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|Easy Eddie celebrating 25 years|
You won't find many bands nowadays consisting of 50-and 60-year olds going into the studio to record a new CD.
Then again, you won't find many bands like Easy Eddie and the Party Rockers, which is celebrating its 25th year of entertaining folks around the Miss-Lou as well as places in Florida, Texas and Illinois.
"I'm surprised we're still doing this," said Easy Eddie founding member and business manager Gary Caldwell. "I figured one of us would have died by now."
Vocalist and Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin expands on that.
"I never dreamed of still playing in a band," McGlothin said. "I think if one of us died on stage the others would not quit playing, They would just load him up after the show and carry him off."
Caldwell, who also serves as financial manager, driver, scheduler and promotions, said he cannot imagine not being on stage.
"Actually this is really keeping us alive," Caldwell said. "I feel real fortunate doing this and appreciate the opportunity to be able to do things. I think our longevity has a lot to do with camaraderie. And there are no egos in the bunch."
Since forming in 1985, Easy Eddie & the Partyrockers have performed in over 2,500 performances.
The band has been the opening act for such artists as Jerry Lee Lewis, Irma Thomas, Percy Sledge, The Edgar Winter Group, Leon Russell, Bad Company, Clarence Carter, and most recently The Little River Band.
"It would be tough to play sometimes because you would be in awe of who is playing with you," McGlothin said. "I would go on stage with my mouth gaped open."
Each member of Easy Eddie played in different bands back in the 1960 and 70s.
The 57-year-old Caldwell, who plays bass, keyboardist and sings, played with John Fred and the Playboys for 3 1/2 years and Percy Sledge for two years.
McGlothin, 62, played in a makeshift band at the age of 15.
"I couldn't get in some places," he said.
The first named band McGlothin was a part of was in 1964 with De Kapel, which is German for band.
"We didn't have anybody who could sing, so I tried it," McGlothin said. "And that's how I got started singing."
McGlothin then started the band, Jute Kaleidoscope.
"We were sitting around trying to think up a name, something like Strawberry Alarm Clock or other bands like that when Johnny Sibley, who lived on Lake St. John, came up with that name. Jute means Swedish Warrior. We played the same music we play today."
McGlothin served in Vietnam, but when he returned in 1967 he brought Jute Kaleidoscope back with Caldwell playing with the band.
Guitarist and vocalist Jimmy Wheeler played in the mid-60's and early 70's with the Mustangs and My Generation.
Drummer Jerry Williams played with Brent Anderson and "Unity."
Newest member, keyboardist and vocalist Steve Cagle of West Monroe played with GG Shin. He is the youngest member at 53.
In the late 1970s, Caldwell moved to Baton Rouge and worked as a engineer for Atlas. It was there he played with John Fred and the Playboys, who earlier had the big hit, "Judy in Disguise."
Caldwell said he was really saddened by the death of John Fred Gourrier in 2005. Gourrier was inducted into Ferriday's Delta Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
"He taught me so much," Caldwell said. "He taught me a lot from the business end and how it's not about you, but it's about the crowd. From him I learned you can't play three fast songs without playing a slow song afterwards. And you have to dress nice."
Engineer Bryant Hammett graduated from Louisiana Tech in 1974 and got a job working under Caldwell at Atlas as a field engineer.
"I heard later that Bryant started his own business so when I was home visiting my parents I called him and told him if he ever needed anybody to give me a call," Caldwell said. "He didn't have anything at that time, but later his ace field engineer had to leave and he called and offered me the job. I was playing for John Fred then, but I figured it might be my only chance to move back home. I thought about it a long, long time and I took the plunge."
Caldwell was later introduced to Ed Schiele who worked for Ferriday Farm and found out that Schiele played guitar and keyboards.
"We got to talking about putting a band together and playing at country clubs," Caldwell said.
Caldwell said he had always talked to Jerry Williams about playing old music, so he gave him a call.
"Gary always told me when he came back we were going to play music together," Williams said. "I wasn't playing with anybody at the time."
Williams would leave the band after three years, but returned seven years ago.
"I was filling in occasionally for Fred Parker and even one time on the bass when Gary had his back operation," Williams said. "Fred eventually had shoulder surgery and couldn't play much anymore. They asked me earlier and I first declined, but my job situation changed to where I was able to come back to the band."
Williams said the band has not changed that much through the years.
"You have some musicians who start playing for themselves, but we have all gotten past that point," Williams said.
Jimmy "Mimi" Wheeler Jr. was on board after giving it some consideration.
"I had just gotten out of the ministry," Wheeler said.
Wheeler's nickname of "Mimi" came from his grandmother, who called his father by that name and it was passed on to him.
Wheeler said he is not surprised the band is still playing today.
"My musical career started when I was 14 and most of us are that way," said the 59-year-old Wheeler. "It may be uncommon around here for bands to stay together for a long time, but the guys in this band are the type when they take a job, they take a job. And we play the right kind of music. It's music for all times."
Wheeler said not much has changed, except getting older.
"Once a man, twice a child," Wheeler said. "The band really keeps you young. It really hits me, though, after we get home from playing."
McGlothin was also a tough sell, at first, to join the band.
"When I called Glen he said no, but when I told him we were just doing the old stuff, he said he could do that," Caldwell said.
"I had been out 10 years after quitting in 1975," McGlothin said. "I was spending a lot of time around the house when Gary called. When he told me it would be classics, I changed my mind."
Larry Boland, from Houston TX, has been the sound and technical consultant for the past 12 years.
Past members include drummers Charles Jackson, Joey DeLoss and Fred Parker, keyboardist George Prince and Paul.
Robby Cloy was the first sound technician.
"The first time we got together we played 25 songs right off the bat," Caldwell said. "We had all played those songs when they were hits."
And then came time for a name.
"Since we were playing oldies we wanted it to be like 'Somebody and somebody else,'" Caldwell said. "We were thinking, Glen and Them, Rick Ratchett Snap-on Tools, Little Willie Red and the Bluebirds and the and Thunderbirds and the Buzzards," Caldwell said. "But we wanted something plain and simple. The only thing that could work out was Eddie. Even though Ed was the least experienced, he had great character, was easy-going and everybody liked him. So we went with Easy Eddie and the Party Rockers."
"It was strange at first, but I got used to it," Schiele said of the band name. "I was honored to be called 'Easy Eddie', which still happens occasionally."
Schiele played up until 2000.
"I had a great time playing with the guys," Schiele said. "After so many years we got to know so many people in different places and I still wonder how they're doing. That's what I miss, along with playing music, which I really enjoy. I got out when my kids were young. Working all week and playing weekends was just too much time away."
Caldwell, who said his favorite song is Drift Away by Dobie Gray, said it's hard to believe group members were listening to 8-track tapes when they first started.
"I remember being at Mike Corley's around 1988 and he told me to listen to something," said Caldwell, who was the student-director for the award winning Vidalia High School band in 1970 and '71 before majoring in music at Louisiana-Monroe. "It was a CD of Creedence Clearwater Revival. I couldn't believe how clear it was."
Easy Eddie's first release was actually a cassette in 1988 that was sold at the Sound Shop in the Natchez Mall.
Since then Easy Eddie has released two CDs, one in 2001 and one in 2005 marking their 20th anniversary.
"It's actually a lot of work recording in a studio," Caldwell said. "And it's very expensive."
And it's tough deciding on what songs to record.
"We have a ballot box where we all put the songs we want to record in there and pick the top 10 or 11," McGlothin said. "The funny thing about it is that none of us listen to oldies music. Jimmy and Jerry like heavy metal, I listen to soul music and Gary listens to progressive music, jazz and fusion music.
Easy Eddie's first "gig" took place in mid-August of 1985 as the band invited some people to hear them play at Lake Concordia near Ferriday Farm (now Goldman Equipment).
"We had about 200 people show up and it worked," Caldwell said.
The band then got its first booking at Carolyn's next to Brocato's Restaurant. We played about 40 songs and earned $15 each."
However, when Caldwell began approaching club owners and managers he found some resistance.
"Nobody wanted oldies, it was all Top 40 stuff then," Caldwell said. Greg Iles' band was doing good at the Hallelujah club, which was under Callon's.
Hallelulah's gave Easy Eddie a shot on the Halloween weekend of 1985.
"We packed it out for three nights," Caldwell said. "Older people came out and they spent lots of money. That's when clubs realized that the older groups spent more money."
"We knew that was going to be the test," McGlothin said. "Your friends are always going to say they like it. We had some doubts. But after that weekend we were thinking, 'We may be on to something here.' We figured we would play once a month for two or three years. I never thought we would be in it this long. This is as long as any of us have been married."
Easy Eddie began playing for weddings and private parties and entertained at their first New Year's Eve bash at Paul and Randees that year.
McGlothin, who said he was influenced by the Temptations and the Four Tops, said he loves singing "My Girl" by the Temptations and What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong.
McGlothin, who entertained company at an early age signing, "Don't Step on My Blue Suede Shoes, delivered newspapers as a young boy and would talk Will Haney into letting him stand at the back door and listen to the music at Haney's legendary night club.
McGlothin's grandmother was kin to Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Swaggart and Mickey Gilley's parents.
"Everybody thought I was a relative because I was always around them," McGlothin said. "They were all matriachs in the Assembly of God Church, which is another reason for my musical background."
Caldwell said spending as much time as the group spends together can be a test.
"We do get on each other's nerves," Caldwell said. "When you spend that much time together tensions can get strained. But everybody know when to shut their mouths and how to avoid confrontations. I remember when we were traveling through Woodville and someone called Glen about the Pasternack's building catching on fire. He was talking on his cell phone, screaming. I told him he could roll the window down and they could probably hear him just as easily. But we all know each other so well now."
"We have different personalities, but there are no egos," McGlothin said. "Everybody has a job to do and together we make the band."
Even though a lot of people refer to Easy Eddie as Glen's band because he is the front man and sings.
"That is so far from the truth," McGlothin said. "We're a team and it takes all six members. I was in Monroe a while ago and a guy yelled, 'Hey, there's Easy Eddie.' I just smiled and waved."
Caldwell admits it's not as easy as it used to be.
"My recovery time used to be by midday Monday, but now it's about Thursday," he said. "My back starts hurting now about the second hour. But we have four or five weekends off a year where it used to be one or two. It's different now because everybody has family and is making sacrifices to do this."
McGlothin said he visits Dr. Huey Moak and gets the three-in-one shot.
"It cures anything from strep throat to distemper," he said. "We have all played while being sick and Jerry is a roofer, so he's been up there with bummed fingers while Gary may have been knee deep in mud all day. And two of us have had hernia surgeries this year."
Caldwell says no matter how you are feeling, you give your best.
"It's kind of like the restaurant business," he said. "If you get a bad meal, you are not going back. Yo may have a toothache, backache, or problems from the day, but you still go out and do your best."
And Caldwell said the audience has a lot to do with the performance.
"We've played high school graduation dances one night and at the nursing home the next," he said. "But we have the kind of songs where we can do that stuff. We have 250 songs, some we sing all the time, and some once a year. The amazing thing to me is the young kids who know the words to the old songs. They listen to Top 40 songs now and can't hum them. But listen to some Marvin Gaye or Chuck Berry, and they are humming it all day. That type of music never dies."
"I am amazed by the young kids knowing the words," McGlothin said. "My kids knew them, but they heard them all the time. Gary is amazing at reading a crowd. We don't have a set list when we go on stage. Gary will call out three songs at a time and you better be ready to play them because if not that train is leaving without you. Every now and then I try and trip him up asking to do another song. But Gary is real good with the crowd. At weddings we'll do the slow and easy stuff first, but the last hour all you usually have is the young folks, so we pick it up then."
Easy Eddie and the Party Rockers played at the Vidalia High Reunion at the Bryant Hammett Vidalia Conference and Convention Center on July 3.
"It's always fun playing at home and in front of people you know," McGlothin said. "It's doing something you did years ago."
The good part is now that the group is so well known, they don't have to accept every job.
"We don't have to play if we're not making a fairly decent amount of money," Caldwell said. "We actually really like weddings, they are the most profitable and easiest. Everyone is there having a good time and you don't have to worry about drunks, club owners or bouncers."
"It's still a lot of fun," McGlothin said. "And it's a relief valve. We will accept a job similar to when we started out just to appreciate where we are. But there's nothing to the playing, it's the unloading and loading that's the tough part."
Caldwell said he never regretted being a part of a big hit like "Judy in Disguise."
"I don't worry about hitting the big one," he said. "I would rather do what we're doing now."
"Everybody had stardust in their eyes when they were young and watching these groups playing to thousands of girls screaming," McGlothin said. "None of us were big enough to be star athletes back then. But there's no need for that now. There's a lot of side effects to that. And it's just great to know we're getting paid to play. I never dread playing in the band. I'm having the time of my life up there on the stage."
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