After five years in California, former Daytonian Tony Conley is returning to the Midwest for a new job with the Ann Arbor Blues Festival. Before starting the new position, he’s back in town for a month, where he started a new protest music project with local musicians such as Sandy Bashaw, Mitch Mitchell, Sharon Lane, Tod Weidner, Ed Pitman and Scott Bodine.
“My behavior in Dayton was not always that great,” said Conley, the author of the 2017 book, “Paul McCartney in The Beatles.” “I felt like if I was going to be here for a month, I should do something to get some redemption and do something for people instead of just making myself look bad.”
With the help of project manager Andy Valeri, Conley was able to assemble a lineup of interested musicians in a matter of days.
“It has taken off fast,” Conley said. “So many people have gotten on board already, it’s unreal. We’re doing all traditional songs and we’re trying to do original arrangements of them. Once we start tracking, we hope to be done with it in three weeks. It’s going to be quick, easy, over and done.
“We want to get in, get it done and get it out,” he continued. “Everybody is busy so if they can give me a song they want to do and they can commit to three hours and belt some stuff out, that would be great. Everybody was like, ‘Let’s do it.’”
While Conley hasn’t settled on the official name, the fundraising project’s working title is Dayton Rocks 20/20.
“It’s both 20/20 vision and the year 2020,” he said. “We’re not being overtly political. … It’s more about how hard times are for everybody and we how we need to make it better for everybody instead of poking each other in the eye, which I don’t think helps at all. I’m trying to make it more positive and uplifting as opposed to a fight because there’s enough fighting going on.”
With the enthusiastic response from local musicians, Conley is already contemplating a second volume. And, he admits to even bigger ambitions for the project.
“I’m also going to try to get other cities to start doing this,” Conley said. “I’ve got friends in Portland and in Austin. You know, ‘If we can do this, you should consider doing it in your city too.’ My hope is, if it takes off, this becomes a national thing.”
Proceeds from the project will benefit still-unnamed local charities.