I-tal was Cleveland's very first reggae band. The group formed in late 1977, after bassist Dave Valentine heard singer/guitarist Dave Smeltz and percussionist Bob Caruso "attempting" to play reggae music at a blues-oriented open-mic night. Reggae music had been popular in England for more than a decade by then, but it was just starting to receive its initial push here in the States. Over the course of the next 16 years, I-tal partook of a steady stream of local gigs and regional touring to consistently packed houses. Throughout this time, Smeltz, or "Papa Dave" as he became known, remained the only consistently involved original member. I-tal's ever-fluctuating lineup, however, served as a training camp for many of the area's most respected reggae musicians. (Core musicians for both First Light and Satta cut their teeth as members of I-tal.)
The group disbanded in 1993. To the surprise of many, last year Valentine picked a handful of his favorite I-tal tunes and released them on a CD titled I-tal USA -- Original Rockers. Of course, he admits, he had a keen eye toward re-forming the band and had been coaxing Papa Dave to get back into the music scene for a couple of years. "Dave [Smeltz] finally called me back and said, 'I'm ready, Let's do it.'"
Joining Smeltz, Valentine, and Caruso will be guitarist John Wagner, who played in a later incarnation of I-tal, along with original percussionist/singer Carlos Jones, on loan from the Peace, Love, and Unity Syndicate (PLUS Band). Valentine stresses the fact that this is not a one-time reunion show. "This is a reformed I-tal," he asserts. "We want to be a part of the scene once again."
We welcome them back.