The Historic State Theatre of Boyertown is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a summer concert series, including several local sponsored musicians.
One of the musical groups chosen to perform at the end of the summer is Jim Meck and the Guide Dogs, a Topton-based band. The band is aptly and recently re-named, because Meck is legally blind. He was diagnosed at age 14 with Retinitis Pigmentosa, which will lead to eventual blindness. As of now, his vision is extremely impaired and he walks with a cane. However, this diagnosis did nothing but motivate him to succeed in music and do anything to make it work.
“Oh boy, where did I get started?” Meck said with a laugh. The Topton native was drawn to music from a very early age, starting with piano at age 4. He began performing in restaurants at age 18. For 14 years, he was a regular performer at the Topton House, now known as the White Palm Tavern. He played there solo this past Friday night, entertaining the small bar with the songs of Billy Joel, Elton John, Jack Johnson, and various other artists. He included a few of his original songs in his set, as well. “When I sit down at the piano , I’m still not sure what I’m going to start with.” Meck said he usually feels the crowd and lives for requests. There is no set song list for the night. “I probably have over 300 songs memorized in my head,” he said, because he is no longer able to read the sheet music.
Music was more of a hobby until 2008, when he turned it into his full-time job. Since then, he has performed at dozens of venues, including local establishments such as The Bridge Inn, Golden Oaks and the Speckled Hen. He has also played at the Cotton Club in Harlem, N.Y., with the Cotton Club All-Stars, and written a theme song for “Hockey This Morning” on XM Radio in Canada. He has done most of his work on his own, but loves collaborating with his band for certain events. The Guide Dogs are not always the same three band members playing at every gig, however. Meck finds it difficult to meet musicians with schedules flexible enough to schedule several events per week. “It makes rehearsals difficult with everyone having different responsibilities,” he explained. The Guide Dogs usually include Meck on vocals and piano, Jonathan Quier on drums, and Glenn Hofman playing the sax or trumpet.
Kevin Rhude, the owner of the Boyertown State Theatre, said Meck’s enthusiasm and passion drew him to the musician.
“He is passionate,” Rhude said. “His talent speaks volumes.”
Rhude contacted Meck to perform in the concert series, and says Meck was enthusiastic to participate. The 5-piece band performing at the State Theatre will be performing many original songs, in hopes of promoting Meck’s first album, which will be released this August. His original music mostly falls under the classic rock category. The show at the State Theatre will be more of a concert and show, much different than his regular barroom work. He hopes that the show will promote his album and get him some more exposure, because a lot of his business comes from word of mouth and social media.
“It’s a neat little town,” he said, excited to play in Boyertown.
Rhude also noted that the Theatre is looking to expand the summer concert series. The series will include not only music, but theater and children’s entertainment. Also, ticketholders to the events will likely get a discount for the sponsoring restaurant or business. The Bridge Inn will sponsor Meck’s performance.
Jim Meck and the Guide Dogs will be performing in Boyertown on Friday, Sept.13 at 7 p.m. His band will include his regular sax and drum players, along with guitarist Jeff Lambert and bassist Terry Bollinger.
Tickets are $10 when purchased in advance or $15 at the door. Tickets can be purchased every evening at the Theatre from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For any questions or interest in participating in the summer concert series, contact Kevin Rhude at (484) 614-0111 or visit www.statetheatreboyertown.com. A list of Meck’s other events and performances, along with contact information, can be viewed on his website, www.jimmeck.com.