There's plenty of respect for the art community in Fort Wayne now, and plenty of attention to the number of talented musicians who call this city home, but it didn't just happen in the last couple of decades.
While the focus and appreciation may be somewhat new, Fort Wayne was always home to some great bands who played around town.
Take, for instance, the FBC Band which reached considerable success locally and regionally in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The band mixed high-energy covers with original music, releasing an album (Worth a Fortune) in 1981. Taking the stage at a couple of then-popular nightclubs - Zachary's and the Cat's Meow - located across the corner from each other on Main and Harrison, the FBC Band drew big crowds right up until they folded up their tent in 1982 following an eight-week tour.
The band members haven't been strangers since that time, but each has gone his own way, with a couple remaining in the area and others going as far away as Florida and California. With occasional reunions (most recently in 2014), the members of FBC have maintained contact in spite of the miles that separate them.
It was an unfortunate reunion for a less joyous reason that led to their upcoming performance at C2G, one which will benefit the Music & Memory organization. When longtime friend of the band, Connie Grinols, lost her mother in the fall of 2015, people came together for the funeral and began to realize how many friends and family members were suffering from and had died from Alzheimer's Disease.
"My mother didn't have it," says Grinols. "But we started talking and realizing how many people we knew had parents who were suffering from it, and I had seen it in my own extended family."
Grinols says the spirit of paying it forward led FBC lead vocalist Brian McCarron to suggest a fundraiser for Music & Memories which works with nursing homes to provide iPods and other digital devices to reconnect patients to the world through music. Music & Memory is responding to research which has shown that personalized playlists can help reach Alzheimer's patients who may otherwise have difficulty socializing and engaging with others and connecting to their own life and memories.
The decision to bring FBC back to Fort Wayne for this fundraiser is both charitable and nostalgic. Guitarist Gary McMeekin realized the importance of keeping the band together, if only occasionally, before their last appearance together in 2014.
"I was the one who said 'We really need to do this again before someone dies,'" says McMeekin. "But I was the one who dropped dead a few days after that. I was gone and had to be revived. I still have some health issues, but I'm glad to be able to do this again. I'm not saying it's the last time we'll do it, but we'll have to see what happens."
Joining McCarron and McMeekin will be original drummer Randy Scarbeary along with Michael Monroe on keyboards and Monroe's son Darren joining the band, taking the place of Wayne Neukom on bass.
McCarron, who has a design company in Florida, is looking forward to getting together with his old bandmates again.
"Falling back into that very comfortable space of music and friendship," he says, "it is hard to separate one from the other. There is a lot to be said for an old pair of shoes. We've certainly earned that 'old' moniker.
"We are blessed on a certain level to be able to even consider a gathering of this sort. Being able to take time away from our regular work and family commitments in order to make this happen might be considered the biggest challenge. Thus, the stress and excitement are both generated concurrently. The yin and yang of it all."
Michael Monroe is also looking forward to the nostalgia and is also grateful that it can take a meaningful turn with the fundraiser for Music & Memory.
"Continued camaraderie between the musicians and fans from 30-plus years ago - hoping the message of memories is applauded," he says. "We will be reliving our memories of entertaining. Connie has been an integral part of the coalition, having been a major part of the FBC family, giving her time and energy which is greatly appreciated. Regular work schedules takes a back seat, and family support is praised.
"The theme Music & Memories, referencing Alzheimer's and dementia, has touched someone's life on both sides of the aisle."
For those unfamiliar with the music, Grinols says that the audience can expect FBC to play everything from Tom Petty to Jethro Tull, the Rolling Stones to AC/DC. Opening act Sheba will play arena rock favorites like Journey and Kansas. A dance floor will be available because that's what comes of great rock 'n roll in the perfect venue.
While longtime fans of FBC hope, as do the members themselves, that this is not the FBC's last hurrah, McMeekin says he's grateful for another chance to reclaim his dreams 35 years later,and McCarron looks ahead with both hope and pragmatism.
"Only time can answer that question," he says of future reunions. "It takes desire, financial resources, good health and hope for things of value to do with the short amount of time we've been blessed to share with each other and our musical friends and families. Cherish the gift we call 'living.' Not always easy or fun, but hopefully worth a fortune."
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