Don Stover, just to name a few. It was only after Billy Thibodeau filled in on mandolin with Alex’s band that Alex discovered that Sam Tidwell was actually, Sam Thibodeau, Billy’s dad. Their fathers had played together, but Alex and Bill had never met before, despite being active in the regional bluegrass scene. Additionally, the band members eventually discovered that many of the same New England bluegrass pickers frequented Joe Deetz’s home when he was a kid, as Joe’s dad, too, was an accomplished old-time banjo player.
Many years ago, Alex and Grammy-nominated songwriter and 2020 IBMA Mentor of the Year nominee, Rick Lang, became friends and co-wrote God Will Do His Part. Fast forward to the making of Starry Southern Nights, when Joe Deetz reached out to Ned Luberecki, whom he’d known through banjo circles, about possibly producing the album. Subsequently, Ned urged the band to work with Dark Shadow Studio in Middle Tennessee, and the group soon discovered that their friend, Rick Lang, had worked on his own Grammy nominated project at that studio.
Alex doesn’t believe in coincidences. He is, however, certain of the many instances of divine intervention on the road to bringing Rock Hearts together. Their debut album, Starry Southern Nights, will be released later this year.
- grew up as a military brat in places like Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Honolulu, HI. His dad was 32 years active duty in the US Coast Guard.
- has always wanted to write a book; has started several and finished none.
- played collegiate rugby and competed as a collegiate swimmer and diver. He reports that, comparatively, he wasn’t very good, but was in the best shape of his life.
- was a tour bus and school bus driver on Martha’s Vineyard while working as a school counselor.
- takes great pride in his Scottish heritage and visited his ancestral, original home in Kilmorack, Scotland as well as homes the MacLeod made after immigrating to Pictou County, Nove Scotia before coming to the states in the early 1900s. Alex graduated college wearing his family kilt.
- is a huge fan of Italian food and makes homemade pasta most weekends.
- studied Geology in college.
- works for a battery company.
- enjoys taking freezing cold showers.
- plays a fiddle handmade by a friend and Irish fiddler in Providence, RI.
- Admits that the banjo is the one bluegrass instrument he can’t play but the one he’d most like to play.
Billy Thibodeau …
- was a crew chief on the A10 Warthog while serving in the US Air Force.
- performed with the late Dottie West while stationed in Korea.
- grew up in Cambridge, ME, population 500, where at one point there were four active bluegrass bands and two bluegrass festivals in that small town.
- is a graduate of Leadership Bluegrass, Class of 2017.
Joe Deetz …
- had a famous babysitter when he and his siblings were young: Margaret Mead, the famous American cultural anthropologist.
- worked as an instrument repairman between 18-24 years of age at the famous Fifth Chord in the Bay Area; among those for whom he did repairs was Dave Grisman.
- recorded with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.
- has also recorded with Carole King.
- loves to buy and sell antiques.
- was the NY Black Belt Lightweight State Champion in 1990.
- has three children….many people in bluegrass think he only has one: Korey Brodsky (who was a former Youth Bluegrass All-Star with IBMA on guitar who now attends Berklee, majoring in mandolin and touring with April Verch);
- could competently drive a car by the age of 12. (He and Alex joke that at 12, they drove whatever car they could get their hands on, whether the owners knew it or not.)
- worked at the famous Studio 54.
- attended Dry Cleaning School to work and take over the family business before attending college to become a Psychologist.