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Six Degrees of Humor
The Good Humor Band returns to Richmond for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts' "Jumpin!" series
by Kate Bredimus,, June 12, 2002
In 1976 the Good Humor Band was unorganized, unfocused, and loose in Richmond. Now, more than 25 years later, the name is something like a legend in music circuits from here to Nashville. Since the band's break-up in 1983, many former members have gone on to collaborate with mega-acts like Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, thus carrying the name to the highest ranks of the music industry. Somehow the Good Humor Band has become in Nashville what the Neville family is in New Orleans, or Menudo in Puerto Rico a name that intersects many musicians. GHB gathered a total of 24 members on its eight-year run, only 10 fewer than the capricious, man-eating Menudo.

Sifting through the chronology of GHB makes for a demanding read, but distilled down to essentials it's basically the story of a rock 'n roll band that won't die.

It all began back in 1974. Childhood friends Mike McAdam and Jimmy Morgan, hoping to avoid any sort of real job, assembled Mark Corvino (drums) Bill Gerloff (bass) and Pittsburgh native Jack Irwin (piano) into a band and began playing scattered gigs in Fan bars.

After two years of elastic lineups, GHB was crystallized one night over a few kegs of beer and a monster jam session of rock 'n roll, R&B, and country at a local bar called The Pass. The participants blew each other's minds all night, and a mighty future was glimpsed. The next day, emerging into the noonday sun, squinting and smiling was the first solid GHB lineup McAdam, Morgan, Corvino, bassist Drake Leonard, and pianist Gregg Wetzel.

Continually picking up and letting go of various musicians (including D.C. guitar great Danny Gatton) all the while touring the North Carolina and Virginia coasts, GHB called it quits almost 20 years ago, reconvening only once or twice a year since in Richmond for a Christmas show or a performance at Church Hill's "High on the Hog."

This Thursday the Good Humor Band, now McAdam, Leonard, Wetzel, Joe McGlohon (sax), Mike Lucas (guitar), and David Eggleston (drums), returns to their hometown to open this year's Virginia Museum of Fine Arts "Jumpin!" series. We talked to McAdam, the only lifelong member of the band, from his home in Nashville prior to the show.

How did you end up in Nashville?
I moved here in 1986. Bucky Baxter [ex-GHB pedal steel player] was working with Steve Earle here. [Earle] had just recorded "Guitar Town" for RCA, and he needed a guitar player. Bucky recommended me and I auditioned and got the gig. So I found a way to move here without having to starve. I toured with him up until 1990. Me and [ex-GBH player] Jack Irwin opened Silvertone Studios in 1994, right up the street from here. Right now I'm playing with three different artists Lee Roy Parnell, Radney Foster, and Steve Earle. And I'm putting out a solo record on Radney Foster's label.

Has GHB reached a sort of cult status over the years?
Well, I've met people from all over the country saying they've heard of Good Humor Band. We're unique because we've had so many members, and everyone went on to play with a major artist. I guess there's some mystique about the band. Most people in Nashville who are left of center know of us, so we've got a slight bit of legendary status. Probably more than we deserve.

You guys seem to be dispersed all over three states. How do you rehearse for your shows?
Most of the band members live in Nashville. Our drummer, Dave Eggleston, is a professor at NC State. We get together and rehearse once here, and then we rehearse again in Richmond.

Why doesn't GHB play more often, given your considerable fan base?
Well, it's really hard to get schedules together, since we all play in other bands. We can usually get together at Christmastime, since Nashville comes to a halt the second week of December, kind of like high school. Plus we make more money playing with other people (laughs).

Do you guys still play "Stump the Band" with the audience?
We do, but Drake isn't playing with us this week, so we'll be limited in what we can do.

Have you ever been stumped?
I can't remember ever being stumped. We probably couldn't play any Top 40 hits from the past ten years. We're from another generation, we know obscure songs from the '50s, '60s and '70s. We probably couldn't pull off hip-hop. But we'll attempt anything.

Is there something fans can expect to hear at a GHB show?
We'll do things like play the instrumental part of "Stairway to Heaven," but change the lyrics to the theme from Gilligan's Island. We do a lot of TV theme songs. But most of what we play this time will be off the album [2000's self-titled release], with some blues and R&B standards.

What was the music scene like when you began back in 1974?
Well, the music scene was a bit of a mess. It was mostly disco and Top 40 funk bands. We were different because we played whatever we felt like The Byrds, Beatles, Tom Waits. There was a thriving country and rock 'n roll, rockabilly thing going on. We became involved in all that. And there were other bands that were on the alternative route. Springsteen was playing in town all the time with Steel Mill. They were one of the first bands doing all original material, and they were only popular in New Jersey and Richmond. There were lots of bands that wanted to be that band, like ourselves.

What has kept GHB going on such a sporadic basis all these years?
It's fun. We're all still pals. Everyone comes out of the woodwork for our shows, so we get to see all our old pals. It's kind of like a party.

You are the band's only continuous member. Why is that?
(Laughs) I guess it was the path of least resistance for me. It kept me from having to get a day job.

Will GHB be around forever?
We never knew we were still going to be doing this at our age. I guess we'll keep doing it until they put us in rocking chairs.

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