John Domaschko clutched his bass and scanned the group of rockers.

 There was a drummer who worked in real estate, a guitarist who doubled as an executive at Toyota and a lead singer who managed public relations at Fidelity.

 Oh boy, Domaschko thought.

 It was a motley crew, but what they needed was something more like Motley Crüe.

 “My honest feeling was that the music would suck,” says Domaschko, the former senior managing partner of his own CPA firm. “But I figured that everybody would have a good enough time seeing people doing things completely out of character.”

 The idea involved local executives playing and singing rock ‘n’ roll for one night only to benefit a good cause. But the music had to be good. Could they pull it off? The first song they learned was “Tush” by ZZ Top. Initially, Domaschko was skeptical.

 “This is not a particularly easy song,” Domaschko says. “The guitars and the drums are pretty difficult. The vocals are in a range that not too many people I know can hit them.”

 The makeshift band started out playing the song’s signature guitar riff. Then lead singer Kevin Canafax, vice president of Midwest public affairs for Fidelity Investments, took the mic.

 “All of a sudden Kevin starts singing and he’s not just achieving the notes, he’s knocking them out of the park,” Domaschko says. “I thought, ‘Holy crap, this is not going to suck. As a matter of fact, this could be really good.’ ”

 It was like they’d all traded their souls at the crossroads. They jammed.

 Suits That Rock was born.

 In 2004, both Domaschko and lawyer Greg Shumate were local executives who’d always loved playing rock music. But somewhere along the way, life got in the way. Music took a backseat.

 It’s a story they’d heard dozens of times, from university and company presidents to business owners and creative types.

 But it was a 2004 charitable show, which both of their bands were playing, that sparked the idea.

 “For that concert, John and I had discussed creating a super band of local CEOs, celebrities, etc. to play the third set,” Shumate recalls. “Unfortunately, our schedules didn’t allow us to pull it off that year.”

 By 2007, Domaschko had recruited others, including Canafax, and they decided that a six-member band would suffice. They could play a benefit show for a local charity. “I’m getting great reaction when I tell [people] at a cocktail party,” Domaschko says. “But then people aren’t returning my calls.”

 He thought maybe the idea wouldn’t work. But he kept at it. “It was obvious people were intrigued by the concept,” he says. During those discussions, they found more closet musicians and a willing host partner in The Carnegie in Covington.

 The only multidisciplinary arts venue in Northern Kentucky, The Carnegie houses an auditorium, galleries and an education center. It is funded solely through donations from the community.

 The musicians thought the show could help The Carnegie and area children.

 “All the money goes to arts education for inner city kids, whose schools have generally jettisoned the arts out of their curriculum,” Domaschko says.

 Domaschko worked to schedule rehearsal time for the collection of musicians, which had grown to 20. By October 2007, the concert was a reality. It was booked for the summer, a four-hour show in front of about 500 people. They needed a setlist, so Domaschko emailed the group, asking what they wanted to play. Some of the artists that came back were Led Zeppelin, Elvis, The Rolling Stones and Dire Straits, among other classic rock acts.

 He should’ve known then the performances would be great. But it took that first rehearsal for Domaschko to realize the music would be on a professional level.

 “Our goal for the evening was that we didn’t want to suck,” Shumate says.

 And of course, there was the problem of what to call themselves. “The Carnegie sent 30 ideas, none of which were Suits That Rock,” Domaschko says. “They said Suits on Stage, but it just didn’t say what we did. We were going to rock. It was born then.”

 When tickets went on sale, they sold out in 12 days. On July 26, 2008, the Suits played to a packed crowd.

 “I don’t think the crowd had great expectations, but by the time Sultans of Swing [was played] in the first set, they had won the crowd over and the rest of the night was an absolute love fest between the musicians and the audience,” Shumate says. “It was a thrill to play on that cool old stage in that renovated theatre to an extremely enthusiastic audience.”

 By the end, members of the audience were coming up to the musicians offering praise. “I’m old enough to know when people are blowing smoke up my skirt,” Domaschko says. “These people really had the time of their lives at this show.”

 And the fans kept asking one question.

 “All of a sudden, everybody started asking us what we were going to do next year,” Domaschko says.

 The Carnegie supported having another show, too. After just hoping to break even, the Suits raised $10,000.

And so, Suits That Rock became an annual summer event benefiting The Carnegie. The number of musicians swelled to 40, another show was added the next week, and the money raised increased by the thousands.

 By 2013, the shows sold out in three days and brought in nearly $80,000. This year’s two shows will be on June 21 and 28.

  “Each subsequent year brought more and more professionalism,” says guitarist Bob Blanchard, a retired group vice president at Procter & Gamble. “One thing that every Suit has in common is the absolute need to play music. It’s such an essential part of who we are. So being able to do it with such terrific folks and for the benefit of an important arts organization as The Carnegie adds up to one thing: pure joy.”

  Other tweaks to the process would follow, including inviting guest performers.

“Last year we had, among others, Chuck Scheper, the former mayor of Covington; Mark Tipton, a funeral director in Cincinnati; and Andrew Aiello, the general manager of the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky,” Domaschko says.

 And then there was Johnna Reeder, the vice president of community relations and economic development for Duke Energy Ohio and Duke Energy Kentucky.

 Reeder had made a New Year’s resolution to “have more fun and try new things.” Canafax suggested becoming a guest Suit, specifically to perform “California Girls” by Katy Perry. “After a glass of wine, I thought it was a fantastic idea,” Reeder says. “Next time, I will skip the wine before answering.”

 She had no singing experience. But she didn’t want to embarrass herself. She practiced and went a bit, as she says, “overboard.”

 “I took a few voice lessons and watched the video at least 50 times,” she says. “I tried to choreograph my rendition to match Katy’s performance. I worked with a costume designer from California. ... I didn’t want to halfway do this. I figured I should go big or go home!”

Her performance was flawless. The crowd went wild. Domaschko says, “She just blew people away. We didn’t see that coming.”

“I now know what performers mean when they say the crowd gives them energy. I had my two minutes of fame and it was intoxicating,” Reeder says. “My favorite moment was seeing my two children dancing in the front row. I actually felt cool in the eyes of an 11- and 14-year-old for a moment.”

It’s a feeling they all share.

“One of the elements that makes Suits That Rock so special is the connection to the audience,” Canafax says. “We feed off of them and they feed off of us.”

“You’re in another world. You lose track of time,” Domaschko says. “That’s kind of the experience, but when you add to that almost 500 people having as much fun as you are, dancing, recreating their youth, I gotta say in the thrill department, there’s nothing that comes even close to it.”