Over 50 years ago, music proved to be the instrument that allowed a new Memphis resident to fit in, and it proved to these very same tunes that brought a band of four friends back together to take the stage at the Memphis VFW as part of the Class of 1969 50 Year Reunion held August 24th.
“I was just a freshman when we moved to town back in 1965,” said Greg Maul. “I had taken piano lessons for years and I could sing a little, so when I ran into these guys who were looking for another member in their band, it was a fit.”
Fellow freshmen Eddie Beckert, Sam Padgett, Mark Slocum and John Orton had formed a band performing under the name the Continentals. With Maul now added to the act, the group proved to be a hit at the high school talent show.
“We’d been playing together for a little bit prior to the show, but no one really knew about us until then,” said Maul.
Not long after that, the group changed its name to The Barons and began performing at proms, private parties and other social outings.
‘We had a big gig planned for us, playing at the local Dairy Queen, but it got rained out,” joked Beckertt.
After performing at a number of high school dances across the region over their four-year careers, the group made a change their senior year, headlining as the Loving End as their time together was coming to an end.
Three of the band members went on to attend college in Kirksville, and all five men remained in contact well beyond their continuing education years.
Maul became a doctor and relocated to Texas. He is still in practice in the Houston area. Sam worked for NASA and now also calls Texas home in League City. Eddie and Mark both reside in the Kansas City area. John Orton passed away not long after the group’s 20 year reunion.
Eddie carried over his band life into his professional years, performing in several groups in the Kansas City area. That is where he met Steve Hyatt, who took the stage with the group on Friday in Memphis.
“We have kept in touch over the years, but I would have to say it was music that really was the glue that held us together in a life-long friendship,” said Maul.
As the friends’ 50-year class reunion began to approach, the idea hatched for a possible reunion of a different sort while the men were gathered at Maul’s home.
“We knew it was coming up, but I don’t remember who was the first one to suggest that maybe we could play for it,” said Maul. “We went back and forth, yes, no, yes, no, and then finally around December we decided to do it.”
At that point, the four original members of The Barons along with new member Steve Hyatt, began gathering on one weekend a month in Kansas City to rehearse.
While the distance to rehearsals was a hardship, the band did enjoys some perks that accompanied successful professional lives.
“We definitely have much better equipment now than we ever had back in the day,” said Maul. “We didn’t have any money behind us back when we started. I can even remember hauling in some huge speaker boxes that actually were totally empty, just to give the appearance we had better equipment than we truly could afford.”
Back in the day, the group had a playlist of more than 120 tunes. They narrowed that down to 15 to 18 of their favorites and even added in a few new songs they will unveil for the reunion crowd in Memphis.
“We had a really, really tight nit class overall, ” said Maul. “Everyone has been reaching out to us to let us know how excited they are for tonight’s get together and performance,” said Maul.
While the band members expressed some nerves about taking the stage, they did show some confidence based on their life achievements.
“We’ve all done pretty well for ourselves, so we won’t be up here trying to make or break it as musicians,” said Maul. “We’re just doing it for the love of the music, for our classmates and for each other.”