The Maple Street Project
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The Maple Street Project


Band Folk Acoustic


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"Basement Band Jams Thru the Decades"

By Steven Ryan

Members of The Maple Street Project jam almost every Tuesday in the basement of Bob Littman’s Standish Road home. They stand around a coffee table, harmonizing their vocals and working out songs composed by the band’s four songwriters, with Littman’s dog, Daisy, sometimes coming down to listen.

After about 17 years together, The Maple Street Project will celebrate the release of its third album, “Kick Back on Maple Street,” with a CD release party at the Sports Bar and Grill at the Needham Sheraton on Saturday, Feb. 24.

“The biggest difference is the freshness of the material,” bassist Eric Luskin said about the new album, which he believes is better produced than the band’s past efforts.

The band had previously recorded “Attitude on the Street,” which was released in 2004, and “Chanukah on Maple Street,” a set of mostly original songs celebrating the Jewish holiday. The band, which has been a five-piece for about seven years, said that the introduction of recording technology to its basement jam sessions made recording albums possible. They now record in a studio.

“The technology made it fairly easy, once we made the investment in the equipment,” Luskin said.

Four of the members sing on the albums, often times harmonizing their vocals, and their music is a mix of folk and rock. They recently performed at the Emergenza Festival at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge, a battle of the bands event. The group, whose members are in their 50s and 60s, advanced to the second round.

“Most of the other bands were in their late teens and early 20s,” Littman said. “But we got a great reception, getting past the first round.”

The band’s roots can be trace back to 1972, when Littman, who plays several instruments, including mandolin, and George Pultz, who plays guitar in the band, met while attending in New Jersey. Their music collaboration began when one of their English professors offered extra credit. “The professor made a proposition to the class, if you do extra stuff, you get an ‘A’, and I wanted an ‘A’ and Bob wanted an ‘A’,” Pultz said.
The duo wrote music to poems by William Butler Yeats, Lord Alfred Tennyson and Percy Bysshe Shelley. During a recent rehearsal, they performed, “Crossing the Bar,” by Yeats, which was relatively up-tempo for a poem about dying. They said their first collaboration was hit. “Our professor loved the idea,” Pultz said.

Pultz and Littman went on to play in three bands together and spent a year on the country rock scene in a band called Shayn after they graduated college in 1975. They switched gears in 1976, moving to Boston and pursuing a music career as the duo Ziro and Napoleon. But marriage and law school eventually derailed the two musicians. “Bob and I had a couple of albums worth of material,” Pultz said.

The two reconnected musically in 1991 when Mel Green, who is originally from South Africa, invited Littman to play in a Needham talent show. Pultz came on board a short time later and The Maple Street Project was born, named after the Needham street Littman lived on at the time. Around 2000, Luskin and drummer Jim Mavor filled out the group. “The missing part was a rhythm part,” said Mavor, the only nonsinging member of the group. “I saw that lacking, and that’s what I contribute. I can sing, but I don’t like to sing.”

With the additions, the band saw a renaissance in its songwriting.
“The band made a complete transformation when we added percussion,” Pultz said. “I got so inspired. Songs came gushing out.”
The band said Pultz wrote much of the new CD, but that Littman, Green and Luskin write songs as well, drawing inspiration by “news headlines” and “bittersweet love,” among other influences. One song, “Holy Sky,” from their “Attitude on Maple Street” CD, is about the Intifada in Israel. Littman said the song relates the impact the bombings have on children on both sides of the conflict.

Pultz said he carries a notebook around to write down anything that might inspire him. “I see signs on the highway that give me ideas,” he said. A song can seemingly evolve out of nowhere, according to Pultz. “Sometimes we’re jamming around and come up with an idea,” Pultz said. “Once we had a groove going, and I looked down at the coffee table and sang the first words I saw and that became a song.”

The band credited the Internet for expanding the band’s fan base, which, they said, now has an international reach. They have their own Web site,, and a MySpace page. They said their Web site has had hits from at least 30 countries. “It gives the band an international platform,” Luskin said. “The music industry has really changed with technology.”

But the band members aren’t dreaming of international stardom, though they wouldn’t rule it out.
“If ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ wanted one of our tracks, we’ll listen,” Luskin said.
But they mostly perform for the love of music, the creative process and the friendships. “Our families have gotten along,” Green said. “There’s a social aspect to it, too.”

Green, who used to live in Needham, travels down on Tuesdays from Gloucester to join the other members, all Needhamites, for the jam sessions. The graphic designer admits that making the trip can be hard after a long day of work, but he has found the release of the new album reinvigorating. Littman, who is the president of Air Energy in Easton, said his wife doesn’t mind the jam sessions, which usually last until 11 p.m. “She doesn’t mind it all,” he said. “She said she enjoys it. But you know who really likes it? The dog.”

The band’s music is available through CD Baby, an online music store, and through I-tunes.
Aside from the release party, they’ll be performing at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge on April 7, the Sky Bar in Cambridge on April 25 and at a benefit for medical care for the homeless on April 28 at Temple Beth Shalom.

- The Needham Times

"17 Years of Maple Street"

By Bret Silverberg

“Go get some scotch if you want it.”

As the rest of the band set up their equipment in preparation for their routine warm up song, The Mamas & The Papas’ “California Dreamin’”, everyone declines mandolin player and backup vocalist Bob Littman’s offer. These guys all have to get up for work in the morning.

But that hasn’t stopped them from getting together once weekly to practice their folky, string laden songs in Littman’s basement on Standish Rd. for the last 17 years.

The men of the Maple Street Project, Needham’s very own folk, bluegrass, progressively acoustic quintet, leave their concerns at the door when they come to play.

“You may hear a good argument tonight,” says Littman while preparing his bouzouki, a longer version of a mandolin.

In this standard New England family basement, complete with family caricatures, Boston sports memorabilia and a pool table, there seems to be an unending pile of instruments, both customary and foreign. But as the band dives into their first original song, you get the sense that it’s the vocal melodies that drive them.

And though the four seasoned string instrumentalists all take turns singing in classic Crosby, Stills and Nash fashion, there is still a hint of boyish modesty when it comes time to dust off the pipes.

“I’m reluctant vocally,” jokes bassist and backup vocalist Eric Luskin.

The musicians are practicing for three upcoming gigs: Their CD release party on Saturday, Feb. 24 at Trophies Sports Bar and Grill in the Needham Sheraton, a show at the Middle East in Cambridge as part of the Emergenza Music Festival on Saturday, April 7, and one at the Skybar in Sommerville on Wednesday, April 25.

MSP is currently in the process of promoting for Emergenza, an on going musical contest that has them pitted against teenage angst rockers with nothing to prove and fan bases who don’t have to wake up in the morning.

The group entered the competition “on a whim,” says Littman. “Most of the bands are in their late 20’s or early teens. But we have been received quite well.”

They received a favorable amount of votes during their last performance, but not enough to move on to the next round. However, the judges for the competition, impressed with the Project’s sheer ability, moved the band forward.

“He said he ‘had to account for quality,’” says Littman.

One thing MSP has is ability, in their songwriting, instrumentation, and especially, their vocal melodies.

The band originated when Littman and vocalist/guitarist George Pultz met at the College of New Jersey. The two clicked immediately and in the late 70’s decided to move to Boston “for the music,” they say.

After a few failed attempts at breaking out onto the scene—Littman says that every club they played ended up shutting down—Pultz and Littman slunk into day jobs and took a break from music for a while. Until 1989 when they met accomplished vocalist Mel Greene.

How Littman and Greene met was slightly more original.

“We met in aerobics class,” says Greene. “We were the only two people keeping time perfectly and not giving a crap.”

Greene’s musical resume is impressive. He performed in the classic folk trio known as Mel, Mel and Julian in the 1960’s in his former home of Johannesburg, South Africa.

“Mel’s so good they counted him twice,” says a sarcastic Luskin.

For MSP, Greene does all of the album cover art.

The final additions came when they found Luskin, the guitarist-turned-bassist, who met Greene at a blood drive in Needham, and when Jim Mavor, stoic percussionist/accordion player stumbled upon the group about five years ago.

At this Monday night rehearsal and chat session, the band freely admits that Luskin has the best chops on the guitar, but he doesn’t struggle with his role as the bands’ bass player.

“It’s two less strings to worry about,” he jokes. “I’ve been around enough bands to know that chemistry is a very important thing. The fact that I play guitar is irrelevant.”

Mavor, the soft-spoken computer engineer, literally is a “stoic” figure when compared to the outspoken melodic instrumentalists, but his presence is strongly felt by the group.

“The addition of Jim changed everything,” says Pultz. “We felt we needed some texture.”

“He played a gig and the dude is still here,” says Luskin to a roomful of laughs. “I’m not even sure he’s officially in the band.”

Though the band is completely professional when it comes to their music—and their wildly variant day jobs—they still bicker and joke around as if they were high school kids preparing for their first gig at the school dance.

“We leave a lot of space for each other,” says Greene. “Sometimes we criticize each other, but we know each other well enough to not take it personally.”

Do these Needhamites have aspirations for rock stardom?

“I think the answer to that is obvious,” says Littman. “We don’t have allusions of being famous…but if I could do music full time I absolutely would.”

“If you have good music then it doesn’t matter how old you are,” says Pultz. “It would have an appeal no matter what.”

You can pick up the bands’ latest effort, “Kick Back on Maple Street”, through their website Check out their tunes on myspace at:

- The Hometown News

"Folk Rockers Kick Back on Needham Common"

By Steven Ryan

Beginning with a cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” Needham’s own Maple Street Project kicked off this summer’s Arts in the Park Thursday, June 21, with an hour-and-a-half set in front of Needham Town Hall.

Children danced to the folk-rock tunes as adults sat back on folding chairs, soaking up those tunes and the setting sun on the first official day of summer. Having the concert at Needham Common was an experiment, said Karen Peirce, assistant director of the Park and Recreation Commission, which organizes Arts in the Park. “It was something suggested by Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick, who has been working with programs to revitalize the downtown,” said Peirce. “People liked being able to go, get some ice cream, be in the center.”

Deana Lew of Edwardel Road came to the Common with her friend, Mitch Cherniack, and her son, Max Manguane. The group laid out a picnic blanket on the lawn and nibbled on food while the band played. “We just decided it was a nice way to combine dinner with the concert,” Lew said about the picnic set-up. “I’ve been coming to these concerts for years. [The band] has a slightly Grateful Dead appeal.”

The band, which relies on harmonies and a prominent folk-rock sound, has been around for about 17 years. Its members, all current or former Needhamites, are in their 50s and 60s. The band released its third album, “Kickin’ on Maple Street,” in February. Band members said they were contacted by the Department of Park and Recreation to open up Arts in the Park this year. The band will also play at the gazebo at Memorial Park before the fireworks on July 3.

“We were contacted by e-mail through our Web site,” said Bob Littman of Standish Road, who sings and plays mandolin, among other instruments. “Through word of mouth, they thought we’d be a good act to start Arts in the Park.”

Gail Fischer, of High Rock Street, sat back in her folded chair during the concert, which was sponsored by Citizens Bank, along with several friends, to watch the band. She said she and her friends have followed the band for a long time. “We wanted to get out and see the band because it’s a nice night and we like this band,” Fischer said. “We know they write their own music, which is nice.”

The Maple Street Project consists of Littman; George Pultz of Standish Road, who sings and plays guitar; Mel Green of Gloucester, who sings and plays guitar; Eric Luskin of Blackman Terrace, who sings and plays bass; and drummer Jim Mavor of Gilbert Road. Mavor couldn’t play the concert at the Common, but 19-year-old Needham High School graduate Ben Atkind, who now studies at the Berklee College of Music, was able to fill in.

“Ben is a great musician,” Pultz said. “He only practiced with us once. And during practice, we never had to repeat any song more than once.”

Atkind, who knew the band through Luskin, said he had a good time. “I thought I messed up a lot,” he said. “But it went OK. That was a great place to play. Those guys are fun to play with. They’re funny guys.”

The band recently reached the semifinals of the Emergenza Festival, a battle of the bands event, where they performed at the Paradise in Boston and finished sixth out of 10 bands. “The bands we competed against were all very young, really loud and hard-edged,” Pultz said. “We have a totally different sound, plus the harmonies, which nobody else had like we did.”

Littman and Pultz said the band plans to go back into the studio this summer. “We’re really starting to burst with creativity,” Pultz said. “I have a half-dozen songs already, Bob has three, Mel [Green] has a couple and Eric [Luskin] has three. We probably have more than enough for our next CD and then some.”

Debbie Maibor, of Briarwood Circle, was at the concert at the Common with her sister, Abbie Heller, of Scottsdale, Ariz. She learned about the concert after Heller pointed out a flier advertising it at the library. “They remind me of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,” Maibor said.

Naomi Wilsey, of Maple Street, a former neighbor of the Littman, sat with the sisters. The Maple Street Project was named after Littman’s former and Wilsey’s current address. Wilsey said the concert gave her a chance to see her former neighbor perform and it also reconnected her with Maibor, an old acquaintance she happened to bump into at the Common that day.

“Our children went to day care together,” Wilsey said. “We haven’t seen each other in years. The concert brought old friends together.”

The next Arts in the Park concert will be held July 12 at the gazebo at Memorial Park. The Tom Nutile Big Band will perform.

Steven Ryan can be reached at

- The Needham Times

"Silver Age of Rock"

By Susan Chaityn Lebovits

When Harry Sandler was in his 20s, he lived the rock-'n'-roll dream. As the drummer for Orpheus, he opened for Led Zeppelin, the Who, Janis Joplin, Cream, and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

But time marched on and Sandler traded his drumsticks for a Rolodex and the groupies for a wife.

''I've gone from dealing with Keith Moon to dealing with the head of the NAACP," said Sandler, who is a vice president of the American Program Bureau, a Newton-based organization that books international personalities -- including Nobel laureates and sports figures -- for speaking engagements.

But unlike most rockers who are permanently sidelined from the scene by the need to make an honest buck, Sandler, 59, has returned to the stage. His Orpheus Reborn is one of three baby boomer bands in the western suburbs whose members prove that even the likes of lawyers and CPAs can learn to rock again.

They are under no illusions about their chances in a youth-oriented business, though they take full advantage of new technologies, such as Web-based promotions, to spread their sound.

But for most of them, the payoff is not a matter of CDs sold or songs downloaded, but rather the emotional high of rekindling a love affair they thought had burned out decades ago.

While only one of them has been able to quit his day job, all agree that if they could make a living with their music, they'd do so in a drum beat.

''I'm clearing out my desk virtually!" Sandler joked.

Orpheus was formed in 1967, and the group recorded three albums and four singles for MGM records. Its song ''Can't Find The Time" hit the Billboard magazine charts and was covered by Hootie and the Blowfish for the soundtrack to ''Me, Myself and Irene," a 2000 movie starring Jim Carrey.

The band toured for two years, but broke up in 1969 over artistic differences and disparate visions.

''Some recognized that, as performers, we were nothing without the public," said Eric Gulliksen, who sings and plays bass. ''Others were not concerned, believing that the music was enough, and didn't care whether the public liked it or not."

In 2004, four of the five original Orpheus members -- including Gulliksen and Sandler -- reunited and added two members to form the pop-country group, Orpheus Reborn. They jam every Sunday in Sandler's Chestnut Hill home. They have played a few local gigs and have another booked for next month.

While Sandler went from being a celebrity to boosting them, Gulliksen earned two master's degrees, received 17 patents, and became vice president of engineering for Koehler Manufacturing Co., a Marlborough maker of mining equipment that has since been bought out.

''I spent many years traveling the world crawling around in underground mines," said Gulliksen, who is now a market research analyst and consultant with Venture Development Corp. in Natick.

While music has become his number-one passion, he is enough of a realist to realize it may not become more than a serious hobby.

''We all want to go back something fierce," he said, adding that occasional gigs are ''a lot more satisfying than not doing it at all, but none of us are willing to give up our dreams."

Kathi Taylor, 52, is one of the new members. A singer and drummer, Taylor used to perform with an all-girls band, the Mustangs.

''Our big claim to fame is that we opened for Edie Brickell at Denmark's Roskilde Festival in 1989," said Taylor, now an artist who melds painting and photos.

At age 50, John Cate has achieved acclaim with his self-named band and songs that have been aired on such TV shows as ''Dawson's Creek," ''Joan of Arcadia," ''Numbers," and ''Touched by an Angel." Cate has released seven albums and penned 500 numbers -- many of which can be found on the iTunes website -- since his return to music.

''I'm no longer afraid to tell the truth in my songs -- about my life experiences like love, loss, happiness, and pain -- plus I also have more to write about," he said about act two of his musical career.

Last month, the Wellesley father of two -- who still has the full mane and thin build of his youth -- had fans lined up outside of the club Toad in Cambridge's Porter Square.

Jill Beyer, 34, of Somerville, and her friend, Melissa Owens, 30, were taken aback to learn that Cate, with his black T-shirt and faded jeans, was more than a decade older than they had thought.

Born in Liverpool, England, Cate grew up in Newton. At 9, he was awarded a cello scholarship to the New England Conservatory. ''Then the Beatles were on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' and that was it for the cello," he said. ''I learned how to play bass guitar."

When he turned 12, he joined a band with a neighborhood friend, Mark Zamcheck. The group performed for nine years, at one point touring with Gary Burton and Pat Metheny.

After the band split up, Cate, at the age of 22, found a job working as a sound engineer at Paul's Mall and the Jazz Workshop in Boston, a hot spot that predated the Paradise for booking top acts.

Frustrated with his behind-the-scenes role, Cate decided to switch from music to the corporate world. After passing his CPA exam, he worked as an accountant and then a venture capital adviser.

In 1992, the road manager for Cate's old band called to say he had built a studio in his basement. Cate, who hadn't picked up his guitar in a decade, didn't have to be persuaded to visit.

They started recording the next year and, in 1994, Cate decided to get a band together. He called Zamchek from high school, wrote a few songs, made a demo tape, and started to do some gigs. Two years later, Cate made his first full-length album and started looking for a way to put his CPA and venture-capital experience to work in the music industry. He got a job handling licensing deals for a small Internet music company that eventually was renamed emusic.

Cate sold his stock, paid off his debts, and in 1998 landed a deal selling his songs to television. ''I still had to do work on the side to make ends meet," he said, ''but I moved music from the periphery to the center of my life."

While he performs locally nearly every weekend, he said he makes most of his money from songwriting. ''The Holy Grail for me is to participate in a film score for Disney."

The Maple Street Project, based in Needham, is looking to the Internet to make a name for itself beyond the coffee-club circuit.

The five-man band has been jamming on Tuesdays for 15 years and plays local gigs nearly every month, including family services at their temple.

The group's core members, George Pultz and Bob Littman, met in 1971 in New Jersey. For extra credit in a college English class, they wrote music to accompany works by such poets as Yates, Shelly, and Tennyson.

They went on to play in two bands together, and after graduating in 1975, moved to Boston to pursue a music career as a duo, Ziro and Napoleon.

''We played at a number of big clubs in town, then George wound up going to law school and I got married," Littman said.

The two remained close over the years and connected again musically in 1991 for a local talent show. Through their temple, Beth Shalom in Needham, they recruited the rest of the band.

For now, the Maple Street Project is happy playing together, producing music, and playing gigs when they can. They hope to gain a wider following through an independent music download site,

''I can't afford to do it full time," Littman said. '' I'm in a lifestyle with kids in college and other demands on me -- but if I hit the lottery, or inherited money from some unheard-of relative, I'd probably walk away from my business. . . . All of us share that passion."

So, what makes these folks in their 50s and 60s so attached to rock? ''Boomers were entrenched in the revolution," said Jeff Price, a Newton native and president of spinART Records in New York. ''In came the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, and the Beach Boys. The '60s brought a political movement and music became associated with a cause to describe yourself."

Price, who started spinART 15 years ago, said that music has a different meaning for baby boomers than it does for the youth of today. ''We're in the middle of the Iraq war, but we don't have a Vietnam, a huge social movement, and a lot of the strife. It's a different environment."

Big labels ''now have the need to generate earnings," he said, ''and the way to do that is a quick success -- to sell huge amounts of records, like 14 million. Selling 100,000 records is seen as a failure."

While the Internet sites offer even amateur musicians a chance to distribute their sound, Price noted that the MTV factor still stands in the way of breakout success for older performers.

Indeed, that was the point of MTV's first song in 1981, ''Video Killed the Radio Star" by a British group, the Buggles. The satirical song needled less-than-glamorous musicians who in the past could rely on fans to fantasize about their looks.

The resurgent baby boomers are undeterred.

''Some say that older folks like us shouldn't have dreams of returning to the stage," said Gulliksen, 63. ''We refuse to accept that.

''Reinventing yourself is never easy, and the older you are, the harder it is to get people to accept you in something new -- no matter what the industry is."

Cate said he ''would love to hear his stuff on the radio," but believes it's a young person's game.

''It could happen for us, but video did kill the radio star."

Susan Chaityn Lebovits can be reached at

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

- The Boston Globe (West)


“Attitude On The Street” (Tuesday Records) 2003

“Kick Back on maple Street” (Tuesday Records) 2006

Both CDs are available through and



The Maple Street Project is truly a blend of musical influences and stylings. Crosby Stills and Nash have been a major influence on our vocal arrangements and the Grateful Dead have somehow impacted our arrangements (even though none of us are true Deadheads).

Four of the five band members are active in songwriting bringing different sensibilities to that process. Yet the final arrangements always take on the Maple Street Project's unique sound and characteristics.

The instrumentation includes guitar, mandolin, fidde, bouzouki, bass and alternative and traditional percussion. With the strong sense of vocal harmony and the interplay of pure rock, blues and folk in any given song, MSP has developed a sound which appeals to all generations.

The original core of the band includes George and Bob who were college buddies in NJ. The pair performed in many musical incarnations including country rock, bluegrass and as a folk duo. George is a prolific songwriter, with Bob coming up with gems on a more occasional basis! Mel was active in South Africa and as a member of Mel, Mel and Julian, recording three vinyl record albums on Columbia records. His soaring tenor is key to the MSP harmonies. Eric is an impressive and very accomplished guitar and bass player with a strong rock and roll background. He has been a member of various musical groups and compares with some of the greats in terms of his ability to deliver stylish, strong and beautiful guitar and bass riffs. Jim has experience in folk music and folk dance music circles and plays accordian as well an assortment of percussive instruments.

It all adds up to... The Maple Street Project!