Johnny Reed and the Houserockers going back to the blues basics

When Johnny Reed and the Houserockers toured the country from the late 1990s until the mid-2000s, the group was on the verge of hitting it big.

They performed in Tennessee, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana — they even performed in Canada. But around 2005, the band began to fall apart. Since then, the band has lacked continuity, having a revolving door of members.

Mr. Reed, the lead singer and harmonica player, is trying to reinvent his band in hopes of leading it back to where it was. Mr. Reed and his band will perform Aug. 9 as part of Lunch at Levis Square, a weekly summer event featuring live music, food trucks, and games.

As Mr. Reed works to reinvent his band, he’s focused on bringing in members to get back the band’s simple sound.

“Stop trying to bring flashy Jack in or some superstar guy,” Mr. Reed said. “Let’s just go with what we know, simple. Layer our parts, make nice, rhythmatic music and simple, and that’s what sells. That’s how you get contracts. Simplicity.”

Mr. Reed, 48, had drummer Rolly Rayman with him back when the band started, and he appreciated that Mr. Rayman, 63, was a simple musician. Still, Mr. Reed wanted his band to rock the house — hence the band’s name. He recently brought in 19-year-old guitarist Matthew Schad and 27-year-old bass player Pete Hill.

“They’re young guns, they’re new to their craft,” Mr. Reed said. “One thing we’ve always bought into is simplicity.”

Mr. Schad is the newest member. A sophomore at Bowling Green State University, he joined near the end of last year. Though he’s the youngest member, Mr. Schad doesn’t feel as though the band treats him like a kid. He said performing at Levis will be his first big gig as a musician.

“I don’t think I’ll play any different,” Mr. Schad said.

Since Mr. Hill joined the band in March, 2017, he has appreciated working with the group. He’s particularly appreciated learning from Mr. Reed.

“Before meeting Johnny, I thought I knew blues, but I was wrong,” Mr. Hill said.

Back in the late 1980s, it was Mr. Reed as the student and local blues legends Art and Roman Griswold acting as the teachers. Mr. Reed credited the late brothers as his mentors in the blues and the music industry. The Griswolds grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and started garnering attention when they were the house band for Hines Farm, which was a popular blues spot in Swanton.

“Everything that I am, I owe to them,” Mr. Reed said. “And if I am anything, it’s because of them.”

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