Terry McCarthy (Submitted photo)

Members of Terry and the Telstars from left, front: Nick Knowlton and Mike Asselin; back: Peter Nadeau, Terry McCarthy and Dan Caron. (File photo)

LEWISTON — Terry McCarthy had a lot to brag about.

The leader of Terry and the Telstars, formed in the 1960s, his music was good enough to land a recording contract and to open for megastar Jimi Hendrix in 1968.

McCarthy, who started playing guitar at 5, went on to become one of the most revered musicians to come out of the Lewiston-Auburn area.

He could have bragged plenty, but he never did.

“One of his great qualities,” said friend and former Telstars keyboardist Peter Nadeau, “was his humility. In the 50 years I’ve known Terry, I’ve never heard him brag or boast about anything.”

“In the music business, he was a rare animal,” said Ed Boucher, who managed Terry and the Telstars during its heyday. “Terry was a very humble guy, always. He used to look up to me as a guitar player when he was a kid. Later on, when I’d go to his jams, I found that I was looking up to him. He had gone so far beyond anything that I could do musically. I was just blown away by how good he was — how great he had become.”

McCarthy died Saturday after a battle with cancer. According to friends, he was listening to blues music when he passed away. He was 67.

“It was the second-best way for him to go,” Nadeau said. “His first choice would have been playing.”

McCarthy began recruiting other kids to form bands while he was in middle school. At first, the aspiring musicians would play on the street in front of stores. Several bands would emerge over the years, but McCarthy is most remembered for founding and leading Terry and the Telstars, which became an almost instant success.

“They never disappointed when they played,” said Boucher, formerly of the local band The Royal Knights. “They were young, but they would rehearse four or five days a week.

“When they played, they had their stuff down. They got very good very quickly because they were dedicated. They earned it.”

“We played at all the high school dances in all the high schools,” Nadeau said. “We won the battle of the bands. It was a fun childhood, it really was.”

Fun, for sure, but the band was good enough that, in an era where music was the main source of entertainment in the Twin Cities, they were able to turn their passion for musics into bona fide jobs.

“There were lots of musicians in the area in the ’70s and ’80s,” Nadeau said. “In those days, there were bars all over. You could go to six different bars and see different bands on any given weekend in the Twin Cities.

The band won a statewide battle of the bands, which lead to a recording session in Boston in 1968 where they recorded four original tunes.

“They were a good bunch of kids and they were really talented, even at that age,” said Roger Blais, who played for the band The Innkeepers. “They were one of the premier bands of that era.”

In 1968, when The Jimi Hendrix Experience was scheduled to play at the armory in Lewiston, Boucher learned that one of the backup bands had dropped out. Hendrix’s people needed someone to fill in so Boucher quickly lined up Terry and the Telstars for the gig.

“That was huge for us,” Nadeau said.

“It was a real big deal,” Boucher recalls.

Through it all, everyone agrees, McCarthy remained humble. He went on to work for the Brunswick Times Record, but no matter what was going on in his life, music remained a part of it.

“He had regular jam sessions every Friday night for more than 30 years,” Nadeau said. “It was a wonderful three hours every week.”

The jam sessions, at McCarthy’s home where the basement was set up like a stage, would draw musicians from all over. Those sessions were still going on just a few weeks ago, Nadeau said, before McCarthy became too sick to play.

“He was just incredible,” said Gene Roux, a drummer who played with McCarthy in the band Ram. “He knew how to bring music out of everybody. He was the leader of the band. He was the maestro.”

“He has been such a big influence on many musicians in the Lewiston-Auburn area,” said Mike Asselin, who played bass in several bands with McCarthy.

“A guy like that, you never want him to die,” Boucher said. “He was someone who welcomed everybody. A lot of musicians are going to feel this loss.”

In 2010, Terry and the Telstars were prominently featured in the rough-cut film version of Bill Maroldo’s “Pal Hop Days,” which was the headliner of the first Lewiston-Auburn Film Festival. An interview with Telstars founder Terry McCarthy can be viewed on the PalHop Days YouTube channel, along with vintage video footage of the band.


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