May 16, 2013
Five guys who love hanging out and playing music, and have been doing so for years. That’s what you get with Dr. Suess, a local covers band that has been playing consistently for the better part of two decades. They don’t have a Facebook or Myspace page, a Twitter account or CDs to sell, but if you like hard rock and metal cover songs, chances are you’ll have a good time watching and hearing them play.
Formed in the mid-90s, the current lineup features Matt Maxwell (vocalist), Chris Russell (guitar), Jerry Kinney (lead guitar), Nick Currins (bass) and Frank Wadsworth (drummer). Currins and Wadsworth have been playing with the band for about five years, while the other three have been with the band since its founding.
At the time they first got together, the founding members were all playing in local bands and decided to start a good-times covers band. Quickly finding themselves with a scheduled first gig and no band name, Maxwell opted to use the name of the author of the book he had just finished reading to his daughter.
“I had just got done reading Cat in the Hat to my daughter so I thought hey, Dr. Seuss. There you go,” he says. “We’ve changed it a couple times – [from] Dr. Seuss [and] the Suess – because we didn’t want to get into any legal trouble.”
Fortunately for the band members, the name has never gotten them into any trouble. That may be due in part to their being primarily a live band and not one to release recordings or other material in any kind of media that might bring out some copyright issues. The band did record some original material they had written when accolades they received at a battle of the bands contest won them some time at a recording studio. The first-place winners at the contest got to open up for Mötley Crüe at Memorial Coliseum, while the second-place winners received the studio time.
“We got recording time and said, ‘okay, yeah’; we did it,” says Maxwell. “We’ve just never really been one for writing and recording ... We’re all pretty busy. I own my own business and you’ve gotta have time to be creative and write. For us it’s, hey, we still love to play music. But somebody else has done the hard work really.”
Those recordings were never released, and the band has no plans of either writing or recording their own music anytime soon. It’s the camaraderie and enjoyment of playing music that keep them going, and that’s also what they try to bring to their live show. The four meet for practice every Wednesday night regardless of the season (the band takes summers off from playing live), and they’ve grown so tight-knit over the years that they even take their families on vacation together.
“We’re all sort of like family. We’re all still together. We get together every Wednesday regardless. It’s almost like bowling night,” Maxwell says. “We’ll work on stuff or we’ll sit around and drink beer and talk.”
Those bonds and commitment to enjoying their time together comes across when they’re playing their music. They even have a show-opening ritual that, for them, sets the stage and the tone for the show they’re about to play.
“The start of every show, if you ever get to see one, before we play our first note, we always do a toast, kind of a break-a-leg thing. And it gets the vibe up. We’re there to party and have a good time,” says Maxwell. “Forget about what today is; just have a good time and forget about what our problems are and just enjoy our company and have a good time.”
The music they play is a mix of hard rock and heavy metal tunes from the 80s to today. Their signature artist, the one they cover most often, is Dio (the band members even performed as a Dio tribute band for awhile under another moniker) but they keep their catalog up to date playing current hits by the likes of, for example, Nickelback.
Aside from the opportunity to record their own music, Dr. Suess have also opened up for several national acts at Piere’s, including Firehouse, Skid Row, Foghat, Slash’s Snake Pit and Sebastian Bach. Those are some of the highlights of the band’s career.
“We played with Firehouse. That’s probably a big highlight for us,” Maxwell says. “We went from being in the park to going on the big stage. I guess you could say for us, for being a cover band in Fort Wayne, that’s big time.”
When the band’s active, they typically play about two shows per month. Their gigs are mostly around Fort Wayne, although they do play out of town occasionally. Angola, the town where they once recorded their originals, is also one of their out of town destinations. There’s a good likelihood of drawing a crowd their, given its destination as a vacation spot as well as the presence of Trine (formerly Tri State) University.
“We don’t play in the summer, but also in the fall you got Tri State University, so we play to the kids in Angola there. It’s walking distance from the college, so you get a lot of college students in there,” says Maxwell. “We’re just a whole bunch of guys that just enjoy being around each other. The music is what gets us all together.”