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SHIRLEY — Asking George Tocci, owner and booker of the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, to name his favorite upcoming concert at the historic venue is like asking a parent to name his or her favorite child.

You’ll have to forgive him if he is wont to wax poetic about all of the shows.

That said, when you are in the live music business, there’s always another show to look forward to, but here’s a preview of the Bull Run’s fall concert lineup, with some thoughts from Tocci along the way.

Legendary country music group Asleep at the Wheel comes to town on Sunday, Sept. 27 and, perhaps because it’s next on the calendar, it’s the first one that came to mind for Tocci.

“I remember them from years ago, but when they came back last year, it was phenomenal,” he said. “It was great to see they weren’t a retro band. It still seems very relevant to me.”

October kicks off with Ryan Montbleau on Oct. 1. “He brings a younger crowd. We’re trying to reach out to younger people and Ryan is just a phenomenal guy. He used to play as an opener here. He’s come a long way.”

Shemekia Copeland brings her Texas blues to town on Oct. 3 while 60s psychedelic heavy metal band Vanilla Fudge (still featuring original members Mark Stein, Vince Martell and Carmine Appice) roll through on Oct. 8.

You may not think of Al Kooper when you think of rock music, but any book encompassing the last 50 years of rock music would not be complete without a chapter–at least–about Kooper.

He organized Blood, Sweat & Tears, played as a studio musician for Bob Dylan (and with him at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival), and has played on hundreds of records, including those by the Rolling Stones, B.B. King, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream and Alice Cooper.

He discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd, performed on “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird” and has retired from teaching songwriting and recording production at Berklee College of Music.

And he’ll be at the Bull Run on Oct. 9 with his band The Funky Faculty.

“You could write a book on Al. He’s like Forrest Gump. He’s everywhere in the back of pictures photo bombing historical events and he’s a really funny person. I’ve been asking him to come in, play piano and tell stories. Maybe someday we’ll get him to do it.”

Bull Run has always been host to good country artists and this fall is no exception with Kathy Mattea (Oct. 16) and Lee Ann Womack (Nov. 21) on the calendar.

“I never even considered I could get someone of Lee Ann’s caliber at the Bull Run, but she started doing small clubs in the last year or so. That’s a biggie in my mind.”

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried headlines on Nov. 6. “He’s not for everyone, but the people who know him love him. He’s been around.”

The fall lineup also includes the Devens Rock 4 Warriors benefit concert (postponed from May) on Nov. 14. The show features GE Smith, Bill Kirchen (lead guitarist and vocalist for Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen), Vetted (the first nationally recognized Wounded Warrior band in the United States) and The Persuasions.

“I’ve always tried to keep the lineup eclectic,” Tocci said. “My personal tastes are very eclectic, anyway. I have never heard a genre of music I didn’t like. I’ve heard music in ever genre and I’ve heard great music in every genre. It’s great for the series to have variety. I don’t necessarily just put on things I love. I put on things people might like.”

Tocci said the challenges of booking a smaller venue in an increasingly crowded concert market force him and his staff to remain ever vigilant about what they are delivering to customers.

“We have to keep the level of food up and the level of service up so that people feel warm and welcome. It’s a warm old building, especially in the winter when the fire is up. People love it here and it’s a great feeling.”

For tickets and more information about these shows and the rest of the Bull Run concert series, visit

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