GREENFIELD — Listening to Gary West talk about his early days in the music business opens a window into the language, life and brotherhood of a road musician. His stories of bus breakdowns, chance meetings with country music royalty, auditions on the fly and backstage antics at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville paint a world unknown to most.
As West — Gerald Boger to those who knew him as a young artist growing up in Hancock County in the 80s — approaches a long-awaited reunion with his original band, he can’t help but reminisce about the moments that made him the musician he is today.
West, a 1983 graduate of Eastern Hancock High School who began his musical career while still in junior high, returns to his roots and the Ricks Centre on Saturday to play with his first bandmates — the Royal Aces — for the first time in more than 25 years. The concert serves not only as a nod to the past but a fundraiser for a family friend with cancer.
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The Jan. 28 concert features both a Johnny Cash tribute show, “For the Love of Cash,” and the Royal Aces Reunion Jam, with the original Royal Aces: Brent Boyce, Rex Clem, Richie Hastings, Tony Seiler and West.
West has fond memories of playing music with the Royal Aces, the start he got with the group at local venues. The country western cover band played at the Greenfield American Legion, the Moose Lodge and the Eagles Club. And West hasn’t forgotten Darry Hood, of Dr. Rock and the Rollers, who was his science teacher at the junior high and his first unofficial agent.
“He was the one who arranged our first gig, playing at a seventh-grade dance,” West recalled.
For the 10 years following high school, West and the Royal Aces toured the U.S. and Canada playing an average of 200 gigs a year.
Brent Boyce, now 52, looks forward to the reunion. He currently works for a musical instrument distribution company, but he still plays music on the weekends with a central Indiana cover band called ‘Nuff Said.
Boyce, who toured with the Royal Aces for almost 10 years, has good memories of those years.
“For a young, single guy, it was a lot of fun,” he said. “I would never do it again, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
He is excited about playing with the group again and isn’t worried at all about not rehearsing ahead of time.
“We know each other musically very well,” Boyce said. “It will be just like getting back on a bicycle.”
Rex Clem, another original Royal Ace, still is playing bass guitar with West’s “For the Love of Cash” show. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and makes his living as a musician.
Tony Seiler, on drums, lives in Greenfield and plays with the Indianapolis dance band, Ripple Effect.
Also in attendance will be some special guests — including Hood, who has stayed in touch with West all these years. Hood showed up at West’s September album release party in Nashville, where he ended up emceeing the event when the scheduled emcee fell ill.
Also in attendance will be Randy Gross, currently a gospel singer, and Jerry Crosby, lead singer for the group, Stagecoach, both of whom were inspirations to the young Royal Aces group and idols to West.
“We want to recognize people that were significant to us,” West said.
West’s concert in Greenfield will be his third appearance locally in as many years. He played his Johnny Cash tribute show at the Ricks Centre in August 2015 and again for the Entertainment on the Plaza series in June 2016.
While those familiar tunes will come with him for this show, the event is about more than just entertaining.
West’s concert isn’t just about getting the band back together. Part of the proceeds from the performance are earmarked as a donation toward medical costs for close friend and cancer patient Robin Grove, who was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in March. Grove is the sister of another former Royal Aces member, Scott Grove, who was unable to attend the reunion. West plans to donate 50 percent of the VIP ticket sales, 10 percent of merchandise sales and 15 percent of regular ticket sales are being donated to help cover some of Grove’s medical expenses.
IF YOU GO:
What: Gary West “For the Love of Cash” show and Royal Aces Reunion Jam
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 28
Where: H. J. Ricks Centre for the Arts, 122 W. Main St.
Details: Limited VIP tickets available for $20 at garywestmusic.com; $15 at the door
IF YOU CAN’T GO:
You can still donate to Robin Grove’s medical expenses at gofundme.com/buildingrobinsnest