Philly musicians find their groove with Uosikkinen's In the Pocket

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The Hooters founding drummer David Uosikkinen (background, right) along with bass player Buddy Cash continues his "In the Pocket" project that assembles iconic Philly rockers to play and videotape iconic Philly rock hits.

Deep in the underground control room of Studio 4 Recording on Conshohocken's main drag, drummer David Uosikkinen, a founding member of the Hooters, listened to a track he and his In the Pocket pickup band of top-tier Philly rockers had just recorded. He closed his eyes blissfully and air-drummed with both hands, living his dream.

The song was Philly hair band Cinderella's 1991 single, "Shelter Me," an infectious rocker with a strong Rolling Stones-style hook. Phil Nicolo, the studio's owner/producer, sat at the mixing board, watching Uosikkinen's reverie, knowing his friend of 40 years was pleased with the track.

Six years and 15 songs ago, Uosikkinen and his girlfriend, publicist Dallyn Pavey, conceived the In the Pocket side project to revitalize memorable Philly rock songs with veteran Philly musicians, record them while BlueWire Media producer/director Steve Acito shot documentary video for online viewing, then perform them live in local clubs.

In the Pocket will present "Shelter Me" at its Ardmore Music Hall concert on Saturday night, featuring Uosikkinen's Hooters bandmates Eric Bazilian and Fran Smith Jr.; Richard Bush from the A's; Kenn Kweder and Tommy Conwell from the Young Rumblers; Charlie and Richie Ingui from the Soul Survivors; Jeffrey Gaines; and a bunch more.

"When I first started recording music, bands would actually create in the studio," Uosikkinen, who still drums for the Hooters, said as Nicolo smiled and nodded. "I really missed that."

Uosikkinen, 60, who has been drumming since he was a teenager, is still such an infectiously joyful rock-and-roll spirit he has no trouble surfing the same wavelength as "Shelter Me" lead singer Joey DiTullio, 18, whose cascading waterfall of long, curly hair and rough-edged, love-shriek vocals seem to be channeling the young Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."

Keyboardist Andrew Lipke, a member of the Led Zeppelin tribute band Get the Led Out and no stranger to long hair, watched DiTullio whip his locks around during a no-holds-barred emotional solo and told him, "Your hair rocks! You look so cool!"

DiTullio laughed, not sure whether Lipke was putting him on. "No," Lipke assured him. "That's the coolest thing ever."

After another take, Uosikkinen was so excited he blurted out, "That was sloppy! I dig the piano. That was phat!"

In the Pocket makeovers aren't just covers that mirror the originals, Uosikkinen said. "The key could change, some rhythm things could change. It's very much a democracy in the sense of creation. I just kind of guide it with fill."

A moment later, he asked, "Can anyone play a mouth harp?" A band member said he could. Uosikkinen said, "Do you have one?" The band member said no. Uosikkinen said, "OK. I'm not missing the mouth harp. I'm not missing it at all. Like the strings on 'Back Stabbers.' We did away with that, too."

In the Pocket's "Back Stabbers" did have the awesome guitar riffs of the late T.J. Tindall, who played on the O'Jays' 1972 original hit, and vocals by the Ingui brothers. On its reimagining of "Disco Inferno," In the Pocket brought in Schoolly D, the old-school Philly gangsta rapper, to do his thing late in the song.

Uosikkinen said his freewheeling creative style with In the Pocket was the opposite of another side project, creating drum tracks for bands.

"People send me scratch tracks online," he said. "I never even talk to them. I cut the drum track and send it back to them. Nowadays, you can work that way. But I miss communicating - a bunch of cool guys coming up with something and then you're high-fiving everybody. Like what we're doing here. We nailed a killer track. You don't get that by yourself."

"I remember when making records was like this all the time," said Nicolo, who has been engineering and kibitzing with Uosikkinen since the Hooters first album, Amore, in 1983.

"We used to have food-eating contests," Uosikkinen remembered fondly. "Take bets on who could eat more food. We'd each get a pizza from Charlie's Pizza on the Boulevard. We'd slice it out. We'd see who could eat the most slices. Phil could always beat me by one slice.

"It was about how much you can eat and how fast you can eat it," Uosikkinen said. "We were pacesetters back in the day." He laughed and sighed. "We don't do it anymore."

But the two are still rocking in Conshohocken, still high-fiving when they nail a killer track.

"People feed off you," Uosikkinen said happily. "You bring the vibe and they feed off your vibe."

geringd@phillynews.com

610-313-8109@DanGeringer

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