Blue Shades Rock ‘N’ Roll Band to reunite after 45 years
Oct. 4, 2011
Contact: Karen Leu, Communications Assistant
Their reunion may not get the press that Pink Floyd band members got back in 2007, and there’s no multi-city tour planned, but musicians with the Blue Shades Rock ‘N’ Roll Band are excited about making music again after a 45-year silence and performing together for their old friends at Maryville College.
Two performances are scheduled on the Friday of Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 21. Band members will play from 5:45 until 6:45 p.m. (during the receptions of the Class of 1961 and Class of 1966), and again at 8:30 p.m. Both performances are free and open to the public and will take place in the William Baxter Lee III Grand Foyer of the Clayton Center for the Arts.
On the play list are 1950s favorites from artists such as the Five Satins, the Casinos, the Righteous Brothers, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Ricky Nelson and Jerry Woodard.
The reunion idea originated with Dr. Hugh McCampbell ’66, who lives in Sweetwater and has been a large animal veterinarian since 1974.
“I thought it would be fun to play with these guys again,” he said.
McCampbell started the band in the fall of 1962, his freshman year, with his friend from the football team, George Derbyshire ’66, in preparation for a talent show that was to take place in the spring.
“The show was called 'Spring’s Bustin’ Out All Over,' remembered McCampbell, “and we did rather well. Everybody loved us.”
Throughout the years of McCampbell's college career, other members of the Blue Shades came and went, but he stayed a part of the band. It is the Blue Shades group that formed in the 1964-1965 academic year that is returning to campus for Homecoming this year.
Although the band members have drifted to different parts of the country over the years, McCampbell said they are excited about reuniting and playing together again. The other members of the Blue Shades are Dr. Red Prudhon ’65, a professor of parasitology in Jackson, Tenn.; Russ Bright ’68, a retired Social Security Administration manager in Evansville, Ind.; and Dr. Ken Arentson ‘67, a Presbyterian minister from Des Moines, Iowa.
The Blue Shades hit their stride in the mid 1960s, playing doo-wop and rock hits by artists such as Buddy Holly and the Beatles. They played at many student dances on campus, had gigs in Maryville and even played at the ballroom of the Knoxville Coliseum for a dance of Knoxville’s Central High School (McCampbell’s other alma mater).
McCampbell said the Blue Shades practiced weekly in the old Alpha Sigma House on campus. When the library would close at 9:30 p.m., the students would all go to the Alpha Sigma House to dance, turning the practice into an impromptu performance and “after-dinner dance.”
“We would get the room really packed,” said McCampbell. “People would be dancing on the couches; there was no room on the floor. We played the popular music that everybody wanted to dance to.”
Music was large part of McCampbell’s college experience
Though McCampbell majored in biology and participated in many school activities and three varsity sports, he always found time for the enjoyment of music.
“We were always having ‘hootenannies,’” he said. “They were very popular. Just about everybody could play guitar or pick a banjo, even though some kids who played couldn’t read music!”
When the theater department staged a production of “Bye Bye Birdie,” McCampbell played guitar for the pit because he could both read music and play. Wishing to stretch his musical muscles, he joined the orchestra and played French horn.
“It was hard,” he said of his orchestra partcipation. “I had to study and practice for it a lot. But everybody performing ‘Messiah’ together in the winter — that was worth it.”
All together, McCampbell played in the orchestra for two years and sang in the choir for two years.
With the Blue Shades band on Oct. 21, he’ll sing and play the guitar and piano.
And smile and laugh, too.