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The depth and breadth of musical talent in Fort Wayne has been obvious for years, and among the many bands which play not only on local stages but across much of Indiana and sometimes even beyond are some faces which have become very familiar. As of September 15, a new band has staked a claim to area audiences, but while Jaded Joker may be a new name on the scene, the players who have come together to form the band should be very familiar indeed. Each member of Jaded Joker has years of experience, and many have been friends for decades, some since their school days, and even those more recently united enjoy a less than six degrees of separation relationship. Those connections are most likely what has allowed Jaded Joker to pull it all together so quickly, to develop a setlist and a sound which is remarkably unified after little time spent together.
Bassist Todd Macy began playing as a teenager and by 20 decided to start his own business, unsure of what a future in music might offer. While Millennium Home Design has provided that stability, he decided a few years back to return to music and reunite with some old friends along the way, including guitarist John Scott who himself has been playing for two decades. Macy and Scott have been longtime friends, but they also have something else in common: both took guitar lessons from John Forbing.
“John took lessons from me 20 years ago,” says Forbing, “and he came in one night and played this Joe Satriani song note for note.” While Scott refers to his guitar playing as a “fun hobby,” Forbing says “he’s a beast on guitar.”
Forbing himself has had a long musical career, and he continues to teach guitar and play in bands full-time. He began playing at the age of nine and began teaching in 1980. He recalls at one time juggling gigs with 17 different bands, and he can quickly recount his experiences with each of his current Jaded Joker bandmates over the years, which also includes drummer Jeff Frye who began playing when he was 13 and has lived in such diverse geographic regions as Churubusco and Colorado Springs. He took a break from music for a time when his two young daughters were born but now is happy to join with his friends and lend his techie skills to the mix.
And if all that doesn’t sound eclectic enough, add an electrical engineer to the roster. Ken Stocker considers music his opportunity to relax and has been in bands like Dash Rip Rock over the years. Stocker plays both keyboards and violin, providing a unique counterpoint to the guitar sound of many classic rock bands. Once united, these five musicians – Macy, Scott, Forbing, Frye and Stocker – began playing around town as Buy All Means. But even then, even with the level of experience the quintet had to offer, they began talking about adding an important final component. Enter local favorite Chris Worth, a singer who has taken stages in not only Indiana but across the country for a couple of decades.
“Todd thought we needed to take it to the next level,” says Forbing. “And a lot of us had been friends with Chris for years, so we decided to bring him on board.”
And did Worth leap at the chance to add another band to his already hectic schedule?
“No,” Worth says, deadpan.
All agree that it took a little convincing, but while Worth was at first resistant – more to the time commitment than the idea itself – he couldn’t say no forever. And upon his arrival, Jaded Joker was born. There is an obvious and easy chemistry among the six, a steady banter that reveals no clashing egos, no undercurrent of competition. Each confident and comfortable with what he brings to the fold, they were able to quickly determine a plan for how to proceed, how to meld their wide range of talents – Motown to classic rock to alternative – into one cohesive sound.
“We had a meeting and talked about what we wanted to do, came up with some songs we wanted to play, and then we all went home with homework,” says Forbing. “When we got together to rehearse, it all came together pretty quickly. We may have had a little tweak here or there, but basically it came together right there and then.”
Macy and Worth both admit to being huge Motown maniacs, and Worth has provided the vocals to pull off many of those songs. But they also share a love of more contemporary classics and were chatting up Alice in Chains as they gathered for this interview. It was that sort of variety that ultimately drew Worth to the band.
“I’ve been playing with Paul Stewart and have a Rat Pack group where we do a lot of Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr.,” said Worth.
“Yeah, Dean Martin, too. Then I was playing with Chris Worth & Company, and we were doing a lot of R&B and hip-hop, some country. But what I love about playing with Jaded Joker is that I get to sing straight out rock n’ roll. We play everything in this group.”
They’re also savvy about their marketing, and the band credits Macy for helping to get the word out and Frye for putting together some of their graphics and website. Macy is also quick to point out all the people behind the scenes who have been key to the band’s quick start.
“We have to credit the other six people who have helped with all of this – Tammy, Michelle, Michel, Joann, Alicia and Heather. You can call them our ‘superfans,’ and they have all helped make this possible. And we have Tony Zielinski for a sound guy and Dave Maggert working our lights.”
Having a crew in place is further evidence of the band’s experience and the professional approach they’re taking to their performances. Having gotten the first big gig out of the way, they continue to find places to play locally – including a November 17 performance at 4D’s – and look beyond to other opportunities. Like?
“A world tour!” says Forbing, to the chuckles of the rest of the band. “Right now we’re playing a couple times a month starting in January, and we’re looking into opening for national acts as they come to town. We’ve talked about playing on everything from cruises to ski resorts.”
“We have six different lives and six different schedules,” says Stocker. “We want to cover the whole area instead of just playing in Fort Wayne all the time.”
“The sky’s the limit!” says Forbing.