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ECHO PARK - "Echo Park"
Echo Park was formed long time ago, in 1979, in Boone, North Carolina (USA), by Rusty Blanton (guitar), Kyle Graham (guitar), and Mark Williams (drums). Fish (bass) was persuaded by his band friends to move to the town and completed the line-up. The quartet rented a house to use as headquarters in a residential section called Echo Park. By 1988, Kyle and Mark had left the band; and Fish and Rusty reformulated the band’s line-up to include Bob Rochelle (lead vocals and keyboards). Over the next 20 years Echo Park, would often perform as a trio, sometimes helped by Robbie Stevens (drums) and keyboardist Steve Roark (keyboards). The band went through a brief period of inactivity in the mid 90’s, partly because of Steve and Robbie’s departures. Bob, Fish and Rusty kept as the nucleus of Echo Park until Rusty’s son, Jamie (then at the age of 13) was admitted as a drummer. In 2007, Steve Roark was back into Echo Park. Once again in activity, the band recorded a collection of their songs. The outcome is “Echo Park” – the CD (2009 – Blantone Productions), which covers the band’s lifetime in 12 tracks. Like many rock bands that were active during the 80’s, the sonority of Echo Park mirrors that time, including Progressive bands of the 70’s that to survive into the 80’s, were forced to format their sound for the radio stations and MTV. From these bands, I can cite "Yes" (albums “90125” and “Big Generator”); "Rush" (phase post- “Signals”); "Kansas" (albums “Audio-Visions” and “Vinyl Confessions”); "Status Quo" (“In the Army Now”); "Toto", (“IV”) "Peter Frampton" (“Braking All the Rules”); "Journey" (“Departure”), "Asia", plus some influences of "Eagles", "Tom Petty" and even "Aha". The songs in general are simple, following a nice Soft Rock line more than any deeper Progressive style. Although not sounding original, the well experienced musicians know how to play. The strongest points of the band are the melodic vocal harmonies (like "Yes" and "Journey"), the omnipresent bass (Fish is a mild-mannered "Chris Squire" and "Geddy Lee"); and often insertions of rocky guitars solos, agreeable keyboards and delicate sax solos. The band’s formula works better on “Eyes of a Child“, “Overloaded“, “Black Sand Road“, “Mel“, and “Rosemond“. Contrasting with those tracks, there are also some ballads and radio songs - like “I Don’t Know Why“, “These Hills“ (very soft), “Take Me Higher“ and “None of Us“ (this one features a beautiful sax solo) – and others, faster and with a harder rhythm, like “Dream“ (with good bass line and guitars) and “Blink of an Eye“. If those songs were more widespread in the media, I am sure that Echo Park would quickly find a fan base. Echo Park is recommended for those who like Soft Rock in general, and the bands cited above. Band members and collaborators involved in Echo Park are Steve Roark – Keyboards, Sax, Backing Vocals, Bob Rochelle – Vocals, Tambourine, Rusty Blanton – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals, Jamie Blanton - Drums, and Fish – Bass, additional keyboards on “Rosemond”, Lead and Backing Vocals. Guest musicians: Steve Sensenig – additional Keyboards; Amanda Blanton – additional Keyboards on “None of Us”...   (Comments by Marcelo Trotta)

Marcelo Trotta - Progressive Rock/Progressive Metal e-zine (Oct 5, 2009)
Echo Park performs Tommy in Boone May 1-2





Echo Park (from left, Bob Rochelle, Steve Roark, Rusty Blanton, Bill Fisher and Jamie Blanton) will perform the rock opera Tommy in Boone May 1-2. Photo submitted

Echo Park will be performing Tommy, the well-known rock opera released in 1969 by The Who, on Friday May 1, and Saturday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Valborg Theater, located on the Appalachian State university campus behind the Turchin building.


Rusty Blanton, from the band Echo Park, has been the driving force behind the Tommy performance to take place in Boone. The local performance has been long in the making for Blanton, but his persistence will soon be rewarded.

“Not only is it going to happen, it’s going to be good,” Blanton said, while promoting the show on local radio.


Echo Park began in 1979 with three local musicians from Boone. Rusty Blanton and Kyle Graham both played guitar with Mark Williams on the drums. They added Fish as their bass player and began playing with the focus being the performance of the music. In 1988, Graham and Williams left the Echo Park, but the band was joined by Bob Rochelle as a keyboardist and lead vocalist. For the next 20 years, Blanton, Fish and Rochelle became the foundation for the band. Robbie Stevens and keyboardist Steve Roark also contributed to Echo Park’s sound.


In 2007, Echo Park became a solid five-piece band again. The band consisted of Blanton on guitar and backing vocals, Jamie Blanton, Rusty’s son, on drums, Fish on the bass and backing vocals, Rochelle on the keyboard and lead vocals, and Roark on the keyboard and backing vocals. The band’s influences range from Yes to Rush and from Tom Petty to Black Sabbath. To view more information on Echo Park, visit www.echoparkband.com.


Other performers joining Echo Park include Melissa Reaves as The Acid Queen, Billy Ralph Winkler as Tommy’s father, and Becca Eggers-Gryder as Tommy’s mother.


“After singing some of those songs with Becca, I went home and couldn’t sleep. It’s going to be great,” Winkler said.


The Tommy performance will last for about an hour and 15 minutes, followed by a short intermission. Winkler will be bringing in brass instruments to perform musical hits he described as ambitious and “timeless.”


“Billy Ralph has been a long time pillar of the community,” said Cherry Johnson, executive director of the Watauga Arts Council, adding that Winkler has been county commissioner, local band director, church choir director, and a great influence on the youth of Watauga County.


The Watauga Arts Council is selling tickets for seats in the first six rows. This limited number of preferred seating is only available through the WCAC. Tickets can be purchased online at www.watauga-arts.org with no additional service charge or by phone at (828) 264-1789. Tickets purchased this way will be awaiting the purchaser at will-call on the night of the show. All additional tickets are available through the Valborg Theater box office. Prices for tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students. Students should bring their student identification card with them in order to be admitted at the student price. Because this is a benefit performance, $10 of the cost of each ticket purchased is considered a tax-deductible donation.


For further information, contact the Arts Council at (828) 264-1789.
- Mountain Times (Apr 23, 2009)
A Record 30 Years in the Making
Echo Park Releases Debut CD
Story by David Brewer


Echo Park: Top row-(from left to right) Bob Rochelle, Steve Roark and Rusty Blanton. Bottom row-Jamie Blanton and Bill FisherPatience is truly a virtue.

After 30 years of playing music together, multiple lineup changes and countless hours spent huddled over a mixing console, local progressive rockers Echo Park have finally released their self-titled debut album. While the band’s personal goal of releasing the record before Guns N Roses’ long awaited disc Chinese Democracy hit stores fell short by a few months, the five members are thrilled nonetheless to finally see their hard work come to disc.

To celebrate the release of the record, Echo Park will host a CD release party at Geno’s in Boone on Friday, May 8. The show will start at 8:00 p.m. The CD is currently available at Boone Drug’s Deerfield and New Market locations, as well as at Fat Cats, Appalachian Music and Rydell Music. Echo Park can also be purchased online by clicking to www.cdbaby.com and most digital music distributors.

Before their CD release show, Echo Park will celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Who’s classic rock opera Tommy with a pair of guest-laden performances at the Valborg Theatre on Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2.

For more information, click to www.echoparkband.com.

Band History

In 1977, Murfreesboro native and recent Boone transplant and bassist Bill Fisher stopped by a local music store to inquire about local musicians. The shopkeeper suggested he contact a talented local high school guitarist named Rusty Blanton. Fisher did just that and the two have been playing music together on and off ever since.

During 1979, Blanton, along with guitarist Kyle Graham and drummer Mark Williams decided to form a band. However, Fisher’s departure back to his hometown in the eastern part of the state left the trio without a bass player.

At the behest of his bandmates, Blanton called Fisher to gauge his interest in moving back to the High Country to join the new band. According to Fisher, they didn’t exactly have to twist his arm. Within a month, the bassist moved into the band’s house in Blowing Rock and Echo Park was born, taking their name from a sign in their Blowing Rock neighborhood.

Echo Park’s classic lineup went their separate ways in 1982, although Blanton and Williams began writing and performing together during the next few years until the drummer eventually split for Wyoming. In 1985, Blanton contacted Fisher and local musician Robbie Stevens to play a gig and Echo Park version 3.0 was born.

During his days at ASU, Fisher lived in the dorms with future Echo Park member Bob Rochelle. Originally trying out for the band in 1982, the tenor vocalist and keyboard player eventually joined the ranks of Echo Park in 1988. Multi-instrumentalist Steve Roark joined during this period, adding considerably to the band’s sound and style. Roark moved to Nashville during the 1990s, but returned to the area in 2007, rejoining Echo Park.

Others who have tickled the ivories and furthered Echo Park’s musical cause include Lane Robinson, Steve Kofroth, Erik Mowrey, Aaron Burleson and Steve Sensenig.

In 1989, Blanton’s son Jamie was born. During the next several years, his father, Fisher, Rochelle and Roark began noticing the youngster’s proficiency behind the drum kit. Jamie played his very first gig with Echo Park as a seventh grader in 2001 at the Watauga County Relay For Life.

“Jamie grew up in this environment with a rock and roll band in the basement,” said Fisher, who along with Rochelle and his father, all take credit for turning the young drum prodigy into a first-class smart aleck.

“He’s gone through the [musical] stages that took us years in a very short period of time,” said Rusty of his son’s mature playing.

The members of Echo Park don’t suffer from grand delusions of rock stardom. Rather, they’re just thrilled to still be friends who can come together and make challenging music that they love.

“I treasure their friendship as much as I do the music,” said Rochelle. “We’ve all been a part of each other’s lives even when we weren’t playing music together.”

The Disc

During the mid-1990s, Echo Park recorded several original tracks for what they hoped would be their first CD. Originally planning to complete the songs in a professional studio, the band’s plans took a left turn.

“Somewhere along the line we decided to scrap it and just do the whole thing ourselves,” said Blanton, whose basement became Blantone Recording Studios.

While the prospect of saving money seemed attractive at the time, taking on the recording duties themselves meant they could take as long as they wanted. Along the way, life intervened on countless occasions, repeatedly pushing back the release of the disc.

“The biggest problem is that we all have lives,” said Jamie.

“And jobs,” said Fisher.

“And children,” added Rochelle.

Eventually, after many false alarms and jokes during their Jones House summer shows, the tracks were completed and mixed and the final product was shrink-wrapped. Echo Park features 12 original tracks, some of which date all the way back to the band’s first years together. And although he hasn’t been an active member of the band for decades, founding member Mark Williams contributed much of the album’s lyrical content.

“It’s like our first album is our career retrospective—it’s like our greatest hits,” said Fisher.

Inspired by the likes of Rush, Pink Floyd, Yes and Kansas, the band’s music combines the grit of classic rockers like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin with the epic compositional flair of their progressive rock heroes.

“The common thread is the progressive rock,” said Rusty.

“We don’t play dance music,” added Rochelle.

Throughout the disc, the younger Blanton’s driving rhythms and sharp fills propel the solid string work of his father and Fisher, while Roark’s keyboards and horn work fill in the gaps and Rochelle’s vocals soar atop the mix.

“We’re the most talented band that nobody’s ever heard,” said Rochelle.
Echoes from the Past

Echo Park performs Tommy May 1-2


By Frank Ruggiero




Echo Park (from left, Bob Rochelle, Steve Roark, Rusty Blanton, Bill Fisher and Jamie Blanton) will perform the rock opera Tommy in Boone May 1-2. Photo submitted



From “Overture” to “Underture,” perennial Boone band Echo Park is bringing The Who’s classic rock opera, Tommy, to the Valborg Theater May 1 and 2.


The 1969 concept album, composed primarily by guitarist Pete Townshend, is considered the first rock opera, telling the story of Tommy, a “deaf, dumb and blind” boy, and the tragic, cruel and ultimately enlightening encounters that fill his life.


Inspired by The Who’s live performance of Tommy in 1989, in which guest artists performed the opera’s various roles, Echo Park plans to bring some local flair to the production.

“We thought we could do that here, because we have enough local artists to make it work,” said Rusty Blanton, guitarist and backup vocalist, who also plays the role of Cousin Kevin.


For instance, Becca Eggers-Gryder is stepping out of bluegrass favorite Amantha Mill to play Tommy’s mother, while bluesy rocker Melissa Reaves assumes the role of the Acid Queen.


“Patti LaBelle and Tina Turner don’t have anything on her,” lead vocalist and keyboardist Bob Rochelle said of Reaves, referring to some of the role’s more popular incarnations.


Rochelle plays the role of Tommy, while Billy Ralph Winkler, county commissioner and former high school band teacher, plays Tommy’s mother’s lover.


“Tommy was one of the albums I grew up listening to,” Blanton said. “We’re all big fans of The Who, and we just wanted a good excuse to play a big concert in a nice hall.”


The hall comes courtesy of Appalachian State University, the concert from the Watauga Arts Council, which will benefit from ticket sales. Echo Park has a rich history with the arts council, having performed regularly during the summer Concerts on the Lawn series at the Jones House.


Named after the Blowing Rock neighborhood, Echo Park has grown alongside its home community. In the fall of 1979, Echo Park the band was established, featuring Blanton, guitarist Kyle Graham, drummer Mark Williams and bassist Bill Fisher, the local television personality known commonly as Fish. Rochelle joined the band in 1988, after Graham and Williams moved to pursue different careers, leaving a core trio to carry Echo Park into the 1990s.


Easily likened to the progressive rock sounds of Yes and Rush, Echo Park also combines the harder edge of bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. But this changed after a concert mishap in the early ’90s, when the band’s drummer fell suddenly ill and could not perform. This left Blanton, Rochelle and Fisher in a predicament.


“We were just trying to come up with something, and we started this whole acoustic set,” Blanton said.


This led to an acoustic era for Echo Park, though members continued the search for a new drummer, eventually finding one in Blanton’s family tree. At the age of 13, Blanton’s son, Jamie, joined the group, and Echo Park returned to their progressive roots.


The foursome played with various keyboardists until 2007, when Steve Roark, who had played with Echo Park in the ’90s, returned to Boone.


“So, the band is fully back,” Blanton said. “The first night after Steve came back, playing together felt just like home.”


“We fell right back into it like we didn’t miss a beat – or measure,” Rochelle added. “The older I get, the more I appreciate the band, the type of music we play and the camaraderie we have among us.”


Like so, Rochelle said the group is eager to perform Tommy, calling this particular effort a rebirth of Echo Park and its music, though passersby during band rehearsals also seem excited.


“We had a student show up when we were practicing with the window open,” Rochelle said. “This guy was just standing there, and said, ‘You guys are awesome.’”


Cherry Johnson, executive director of the Watauga Arts Council, said Echo Park’s performance of Tommy demonstrates the council’s diversity in programming, from classical to traditional to The Who.


“We wanted to inject some rock into the Watauga Arts Council,” Blanton said.


“And this will help us maintain the level of programming we give to the community,” Johnson said.

Tommy will be performed Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2, at the Valborg Theater on the ASU campus, beginning at 7:30 p.m. each night. The Watauga Arts Council is selling a limited number of tickets for seating in the first six rows. Tickets can be purchased online at www.watauga-arts.org, by phone at (828) 264-1789, or at the Jones House Community Center, located at 604 W. King St. in downtown Boone.


Additional tickets are available through the Valborg Theater box office.


Tickets cost $15 for adults and $12 for students, with $10 of the cost considered a tax-deductible donation.

For more information, call the Watauga Arts Council at (828) 264-1789.

Echo Park CD


Though it took a few decades, Echo Park has also released its debut album, Echo Park. A CD release party will be held at Geno’s Restaurant & Sports Lounge in Boone on Friday, May 8, at 8 p.m. Admission is $5.


For more information on Echo Park, or to purchase the CD, visit www.echoparkband.com on the Web.
Frank Ruggiero - Mountain Times (Apr 30, 2009)
Echo Park and friends will reprise their performance of The Whos Tommy on Dec. 4 in Boone. Photo submitted
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Echo Park presents 'Tommy' Dec. 4

Published: 10:21 AM, 11/25/2009
Last updated: 2:05 PM, 11/25/2009

by Frank Ruggiero

The Acid Queen, Pinball Wizard and Cousin Kevin are going to church.

Area rock outfit Echo Park is bringing The Whos Tommy back to Boone for a Dec. 4 performance at Living Water Christian Fellowships new performance hall, Harvest House.

A reprise of Mays performance for the benefit of the Watauga Arts Council, the Dec. 4 show will feature the same cast of musicians, including Echo Park, Melissa Reaves, Becca Eggers-Gryder and Billy Ralph Winkler, inspired by The Whos live performance of Tommy in 1989, in which guest artists performed the rock operas various roles.

The 1969 concept album, composed primarily by Who guitarist Pete Townshend, is considered the first rock opera, telling the story of Tommy, a deaf, dumb and blind boy, and the tragic, cruel and ultimately enlightening encounters that fill his life.

The music is fun, said Rusty Blanton, guitarist and backup vocalist for Echo Park. Its just fun to play as a whole work. It wears us out, but it was just so much fun being able to take people like Bill and Becca and let them do something thats not necessarily in their genre.

Echo Park lead vocalist and keyboardist Bob Rochelle plays Tommy, while Eggers-Gryder again plays Tommys mother. Winkler, county commissioner and former high school band teacher, reprises his role as Tommys mothers lover, and Melissa Reaves returns as the Acid Queen.

When Echo Park performed Tommy this May, Blanton said it was very well-received, but, I was amazed at how many people said, Gee, I wish I couldve been there. And thats why we want to do it again.

Tommy seemed a natural fit for Echo Park, Blanton said, and much of the staging and acting was improvised at the last minute, resulting in a surprisingly more natural feel. Its more of a concert than your actual stage performance, he said.

Rounding out Echo Park are bassist Bill Fisher, keyboardist Steve Roark and drummer Jamie Blanton. Namesake of a Blowing Rock neighborhood, Echo Park was established in the fall of 1979, with Blanton, guitarist Kyle Graham, drummer Mark Williams and Fisher, the local television personality known commonly as Fish. Rochelle joined the band in 1988, after Graham and Williams moved to pursue different careers, leaving a core trio to carry Echo Park into the 1990s.

Easily likened to the progressive rock sounds of Yes and Rush, Echo Park also combines the harder edge of bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. In the 90s, and short a drummer, the band ventured into acoustic territory, until Blanton found a suitable performer in his own family tree his son, Jamie. The band has since returned to its progressive roots.

The foursome played with various keyboardists until 2007, when Roark, who had played with Echo Park in the 90s, returned to Boone.

We fell right back into it like we didnt miss a beat or measure, Rochelle said in a previous interview. The older I get, the more I appreciate the band, the type of music we play and the camaraderie we have among us.

Naturally, its with a heavy heart that Echo Park bids farewell to Fisher, whos leaving the High Country for Florida in December. On Dec. 4, just before the performance of Tommy, the band will host a reception for Fisher thats free and open to the public.

Its a chance to say howdy and thank you to Fish for all the years of service hes given to this community, Blanton said. Its a chance to see him in his last concert up here, as well as to see us and everybody else. Its just going to be an evening of great music.

The reception starts at 5 p.m., and the band Harvest House will open for Echo Park at 6:30 p.m. Tommy begins at 7 p.m.

After Tommy, well probably want to play a few things afterwards, since its our last time with Fish some Echo Park originals, and maybe just a couple other covers that are near and dear to our hearts, Blanton said.

Tickets cost $10 and will be available at the door.

Living Water Christian Fellowship is located at 247 Boone Heights Drive, next to the Boone Bowling Center. For more information, call (828) 264-4070.

Mtn times (Nov 29, 2009)

Echo Park To Reprise Tommy Performance December 4

Concert Will Honor Departing Bassist Bill Fisher

Echo Park’s long-anticipated performance of The Who’s Tommy at the Valborg Theatre featured many local guest artists and was well received.
Want To Go?

Date: Friday, December 4
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Harvest House Performing Arts Center, Boone
Cost: $10

The December 4 performance of Tommy will be the last public performance of Echo Park featuring Bill “Fish” Fisher (second from right) on bass. Fisher is moving to Florida.

Local progressive rock band Echo Park will reprise its performance of The Who’s rock opera Tommy on Friday, December 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the newly renovated Harvest House Performing Arts Center in Boone. Admission is $10.

Tommy is a double album by English rockers The Who that tells a loose story about a “deaf, dumb and blind boy” who becomes the leader of a messianic movement. Released in 1969, Tommy was the first musical work to be billed as a “rock opera.”

Echo Park features Jamie Blanton on drums; Rusty Blanton on guitar and backing vocals; Bill “Fish” Fisher on bass and backing vocals; Steve Roark on keyboards, sax and backing vocals; and Bob Rochelle on lead vocals.

Joining Echo Park will be guest artists Becca Eggers-Gryder, Billy Ralph Winkler, Melissa Reaves, Aaron Burleson, R. Kevin Johnson, Robbie Stevens, Jordan Jackson, Amanda Blanton, Daniel Rochelle and Emily Rochelle.

The encore show is a follow-up to well-received performances of Tommy at ASU’s Valborg Theatre in May, which were fundraisers for the Watauga Arts Council, and a send-off for Fisher, the band’s longtime bassist and a local celebrity. Fisher, a well-known television and radio personality in the High Country, is relocating to Florida.

In honor of Fisher, a reception will take place at Harvest House beginning at 5:00 p.m., prior to the show. The reception is free and open to the public.

Harvest House is better known as the home of Living Water Christian Fellowship, located on Boone Heights Drive next to the bowling alley. The leaders of Living Water plan to bring a state-of-the-art performing arts center to Boone to accommodate a variety of musical and visual arts as well as theatre and dance. The Tommy performance will be the first show in the new venue.

For more information, click to www.echoparkband.com.

Ana Oakes - High Country Press (Nov 29, 2009)