Roger Boyd and Head East: Still going strong—part two

Editor’s note: The following is the second part of a two-part interview with Head East’s Roger Boyd. The first part appeared in the Nov. 8-14, 2006, issue of The Rock River Times.

Head East, a 1970’s classic rock band, performed before a dedicated crowd at the Ramada Inn in South Beloit Oct. 31. In 1975, the band released Flat as a Pancake, which spawned the hit “Never Been Any Reason,” which remains a staple on classic rock radio across the country.

Jim Hagerty, The Rock River Times (TRRT): When you guys decided to make a career out of playing music, where did you move to try and break out?

Roger Boyd (RB): I am from Carlisle, Ill. We knew that to break out, we needed to either move to Chicago, New York, Detroit or St. Louis. We chose St. Louis because it was close, and our friends from REO (Speedwagon) were doing well there, so we decided to go there. It proved to be a good decision. What I have discovered is that the best music comes from the Midwest. It always has and always will. In fact, Aerosmith didn’t totally break until they started getting big in the Midwest.

TRRT: You mentioned a few different bands [in part one of this interview], mainly REO Speedwagon. Have you worked with them over the years?

RB: Oh, yeah! They are my buds! I just talked to Kevin (Cronin) not too long ago. And not too many people know this, but on their song “Ridin’ The Storm Out,” when you hear the loud keyboard sounds, it was my keyboard they used on that song. They didn’t have a keyboard on that tour for some reason, and they liked the way mine sounded, so they grabbed it that night, and it ended up as a live track. I joke with Kevin that I am still waiting for my royalty check from that tune. I still play that keyboard today.

TRRT: Let’s talk about the music industry itself. In your opinion, have the record labels changed as much as they seem to have?

RB: In my opinion, the record companies really don’t exist anymore. In the past, you had the labels setting up shop in L.A. and places like that, and they pretty much fought over artists. It’s certainly not like that anymore. Now, it’s so cheap and easy for a band to buy a small recorder and produce an entire album that sounds great in their kitchen. And many of them are doing that and marketing the music on the Internet, where the independent labels pick it up. And it’s also so easy for fans these days to just go online and download pretty much anything they want for free. So there really is no need for the major labels anymore. It’s too bad because it’s really hurt the retail business. Tower Records was just liquidated. I am not talking about a merger or a buy out, they were totally liquidated. They are done. There just isn’t a need or a place for them anymore.

TRRT: You remember your first show as Head East, as you said; what was your first major tour?

RB: 1975 with J. Geils and Foghat. That was the coolest thing we have ever done. They turned out to be a great group of guys to travel with. That went on for a time, then we started headlining shows.

TRRT: Were you particularly popular in certain areas of the country?

RB: We were very big between the mountains and the Midwest, of course. And we did fairly well on the East Coast, but not as well as the Seattle and Portland areas. They really liked us there.

TRRT: You have had several lineup changes over the years, and you now have a new band. Is there anything special about your current roster?

RB: I have experimented quite a bit over the years with it. I now have a lead singer, which makes it a five-piece again. That really allows us to do our hits well. It gives everyone the chance to sing, and we really are able to capitalize on the harmonies, which always has been a Head East signature sound.

TRRT: I understand that you have a Ph.D. and you are a teacher, correct?

RB: That is correct. And another funny story: we were all in college when Head East started. When we started to get big, I said I was going to put school on hold for a while. I originally said I would give it 10 years, max. But that 10 years turned into longer. I didn’t go back to school until 1995, and I like to joke and say that I was on a 25-year sabbatical.

TRRT: What do you teach?

RB: Well, I started out at St. Louis University, where I worked in their social work program. I now teach at Southern Illinois in Edwardsville. I am in the Social Work Department, and I also counsel in the private sector. I work with teens and young people with drug and alcohol issues. In fact, I have to teach in the morning!

Boyd says he will continue to do about 30 shows a year and is focusing on keeping the music as close to the original Head East sound as possible. Although no new recording projects are in the works, several greatest hits packages and compilations are available.

Local band Iron Cross, which has been amassing a solid Rockford following, opened for Head East. Other events on Halloween night also included a $500 prize for the best costume.

Editor’s note: Free-lance photographer Kathryn R. Martin contributed to the interview with Roger Boyd.

From the Nov. 15-21, 2006, issue

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