In The Spotlight

20 Years Down the Road … and still a long way to go

By Blair Jackson |

Stephen Boudreaux, Chris Payton, Gary Hutchison, Rod Williamson, Rick Endel of Oreo Blue

The blues band Oreo Blue received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 NAMAs last weekend, and the band’s guitarist Gary Hutchison says the band’s longevity and passion are what makes it special.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The perseverance and the respect component that we all have as players, that’s what allows a band to last for 21 years,” agreed drummer Stephen Boudreaux.

The band, which started in 1991, coined its name based on the Oreo cookie, “because we were a bunch of white guys playing traditional black music,” explained Rod Williamson, who plays bass and is the only member who has played with the band throughout its 21 years.

The band underwent a series of transformations, but the original band included Brian Crowne on saxophone, whom most locals would now recognize as the owner of George’s Majestic Lounge.

“Brian Crowne retired from the band in 2006. He was pretty much the leader of the band. It kind of left us hanging a little bit,” Boudreaux recalled.

When Crowne left the band, Oreo Blue was faced with a question: “Do we keep it alive or let it go?”

The band soldiered along for a few years, with Hutchison, Boudreaux and Williamson on bass — the last remaining original member.

“It’s hard for a band in our genre to be a three-piece band,” said  Boudreaux. “There’s so much missing sonically.”

Oreo Blue’s current lineup synced up for the reunion tour, when Chris Payton returned from a hiatus and Rick Endel sat down to play the keys.

“When Rick Endel joined, not only can he play great keyboards to fill sonic holes, but he also sings, so there is a harmonic vocal foundation. When Chris joined, it changed the dynamic of what we can do. She is a professional, world-class vocalist,” said Boudreaux.

Chris, the one lady in the five-piece group, considers herself to be just one of the boys, and though she has, what Boudreaux calls “a world-class voice,” surprisingly, she has no professional training, and her music career started when she answered an ad in the paper. As a previous member of the band (1994-99), she returned for the reunion tour in 2011 and hasn’t stopped singing since.

For the members of Oreo Blue, it’s all about performing well and entertaining the audience. With nine albums of original music, they have plenty of material from which to choose, as well as popular cover songs.

Now that the group has a solid lineup, what was expected to be a splashdown of 20 years of the band’s past, has turned into a launching pad for a new sound.

Williamson expressed that the new five-piece group offers the full, diverse sound of the band’s earlier days and is excited to return to that format.

The band is hoping to perform 75 to 80 percent of original songs during their live performances.

The band also recorded a live album, which features 14 original songs.

We think it’s going to showcase what we’ll be doing going forward,” said Boudreaux.

“We’ve got a long way to go still,” says Gary Hutchison.

 

 

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