Twinkle and Rock Soul Radio are one of the Suncoast’s most popular bands. Twinkle is a Sarasota native and a world-class vocalist. Tony LeClerc is an excellent bass player and musician.
Little did they know as children that they would one day be destined to find out they were paternally related as half-brother & sister and meet each other! They have a special bond in music. For years now the siblings have worked together in Rock Soul Radio along with guitarist Lenny Brooks and drummer Benny Puckett. The Suncoast Post recently interviewed Tony about his past, present and future.
Suncoast Post: At what age did you develop an interest in music?
Tony LeClerc: Truly I do not remember NOT knowing that I wanted to be a professional musician
SP: What was your first band?
TL: My first real band was Black Diamond; it was me and Frankie Hughes on drums (he died when we were very young) and Lynn Dean on guitar. I did put a band together that performed one show at my high school before Black Diamond. I don’t remember what we were called, but we played Temple of Syrinx by Rush, Tubular Bells (the theme from the Exorcist) and Castle Walls by Styx, my voice cracked at the end of the song. I was mortified. I was in the 10th grade.
SP: How and when did you meet Lenny Brooks?
TL: Well, I was 17, I had left my home in Utah that morning, flew in to St Pete, FL to audition for Y.A.S.(a touring RnR music production company) none of my friends even knew I was gone yet, I hadn’t eaten anything since the crappy airline food earlier. I came straight from the airport, walked in and did a live audition for the company directors, cold! They thanked me and then I was brought to my dorm room where, if I passed the audition, I would be living for the next month or so to rehearse before leaving on tour. I was told dinner was in an hour and I could relax for a bit, we’ll see ya in an hour…..Yeah right! There were over 17,000 auditions to fill 35 spots in multiple bands, only a few made it to the LIVE audition.
Do I remember the first words my best friend in the world spoke to me? I do; I was laying there on my bunk trying to get myself together, I was wondering all kinds of things, Was that rig I just played through mine now?!?!?! Were those guys I just jammed with the band I would be in? Because they were WAY cool! When my door flies open,no knock, just BOOM open like Kramer! lol! Big tall skinny guy standing there with big poofy, looooong hair, like Paul Stanley, and he says: “Yallgotanarn”? I just stared at him, He says,”Hello”! (waving his hands back and forth in front of his face) “Anybody home?” I say, “I’m sorry man, What did you say?”, he says: “I said, (only it sounded like “Say-ed” with two syllables) Yallgotanarn?” You know, “an arn fer yer clothes!” I said it back to myself in my head slowly….. Y’all- got- an- arn…, OH! You want an IRON?! He shakes his head, incredulous, then mocking me he says in perfect English, no accent at all, ” Yes, I would like to know if you would happen to have an iron!” “I’m sorry bro, I don’t,” I said. “Thanks,” he says, walking away shaking his head, Wow, I didn’t know southerners REALLY talked like that! I thought that was just in the movies,
And that’s how I met the best friend I’ve ever had and one of the finest human beings I have ever known. Leonard Paul Brooks, He’s from Dyersburg, Tenn. and he doesn’t have it anymore but when he was 19 his accent was so thick, I couldn’t understand a word he said. Yet, he was walking away laughing at ME?
SP: Who were your early musical influences?
TL: Elton John, Elvis, The Beach Boys, then KISS, Van Halen, then Rush, of course. I loved The Brothers Johnson, but I was really into Sabbath, too. I always loved great bass players but not so much the technicians. I loved COOL sounding bass players! Geezer Butler, early Gene Simmons, Bootsy, Michael Anthony, Geddy Lee! But more than bass guitarists, my influences were great singers! Robert Plant, Dave Coverdale, Rob Halford, Brian Wilson, Steven Tyler, Rod Stewart, Joe Cocker. Voices that moved me! Believe it or not, The Cars and The Bee Gees! BRILLIANT! I remember as a kid hearing “Dream On” from Aerosmith on the radio in my dad’s car, and being COVERED in goosebumps! My eyes started to well up! It really got to me. My Dad looks over at me and says, “What’s wrong with you?” I’m like, “I don’t know”……all I knew is that this Rock n Roll thing was some powerful stuff, it felt IMPORTANT.
SP: What was the music scene like where you lived?
TL: Non-existent! I had a band in high school and we played at an assembly once. Layton, Utah did not have a “music scene” that I was aware of so I got the hell out as soon as I could!
SP:How was the scene different when you came to Florida?
TL: Well I did three tours of the US and Canada from 82 to 85. We ended up in New Jersey at the beginning of a HUGE resurgence of hard rock and METAL. Our band, Big Bad Wolf (Lenny, Me, and Joe Bravo with fellow Y.A.S. alum Kirk Fredericson), quickly became one of the biggest concert draws in the Tri-State area. We held some kind of attendance record at the now legendary LAMOUR (VH1’s greatest metal venue in the world) so the music scene I came from before Florida was New York & New Jersey and it was THRIVING! Florida? It felt slow, all blues bands and Allman brothers, ya know? Nothing wrong with that mind you but the venues all felt like bars with bands stuck off in a corner providing background noise. When we got here we were on a mission to change that, we wanted the places we played to feel like concert venues, that also just happened to serve alcohol and change the mindset.
SP: Do you and Twinkle collaborate on writing songs at home? Do you have a particular process on writing?
TL: Yes, we do, However Lenny and Twinkle are the main songwriters in this band. The things I write are usually too dark and heavy, lol, but some get through, “SWAMP, the ballad of Buddy Yochim” is mine…but my main job as far as the writing goes with us is arrangement, finding where the “holes” should go and adding harmonies and key changes, that sort of thing. The process usually goes like this: Lenny has a riff, Twink (or me, mostly Twink) will hear a melody line vocally for it, Twink will sing over the riff (usually just gibberish, the words come later), I walk in and say, “Ok, now right here needs to build..ALOT!” I then give it a big punch, now leave a giant hole and come back in on the and! There are actual musical terms for that but that’s how it comes out of me! Lol luckily Lenny and Twink understand my musical shorthand. Twinkle is a truly gifted singer, she will make your hair stand on end, no s*it! She’s that rare musician that can sing a melody line INSTANTLY over whatever you’ve got! She doesn’t have to take it home and live with it awhile, you got a riff? She’ll sing on it, NOW! lol It is amazing! Drummer Benny Puckett gets hold of it and just nails it all together! I’m so grateful we found that guy!!!
SP:When will your next album be coming?
TL: We’re working on it now, I don’t want to jinx it but it’s SO GOOD!!! Bobby Croft is producing. He was in the original Gregg Allman Band, and he’s worked with Judas Priest, Blind Melon, Smashing Pumpkins and on and on. He’s really great! There’s a lot of flavors on this record! We’ve got it mostly all tracked so hopefully soon, fingers crossed!
SP: Since Sarasota/Bradenton has become your home, what are some of your favorite things about it?
TL: The musical and artistic diversity for sure! (You’re a big part of that, Vicky!) I love the blue bloods rubbing elbows with the bikers at Thunder By the Bay, lol. I love the views.
I LOVE Les and Pam “Friggin” McCurdy and McCurdy’s Comedy theater! I love the rich musical history of the area and my family’s connection to it. P.S. You know what? Let me add to that last question…. I love that Twinkle and RSR have been a part of Sande Caplin and Associates family since the first meeting with Sande. He heard the horror story we had just gone through with our management and he offered his help and support and became a very,very dear friend.
Photos from Vicky Sullivan / The Suncoast Post