Musicians band together at Rock and Roll for Children in Bethesda

November 29, 2019 | (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — Ricky Byrd has been rocking a Bethesda charity event for the past decade, but this is his first time coming as a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

The shredding guitarist was inducted as part of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts on April 18, 2015.

“I find it hard to wrap my brain around sometimes. … Every year, I would take a walk by myself through the Rock Hall and I would see Albert King’s guitar and Sam Cooke’s tuxedo and John Lee Hooker’s stuff. So to know that my stuff is in there is kind of overwhelming,” Byrd tells WTOP.

Byrd is music director for this year’s Rock and Roll for Children Foundation bash at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club at 7 p.m. Saturday to benefit The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health.

Founded by Jon Belinkie back in 2004, the annual volunteer event has blended music and philanthropy to raise more than $500,000 for sick children undergoing experimental treatments.

“I tried to put together a bluesy, soulful night. Everybody’s going to have a blast. We had a great time last year; we’re going to have a great time this year. It’s all top-notch musicians and the cause is great, so the vibe is great. Everybody’s there to help, it’s all volunteers,” Byrd says.

This year’s lineup includes Blues Traveler frontman John Popper; Christine Ohlman of the “Saturday Night Live” band; Liberty DeVitto of Billy Joel’s band; Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge; Kasim Sulton of Todd Rudgren’s Utopia; W.G. Snuffy Walden of Chaka Khan’s band; and Eric Biondo of The Monkees.

Together, they’ll dive into a set list that includes Al Green, Bo Diddley, the Rolling Stones and of course hits from their own respective bands, culminating with Byrd’s “I Love Rock & Roll.”

“I just make phone calls, see who’s available and then I see what kind of band it is, what we got in the arsenal, and I put together a set around that. … People come over and say, ‘Wow, man, you been playing together a long time?’ And I say, ‘Actually, no,'” Byrd says, laughing.

As lifelong musicians, the new band members quickly adapt to playing together, while others know the terrain very well, having participated with the charity event for many years running.

“It’s going to be a great concert. If you’ve never been there, Bethesda Blues & Jazz has fabulous sight lines. It’s a wonderful venue and everybody will be comfortable,” Ohlman tells WTOP.

Ohlman has participated in the event for the past eight years. Known as “The Beehive Queen” for her signature hairdo, she has performed with the “SNL” band for the last 24 years, initially catching the eye of creator Lorne Michaels while performing at his wedding reception years ago in the Hamptons.

“I knew the band leader at the time, whose name was G.E. Smith. … Lorne the next week said to him, ‘Where’s that girl that was singing with you last weekend?’ And that’s basically how I got the gig.”

That’s right, Ohlman was “The Wedding Singer” before Adam Sandler.

“Adam came on the show very shortly after I came, so there’s a lot of synergy here,” she says.

November 29, 2019 | (Jason Fraley)

Ohlman has seen countless comic actors and musical guests come through those doors.

“My favorite story is Paul McCartney came on for the very first time and the late Chris Farley was standing next to me. He started playing ‘Hey Jude’ during a rehearsal, and Chris asked me if I wanted to dance and we waltzed all around the studio to ‘Hey Jude.’ There are a lot of great memories.”

Now, it’s your chance to make some memories with these celebrity musicians at Saturday’s concert.

You can also join the online auction, featuring instruments signed by AC/DC, Aerosmith, B.B. King, Black Sabbath, Blake Shelton, Chuck Berry, Cyndi Lauper, Dierks Bentley, The Eagles, Eddie Van Halen, The Edge, Eric Clapton, Foreigner, Heart, Jay-Z, Jefferson Airplane, Jimmy Page, Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, Pete Townshend, Rolling Stones and Taylor Swift.

There will also be signed sports memorabilia from the Orioles, Ravens, Redskins and Wizards.

Proceeds will go to Rock and Roll for Children Foundation to support The Children’s Inn at NIH.

“We are just honored to be working for this amazing, amazing cause,” Ohlman says.

“The point of being in this world is to give back,” Byrd adds.

He then cracks a joke about his fresh Hall of Fame status.

“I’d like to talk longer, but I gotta go shine up my statue,” he jokes.

“Go get your shinebox,” WTOP retorts, quoting Scorsese, to which Byrd says, “‘Goodfellas,’ baby.”

Nah, Ricky, you and your fellow charity rockers are the real good fellas.

Click here for ticket information to Saturday’s fundraiser concert.

November 29, 2019 | (Jason Fraley)

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