Two local musicians are using their personal journey with cancer to give back to others affected by the life-threatening disease. “Almost Famous,” a band of musicians from metro Detroit who have individually traveled the world in pursuit of their art, reconnected in 2022 for a benefit concert for CURE Childhood Cancer after the band’s drummer, Eric “E” Mcdonald, went through his own battle with the disease.

Drummer Eric "E" McDonald

Almost Famous drummer Eric “E” McDonald practices his drums ahead of the second annual Almost Famous benefit rock concert for CURE Childhood Cancer. | Photo by One Detroit

This year, the longtime musicians have reunited and formed a bond in the Oakland County village of Wolverine Lake to keep the benefit rock concert going. The second annual concert is on Saturday, Aug. 5 at Wolverine Lake’s Mallow Beach. 

CURE Childhood Cancer is a renowned nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer and has been a beacon of hope for families battling this devastating disease since its inception in 1975. Having raised millions of dollars for research and support programs, the organization has been at the forefront of advancing treatments and improving the lives of young cancer patients.  

Almost Famous lead vocalist and guitarist Tommy Ingham and Mcdonald, who are co-organizers of the benefit concert, talked with producer Sarah Zientarski about McDonald’s battle with tongue cancer, the creation of their band Almost Famous and the benefit concert, and what it means to them to support a cause that has touched their lives too.

Full Transcript:

Tommy Ingham, Lead Vocals and Guitar, Almost Famous: Start with music and people will come.

Eric “E” McDonald, Drums and Backup Vocals, Almost Famous: We’re doing this because we love it, but to be able to do this to help other people. I don’t know that I have the word. It’s incredible to be able to do that. Tommy and I were business partners in our band years ago and lost touch with each other for a long time.

Tommy Ingham: Years and years go by and I- Where I live out here in Wolverine Lake, there’s a little watering hole that some very dear friends of ours own called The Glengary. A great place. It’s Cheers. I was walking in the door, and I just saw this guy turn around, sitting at the bar, and he looked at me. And I looked at him, and I’m like, “Oh, my God. What are you doing here?” And it was divine in some sense of the word.

Eric “E” McDonald: I forgot he even lived out here. And it all just happened and bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. All of a sudden, we got everybody back. We got who we got. And it’s clicking.

Tommy Ingham: He says, “Hey, I talked to Don. He’s in.” And I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me. For us to get as lucky as we got and to land Randy Peavler, who- he’s just another guy that you just wouldn’t figure that you’d be able to land. And the rest is history. So that’s how Almost Famous began. This was before Eric knew that he was sick.

Eric “E” McDonald: I got married right up the road on the lake, also. Three weeks after that, I got diagnosed with stage four lung tongue cancer, all in here. I had to figure out how to go home and tell my wife that I just married three weeks earlier. And, of course, she was a champ.

We kind of got thrust into things pretty quickly because it was far along and didn’t know what was going to happen. The Wolverine Lake community helped me immediately after I found out. That was immediate. I had fans raising us money, back up, giving me rides to my treatments because I had to be out in Brighton, that U of M hospital in Brighton every day of the week.

Tommy Ingham: The Wolverine Lake community is magical. For Eric to land here, I don’t think was happenstance. I think Eric needed the Wolverine Lake community in his life.

Eric “E” McDonald: To love. Again, the words elude me for that, but it was massive. It was all-encompassing. A big giant hug. I wanted to play for the people in this community as a way of saying thank you. And how could I thank them? I want to play for them. And so I got with Tommy, and that’s when we put it together. The Almost Famous Benefit Concert benefiting to cure childhood cancer.

Tommy Ingham: And I went and talked to a gentleman named Mike Knish. And Mike Knish is one of our Wolverine villagers who is an incredible person. And Mike helped us secure Mallow Beach, which is a park that is right on the water on Wolverine Lake. And it is perfect for what we want to do because it’s not just about having a space, it’s about creating an atmosphere. It’s camping. It’s coolers. It’s really good friends and people.

Eric “E” McDonald: And we have a big giant barge that we pull up, and that is our stage. We pull it right up to the land so people can come and watch us from the land. And we also have people on the lake come out on boats and it’s a beautiful thing. Everybody just rocks out with us, and we have a good time. We’re asking for a $10 donation. So we’re not charging anything. If you don’t have anything and you want to come and enjoy it with us, absolutely welcome. But we are asking for donations to help out.

It’s all going to charity, Cure Childhood Cancer. They help children with cancer and their families. Support, financial support, and other kinds of support for the kids when they’re in the hospital. They try and make it affordable and easy, so it doesn’t wreck people financially and otherwise, not to mention emotionally.

Having gone through what I went through, I can’t imagine a child going through that, not knowing why or what. It just blows me away. There are two other acts before us on the bill, and both of them are wonderful. A guy named- Kenny and Rob. A guy plays acoustic, and a guy has a beatbox he plays on. They’re pretty cool and local.

And then some friends of ours, they are called Wax Radio. Now they’re doing a cover band thing out of Detroit. And then Almost Famous, we’re going to come out and wrap the night up and I have a surprise or two on board. It’s a labor of love. It really is. And it’s a beautiful thing. I’m hoping to be able to donate even more than we did last year and to help children.

Tommy Ingham: You’re going to be fulfilled if you come out. You’re going to have a great time. More importantly, you’re going to be fulfilled by the fact that you’re doing something incredible for people that need you.

Eric “E” McDonald: I hope people will come out and celebrate with us. This is a celebration also. I like that word of music and love and care and hope and all of that yummy stuff. And we’re going to rock and roll and just be together. I’m aware of what could happen, but it ain’t happening today, and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen tomorrow. And I’m going to see that stage again with my family and my friends, and I’m going to express myself and my love the way I know how to best.

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