A one-time gig at a 1985 sports banquet turned into a nice side job for five coaches from Bland High School in Merit.
After the banquet, they were asked to play other shows and quickly realized they needed a name, they came up with The Blandelles.
“And here we are, 32 years later,” said Greg “Heartbreak Jake,” Connelly. “Our motto is ‘rock and roll, the way you remember it.’ We try to make it authentic.”
The group will be making their second appearance at Monday Night Live on June 19.
The band, ages 40-67, has changed configuration through the years and now has seven members – six educators and one “insurance guy,” Connelly said with a laugh.
Connelly handles vocals, percussion, harmonica, keys, drums. He’s currently teaching English and journalism, and serves as UIL Academic coordinator and head golf coach at Leonard ISD. He’s been with the band for 22 years.
Gary “Hot Rod Lincoln” Felmet handles vocals and guitar. He’s a retired history teacher and coach. He is one of the original band members.
John “Johnny Angel” Knagg sings background vocals and plays sax and percussion. He’s a middle school band director for Garland ISD. He’s been with the band for 15 years.
Kevin “Special K” Rainey plays drums and percussion, and sings background vocals. He’s also a middle school band director for Garland ISD. He’s been with the band for 10 years.
John “Ace” Harris is lead guitar and vocals. He’s the insurance guy and has been with the band this time for seven years. Prior to that, he had a tour of duty with the group in the 90s.
Dr. Evan “Doc of Rock” Yeager plays bass. He just retired as the technology director at Trenton ISD. He’s been with the band for seven years.
Carl “Keymaster” Herod, who plays keys, harmonica and sings, is the music teacher at Bland Elementary. He’s been with the band for seven years.
Their favorite artists are, in no particular order: Paul McCartney; Chuck Berry; Sam and Dave; Bobby Darin; Wilson Pickett; Elvis; John Coltrane; Miles Davis; Sonny Rollins; Junior Walker; Jerry Lee Lewis; Little Richard; Roy Orbison; Sam Cooke; Carl Perkins; Journey; Beach Boys, Eagles; and Earth, Wind and Fire.
Their favorite songs include: The Letter; Knock on Wood; Come Go With Me; Johnny B. Goode; and Linda Lu.
Connelly says it’s hard to narrow his pick down to just one song.
“That’s like picking your favorite child. You can’t do that!”
Among the group’s most requested songs are: Blueberry Hill, Sunshine of Your Love; Hold On, I’m Coming; Come Go With Me; Mustang Sally; Ticket to Ride; Mack the Knife; The Theme from Peter Gunn; Brown Eyed Girl; Old Time Rock and Roll; anything by Creedence Clearwater Revival and Happy Birthday by Heartbreak Jake.
Those golden oldies are the reason the band has enjoyed three decades of success.
“I just don’t think this music will ever die,” Connelly said. “It brings back great memories from years past. I want them to hear a song that maybe they haven’t heard in a few years and enjoy it.”
Special K said he hopes the group makes people laugh and brings back “musical memories.”
Hot Rod adds, “I enjoy when we get new converts – people who have never heard us before – and they really enjoy us. We had a great time at Winnsboro last year and I am sure we will again.”
The guys love it when their audiences are, like Martha and the Vandellas hit, Dancin’ in the Streets.
“It’s become more than just a great song title,” said Johnny Angel.
Join The Blandelles Monday, June 19, beginning at 5 p.m. on Market Street.
Market Street Restaurants Brewbaker’s, Lone Republic Steakhouse and The Rooster will be open for business.
Vendors will also be set up on the street, offering food, homemade goodies and wine.
Come on down for an evening of good food, fellowship and a stroll down memory lane.