Formed in the early '80s by ex-Dictators guitarist Scott Kempner, the Del Lords combined elements of '60s garage rock with country, blues, and folk influences to become one of the initial progenitors of roots rock. Kempner recruited former Joan Jett guitarist Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, bassist Manny Caiati, and drummer Frank Funaro, and the Del Lords released their first disc, Frontier Days, on Enigma/EMI in 1984. The album was noted for its guts, street smarts, and twangy guitars, a balanced blend of Springsteen meets Johnny Thunders. Their follow-up Enigma/EMI release, Johnny Comes Marching Home, found Pat Benatar producer Neil Geraldo at the helm. While the band had become tighter, Geraldo applied a poppy gloss that seemingly toned down the grittier aspects of their debut. All the right elements fell into place by the time their album Based on a True Story was released in 1988, with Geraldo commendably pulling back his slicker production technique, allowing the louder aspects of the band to break through. The album is also notable for the support of guest vocalists Pat Benatar, Syd Straw, Kim Shattuck, and Mojo Nixon.
The raucous EP Howlin' at the Halloween Moon captured the band in its live element, performing five tracks from the first three albums along with spirited covers of the Flamin' Groovies' "Jumpin' in the Night" and Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon's "Tallahassee Lassie." In 1990, the Del Lords recorded their final album, Lovers Who Wander, and although some of the rough edges were smoothed out, the graceful emotional conviction made their swan song just as appealing as any of their previous studio releases. Eric "Roscoe" Ambel officially quit the Del Lords in 1991, as he had already released a solo album, Roscoe's Gang. Eight years later, the Restless label finally got around to releasing Get Tough: The Best of the Del-Lords. The band reunited in late 2012 and released their first album of new material in 22 years, Elvis Club, in May of 2013 on MRI. ~ Al Campbell