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Few people in Fort Wayne are as endearing and unassuming as Brad Etter, who has turned his passion for music into a calling, a mission to share that passion and bring top flight entertainment to town via some equally unassuming venues. While larger stages like the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, the Embassy Theatre and Piere’s have been hosting national acts for years, more recently C2G (formerly Come2Go Ministries) has become a great place to enjoy both local music as well as some very impressive music icons. As Etter’s role at C2G has grown, his role in promoting music in Fort Wayne made his choice for a Special Whammy most fitting.
A native of Fort Wayne, Etter caught the music bug early and as he has lived in other places in Indiana (Bloomington and West Lafayette), he expanded his musical world, always taking advantage of the opportunities to see some of music’s most successful acts when they played locally. His early musical influences are broad but familiar to most fans.
“Some of my earliest memories evolved from listening to the radio and being introduced to The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, The Animals, Yardbirds, Simon & Garfunkel, Marvin Gaye and on and on,” he says. “My first memories of actually paying to listen to music were first at local juke boxes and then next discovering 45 records and full length albums at local stores.”
He also caught shows which many of us would give a left arm to have seen.
“Some of my very early concert memories were of The Beatles performing at the old State Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis, i believe that they were paid $1,000 A Minute which was a gigantic sum of money back then! Locally a number of concerts come quickly to mind: The Rolling Stones playing at the Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne right after their single ‘I Cant Get No Satisfaction’ came out on the radio.
A beyond memorable experience for local-regional concerts was actually seeing The Who at The Swinging Gate in Fort Wayne, The Kingsman at The Flame, The Flock at the Hullabaloo ( now Ceruti’s ), The Electric Prunes also at the Swinging Gate, Eric Burdon @ Gentry’s, The MC5 at Hamilton Lake, The New York Dolls at The Armory (now Headwaters Park West), The Byrds at Tippy Gardens, Santana at the Coliseum with Bobby Womac opening, Paul Winter Consort at the Embassy Theatre, Stevie Ray Vaughn at Frankee Park’s outdoor Foellinger Theater to mention some highlights.”
It’s that encyclopedic addiction to music, the diversity of his tastes and his exposures to so many great musical venues in the area that now informs his efforts at C2G. But what really lit his fire was a five-year stint in Seattle where he says he “was immersed in the local music scene there.”
“My music passions exploded during this time period and I was introduced to so many types, shapes and forms of music and musicians during that five year period that I am still trying to catch up. Working with a few of those who promoted concerts and clubs in Seattle I had countless opportunities to spend some time and one huge memory is hanging with The Police a bit on their tour right after their first record came out. I met and worked with The Talking Heads, went to dinner post show with the likes of Koko Taylor, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, saw my first ever Zydeco Music show with The Queen, Queen Ida. And I had dinner with The King, BB King. I was also introduced to many varieties of African Music, real Africans playing their homeland music such as The Master of the Oud, Hamza El Din who lived in Seattle and performed magical virtuosic music on his ancient stringed instrument along with virtuosic and polyrhythmic playing on the Tar Drum too.”
Etter was doing in Seattle what he would eventually do here, working at a small club to book bands that were on the cutting edge, exposing him to still more musical directions to explore, something that continues to inform his work in northeast Indiana.
“I was indirectly involved with an after hours club and scene that featured Punk Music which was a pretty new scene, especially for me. Little did i know that the bands that I met, hung and ate with post show would contribute to popular music history –the Black Flag, The Tubes and countless others.
“I hired talent and presented shows at a quaint Jazz Club in the University District of Seattle. Hosting many, Bobby Hutcherson the vibes player, Gary Peaacock on bass with the pianist, Art Lande the ECM pianist and composer, Julian Priester the trombonist, the singer Cheryl Bentyne right before she joined the Manhatten Transfer and so on.
Possibly even more importantly, I was also able to see Keith Jarrett with Paul Motian and saxaphonist Jan Garbereck, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, THE Bill Evans Trio in a small club, Charles Mingus at that same club, Richie Cole, Eddie Jefferson, Lionel Hampton on vibes and in a workshop too.”
After his return to Fort Wayne, Etter turned another direction, admitting that music became an almost insignificant role in his life while he pursued nature activities like hike and birding tours through the local Audubon Society. But about a dozen years ago, another small forum for music was emerging, Toast N Jam, which provided him a new place to connect to music and some new friends to help him make it all happen.
“Due primarily to the persistence of both Sunny Taylor whose music I had recently discovered, and Dave Kartholl who both introduced me to many very fine and talented local and regional musicians at the beloved Toast n JAM Coffeehouse,
I eventually ended up with the gracious help of Al & Jill Mozena hosting and bringing in some big name performers to this quaint music venue. House Concerts is what we called those unforgettable Concerts and they took place in the mighty fine 1888 Victorian Queen Anne Style living room of Jill & Al’s house, the Toast n JAM. Some highlights were : Kaki King, The Wailin’ Jenny’s, Patty Larkin, Kris Delmhorst Sarah Harmer, Rachael Davis, Peter Mulvey and Jeffrey Foucault.”
That who’s who of music has continued, and it is for those efforts that Etter has received the praise he has since his move to C2G after Toast N Jam closed. Since that time many of his musical heroes (like Richie Havens and Chris Hillman of the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers) as well as contemporary artists like Jack White and Guggenheim Grotto have come to C2G when they might not have otherwise visited Fort Wayne. Etter did all of this for his own love of music and his determination to share great music with local audiences, whether those artists are world-renowned or locally revered. Winning an award for his efforts was the furthest thing from his mind, but he was grateful all the same.
“It meant a lot. It still means a lot to be recognized by many of my peers in this music community.It also signifies how my own musical talents are very limited, but my deep love and appreciation for music is never ending and as long as able I’ll try to continue presenting and sharing the love and beauty, the life affirming positive energies of music!”