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  • J.A.Willoughby

50 Years Young-"The most famous unknown band in the world."-Hybrid Ice

Hybrid Ice: Fifty Years - A Rock Band's Official Birthday - May 1, 1969

Over the course of the history of the world, fifty years - a half century - is not a long time. It is a significant portion of time of a human's lifespan, however. And since our lives are so finite and sometimes parochial, I believe it is worthy of mention - under certain circumstances - when those boundaries are met or exceeded.

In spite of spending the majority of my adult life onstage, I have never been one to seek the spotlight; to live for the applause, as a manner of speaking. To each his own on how that adulation is handled. But I must say this now: a half century ago my school friends and I got together to play music. It was an innocuous thing. It was an innocent thing. It was a fun thing. It was never a long-term imagined thing. It was just a thing to do.

We were kids who aspired to emulate our musical idols. We were still learning our instruments. We sat in rooms helping each other learn our respective parts to songs. We repeatedly put the needle down on the records and lifted it up again to simulate a manual repeat of a section of a song so we could learn every note of a guitar solo, or bass part. We were, by no stretch of the imagination, Founding Fathers. But, intended or not, that's what happened. As fourteen and fifteen-year-old boys, we gave birth to something that has lasted fifty years. That is difficult for me to write because of my earlier aversion to adulation and fan attention. But something happened last night that made me dismiss my own personal humility (which is a way of grounding myself) and made me realize that this 'phenomenon' - for lack of a better word - needs to be addressed.

In other words, I can remain humble for so long - then age and technology steps in, dammit. The band is still here and performing!

The group I was a part of, Hybrid Ice, has never been signed to a major label record deal. It's not like we weren't on the right track. All those inroads existed and we worked very hard as individuals and as a musical entity to pursue them. It's just that the timing was a bit off. That remark requires clarification, but more than what I can elaborate here. As it is commonly said now, "it's complicated". In spite of that shortcoming(?) – which includes the lack of major distribution of quantities of our officially released recordings - our music has found its way onto internationally fan-composed YouTube playlists of major label 80's bands. I have listened to our music being sandwiched in between artists whose music we covered during our club days. We opened for many of those and other major label artists during my tenure. More importantly, the connections the group made after my departure, afforded them the opportunity to perform with even more of the music industry's top name acts.

Just last night I (re)watched a video of the late Jimi Jamison (of Survivor and Cobra) singing his hits as my ex-bandmates expertly provided the music behind the voice, a show that was performed in my hometown. They have all conveyed to me how much they enjoyed working with him, and the many other industry heavyweights they have accompanied in the years since my departure, and some on The Legends Of Rock Cruises, as of late.

It is mind boggling to see our fan-made (non-video) song files interspersed with other artists from the same era with their million dollar video budgets, on any given fan-based playlist on that music platform (YouTube). Mind boggling, but at the same time, fifty years later - and never without any major music industry backing or “official” recognition. That cannot be ignored. Those boundaries I mentioned earlier have been exceeded - by decades.

I am not performing with Hybrid Ice any longer but I will always be a part of them, no matter what the configuration of personnel. And, no matter what the lineup is, I will always support them. But now, now it's time to not only recognize this milestone, it's time to applaud not only the individual shows, but the continued existence of a group of teenage boys who had a dream. A dream that became their "waking world" reality, record deal or no record deal. I once wrote in a promotional package for Hybrid Ice a tagline, offhandedly and sarcastically bestowing upon us the title of "the most famous unknown band in the world." That could very well be true.

Happy 50th, my brothers in Hybrid Ice, past and present! To echo and reinforce my sentiments, as the United States Marine Corps motto says, "Semper Fi !" Always faithful!

Our motto says in song, “One We Go”. Rock on, guys! Carpe diem!

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