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Date & Place of birth: May 13 - Somerset, KY
Instrument: Keyboards-I also play guitar, bass & woodwinds
Primary influences- Musical: My first influences were jazz groups, particularly The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Count Basie, Duke Ellington—next were the Motown Artists-Temptations, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, etc. After that-the English invasion-The Beatles, The Dave Clark 5, The Stones, The Animals, The Zombies, The Spencer Davis Group. Later on-The Young Rascals, Cream, Hendrix, Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, The Eagles, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder. Landmark records I remember were Take Five, Sgt. Peppers, The Jimi Hendrix Experiment, CTA, The Allman Bros. Live At the Fillmore, Johnny Cash Live At Folsom Prison. Single records that stand out—Twist & Shout (Beatles version), House of the Rising Sun, Good Lovin, Gimmie Some Lovin, Purple Haze, Superstition, Hotel California.
Primary influences- Personal: The obvious- my parents. The thing I’ve inherited from them is their work ethic—they were common folks who believed in getting up early, working hard, earning what you got. I didn’t always do that in younger years, but as I get older their values get more important to me, and I’ve successfully passed those on to my daughter, which makes me very happy.
What life has taught me: Try to be as straightforward & honest as you can. Treat people well. Always be there for your family. Love unconditionally. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t sweat the small stuff! “Love people, use things-not vice-versa.”
Somerset, KY, is a wonderful small town to be from. I grew up with great parents and one brother (who has since passed) and an innate love of music. It’s almost the same distance to Nashville as it is to Lexington. The musical opportunity for me was in Lexington and that’s where I went, initially, even though I eventually ended up here in Nashville.
I started taking piano lessons when I was five, doing recitals at six, playing in church and with gospel groups shortly thereafter, and joining my first band in 1964 when I was 14 (we were called “The Savages”). At 15 we actually got paid to perform. Well, OK; we got paid $2 apiece, at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. From there it’s a blurry string of sock hops (as they were called then), school programs, proms, nightclubs—all the “glam” gigs! I am proud to say that I got my college degree-like my parents wanted. I studied music (piano & woodwinds) at The University of Kentucky, receiving my degree in Communications Technology.
Around 1966 I saw my future when I saw “The Exiles” on the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars concert in Lexington. I remember thinking what a cool band they were, never realizing I would be a member one day. Through the ensuing years I crossed paths frequently with the then-present and future members of the band, occasionally working the same bill with “The Exiles.” In the early seventies they had two keyboard players. A couple of months after one of them left the band, JP, along with a couple of the other members, asked me to join. The first couple of years were quite a struggle financially, actually. Exile band members were only making $75 a week, because we had committed to play all original material which severely limited the price of dates booked. Before I joined I was making $400 or so a week in a club band, so it was quite a drop in income. However, I felt it was worth it just to be a part of the band. Obviously it eventually paid off!
No one ever said it directly to me but I believe part of the reason I got asked to join was that I was managing a recording studio in Lexington, which gave the band access to an important piece of the puzzle-recording our songs. In the long run it contributed a great deal to our success. We’d spend many days playing sessions all day, then working all night on our own material. If we hadn’t had the chance to put songs on tape, Mike Chapman would have never heard us, become involved with the band, written “Kiss You All Over” for us. He & Nicky Chinn, his partner, definitely changed our lives. The session experience also had a role in our becoming the first country band to actually play on our own records-something unheard of back in the 80’s.
It’s also important to me to acknowledge the great affect our manager Jim Morey had on our career. Through highs & lows, lots of up’s and down’s he was always there, steady as a rock. He is a brilliant, innovative, compassionate man for whom I will always have much appreciation and respect. He taught me that you can excel in this business, and still be a decent person.
You can read all about the high times we had with “Kiss You All Over” and the “heyday” of our country career in the band bio. I’ll just mention a couple of things that really stand out for me.
“Kiss You All Over” period: We went to South Africa in 1980. No one had told us that we actually were huge stars there, with a lot of hits we weren’t even aware of. After a 20-plus-hour trip, we arrived in Johannesburg, all tired, jet-lagged, hung over and unshaven. As we got off the plane, we noticed thousands of people on the roof, concourse, anywhere they could stand at the airport; yelling, waving & screaming. We were literally looking over our shoulders to see what was going on until the promoter told us they were actually all there to see us! It was a scene like The Beatles arrival in the USA! I wonder to this day what they thought when they saw us haggard hippies get off that plane, looking totally dazed and confused.
Country Heyday: We had a long & successful tour one year with The Oak Ridge Boys. Joe Bonsall always told us that they felt we helped them sell a few thousand extra tickets each show. So before a show in Louisville, KY., Joe & Duane came walking into our dressing room just before we went on. When they got our attention, they opened a large bank bag, and threw $5,000 in one-dollar bills all over our dressing room as a bonus. And the hip-hoppers think they invented “making it rain”!!! The only unhappy person was our road manager, Clarence Spalding, because he had to pick up all those dollar bills!
After I left the band, I did many different things. I worked with Jerry Reed for a couple of years; I had a club band in town for 5-6 years; worked with Steve Goetzman for about a year at a management company; ran a music store for a few years-while playing and producing sessions all along.
There was virtually no contact between me and any other band members until about four or five years ago. Gradually we started to make contact with each other again, individually. Then about three years ago I started musing to myself about the possibility of a reunion, if just for one fun gig. About a year before it actually happened we began talking about it to one another. I believe it was Sonny who actually brought all five of us together-the benefit concert for Raymond Patrick last year in Lexington was the essential catalyst. In the first hour of our rehearsal we knew the magic was there & we had to continue. When we went in to record new material, the same thing happened in the studio. It only took about an hour for things to start clicking. It was like we’d never stopped.
The bottom line for me is that we’re back together making music because we want to, not because we have to. I have never been more sure that we’ve still got great music to give to our fans! I’ve never been happier playing in a band, I think we sound better than ever, and I look forward to continue seeing all our old fans again, and making new ones!