Upper Arlington News

After 50 years, The Ravens still love rock 'n' roll

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Rocking and rolling since the swinging '60s, The Ravens will fly into Upper Arlington soon to celebrate their 50th anniversary at the Golden Bear Rock Fest.

Jeff "Sloopy" Shaw, vocalist and saxophone player, said he was 14 years old and a sophomore at Upper Arlington High School in 1961 when a fellow student, 16-year-old Jimmy Davis, asked him if he "played an instrument."

"I told him I had a saxophone, but I didn't share the fact I hadn't touched it since fifth grade," Shaw said. "He said his friend, Gary, was coming over to jam in the basement."

With Davis as drummer, Shaw on sax and Gary Hughes playing bass guitar, the basement band grew to include other Upper Arlington high school students - Gary Bonnette on piano and Jim Grubb on guitar.

"It's questionable how good the sounds coming out of that basement were at first, but after a fairly short period of time, it jelled and we started playing at open houses, teen dances and at other high schools," Shaw said.

He said The Ravens served as "guest artists" at record hops with local radio disc jockeys, played for fraternity parties and college events, then began opening for touring recording artists who came to Columbus.

According to Shaw, The Ravens are central Ohio's longest continuously playing "oldies" band. Members will celebrate 50 years by performing at the Upper Arlington Alumni Association's Golden Bear Rock Fest, a dance party scheduled from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the St. Agatha Event Center, 1860 Northam Road in Upper Arlington.

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Online orders can be placed at GoldenBearRockFest.com. Tickets can also be ordered by calling the UA Alumni Association office at 614-487-5007, extension 1120; or by sending a check to UAAA, Attn: Rock Fest, 1950 North Mallway, Columbus, Ohio 43221.

A cash bar and food will be provided by Schmidt's Classic Catering. Proceeds will benefit the Upper Arlington Alumni Association.

"We play a blend of things -- a lot of '60s American rock ' n' roll, the Beatles, Motown, Blues Brothers medley and favorite hits from the '60s and '70s," Shaw said.

A favorite of band followers is Hang on Sloopy, which earned Shaw the nickname "Sloopy" when he started playing two saxophones while performing the song.

"We played the song as My Girl Sloopy before the McCoys recorded it and it became a popular song with Ohio State University students," he said. "I was in downtown Columbus not long ago and someone yelled out 'Hey, Sloopy" and it was former Mayor Greg Lashutka.

"We used to let him sit in on the drums when we played on campus," Shaw recalled.

People can check out Shaw's two-sax rendition of what became The Ravens' signature song by typing "Hang On Sloopy by the Ravens" at youtube.com.

Shaw, a Dublin resident, is the only founding member still performing in the band. The other current Ravens include Upper Arlington residents John Workman on guitar and Jeff Hersey on keyboards; northwest Columbus resident Joe Armstrong on drums and bass guitarist Doug Yoder, from Plain City.

They played this year at the Columbus Arts Festival; made their eighth appearance on a float in the Upper Arlington Independence Day parade and performed at the 50-year reunion for UAHS Class of '62.

The band was recently featured in a local stage performance of "Rock and Roll Forever" and was inducted into the Columbus Nightclub Band Hall of Fame in 2003. Members were inducted into the Columbus Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

In the 1960s, The Ravens performed at nightclubs in Columbus and around Ohio, serving as the house band at the Button Club in the old Seneca Hotel and at The Bowery on W. Fifth Avenue, as well as performing at the Vogue Lounge, the Penguin Club and Club Gloria.

Shaw said The Ravens also traveled throughout the Midwest and East, performing with the Kingsmen of Louie Louie fame and worked with Britain's Eric Burden and the Animals, Major Lance, Len Barry, the Dovells and the Orlons.

He said The Ravens' 1966 recording of Are you a Boy or Are you a Girl? was brought back in 1991 on the compact disc collection "The Sounds of Summer: The Pebbles Series, Volume III," produced and distributed nationally by a Burbank, Calif., record company.

Shaw said the music never gets old.

"I think the music and the camaraderie with the other musicians keeps us playing," he said.

 

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