Local musicians recall their greatest influences

Local musicians recall their greatest influences

Last weekend, the music business celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' invasion.

This weekend, we ask local music makers: Who's the act that made a young you want to twist and shout?


Owner, Skins-n-Tins Drum Shop, Champaign

"When I heard first heard 'Purple Haze' by Jimi Hendrix and bought that album, I knew I wanted to be like MITCH MITCHELL, the drummer. The guitar playing was great, too, but I was into the drums. I idolized him. I still play it — I could put that album on every day and hear something new.

"About 10 years ago, I got a chance to meet Mitch at a trade show in Nashville. It was one of those moments where you've got a thousand questions and you can't think of any. (Makes stammering sound) He was standing right next to me and all I could think of was, 'It's so nice to meet you, Mr. Mitchell. Can you sign this drum head?' "


Acclaimed jazz trumpeter and Urbana native

"Dad took me to hear LOUIS ARMSTRONG when I was 10 at Huff Gym in about 1952. That's when I decided I wanted to become a musician. My father played trumpet and was the greatest trumpet player I knew — until Louis started to play and sing. I was just so awestruck that I couldn't think straight."


Maestro, C-U Symphony

"I absolutely adored the music of STYX. I particularly adored the album 'The Grand Illusion.' Not only did I find many of the lyrics quite compelling, I loved — and still love — the complex and highly imaginative use of instruments in their recordings.

"This past summer I introduced my younger daughter to a number of my favorite Styx recordings. I felt so pleased when she put some of them on her iPod."


Champaign-born bassist and brother of Alison Krauss

"A turning point for me musically was when I was introduced to LED ZEPPELIN in high school. In particular, the song 'No Quarter,' I feel it really shaped how I wanted to compose music. I definitely have tried to bring that conviction from their recordings and live performances to my own approach to playing music. I was fortunate enough to attend (Led Zeppelin's) 2007 O2 Arena Atlantic Records reunion show in London."


Singer, guitarist, Unity HS grad and daughter of local drummer Kenny Reiss

"In my youth, I listened to a variety of genres, but my parents raised me right and I quickly fell in love with acts like BONNIE RAITT and LED ZEPPELIN, as influenced by my father. When my mother and I cleaned the house, we would listen to NORAH JONES and SUSAN TEDESCHI. And at about 14, I began listening to jazz/blues singers like BILLIE HOLIDAY and BESSIE SMITH. All of these listening experiences were truly moments of learning — as I fell in love, I learned how to write music and hone my skills."


Conductor, Parkland Concert Band

"THE SUPREMES. I always loved the Motown sound, and these ladies epitomized the essence of this genre. Easy to look at, awesome to listen to and dynamite to dance to."


Chair, Jazz Studies, University of Illinois

"JOHN COLTRANE — for his amazing tone and flexibility on the saxophone, as well as his ability to step across the footlights with his recordings and still touch the listener."


Newly formed harmonic pop/rock duo

"It's the same for both of us — THE BEATLES. Their harmonies, the beat, their charm ... everything about them drew us in instantly. We both had older siblings, so the music was in our homes and we both loved it from the very first time we heard it."


Music teacher, St. Malachy School, Rantoul

"It would be HEART. I was so excited to see a woman — Ann Wilson — be front and center as the lead singer, not to mention her sister Nancy as lead guitarist. I can't even tell you the names of the men in the group.

"I never did see them in concert, but one time they came to my hometown of Rantoul. There was a local store, Grants, when I was growing up and they were there came to promote their album. I was so starstruck. I bought their 'Dreamboat AnnIe' album that day and the band signed it. It was great to be a kid in the '70s and '80s."


Frontman of Savoy's Crazy Johnny Band

"I would have to say JERRY LEE LEWIS. Jerry was a rock and roll rebel — although he was stuck on himself, he knew how to entertain. For that reason, I watched and learned the art of entertaining. No one could tell Jerry Lee what to do, when to do it, nor how to do it. The time had to be right, and I have that art now."


Conductor, UI Varsity Men's Glee Club

"My teen idol king of the hill was the late, great master of soul and R&B — JAMES BROWN. Remembrances of his dynamic look, hair, pride, power and command of his band and audience still bring back grins, goose bumps and precious memories of working on his infamous dance moves. I practiced the 'split' continuously with a full-length mirror to the tune of 'I Got the Feelin,' 'Cold Sweat' and 'Make It Funky' in the basement of our southside Chicago home on our old 45 RPM record player."


Band teacher, Urbana Middle School

"I have always tended to listen to songs that I fell in love with rather than groups. The song I remember playing over and over is 'Daniel' by ELTON JOHN. The melody was beautiful and the words always made me wonder who Daniel and his brother were."


Former Unity HS homecoming king; now sings a cappella in UI group Xtension Chords

"My dad and I would jam out to about any type of music when he'd take me to school, but I'd be willing to bet that between my dad, brother Josh and I, we can sing every GARTH BROOKS song. Although I wasn't quite in the picture when my parents and brother saw Garth Brooks in concert, some of my best memories are of our family road trips singing 'Friends in Low Places' and many others with my mom, dad and brother."


Sings a cappella in UI group No Comment

"Growing up, my mom would play a whole bunch of great '90s females — from Alanis Morissette to The Dixie Chicks — and my little sister and I would belt them out at the top of our lungs while we were cleaning the house. But WHITNEY HOUSTON was absolutely my favorite. She is the greatest voice of her generation — by far. 'I'm Every Woman' and 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' are still my Number 1 jams to this day."


Original lead vocalist, REO Speedwagon

"Have to say it was THE BEATLES. I caught The Ed Sullivan Show 50 years ago and have been a fan ever since. There were others — Chuck Berry, Elvis — but the British Invasion pushed me over the edge. I still collect vinyl from that era today."

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