One of the most difficult things in the music industry is not so much playing the music (as hard as that can be), but keeping everything together, from booking, bandmates and business, to supporting and developing loyalty and respect among bars, venues, bands, musicians and fans.
If longevity is a mark of a decent career, and I believe it to be so, then hats off in a big way to Rockhouse, Springfield’s hard-rocking, hard-working band celebrating 20 years under the same name. Original founding member and singer-guitarist Ed McCann is the mainstay of the group with a revolving cast of the best and brightest local rockers coming in and out through the two decades (and counting) of Rockhouse performances in central Illinois. Original drummer Darren Barr and bassist Steve Bosie are back in the current lineup with virtuoso guitarist Pat Rolens on lead guitar. Many other fine musicians passed through the band, including Kenny Young, Troy Blasko (original guitarist), Ed Holowtitz, Judd Barnes, Scott Hamilton, Denby Glossup, Tim Copp, Mark Agnew, Mike Ryffel, Frank Gage, and likely a few others, from the past and in the future.
“One of the things I’ve felt blessed by, as these guys have come and gone, there was never a heated argument. Every single one of them has been respectful of each other’s feeling, and not stepping on each other’s parts,” said McCann. “I’m surrounded by good, nice, easygoing guys. That’s the key to the whole band, in keeping it going this long, is they all think so highly of each other and we’re all good friends.”
With a song list that’s ever changing, yet also repeating many of the songs already learned through the years, the band appeases most local rocker desires. A short list includes classics like AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath and Aerosmith, plus more modern sounds from Godsmack, Buck Cherry and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. With no songs picked unless all members agree, McCann says choosing a song list or doing a new song can be a difficult problem sometimes.
“I’ve never come off as, ‘This is my band, do what I say or else.’ It’s always been a democracy, which can make for one hell of time, cause if one guy doesn’t want to do it we don’t,” he explains. “I’m just the clown in this circus, not the ringleader.”
Many of the past and current musicians are bikers and proud to be associated with the free-living, often-giving group. For the last several years they’ve played the annual A.B.A.T.E. benefit for downed riders and “whenever someone calls about a kid with cancer,” Rockhouse is there to provide the entertainment.
A Google search locates several Rockhouses in various parts of the country, identifying the name as a popular one for community-based rock bands, but no one is causing a fuss about it. Who cares how many Rockhouses there are as long as we have our own kicking out the jams?
McCann admits, as should all of us middle-aged musicians, to having past aspirations of stardom, but agrees that traveling on the band bus, town to town, playing nightly for strangers, is not necessarily the life of choice for every performer. Finding your comfortable place is the way to go.
“Some guys ask why I keep doing this, if I think I’m going to be a big star. I tell them, there ain’t no rock stars in Springfield,” said McCann. “We play because we like it and as long as our friends keep coming out, we will too.”
Contact Tom Irwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.