RumRunners celebrates 20 years of music

Members of the local band the RumRunners agree they may be one of just a few bands that includes their city’s fire chief in their lineup.

Doug Edo, on bass, Milford’s fire chief, has been with the band since it started 20 years ago. In fact, the band has firefighting at its core. The RumRunners band was formed in August 1998 by four firefighters from New Haven and Milford and the son-in-law and daughter of a retired New Haven firefighter.

“From the beginning it was decided that we would do what we loved to do and do it for a good cause — whatever that cause may be,” states a post at the band’s website.

Over the past 20 years the RumRunners has performed free at a number of area fund-raisers. They helped raise money for dozens of charities including the American Lung Association, the Connecticut Burn Camp, The Sunshine Kids Camp, Cystic Fibrosis, Breast Cancer Awareness and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, just to name a few.

Last week the band performed at Stonebridge to help raise money for a firefighter’s daughter who needs a liver transplant.

The band today includes Edo on bass, Tony Virgulto on drums, Pat Dunnigan on guitar, Brian Robichaud on guitar, John Mamone lead vocals, Nancy Cilbrith vocals, and Scott Moran on saxophone.

The band formed 20 years ago when two groups merged to perform at a firefighter’s pig roast in Milford. Cilbrith and Robichaud and their cousin Billy Richards had been performing at family parties, and Richards knew drummer Mike Hudd, who at the time was doing small gigs with Edo and Moran.

When firefighter Bill Holveck was throwing his first pig roast 20 years ago, word went out that he needed a band.

The three from one group got together with the three from Edo’s group, and RumRunners was born. They practiced a few times and then performed at Holveck’s event.

The name, explained Cilbrith, is meant to carry a Jimmy Buffett theme.

“Back in the day, we played a lot of Jimmy Buffett, and the name sounded like Jimmy Buffett,” Cilbrith said.

The band today has amassed a following, performs 40 to 50 shows a year, many of those charity events, and is one of Milford’s most popular local bands.

While they play paying gigs, including weddings and such, charity is still a big part of who they are.

“We’ve helped to save the New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” according to the band’s website. “We’ve helped to raise money for local school organizations, music programs, cheerleading teams, local youth sports organizations and sponsored a nursing scholarship in the name of a very dear friend. We are most honored to have always been there to support our friends and community by helping to raise money for countless individuals and their families during their time of need.”

The RumRunners also got to open up for some incredible bands, including Kansas, Blue Oyster Cult, NRBQ and Marshal Tucker, the band’s website states.

“Although the lineup of players has seen a few changes over the years, we have stayed true to our love of good music and our goal to always lend a hand to a worthy cause.”

Next, in addition to upcoming shows locally, including the Milford Kicks Off to Summer event June 30 in downtown Milford, the RumRunners plan to record some original music, and after that, they hope to be performing another 20 years, at least.

They perform throughout the region, but they consider Milford their home.

“Nobody shows us love like Milford,” Cilbrith said.