An Evening with The Returnables
Location: Stonington Opera House
Tickets: $10 suggested donation at the door
Donations to benefit Opera House Arts’ Community & Learning Programs. Enjoy live music with The Returnables (Frank Gotwals, Hank Whitsett, Burt Leach, Tom Gotwals, Eric Beckman, Brian Robbins). All-ages event.
Back in the 1980s there was a group of Deer Isle/Stonington-based musicians who would get together once a year to make music during the Island’s annual 4th of July parade. No matter who was on hand in any given year, the ensemble’s heart and soul was Steve Robbins Jr. He led the band with his energy and humor as much as his faithful Martin guitar, powerful voice, and ever-present cigar.
The band’s name changed each year to tie in with either the parade theme or current events. One 4th they were Clam Fritter & The Flats (to honor Island seafood); Jacques Strapp & The Sweat Band made an appearance during the Summer Olympics … and in 1989 – the year of the 5-cent deposit referendum – they were Bottle Bill & The Returnables.
That year, the band’s momentum carried them beyond the parade; they played on the Stonington Town Pier that night (going a couple of hours past the 9 PM fireworks) and blistered through raucous gigs that summer and fall, including a visit to Swans Island and a string of fuse-blowing Legion Hall dances before calling it quits by year’s end.
In 2019, The Returnables reunited to mark the 50th anniversary of Woodstock as well as the band’s 30th anniversary. Sadly, they had to perform without Steve, who was undergoing treatments for cancer (while still lobstering steadily).
Steve Robbins Jr. passed away in July of 2020. In August of 2021, his bandmates played “One For Stevie” – an outdoor concert at the Stonington Ballfield – in his honor, and have continued playing since.