Recap and Celebration of the “We Do Care” Charity Extravaganza Concert
Written by Kim Rush
Thanks to the efforts of many planners, workers and generous musicians and the people who attended, the May 5th “We Do Care” Charity Extravaganza at Knights of Columbus Hall in Wyoming was a tremendous success. We want to sincerely thank you all for your participation. Based on very positive phone conversations, as well as good Facebook and email responses we’re still receiving, it appears that everyone had a great time!
Good musicians make it look like their performances are real easy to pull off while they are playing. The volunteers who worked so hard to assure that this event was organized and flowing smoothly also made this concert appear like it was simple to produce. However, it was actually quite an orchestration and countless hours were invested into planning, preparations and rehearsals.
This show, which was the brainchild of drummers Keith Mullins and Cindy Obetts, was originally conceived as a jam session rather than a concert. They presented their idea to me last fall. Initially, I was very reluctant to get involved, as it seemed like it would be a ton of work. I wasn’t wrong about that.
The website sponsors very informal monthly meetings which are held in Grand Rapids. The folks who attend are typically musicians, although DJs, historians, record collectors, children of musicians and other interested people regularly attend. These discussions were first held during the summer of 2011, and were the notion of Dick Beatty of the Eschelons. After I interviewed him, he suspected that there might be other musicians that would also be interested in talking about their music careers. Since this simple beginning, many of the people who attend frequently have become very close friends and involved with recording their histories as musicians through the website. They are encouraging other local musicians to do the same.
The word traveled fast throughout the musical community that we were looking for people to play at this proposed jam session. In fact, by Christmas we had already received commitments from sixteen bands and unfortunately, we had to start turning musicians down. By this time, it was obvious that this was becoming more than just a jam session. It had become a concert!
If you’re going to have a concert, you need the right place to hold it, right? 6 Pak guitarist Mary Arbanas’ brother Paul agreed to let us hold our event at the club that he manages, the Knights of Columbus Hall, located in Wyoming. I figured it would be a good fit as it was in a decent neighborhood with lots of parking, seated 500 people, and had a good-sized stage. We had to schedule our event around the busy Saturday wedding schedule at Knights, so we ended up with a Sunday date. Musicians that regularly play on Saturdays suggested that we hold the concert on Sunday so that they could be involved.
As we entered the winter months, a group of 15-20 musicians attended special monthly planning meetings where we had brainstorming sessions and discussed everything in detail that we thought was important for making this a success. The first meeting was before Christmas. It was evident that those that showed up were really excited about this opportunity.
It was a huge challenge to fit 16 bands into one day of entertainment, but we figured out what it would take to make this happen and hired a sound man who is also a sax player, namely Rocky Jette. He figured out a way to create a stationary stage setup where we would have a minimum of take-down and set up time between bands.
We began to be concerned about the scheduling of our list of entertainers. Most were pretty certain concerning when they wanted to perform, so I tried to give everyone the time slots they wanted. A few bands were more flexible and these are the groups that allowed me to place them in the vacant spots and complete the schedule. You know who you are, and thank you for helping us out that way.
A few of the bands implemented some changes of personnel within the last few weeks before the concert, so the names of the ‘new’ performers were not included on the flyer which was printed 3 weeks before the event. I tried my best to keep up with these changes, but ask forgiveness if I omitted someone’s name by mistake.
We had very little luck obtaining newspaper coverage, yet numerous radio stations and websites provided some very generous and enthusiastic plugs. John Sinkivics was a major advocate in terms of advertising for this event and deserves a lot of credit for putting out the word on his website, in his column for Music Revue magazine, and also on the radio. Keith Seccombe talked to Bill Bailey on “Real Oldies” and I spoke with Shelley Irwin on WGVU during their broadcasts.
We figured that we needed some great MCs to run this show for us. Big Al Vandetti and Keith Seccombe agreed to do this and performed a beautiful job of keeping the event flowing for us all. We could not have found two more talented and entertaining MCs if we searched worldwide. It was a very long day for both of them and they deserve a ton of credit for keeping the show organized and exciting!
Paul Arbanas figured out a way to get 500 people seated comfortably in this hall. He showed up at 6 A.M. on the day of the concert and got everything set up for us, as well as getting the food concession ready for the huge crowd that showed up during the day. Paul has lots of experience with planning large events. Paul and his crew deserve much credit for the success of this event.
The concert started around 1 P.M. with a reunion of my old 1972 band called Bad Manor. No one else wanted the opening slot, so we were elected. We offered up a few blues based tunes. Drummer Tom Dedinas sang a song he recorded with the Psychotics in the 60s. Tom and bass player Gary Houghton drove in from Toledo, Ohio to help make this happen. The crowd was not huge at the beginning. The hall was about half full.
Volunteers from WKTV were there all day recording the event, spearheaded by Evans DeVries. He also performed with two bands. Calvin Weeks provided lighting for the show and helped Rocky set up and manage the constantly changing sound needs on the stage. Ritchie Decker came later to help Rocky and Calvin keep things rolling. By 2 P.M. a large crowd of people started filling up the hall.
During the long day, a few folks told me that they had left, took a nap and had returned to catch some more music and fun with friends and other pleasant folks in the audience. You’re bound to have this type of thing with a audience which ranged from 50-80 years of age.
The lineup of bands were both historically significant and highly experienced. Most of the musicians that played had between 40-60 years of experience with music! Two of the most experienced were Cordovox player Bill Farrow and vocalist Ann Godfrey, who delightfully performed some old show tunes and ballads from back in the 50s and onward.
There were also solid samplings from the early doo-wop, rock and roll and pop music eras of the late 50s, as we were entertained by two of Grand Rapids oldest groups from this era, the Knights and the Eschelons.
Johnny Boggs, who has been playing in local bands since the early 60s, provided a country-flavored set composed of songs that he has written. Lyn and the Invaders and the Quests clearly reminded us of why their records were hitting the local charts during the mid-60s. David Bergsma came all the way from Phoenix to play with the complete original group of Lyn and the Invaders. Lyle Hotchkiss traveled from Florida and lead singer Bob Fritzen from Georgia to play again with all of the original members of the Quests.
Blues 101 delivered some very tasty blues music. This band is composed of some talented local music legends of the 1960s, including Keith Mullins on drums, Johnny Mac on guitar, John Boggs on keys, Big Al filling in for Jeff Beavans on bass, and the Eschelons stellar sax man, Al Bischoff.
Ruth Ann Scott, who released five singles between 1963-1965, and who started singing with Ruth Ann and the Invictas shortly after her 13th birthday, provided supporting vocals and keys for the 6 Pak as well as belting out a couple of her recorded songs with another group composed of some Eschelons members and Lin Nowicki.
Lin Nowicki and Ron Beatty of the Eschelons introduced us to their new impressive vocal duet called The Others.
Joe McCargar, lead singer for the popular Grand Rapids band called The Fredric in the late 60s, combined forces with three of his high school classmates as well as drummer Rick Bengelink and keyboardist Bill Rose to offer up some fun rock music from the late 60s as well as some blues tunes.
The 6 Pak, originally Grand Rapids’ only 1960s all-girl group who played most of Michigan’s teenage night clubs of that time period, brought a large portion of the crowd to their feet between 3:30-4:00. They performed some really cool dance tunes like Mony, Mony and Give Me Some Lovin.
Members of the Steve Edge Band and the Larsen Brothers got their start in the early 70s and have never let up, playing all around West Michigan. The Steve Edge Band is a trio, yet never had a single moment where they didn’t supply a very full sound. The Larsen Brothers are a bit more country and blues oriented than the Steve Edge trio, but could also handle a rock tune just as well as anyone who performed all day long.
Mona Sallie got her start in the schools, churches, choirs and nightclubs during the 70s with well-known bands like Raggs. Her super deep vocal talent is apparent from the moment she begins to lift her voice in song, and her stylistic versatility is amazing. Other talented members of The Sounds of the Motor City who joined Mona were her sister Kristi, as well as Derrick Hayes and Ray Dooley. Together, they qualify as one of the most exciting vocal groups in this region.They cover Motown hits, but so much more!
The Trace is a unique West Michigan crowd favorite which has evolved gradually from various stages of the original 1970s trio named Natchez Trace, always carrying the tradition of vocal excellence. Steve Damstra, Robin Spring and Mark Lamm provide guitars, bass, and keys while weaving their voices together with amazing dexterity, range and tightness.
The final act of the evening, The Hazz Benz, was assembled especially for this concert, though they sounded like they had been together for years! On lead vocals was Jim Lewis of Kingtones fame, Mike Romanowski, formerly of Ozz, Denny Larsen of the Larsen Brothers, Kelly Thompson, Ronnie Lee and John Pykonen.
Generally, I just “listed” these bands and musicians in respect to their historical chronology, rather than in the exact order they performed. It was pleasant to hear how well the various styles of music which were offered created such a perfect and captivating soundtrack for the entire event.
But this affair was not entirely about music and fun. “We Do Care” charity volunteers were at the concert all day long collecting donations which assist children with cancer. We are pleased to announce that they collected a total of 1387.00 for their very worthwhile cause!
Thanks again to everyone that helped plan this event, as well as others that worked to make it happen; and the generous musicians who donated their time and energy for the enjoyment of the musical community. It was your concert, and we hope you loved it!
The “We Do Care” Charity Concert Photos
Photos below courtesy of GenePaskiewicz:
FS ~ 5/16/2013 – 5/22/2013