It can take awhile for a band to hit on the right formula, the right blend of musicians, and that has certainly been true for Cadillac Ranch, a band which has built a solid following in not only northeast Indiana but in much of Ohio as well. Several musicians have come and gone through the years, but at no one position has there been more change than at vocals, where the band estimates they featured as many as 18 different female lead singers before finally landing the right one. But through all the changes, the many who have come and gone have all contributed to the sound which has become a hot ticket in area clubs and outdoor venues.
In fact, change has been a constant for Cadillac Ranch, formed in 2004 by drummer Steve Hagan and guitarist Dave Reithmiller. Since that time, there have been two more changes on guitar (Terry Green and current guitarist Austin Putt), just one change on drums (current drummer Greg White joined in 2006) and a whopping four bassists in the last seven years (LeWayne Fisher, Cary Ausderan, Eric McKinley and current member Dave Nelson, whose first gig with the band was Halloween 2015). But it was at vocals where the band struggled to find consistency.
“We’d had 16 or 17 different singers over the years,” says drummer White, “and when Megan White first started singing with us, people would say ‘I don’t know if I’ll know your name or not.’ And she thought ‘I’ll show you.’ And she has, she’s been with us ever since 2008.”
Greg White joined after Hagan’s departure, having known the then-bass player from another group that played around Angola. With the exception of a recent death in the family, White hasn’t missed a gig in 10 years. His transition into the fold was relatively smooth, though he did have to learn some of the Cadillac Ranch cover songs.
“I did have to play some country songs that not only had I never played before, but some of them I’d never heard before,” says White.
Despite the occasional growing pains of new members, and the revolving door at lead singer, Cadillac Ranch became a popular cover band that found itself playing with great frequency. But they really took off when Megan White settled into her role as singer, with a little help from technology.
“When she first joined the band, she really hadn’t played out that much before,” says Greg White. “She was pretty green, but pretty soon we got our hooks into her, and she loved playing live. I decided to buy a cordless mic for her because she was still a little tentative on the stage. I didn’t want to spend much money, in case it didn’t work, but as soon as she got ahold of that thing she started going out into the audience and singing with people. Ever since then Megan has been really working the crowds. In fact, I had to go out and get a better cordless mic because the one I’d gotten for cheap only let her get about 50 feet off the stage.”
Greg King says Megan White’s become a great performer, and her popularity has proven to be a boon for Cadillac Ranch. She typically sings nine songs per set (with four sets a night), taking only an occasional break to let one of the other band members sing. In fact, with her heavy vocal load and the frequency of their performances, the band recently made a change in their bookings, one which was made to preserve Megan’s voice.
“As much as we were playing in smoking clubs, Megan was having problems with her voice the next night or maybe for an entire weekend. I’m a smoker myself, but even I have to say that some of those places get pretty smoky. Even my eyes start to water. So we’re going to avoid some of those places we used to play and focus more on non-smoking clubs or outdoor venues where it won’t be a problem.”
Greg White discovered another advantage to playing in less smoky environments.
“I recently got a new drum kit, and I didn’t realize how the smoke had damaged the old kit until I saw how shiny and clean the new one was. So avoiding the smoke – and as I said, I’m a smoker myself – is better for Megan’s voice, but also better for our equipment. I think, especially in the summer, we’ll be able to focus on outdoor places – decks and beer gardens. We play a lot of places around the lakes during the summer months.”
When Megan King joined the band, she was six months pregnant and is now a mother of three young boys. With young children at home, the usual Cadillac Ranch gigs were perfectly configured to accommodate her schedule, since the band generally plays for older crowds who prefer an early evening.
“Most of our audience is older, maybe 50 or so,” says Greg White. “So instead of playing bars from 10-2, we’re playing legions and places like that from 7-11 or maybe 8-12. That made it easier for everyone to get home at a decent hour and for Megan to get some rest before her kids got her up the next morning.”
However, as Megan White’s children have grown, so have the demands to keep up with their schedules, which had led to a possible slowdown for Cadillac Ranch in the months ahead. By 2017, Megan is hoping to keep her performances to two or three times a month, a far cry from the sometimes four performances in a weekend now. If that takes place, there’s a plan for how Cadillac Ranch will respond to the curtailed schedule.
“Cadillac Ranch will always be with Megan,” says White. “People love her, and we don’t want anyone to be disappointed because they came from miles away and then didn’t get to see her. So if she cuts back, we may just get another female singer and call the band by her name ‘and the Ranchers’ or something like that. We’d make it a different name so people would know it was us, but they’d know Megan wasn’t singing with us that night.”
With a setlist that covers everything from Nancy Sinatra to Linda Ronstadt to Janis Joplin (and many other classic songs along the way), Cadillac Ranch continue to evolve and adapt to the changes that have defined their history. Greg White says the one thing they’re most grateful for is the loyalty of those who keep coming out to hear them play live.
“We just really appreciate all the folks who come out and see us, sometimes driving an hour or more. We have a great following in Ohio, and there are a lot of people who see us over and over. We could never do what we do if it weren’t for them.”
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July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion