It’s A Family Affair With Jackie And The Rippers

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In the 1971 Sly and the Family Stone hit “Family Affair,” there’s a couple of lyrics that go, “You see, it’s in the blood/Blood’s thicker than mud” and in the case of Jackie and the Rippers (J&TR), it’s a trueism given that the core of the group come from the same clan. Band namesake and lead singer Jackie Vadala is the niece of the septet’s drumming/singing married couple, Charlie and Chris Steinert. And while the band came together earlier this year, the seven-piece has played four gigs with the goal of raising money for those in need. Most recently, J&TR played a gig at the Levittown Hall arranged by the local Knights of Columbus chapter to benefit people with Down syndrome. And while playing music with people you like is important to Charlie Steinert, his group’s altruism is what really drives him and his musical compatriots.

Jackie and the Rippers playing a Knights of Columbus Down syndrome
benefit at Levittown Hall
(Photo courtesy of Network News)


“We like to do charity events and help anybody that’s in need,” Steinert said. “Our tagline is we are the band that cares. We’re looking to do charity work because all of us are very community minded. It’s important for us to give back.”
The Steinerts live in a Massapequa home outfitted with a recording studio. With Vadala hailing from nearby Seaford, the three saw each other regularly at family gatherings, where it was not unusual for guests to grab a mic and start harmonizing together, whether it was inside during the holidays or outside in the backyard while burgers were frying on the grill. The joy they got from singing together planted the seeds for J&TR and after a few false starts, the trio got the right combination of players together.

“We had some other members and it didn’t work out,” Vadala said. “That happens when you’re in a band—a little band drama. But there’s no drama any more. We actually went on Craig’s List and put out some ads, players came down, auditioned and we came together.”

Rounding out J&TR are Massapequa vocalist Mike Accurso, guitarists Don Melchione (Stewart Manor) and John Pentecost (Flushing), keyboardist Rob Rother (New Hyde Park), saxophone/harmonica player Howie Lampert (Plainview) and bass-playing vocalist Mark Nygren (Northport). The musical experience ranges from Vadala playing in her first band to Pentecost playing in a number of tribute bands including Break on Through and Rubber Soul. Charlie Steinert’s own experiences date back to managing local metal bands Takashi and Ninja along with a stint running the Rio Theater, Valley Stream’s storied 1,200-seat venue that saw the likes of Metallica, Anthrax and John Stamos grace its stage. Ironically, the band Jackie and the Rippers was inspired by Stamos’ Full House character Jesse Katsopolis, who played in a fictional group of the same name. For Steinert, this latest musical chapter is just more old hat for him.

From left: Bassist Mark Nygren, drummer Chris Steinert and vocalist Jackie Vadala
(Photo courtesy of Network News)

“I’m no stranger to producing concerts and working with bands,” he said. “I’ve worked with everyone from Pee-Wee Herman to Jay Black and the Americans. The difference with this band is that everybody gets along. We all like each other and are friends. We go to clubs together and watch other bands to learn the do’s and the don’ts. This band is a good fit. It took a long time to get us to where we are.”

And while Vadala is the baby of the band, in both age and stage experience, she’s been soaking up all the music the Steinerts have been throwing at her. Folks coming to check out J&TR can expect to hear everything from Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s” and Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” to more vintage material by The Beatles (“All My Lovin’”), Neil Diamond (“Sweet Caroline”) and Janis Joplin (“Piece of My Heart”). Folks looking for a little country twang also won’t be disappointed as tunes by Darius Rucker (“Wagon Wheel”), Chris Stapleton (“Tennessee Whiskey”) and the Zac Brown Band (“Chicken Fried”) have been known to pop up on set lists.

But for Vadala, being able to sing with her loved ones and indulge in her passion is the real payoff of being in J&TR.
“I fell in love with this because of my family,” she said. “It’s a really great excuse for me to get together with them once a week. Being part of the band has brought us closer and I couldn’t be happier about that. It’s a blessing. We get to play music together, sound great and spend time together. I think it’s a really unique thing we have. And like Charlie said, we are a family band because the core members of the band in the beginning were me, Charlie and Chris. Now we’re lucky enough to have met some great people that are also part of the band and I think that’s a magical thing. It’s a rare thing we have together. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Visit www.jackieandtherippers.com or visit the group’s Facebook page to find out more about Jackie and the Rippers.

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