The enduring legacy of Carl Saldutti, Lansdale's Music Man
By Bruce Schwartz
Editor, Discover Lansdale Magazine
From the Spring 2019 Issue
How do you honor a man whose handiwork can be seen in every tree of every Lansdale park, and heard in every note played on nearly every Borough stage?
As a start, you dedicate the summer concert series, his labor of love, to his memory.
Lansdale Borough is still considering how permanently to honor Carl Saldutti, who served Lansdale for nearly half a century and led the borough’s Parks & Recreation Department for decades. But the first step will be the dedication of 2019’s Whites Road Park Concert Series in his name, with a lineup of his favorite performers over the years.
That annual music festival, says Mary Fuller, who chairs Borough Council’s Parks & Rec Committee, was Carl’s creation, pride and joy.
“He built that up,” says Fuller (who also is president of Discover Lansdale). “He put his heart and soul into picking what he thought was the right balance of talent, and he loved bringing that to the people of Lansdale.”
Carl W. Saldutti was born in Philadelphia in 1949, but grew up in Lansdale surrounded a family with deep roots in the borough. He started working for Lansdale as a teenager, and the relationship blossomed from there. He was presented with Lansdale’s Lifetime Achievement Award in its second year, 2013; he died Oct. 20, 2018, after a short illness, at age 69.
Not just performances, but Lansdale’s entire parks system was under Saldutti’s trust, and he tended it as if it were his own garden, helping it blossom with love and care. “You can’t go into a park and not think about Carl,” says Fuller. “He had a strong passion for what he did and how he felt about the parks, what he wanted them to look like, and how his whole team operated to make the park system the best it could be.”
But the Whites Road Concert Series was a singular achievement. Now in its 37th year, the concerts feature some of the most talented artists in the area and well beyond. He vetted every act personally, and became friends with many.
“I think you will find, in speaking to band members, how well he treated them and what a good give and take they had. He knew what he was doing. He loved that series – to the point that, even on his vacation weeks, he would drive home from Cape May to see the concerts,” Fuller says.
Indeed, his most beloved bands unanimously return the sentiment. Just read the tributes on this page, submitted via email to Discover Lansdale Magazine. Then, in honor of the man and the music, come by Whites Road Park often this season to enjoy some of Carl Saldutti's favorite performers.
A Salute to Saldutti: The 2019 Concert Series at Whites Road Park
400 Whites Road, Lansdale; Tuesdays at 7 p.m.
May 28: North Penn High School Jazz Ensembles. Come out and support the students of NPHS as they perform their last concert of the school year. North Penn High School Jazz Bands will be performing music from their season, as well as standard and popular big band tunes.
June 4: Montgomery County Concert Band. Made up of very talented volunteer musicians, this fabulous 65-piece concert band, directed by Charles Neidhardt, has been entertaining tri-county audiences since 1995. Highly regarded on the community concert scene and beyond, they perform an exciting variety of band music from marches, pops, show tunes to semi-classical and classical selections.
June 11: Mike Guldin and Rollin' & Tumblin'. Known for their powerful vocals, creative harmonies and tight arrangements, they are self-described as a straight-ahead, roadhouse, honky-tonk, lay-it-down-and-groove-it-out band and remains one of the Philadelphia area’s most popular and seasoned blues band.
June 18: Cabin Dogs. Based outside of Philadelphia, this seven-piece band blends original American country roots with ‘70s grooves. “Inventive,” “rollicking,” “timeless” and “magical” have described the band’s music. Performing festivals, small and large venues on the East Coast, they have released five full length albums including their latest 2018 release, Mountain Sun.
June 25: Billy Bauer Band. The Billy Bauer Band is a four-piece, Bethlehem-based acoustic rock band founded in 2006. Performing at some of the most prestigious venues and festivals in America, they have built their fan base through years by touring and great live performances. They have opened for top Billboard artists inclduding Third Eye Blind, Blues Traveler, Uncle Cracker, and others.
July 2: RGM Project. This 10-piece contemporary blues/jazz/funk fusion band was formed from a collaborative recording project back in 2009. The band is made up of some of the area’s top musicians including a full horn section. The band features all original compositions.
July 9: Eastern Hellbenders. The Eastern Hellbenders are a group of seasoned musicians influenced by the popular, alternative/classic rock bands that dominate the radio today, as well as the hits of the past. You'll hear some of the greatest music recorded in the last 40 years during their energetic sets, from artists such as Amy Winehouse, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pearl Jam, The Lumineers, Florence & the Machine and more! The band plays regularly in the Tri-State area at venues including clubs, festivals & special events.
July 16: JD Malone & The Experts. This five-piece band performs music that has been dubbed a muscular hybrid of Americana, indie rock, and folk. Malone’s visionary songwriting and strong vocals are complimented by a band of well-respected, seasoned musicians aptly named "The Experts." Their performances are high energy, thought provoking, and downright full of energy.
July 23: Eric Mintel Quartet. Pianist and composer Eric Mintel returns to the amphitheater with his ensemble of professional musicians. The group performs original compositions and new interpretations of the American songbook.
July 30: Incendio. Simply put, Incendio's music is Latin/World Guitar. Based in Los Angeles, their rich textured music is an eclectic blend of influences ranging from classical, jazz to rock, flamenco to Celtic and even a touch of bluegrass.
August 6: Craig Thatcher Band. With both worldwide recognition and a slew of Lehigh Valley Music Awards, the Craig Thatcher Band has been entertaining audiences with their exciting brand of blues/rock music since 1993. With unlimited on-stage energy and explosive confidence, they are a must-see-live performance band.
August 13: Dibbs & The Detonators. Led by Stephen Dibbs Preston, Dibbs and the Detonators has played all over the U.S. both as an opening act for the Brian Setzer Orchestra and as club headliners. The group plays a choice blend of rockabilly, classic country, and out-and-out-rockers with an explosive style that keeps fans dancing and partying.
August 20: The Mighty Manatees. An area favorite and a longtime staple on the regional music scene, Will Hodgson leads a band of professional musicians as they perform a mix of reggae, urban blues, and rock.
(Funded by Project Stream, a grant initiative of the Pennsylvania on the Arts regionally administered by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance)
Tributes to Carl
FROM "CARL'S FRIENDS IN INCENDIO -- JIM, LIZA, TIM AND JP":
"Musicians are an interesting lot. If we are touring professionally, at whatever level, every new venue is a new office, a new workplace. New co-workers (tech crew, audience), new desk (stage, acoustics, lighting). You plunk yourself down in often unfamiliar territory to run through your artistic endeavors with different sound, lighting, and reaction every night. Sometimes, a promoter is just a quick CEO: they quickly bark orders, you barely get to see them - they jump in their sports car and speed away. But sometimes, rarely, that promoter is hands-on. He or she knows where the light switches are, how to make bang the top of the coffee maker just right to get the thing working. This person does this because they are a freak - they actually CARE about the band, care about the audience, care about the presentation.
"Carl Saldutti was such a person. And as a performer, you hope to get a handful of these type of series programmers in your life.
"He paid attention to every detail, and always made sure we were well taken care of. Always warm, always accommodating, and always concerned with our experience, the audience’s experience, making sure cd purchases were accessible. It is attention to these small details that help make a band’s schedule a little more fulfilling and a little less exhausting. It counts A LOT - Carl cared, loved his work, and made this series happen because he loved this community and this venue. We loved him. He will be missed.
"This picture is from the Blue Dog Pub a few years ago (courtesy of Kathy & Victor Tarassov, who attended several White’s Road shows). We had a great time hanging out, despite the fact that Carl “had things to do” (check out that “I-gotta-get-outta-here-and-work” look).
FROM BETHANNE REID AND BERNIE KLEMMER OF RGM PROJECT:
"We met Carl Saldutti in 2010 -- sent him our music and promo materials trying to get on the bill for the Lansdale White's Road Park Summer Concert Series. From the moment we first spoke to Carl, his unique genuine nature was there. Unlike many people in this business, Carl treated the musicians with love and respect. He was almost apologetic that first year when he didn't have a spot for us. But we were thrilled the following year when he booked RGM Project as part of the series in 2011. We were lucky enough to be invited back a number of times since then, and now looking back, especially blessed to perform for him this past June 2018 - never in a million years thinking it would be last time we'd see him.
"Carl was, truly, one of a kind. His support of local musicians – and especially RGM Project – was unparalleled. He "got us" and what we were trying to do. We perform all original compositions with a 10-piece band with full horn section. It's not an easy task, but Carl showed his support in many ways. He not only invited us back to Lansdale whenever possible (he was very sensitive about trying to give as many musicians as possible a chance), but he would show up at many of our other gigs -- all over the Tri-County area. It was awesome to be in the middle of a concert, look out into the crowd and see him with that amazing smile and those beautiful blue eyes.
"It was truly an honor to have known and worked with him, and we have no doubt he is up in the Heavens booking gigs with all the Angels. We thank Joanne Grubb for allowing us to play for him again this Summer 2019.
"To honor Carl, RGM Project will be releasing a live CD especially for the concert - RGM Project "Live at White's Road" -- this will be a compilation of live recordings done over the years there with Carl (recorded by Mike Lightkep). This live project was in the works prior to Carl passing and now appropriately it will dedicated to his memory."
FROM CRAIG THATCHER:
"Carl was a "salt of the earth" kind of guy, which is indeed a rare breed these days. I/we always appreciated working with him re: the White's Road Park events; He was very fair and honest and very kind to us. He seemed genuinely very proud of the amphitheatre – it's a really lovely venue to perform in I gave him comp tix to several of our shows at ArtsQuest/Musikfest Cafe and he was always grateful. We were all extremely shocked/saddened by his untimely passing."
FROM MIKE GULDIN AND ROLLIN' & TUMBLIN':
"We performed numerous times for Carl and The Lansdale Concert Series over the years. Carl was such a genuine music lover and staunch supporter. His in-depth knowledge of each performer was evident in his band and artist introductions, always delving into the artists' past achievements and releases as well as upcoming marquee performances and projects.
"I’ve known Carl since the old days when Whites Road Park still had the Ice Skating Rink in the 70’s. Our drummer Matt McNally and Carl were skate guards there together. Every couple of years Carl would call me and say, 'It’s time to have you and The Tumblers perform back in our home town again.' Sadly, I will miss receiving those calls. I am hopeful Lansdale Borough makes the honorable gesture and dedicates the Whites Road Amphitheater to Carl Saldutti. He really was Lansdale’s Steward! RIP Ole Friend!"
FROM ERIC MINTEL:
"Whenever Carl would call me to book my group for the either Whites Road concert series or our Charlie Brown Christmas concert at Penndale Middle School it’s wouldn’t be just a business call, he would always ask how I was doing. Every time I talked to Carl he was always filled with energy. He really loved my jazz quartet and came to see us play on a few occasions. I mentioned to Carl at the last Whites Road concert we did last year that it was my 19th year playing for him. It’s a testament to not only a great series that Carl was passionate about but a testament to the man whom I enjoyed working with over the years. He is sadly missed by all of us in the Eric Mintel Quartet."
FROM CHUCK NEIDHARDT, DIRECTOR, MONTGOMERY COUNTY CONCERT BAND:
"I came to know Carl when Steve Frederick and I spoke with him about having the Montgomery County Concert Band be included in the White's Road Concert Series in 1995. I remember that Carl was quite interested in this idea and was excited to include us immediately. He realized that having a local community band as part of the series was good publicity for Lansdale and also for the band.
"When Carl passed away I told the band that if it hadn't been for him we might not have gotten off the ground. Carl's support was a major factor for our long-term success. I also remember a conversation I had with Carl last June after we played at Whites Road but got rained out half way through. I told Carl how much we appreciated his support over the years and that we knew it was summer when we played our White's Road concert. He told me that as long as he was Parks & Rec supervisor we would always have an invitation to play at Whites Road, and that meant a lot to me hearing it from him.
"Almost 20 years ago Steve and I also went to Carl with another proposal, to have a TubaChristmas concert in Lansdale. We explained to him as best as we could how TubaChristmas worked, the reason for it and how successful it had become around the country. Carl was excited about it immediately and agreed to take it to the Borough Council and the Mayor. Since that time TubaChristmas has now become a tradition in Lansdale, and Carl told me he would never want tot see it end and he loved putting together the entire celebration that Lansdale now enjoys on the first weekend of December.
"I can tell you that our Whites Road concert and our 20th annual TubaChristmas this year just won't be the same without Carl, and the Montgomery County Concert Band will miss him."