Greg Heath's donation helping keep C-U music history alive
CHAMPAIGN — Greg "Flea" Heath really values three posters of a Willie Nelson show he promoted in Danville in 1989.
Combined, the posters are a bit of an oddity.
One advertises the event as being at the Danville baseball stadium. The stadium folks later canceled and the venue was changed to the Danville Civic Center.
So Heath had new posters made.
Then, before the show, the center changed its name to honor the recently deceased Danville Mayor David S. Palmer.
Heath had another poster made. And went around town to remove the earlier ones.
Now the three different posters, framed and matted, hang side by side in Heath's home in Danville. They likely will remain there for a while.
Heath, though, might eventually give them to the Urbana-Champaign Local Music Preservation Project at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois.
Now retired, Heath already has given the Local Music Preservation Project a sizeable donation of band contracts, photographs, newspaper articles, fliers, VHS tapes, LPs and other items.
Most pertain to the late '60s and '70s rock music scene here and in Danville and Carbondale, where Heath worked for a few years in various capacities at the giant restaurant-bar Merlins.
Local Music Preservation Project manager Rory Grennan called Heath's gift "wonderful" because it speaks to a certain era of rock and roll in central and downstate Illinois.
And, Grennan said, the documents fill a hole in the collection he oversees because it had not yet received items from show promoters or management agencies like Heath's. His was called Celebrations.
"His gift really shines a lot of light on what guys like Greg did," said Grennan, an archives assistant at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music.
Among vinyl Heath gave to the Local Music Preservation Project are LPs by Dan Fogelberg, Pork and the Havana Ducks, Starcastle, and the Finchley Boys.
The Finchley Boys album is a collectible. He also gave singles — 45s — put out by Shades of Blue, Jim Foley, the One-Eyed Jacks, and the Cobras.
The 66-year-old Heath is a walking encyclopedia of rock and pop culture. Among the big-name acts he brought to Merlins were Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Chaka Khan, Wayne Cochran, and Canned Heat.
In Danville, he managed acts for Special Olympics and Vermilion Handicapped. Among the bands and musicians he promoted were Charlie Daniels, Ronnie Milsap, Joan Jett and '60s greats Lesley Gore and Chubby Checker.
Heath's donation came around the same time as three other significant rock-music gifts to the Local Music Preservation Project:
— Pogo Studio owner Mark Rubel, formerly of Champaign and now a teacher at the new Blackbird Academy in Nashville, gave 87 boxes of stuff that include 200 multi-track tapes.
"He gave us all the master recordings he didn't want to take to Nashville," Grennan said.
Rubel also gave the pertinent documents for those recordings, such as track sheets, and master mixes on DAT (Digital Audio Tape) and ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape). The center plans to exhibit the materials later this month.
— Rubel's sister, Sasha gave family and personal items including photo albums and rare cassette tapes of local bands. She said she will donate more items soon.
--- Hammerhead Records, a Champaign record label and artist-management agency, gave CDs, a few sound recordings, business records and artist contracts.
— Record Service, a now defunct Campustown record store, gave financial reports and journals, promotional materials, advertisements, photographs, news clippings, and the first dollar earned. The materials document the business, which operated from 1969 to 2010.
— Nearly 12 cubic feet of documents and recordings were donated by Rose Marshack and Rick Valentin of Poster Children, a C-U punk-rock band that was signed to independent labels in the '80s and major labels in the early '90s. Center archives assistant Zak Boerger, who was instrumental in landing that gift, is processing the materials now; they cover the period of 1986 to 2009.
They include financial records, royalty statements, publicity releases, newspaper and magazine articles, reviews, T-shirts, original art, and recordings on the Poster Children's own 12 Inch Records label of the Poster Children, Salaryman and Hum.
As computer scientists, Marshack and Valentin were pioneers in connecting with fans through new technology.
Marshack began blogging about the Poster Children and their tours in 1995. Three years later she began creating enhanced CDs and began podcasting — they continue to update "Radiozero," their seminal podcast. "Their gift is important because it represents the rock-and-roll community of Champaign-Urbana and of the '80s and the '90s," Boerger said. "It's also representative of the trajectory of an independent rock band in the pre- and post-Nirvana era."
After the release of Nirvana's blockbuster album "Nevermind" in 1991, record labels began signing hundreds of rock and punk-rock bands nationwide. After signing in 1992 with Warner Brothers subsidiaries, Poster Children did not meet with huge commercial success.
"What's interesting about Poster Children is they didn't say, 'Well, it didn't work out,' " he said. "They continued to play. There's almost a political aspect to the things they do and to the community they created."
And Valentin continues to put out records, Boerger said.
Heath, who has a room at his and his wife Janice's home devoted to the music memorabilia he's keeping, said he gave part of his collection — mostly items pertaining to the U-C music scene — to the Local Music Preservation Project because they belong there.
"All the musicians need credit," Heath said. "This isn't about me. It's about the musicians and stirring up business for the archives."
A closer look
Links to collections recently given to the Urbana-Champaign Local Music Preservation Project:
Poster Children and Salaryman Bands Records: http://bit.ly/1ooJS73
Hammerhead Records: http://bit.ly/1iY3VKl
Pogo Studio Audio Recordings and Business Records: http://bit.ly/TDmdEy
Greg "Flea" Heath Papers: http://bit.ly/1qR442c
Record Service Records: http://bit.ly/1o99sLL
Tuesday Morning Music Club: http://bit.ly/1pXtJ84
Project documents area's 'remarkable music scene'
The long-term goal of the U-C Local Music Preservation Project, which is part of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music, is to include all genres of music, says Scott Schwartz, director of the Sousa Archives and center.
Toward that end, the center recently received documents from the century-old Tuesday Morning Music Club, a group of local women who play classical music.
"It's an incredible body of stuff," Schwartz said. "It gives you a snapshot of women in the community. They often are wives of faculty who play in the background but are terrific musicians."
Why preserve the history of the Urbana-Champaign music scene? Because the two cities plus the University of Illinois have long supported a dynamic music scene. And so have establishments such as The Blind Pig, Mabel's, Trito's Uptown, Cowboy Monkey, the Highdive and The Iron Post.
"In addition, an amazing array of local recording studios, record stores, record labels, music festivals, booking agents and independent media outlets have helped our community nurture this remarkable music scene," reads a brochure about the U-C Local Preservation Project.
As a result, musicians such as REO Speedwagon, Head East, Starcastle, Adrian Belew, the Elvis Brothers, Alison Krauss, and Hum have called U-C home during significant parts of their international careers.
To preserve the history here, the Local Music Preservation Project collaborates with the Champaign County Historical Archives and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives. The Local Music Preservation Project collections are available to the public and researchers through exhibitions, educational programs and performances hosted by the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music in the UI Harding Band Building, 1103 S. Sixth St., C.
Parts of the collection also will be digitized to help researchers, including those from out of town. For more information call 244-9309 or email email@example.com.