ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County native Tony Bullard, the last founding member of rock band The Blue Lords, is about to board Royal Caribbean’s The Independence of the Seas, joining famous fellow rockers as part of the fifth annual Rock Legends Cruise.
The Blue Lords Band, which officially dissolved in 2015 after one member abruptly left, reformed under Bullard as The New Lords, retaining several of the original act’s long-time members — and while the band is not playing the Rock Legends Cruise this year, Bullard will team up with friend and current touring Foghat bassist Rodney O’Quinn for a series of jam sessions at sea.
“Mine and Rodney’s thing is called the Play One, Drink One Jam,” Bullard said. “And we’re gonna have a bunch of our friends. We’re gonna have Greg T. Walker from Blackfoot fame. We have Sandy Gennaro from Pat Travers, and he’s played with everybody.”
O’Quinn recalled meeting Bullard for the first time.
“Me and Tony, we originally met on the first cruise,” he said. “And from there we became great friends and we’ve been on all these other cruises with different bands and stuff. But along the way, we really built a friendship with a lot of return cruisers. On this one, neither one of us was going to be on with a band whatsoever, and with the relationship we’d built with the fan base, they were saying, ‘We’ve gotta have these guys!’ And finally we threw out the idea, ‘Why don’t we have a Play One, Drink One Jam?’”
O’Quinn, who formerly played eight years with Pat Travers, was called in by Foghat to fill in for bassist Craig MacGregor, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015.
Bullard said the songs in the jams would all involve themes related to “a partying atmosphere.”
“Another thing I wanna do is, because next year Sammy Hagar has been listed as the headliner, somewhere in our set toward the end I wanna tie in some Hagar and his Waboritas when they did ‘Mas Tequila,”’ O’Quinn said. “At that point, I’ll be setting up, ‘That’s what you’ll be getting next year from the man himself!’ So it’s a good-vibe party time, but it’s also people props to a lot of the others who play on the cruise with us.”
O’Quinn added that on Rock Legends Cruises, fans get to spend time with the artists.
“It’s meeting these artists that normally, if you went to a show, you wouldn’t,” he said.
“You could be having dinner and look over and all of a sudden Alice Cooper’s sittin’ beside ya,” Bullard added. “And I think Rodney will agree with me on this, that when you’re on the cruise, when the artists are out, nobody rushes. Because they’re all just there, and everybody respects the artists’ space and nobody’s hound-dogged for pictures and autographs because it’s just a given. All the artists are just mingling around on the boat, because nobody wants to stay in a little 12-by-12 cabin for four days.”
Bullard added that between 70 and 75 percent of next year’s cruise has already sold out.
“Everybody was blown away when Sammy Hagar announced, and then Bad Company with the original members,” he said. “It just really took off. It’s gonna be a good one. There’s always 20 to 24 bands, and they’ve only announced a few.”
“If you don’t have fun on a Rock Legends Cruise, something’s wrong,” O’Quinn said.
Other acts scheduled to perform on this year’s cruise include Pat Benatar, REO Speedwagon, Thin Lizzy, Don Felder, The Marshall Tucker Band, Nazareth, The Kentucky HeadHunters, Rick Derringer, The Artimus Pyle Band and guitarist Gary Hoey.
A portion of the proceeds from the cruise help benefit the Native American Heritage Association — a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to helping Native American families in need living on Reservations in South Dakota and Wyoming.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.