The Strangers rock for warmth

The Strangers, a band composed of three Oakland University graduates, are playing music for a cause this weekend at The Palace of Auburn Hills during the annual Walk for Warmth. 

 The Strangers is a rock band, playing covers from the ’50s and ’60s forward, as well as original music. They have found inspiration from U2 and singer-songwriter Ryan Adams.

 Jeffrey Hughes, 29, the oldest of the group, grew up in Sterling Heights and is the bassist for The Strangers. Hughes jokingly described himself as the “dad” of the group, as he typically drives home after a show so the other two can sleep.

Hughes is proud of his ties to OU.

“I met my wife in English class in South Foundation Hall and proposed to her outside Wilson Hall,” he said. “I bet you I’m the only one who’s ever done that.”

 Danny Runey, 28, who grew up in Troy, is the vocalist and guitarist. He has been playing solo for around 10 years.  Runey writes many of the band’s original songs and his bandmates describe him as a talented lyricist. 

 “I once tried to count all the words I knew,” Runey joked.

 Runey said that during a show, he will choose a song to play on the spot. 

Whether Hughes and Josh Cyccone, the band’s drummer, have even heard the tune before or not, everything will still run as though it was planned all along.

 “That’s a testament to how great they are as musicians,” Runey said.

 Cyccone, 25, grew up in Shelby Township. His first show with Hughes and Runey was at the annual Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency Walk for Warmth fundraising event in 2009.

 “About a year and a half ago, through conversation, I just decided Josh would be our drummer,” Runey said.  

Even though Cyccone had not played drums for six or seven years because he was playing guitar with other groups, Runey said he was a great match for The Strangers.

“He was perfect; he was the perfect fit for the band,” Runey said.

 One might observe that all three artists interact just the way anyone might predict, as if they have known each another for years. That’s because they have.

 Hughes and Runey worked in a music store in Shelby Township, The Music Box, where they began performing together. 

The two also met Cyccone through the music store when he visited and played drums and guitar for previous bands, Runey said.

 The band said that because they have been able to play regularly for so long, their goal is to keep playing music to enjoy it. 

 The Strangers never plan to go on tour as each member has his own commitments.

 “We all have day jobs, professional jobs,” Runey said, “which makes us unusual,” Hughes added.

 Cyccone works in advertising, Runey handles logistics for the Army, and Hughes is a high school educator.

 On average, the band plays two to four shows a month. 

 “Some nights are better than others but we typically have a good night; I can’t really think of a bad (experience),” Runey said.

 The group has also played a handful of marathon gigs, playing for seven hours on end.

 “We have amazing endurance,” Hughes said.

 Some of the more strenuous gigs that the group has experienced were those on St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo.

The Strangers are performing at the 20th Anniversary Walk for Warmth at the Palace of Auburn Hills this Sunday, Feb. 7. 

 The Walk for Warmth is an annual fundraiser hosted by OLHSA. Donations are used to help Michigan residents stay warm during the winter and reduce the effects of poverty.

 According to Lindsey Grosso, a public relations assistant for OLHSA, the Walk for Warmth check-in and registration begins at 12:30 p.m. with a kick-off ceremony following shortly after at 1 p.m.. The event goes until 3 p.m.

There is a $10 minimum donation per person for walkers, but Grosso said a larger donation is encouraged. 

“We give utility assistance to those in need with the funds we raise,” Grosso said.

Since it is the 20th anniversary for the walk, there are a few special attractions for the event.  

These new additions include the recognition of 20th anniversary partners at the ceremony and a chance for participants to play basketball on the Pistons’ court during the event. 

A Green Court event is scheduled during the walk as well. The Green Court hopes to help residents reduce their monthly bills, resulting in less need for assistance from OLHSA.

“Green Court will highlight local businesses that provide energy efficiency,” Grosso said.  

With an expected turnout of around 800 walkers, in comparison to last year’s turnout of 500-600 participants, OLHSA’s goal is to accumulate $200,000 for their 20th anniversary. 

“One hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to the Utility Assistance Program,” she said.

The organization will continue to collect donations throughout the year to reach that goal.

The event is family-friendly and will host a DJ, abelly dancing lessons, free blood pressure tests, free massages and a couple of different musicians.

Participants at the Walk for Warmth walk can walk around the track at The Palace while experiencing the different events going on throughout the day.

“It was fun and we look forward to doing it again,” Runey said, about The Strangers’ first Walk for Warmth performance in 2009.

 The band expects to release their first album together, titled “Hello,” near the end of this summer, according to Runey.  Although “Hello” will be the group’s debut album, each band member has worked on and debuted albums with previous projects.

 For information about OLHSA’s Walk for Warmth, visit