Members: Amy Shaffer, lead vocals; Donnie Colon, lead vocals and guitar; Scott Acworth, lead vocals and percussion; Brad Rudolph, lead vocals and bass; John Tyndall, keyboards and vocals; Steven Strawley, trumpet; Scott Swartzel, saxophone; Jon Williamson, drums and vocals
Who we talked to: Rudolph
When did you start playing music? I started playing locally in my teens, but I really made it my career in my 20s. (I) then went on the road up and down the East Coast playing in show bands and jazz bands. (Prior to going out to California in the '90s) I was actually playing with Bo Diddley.
Bo Diddley died this past June. Was that sad news for you? I was lucky enough to play with him. I was in his band and helped organize his band, and we did some recording with him. It was one of the highlights of my career. He was a founding father (of rock 'n' roll). He didn't get a lot of credit where he should of as far as inventing the rhythm that everyone stole.
When did you start the band? I was originally from this area and had some pretty big bands in the '80s. I moved to California and was out there for about 20 years working for Apple Computers and decided to move back to the area. About two years ago, I started thinking about putting a band together again. I decided on doing a funk band. I wanted it to be very different.
How did you get in contact with the other musicians? One of the percussionists actually lives by me, and he had been in a band in the '70s and '80s with the sax player, and we kind of started that way. Then I used the Internet and advertised, and then we started auditioning. There are eight people in Echelon. This was a very unique project because of the size and the type of shows we decided to perform.
How did you decide on the name? That's always a problem. I had a name that I wanted to use in the beginning called What the Funk. (Laughs) It wasn't (politically correct) enough. We just basically ran through a list of 100 names and just kept narrowing it down. It (means) more of an upper echelon, just a higher standard.
What are your influences? We're all over the map. Our influences are Parliament, James Brown . . . and anything in that '70s funk theme. Our age bracket runs from 24 years old to 55. My trumpet player is completely into the jazz training. My keyboard player is definitely all over the map with classical and jazz. My drummer came up as a rock drummer. I started in rock and funk bands. My singer was actually signed in Nashville to two bands. She was actually a country singer, and this is her first funk band. The styles of music are pretty diverse, but we all love this kind of music.
You get pretty dressed up, right? I can't stress enough the show part. We basically dress in the big flares and the big hair. We wear all the sequins and the bling. We carry more production than any band locally as far as lighting goes. It's a big production.
Where do you play in the area? Most bands when they start out are trying to generate interest. Our first job (was) a benefit at a church . . . and (from there) we got asked to play at the American (MusicFest) last year. Our second job, we played for (more than) 12,000 people. We actually started backwards. We started playing for huge audiences, and now we play smaller clubs. We play at (Hollywood) Casino every month. We play at Gullifty's (Restaurant) every month. We do a lot of different foundation and corporate events. We just started working out of some big agencies out of Virginia. This is the first band I've ever been in my life that the phone rings all the time. People are dancing from the first song, and they're . . . having a great time. How can you be unhappy when you hear "Funkytown"? (Laughs)
- ERIN McCRACKEN,