Five Cents Extra Reunion Show Aims to Give Fitchburg Fans Their Money’s Worth
By Amanda Burke
FITCHBURG -- Homegrown act Five Cents Extra gets the band back together to play every year, but on Nov. 21 they’ll play its annual reunion show in Fitchburg, the city where it all began 42 years ago.
“A lot of my friends said why don’t you bring it back to Fitchburg? So we did,” band leader Johnny Girouard said at his Fitchburg home on Monday.
He sat in a large room with vaunted ceilings, its walls covered with posters of musicians like Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
He explained the genesis of the band, which came together when Girouard, then living in Cambridge, watched as western swing and bluegrass music started creeping into the mainstream.
But the style of music wasn’t yet popular in his hometown, he said.
“People like the Byrds and Bob Dylan started this is the late ’60s, and we jumped on it, because it was happening in Boston but it wasn’t happening out in towns like Leominster and Fitchburg,” he said.
So Girouard formed Five Cents Extra with another Fitchburg musician, his “boyhood idol” whose shows he grew up attending, Ron Gagnon. Another city native, Ducky Belliveau, joined the band on the guitar.
Five Cents Extra was one of the few acts playing bluegrass rock in the Twin Cities shortly after forming, said Girouard.
As the sound grew more popular, Five Cents Extra saw more bluegrass bands playing venues in North Central Massachusetts, said Girouard.
“A whole wave of rival bands cropped up doing what we were doing, which was fine, because we were all rotating,” he said. “It was a great community of musicians.”
For the next seven years the band toured New England bars, festivals and clubs.
“We made a living off of it wasn’t lucrative, but we made a living, we didn’t have to punch in 9 to 5, with was great,” he said.
Five Cents Extra stopped touring together in the 1980s, but kept meeting up for jam sessions and show. The Boston Country Music Association would name Belliveau the best pedal steel guitar player seven times in the ensuing years.
To commemorate Five Cents Extra’s 20-year anniversary the band played its first Thanksgiving eve reunion show at The County Lounge in the 1990s. After the venue closed, the band played reunion shows at The Bull Run in Shirley.
But this year, and for the first time ever, the band will play in Fitchburg. Girouard, Gagnon and Belliveau will be joined on stage by Greg Secimo on the steel drums and Mark Marquis on guitar, cover songs by Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley and the Beatles.
Marquis’ will play “double duty,” said Girouard, as his own band New Pond Fondle will also play at Five Cents Extra’s reunion show.
The Thanksgiving eve show begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21 at the Fitchburg Senior Center. Tickets are $11 apiece.
“We’re bringing it all back home,” Girouard said.