Miss Demeanor and the Groove Felons are making a return engagement to The Bowery Stage Saturday, July 29. The local quartet has earned quite a loyal following since they first played together seven years ago.
Shannon Monk handles the vocals, while Allen Prazak takes care of percussion, Fred Howard on guitar and Rhandy Simmons on bass.
Prazak, who was raised in Galveston and retired from the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, still has some drums that he got when he was 12. He’s been playing in bands since his teens. He purchased a house and moved here the day after he retired in March of 2005.
“My dream has always been to own a home,” Prazak said. “As you know, property is cheap here compared to Geneva.”
In a 2013 interview, Prazak said he has the easiest job in the band.
“I don’t have to play in any key,” he explained. “I just have to come in and get the tempo right.”
Prazak is also the band’s official music historian.
“He’s an encyclopedia of knowledge,” said Monk. “He knows so much about the songs we sing.”
Howard picked up the guitar at an early age. He studied classical guitar before playing with rock bands in the teens and 20s. In the meantime, he earned a degree from The University of Texas at Dallas and recently retired after a career as an electrical engineer. He and his wife split their time between Dallas and Perryville, where they built a lovely home in 2005 on several acres.
He cites Chet Atkins one of his musical influences.
“I was sitting in the living room watching a black and white Sylvania TV and a guy came on,” Howard remembered. “It was a variety show. The guy sat there and played the guitar. It was Chet Atkins. Something about seeing that performance when I was 9 years old made me tell my parents, ‘I want to do that.’ I pestered them for a year until they got me a guitar.”
He also credits Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton for shaping his style. Plus, he really got into the blues.
“T Bone Walker is the one that got through to me,” Howard noted.
Lately, Howard has been listening to Wes Montgomery and Pat Martino, who is known for his single note playing.
Monk, a Dallas native, moved here in 1995, came from a theater background.
She loves musicals and says she listened to a lot of The Supremes, Lana Cantrell and Linda Ronstadt.
Howard, Prazak and Simmons had formed the band, but things hadn’t worked out with their girl singers, so they asked Monk to sit in. Monk’s smooth vocals and easy style were a good fit with the boys’ laid back sounds.
Simmons, who grew up in Garland, played bass with Howard in a band in Dallas venues like Mother Blues, Binary Star, The Bone, Hole in the Wall, the original Poor David’s and Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth.
He then toured with Room Full of Blues, Mike Morgan and the Crawl, the Brubeck Brothers, Belvista and Slightly Tilted. He also toured with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Carlos Santana and Travis Tritt and studied with jazz great Monk Montgomery.
He moved to Winnsboro in the early 90s, where he helped his dad with a plant farm and also built an impressive recording studio.
It was at the studio that Simmons met Monk and her husband, Michael, when they recorded a song for one of their foster sons.
Simmons says when he comes up with an idea for a song for the band to cover, Fred writes it down and they go from there.
When he’s not playing gigs with the group, Simmons can be found on Lake Fork, where he is an in-demand fishing guide.
Preparing a set list for a performance is pretty simple, according to Simmons.
“We just say, ‘Fred, do you have a set list?’”
Prazak says they always try to have something new, too.
“We’re working on an arrangement of ‘Quando, Quando, Quando.’” he said of the group’s upcoming show. “Shannon found an accordion group that covered it. We’re doing it as a bossa nova. It’s really a lovely tune.”
“Our songbook has really expanded,” Simmons said. “I think you’ll be surprised at how many new songs we’ve added.”
Fred learns the songs note for note and charts the new arrangements in Monk’s vocal range. Simmons says he just sits down and plays. Prazak provides the tempo. They make it look easy, but they work hard to get each song just right.
Loading and unloading all their equipment is not their favorite part of the job, but when it’s over and it’s been a good night for the audience, they know it’s worth it.
While they work hard, they also have fun.
Prazak says his favorite moments are when “it’s all clicking, when we’re hitting on all cylinders.”
Simmons likes the “give and take” that happens with an audience.
“That’s the magic part of it,” Simmons.
Monk says she loves it when “Rhandy’s in a playful mood. It’s so much fun.”
Simmons says the audiences and those who appreciate the music are the reasons he’s still playing after all these years. Otherwise, “We’re all just throwing licks back and forth.”
When he’s playing and he gets a reaction, Simmons is most likely to repeat it.
“Oh, you like that? Listen to this,” he said with a laugh.
Monk appreciates the partnership the group has formed with Winnsboro Center for the Arts.
“I love it,” she said. “We’re the only act that gets to play the main stage there, besides Adler and Hearne. And that’s not something I take for granted. We are honored. The acoustics in that room are better than they’ve ever been.”
Prazak thinks that raising the stage has created a “natural reverb. I can really feel those drums.”
Monk noted the local audiences have become more aware of what to expect in a listening room like that at the arts center.
“You have to nurture audiences,” Monk says. “You have to help them along. It’s unfair to expect them to understand how things work. Lynn Adler always did a good job with her curtain speeches early on talking about listening rooms.”
“Lynn and Lindy [Hearn] were the founders of listening rooms here,” Simmons noted. “The audience is the reason we’re here. We’re just the band.
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It’s a pretty good bet that some of the following songs will be on the Bowery Stage set list.
- Fly Me To The Moon – one of Howard’s favorites
- A Foggy Day
- Message In A Bottle – Simmons’ favorite
- The Shadow Of Your Smile
- Darn That Dream – Prazak’s favorite
- Skylark – One of Monk’s favorites
- Take Five/Favorite Things
Miss Demeanor and the Groove Felons take The Bowery Stage at 7:30 p.m. Sat., July 29. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $22 for reserved seating. Call 903-342-0686 or log on to www.winnsborocenterforthearts.com
This show is sponsored by The Clark House Bed and Breakfast.