Ashley Underwood

My Favorite Band Moment – There have been many. Obviously gigging with my daughter Katie is at thevery top. Also playing at Busch Stadium, playing with Chuck Berry, having a very inebriated Tommy Shaw from Styx sit in with the band I was with, opening for various acts such as Eddie Money, The Kentucky Headhunters. As I’ve gone from usually being one of youngest in the band to now being one of the oldest, I’ve come to appreciate more and more the opportunity to perform. I’m thankful that I am still able to get up there hopefully put a few smiles on the faces of our audiences.

Practice – Honestly I am not the greatest practice player. After years of playing in bands where the leader would simply start a song and I would pick it up on the fly, I don’t have a fear of winging it in front of an audience. With Avery Hill I generally learn new songs on my own and then we get together to hash out the details. I feel that a certain amount of freshness is needed to truly put a song over, and that a song will evolve in a live setting over time as you play it more. One of the reasons I enjoyed so many live albums from the 70’s and 80’s is that often the songs were markedly different than the studio versions. They had evolved over time and now were often much more exciting than the earlier versions. We do one example of this with Avery Hill, the song “I Want You To Want Me” by Cheap Trick. The live version is head and shoulders above the studio version.

Music History – I had some piano lessons when I was very young but honestly Mina Eaton, my teacher, was a much better teacher than I was a student. I had rhythm so I was recruited to play in my grade school band as the cymbal player. It didn’t require a lot of talent, just the strength to lift the heavy cymbals and bang them together in time. I don’t recall us ever performing in public. As a Junior in High School I made a decision that would change my life. I joined the school band. The Director, Ed Levinsky, asked me what instrument I played. I said I don’t play anything. He asked me why I was joining the band. I replied, “Teach me something.” I guess something in my manner appealed to him so he agreed to let me join the band. My first job was to play the bass drum in the marching band. The reasons for this was somewhat similar to my cymbal playing gig in grade school. After marching season ended he moved me to Sousaphone. I guess he figured I was big enough to carry it and had enough wind to make some noise with it. I split time between Sousaphone with the school orchestra and various percussion instruments with the smaller ensemble. Based on the friendships I had made in the band and my own love of music, particularly the music of The Beatles and Chicago, I had a great desire to play in a rock band, but realizing there was not a lot of call for rock & roll tuba players, I returned to my keyboard roots, got a Vox Continental organ and a Fender Bassman 10 amp and spent many hours a day trying to get myself up to speed. I started a band with some friends because I wasn’t good enough to actually get a gig with an established group. Our first gig was supposed to be a freebie for a friends Valentine party, but her dad was so sorry for us that he gave us ten dollars. I was now a “Professional" musician, and there has been no turning back since then.

Over the years I have been in the following bands: Company, Potential, Whitewater, Powerhouse, Powerplay, Dirty Soxx, Isis, Mary Burns, Tommy Riggs Band (Subbed for several weeks), Paradise Alley, Magic, Chuck Berry (Not for a significant length of time but did some sub gigs with him), James Boys, AA Rhythm & Blues Review, Mystic Nights, Jimmy Lee Kennett Band, Blues & More, Katie Louise & Ashley 88, Travelin' Band (Current), Everett Dean & The Lonesome Hearts (Current), Fred Pierce Band (Current) and of course The Avery Hill Band (Current) Like most players, there's a host of bands that I subbed in for gigs here and there. There's also a few that either I was scheduled to join, or went into rehearsals with but for one reason or another didn't pan out.

Something most people don’t know about me: I also play the guitar (poorly), bass (even worse than guitar) and drums. I was actually fairly competent playing the drums but the effects of diabetes and arthritis have robbed me of that ability.



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