News Column

Pure prairie league: '80s faves Appaloosa ride again

July 3, 2014

By Dan Craft, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

July 03--TOWANDA -- It's a rare reunion indeed when all six members of a 35-year-old band are still around to re-conjure a little magic from the past.

Luckily for country-rock favorites Appaloosa, the half-dozen members from the group's '80s heyday are alive and well and in possession of their musical faculties.

Better yet, they'll all be present and accounted for Saturday night in their first Bloomington-Normal-area performance in close to three decades.

The occasion: The 10th birthday party for Kicks Bar & Grill in Towanda, which kicks off at 5 p.m. in the parking lot, with the Appaloosa reunion at 6 p.m., followed by popular Champaign tropical-rockers The Boat Drunks, one of whose members is an Appaloosa alum.

Kicks owner Scott Tuggle couldn't be happier: Appaloosa was one of the most popular house regulars at his beloved downtown Bloomington namesake, Scotty's Pub, 300 E. Washington St. (now home to the Copy Shop).

They were guaranteed to pack the house with patrons each and every show, he says.

"They were a very, very fun country-rock band," enthuses Tuggle, who estimates the six-man-band were regulars at least once a month for the first half of the '80s.

Appaloosa's vocalist/harmonica man Howie Golub (of the present-day Boat Drunks) agrees wholeheartedly, noting that Scotty's became the band's home after its prior stomping grounds, the Red Lion Inn in downtown Bloomington, closed its doors in the early '80s.

"It was a good place, and he took care of the band very well," says Golub.

The Scotty's heyday spanned the years 1982 to 1986, with the latter year marking the last time Appaloosa was heard within Twin Cities boundaries.

And that once-a-month visit usually entailed multiple-night stands, recalls Golub: "We'd do Wednesday and Thursday, or Thursday and Friday, or even Thursday, Friday and Saturday."

Appaloosa, whose sound reflected the West Coast country-rock sound of the era (Pure Prairie League, the Eagles, Marshall Tucker, New Riders of the Purple Sage, etc.), also ventured on the ISU/IWU campuses for frat parties and shows in the Bone Student Center Ballroom and Shirk Center.

Besides Golub, the '80s lineup being recreated this weekend includes Michael Garcia, lead vocals/rhythm guitar; Marc Hutchison, vocals/bass guitar; Steve Morrison, vocals/drums; Stephen Strong, vocals/lead guitar/pedal steel guitar; and Ray Wiggs, keyboards.

"The original Appaloosa was a bluegrass trio in the early '70s," notes Golub, "which evolved into a country-rock quintet in the late '70s, which played the Red Lion Inn circuit in Champaign and Bloomington, with occasional forays to another long-gone Bloomington hot spot, the Lazy J Saloon.

The incarnation that most Twin Citians will recall is the six-man edition that ruled the '80s before married life and parenting duties sent the members down different roads.

"We did have a really good draw in Bloomington," Golub says, adding that the band's sole album, 1981's "Morning Riser," sold more albums at the (defunct) Record Service stores in Normal and Champaign when it was released "than any other album other than whatever Stevie Wonder's new album was then."

Though long out of print and going for much more than its $6-$7 sticker price in '81, Golub urges anyone who still owns a copy to bring it to the Kicks show for signings.

All in all, they were good days, the '80s, and Appaloosa intends to bring them back to life, if only for one night only, at Kicks.

"It was a different time then," notes Golub. "There was no gaming ... no Facebook ... no Internet ... not even any MTV. People just went out more; it was livelier club scene. I'm sure a lot of people in their 20s and 30s still go out, but it's just different now."


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Source: Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)

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