Shelter Family Band brings originals, cover tunes to fundraiser

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FAIRFIELD — Five hours of music is on tap this weekend as a bevy of musicians gathers at BackRoad Vines to raise funds for Shelter Inc.

Among them is John Eckstrom, chief executive officer of Shelter Inc., who studied classical double bass – the big one in orchestras – with the assistant principal bassist of the San Francisco Symphony for several years, and went on to performing jazz seven nights a week throughout college.

“Income was limited and I became a software engineer for several years and then a management consultant for Fortune 500 companies,” Eckstrom shared in an email.

“I continue to play in orchestras, jazz clubs, and rock and blues,” he wrote.

“While consulting for two years with DHL in London, I was fortunate enough to play viola in the best semi-professional orchestra at the renowned Queen Elizabeth Hall. I continue to play as much as possible when not serving the homeless in my role as CEO of Shelter Inc.”

The Shelter Family Band is a collective of eclectic semiprofessional musicians. All are accomplished jazz musicians but enjoy playing the best of rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, funk and even country.

Members include Eckstrom on electric bass, who has played private events with Steve Miller, Narada Michal Walden and others. He’s performed for government officials such as London Breed, Willie Brown, Dianne Feinstein, George Schultz and others.

Direct from Hawaii is Harold “The Heartbeat” Ohashi on drums; Russ “Lawman” (he’s an attorney) on keys; Russ “Smokey” Peterson (a firefighter) on vocals; Jim Semitekol on guitar; and Jeff “Jeffo” O’Sammon on vocals and guitar, who played with the late great bassist Jaco Pastorius.

Also performing with the group is Paul Smith on vocals (aka Mr. Energy); Eddy Oser on vocals and guitar, he’s recently released some singles with his band Sweet Undertow; James “Mr. Country” Havercamp on vocals and guitar (he’s a recovering attorney); Bob Reyen and Tim Maezell on trumpets; Steve Dambrosio, Marty Izenson and Michael Reich on saxophones; and Peter Fetterolf on trombone.

“All of these players have been playing throughout the Bay Area for decades,” said Julie Clemens, director of development for Shelter Inc. 

Eckstrom said many of the band’s songs could be considered signature tunes.

“If I had to pick one, it would be the first song we will play, ‘What is Hip’ by Tower of Power,” he shared in his email.

There will also be selected songs from Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Van Morrison, Everly Brothers, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and others.

The audience will also hear some songs recently released by the band Sweet Undertow, such as “Skeletone Machine” and “Riding On Into The Light,” which can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp and YouTube.

The band first appeared at a 2018 fundraiser.

“All the musicians share our concern with the homeless in our community and frequently donate their time to help get the word out through music about how we can help the most vulnerable people in our community,” Eckstrom shared in an email.

It’s an important fundraiser, Eckstrom said.

“Shelter, Inc. does several “fundraising” and “friend-raising” events each year. We hope this fun musical event raises the awareness of the plight of many of our neighbors and those impacted by mental illness, and of course, raises needed funds to help those most in need,” he wrote in an email.

Shelter Inc. Family Band

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