July 05--This month a Kokomo native is resurrecting the Wildcat Creek Music Festival started in the 1970s and is bringing back more than 50 of the City of First's hit musicians from that era.
Kokomo native Larry Smith has announced the all-day, free concert series in conjunction with the city's summer concert series July 26 at Foster Park. Bands will start performing at the park at 11 a.m. and will continue all day on two stages.
The shows will feature a reunion of musicians from the '70s who performed in locally based bands that achieved regional fame and all had strong fan support. The festival will conclude that evening with a performance by The Family Stone.
Several of the performers held a reunion show in Kokomo in the mid-1990s, but not on this level, Smith said. This will be "way bigger" than the last one, he said.
Participating musicians include Alan Kaye, who was the opening act for Chicago for three years and fronts the popular band Tunes, currently playing the Indianapolis club circuit.
Also performing is Rick Benick, formerly of Roadmaster, the most-popular band that ever emerged from central Indiana, Smith said. The group had three albums on the Mercury label and toured all over America.
Benick went on to work with Mitch Ryder, Pat Travers and Hal Ketchum.
"Rick Benick is probably the biggest act of them all," Smith said. "He had a serious concert career."
Doug Cameron, who toured with The Doors, is returning for the festival. He recently wrote a book about his time with the band.
Local recording artist Jerry Brewer will return to the stage after having worked with a variety of top acts including Crystal Gayle and Mark Healey of Badfinger.
There are musicians coming from states as far away as Texas and Florida for the show, including Donny Wallace and Buddy Downs from the act Cherry Hump, Bob Hollingsworth and Doug Hanscom from Wild Cherry, Jim Perkins and Tom Swain from Luce and renowned front-men Rusty Broadlick and Jon Binder.
Several musicians still living in Kokomo also will be performing, including Charley Hinkle and Danny Dain, credited with starting the local music scene with their band The Lost Souls, Smith said.
Those two men took music to a different level, Smith said. They inspired everyone around them.
"Kokomo had a unique and vibrant music community in that era," Smith said. "It seemed that every garage and basement had a group of musicians gathering to play and write music. I can honestly say that the bands and the musicians I worked with in Kokomo had a profound influence on my life. The joy of playing with them and the friendships I made at that time continue to this day and the pure love of the art helped me to define my own career."
His career included being senior director of "Performance Magazine" for 17 years, heading up the talent and international divisions and earning 32 Gold and Platinum albums from a wide array of major acts such as The Rolling Stones, U2, Aerosmith, Paul McCartney, Toto, Garth Brooks, The Judds, Guns 'N Roses, Eric Clapton and Reba McEntyre, among others. For the past 16 years, he has been based in Nashville as the owner and publisher of Tour Guide magazines, the primary trade journal for the concert production industry.
Right now, though, he's been focused on organizing this reunion festival. Smith said city officials have really helped him pull it together.
"They've all embraced the idea," he said. "They love it."
All of the musicians are excited about it, too, he said. They were close-knit in the 1970s.
Everyone had each other's backs, Smith said. They'd all go to each other's shows.
Smith said he's worked in the music industry for decades and has never seen anything quite like it. It was special, he said.
He expects the reunion this month to be just as special.
"We should be able to bring back a sample of the music scene that helped define the culture of the region and was such a large part of all our lives in the '70s," he said. "Who knows, maybe we will be able to rekindle a spark locally that will influence the lives of some young aspiring musicians in town."
Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LindseyZiliak.
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