Way back in 1992, Russell Martin, Bill Harrell, Mill Brooks, Larry Foreman, Tommy Lashley, and Henry Hart use to get together and play the kind of music they loved: beach music, the classics of Motown, and just good old rock ‘n roll.
They had a blast
Lashley, Foreman, and Brooks had been tossing around the idea of starting up a band as a hobby for years. When they raised the idea with Martin, he went to work, securing a PA system and a place to rehearse. As the lead vocalist and lead persona of the bunch, Martin saw the whole thing as simply friends relapsing into the days of their collective youth, and from that thought came the band that Albany and Southwest Georgia knows today as Relapse. The guys simply kept doing what they liked to do, the performances kept getting better, and the crowds kept getting larger.
Half the fun of hearing Relapse play, is watching how much fun they are having. It is as it has been from the very beginning — a group of guys getting together to do what they love doing.That is their secret. If they are happy, you are happy.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Relapse had become one of the most popular local bands to come around in a long time. Not since the days of Eddie Middleton and Cotton had an area band garnered such a loyal and supportive fan base. If you wanted your party or fund=raiser to draw a crowd, you booked Relapse. It was just the beginning of a journey that would bring the name “Relapse” into the 21st century, with no end in sight.
Every member of the band then had, and today has, real jobs, and full lives. There has never been a plan to shuck it all and hit the road for fame and fortune. Instead, play dates were worked into everyone’s schedules. They turned down more gigs than they played, never doing any more than eighteen shows in a year. Yet, somehow they managed to build up a reputation as a serious party and special event band. The formula actually required no mixing other than getting these life-long musicians together, amped up, and ready.
With raw talent, and Martin’s connections in the area, Relapse played to large crowds that had the social networks to spread the word fast. In a few short years the group offered much more than just the standard, guitars, vocals, and drums. Relapse soon rounded out their very full sound with a brass section that today, sets them apart from most area bands. They had quickly become the local show band of first choice, and all they had set out to do was have a lot of fun and share it.
Over the years, because of job changes, life changes, and such, the membership roster shifted now and again. The Relapse we know today began to take shape in 1994, when Benny Lomineck joined as the group’s base player. Then in 1996, Tommy Presley took over behind the drums and added more vocals, and Mark Davis signed up as the band’s sound and lighting technician. All through the 90s, Relapse continued to deliver the goods. The turn of the century saw the addition of Mac Alexander on trumpet, and Graham Crosby on sax and vocals in 2003, and Joe Maxey on trumpet in 2006. Having more fun onstage than anyone attending a show, the group continued to give every performance their all, seeming to pick up more energy with every new addition. It looked like these old boys could keep on keeping on for as long as they wanted to do it. But in 2007, things changed. That’s when Russell Martin was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Martin continued to perform, and for a while things kept right on going for Relapse. In time however, Martin’s illness and energy level began to take its toll, and fewer performances were booked, some without their lead vocalist. The last thing in the world Martin wanted to see was the breakup of Relapse because of his condition, so the guys stayed together and dealt with the situation as best as they could. It had become more than a band by now. Relapse was a part of their lives, and at a time like this, the friendships and support it meant were priceless. Band members recalled the last time that Martin appeared with the group in public. It was at a performance in Destin, Fla.. Midway into the set, Martin came up from out of the crowd to sing a few songs.
“He had Mark give him a wireless microphone, and all of sudden we heard him singing as he walked up,” said Maxey, “We had no idea. It was a nice surprise.”
That powerful moment was ingrained in their memory forever. Everyone knew this would be the last time their front man and driving force would share the stage with them. They also knew that Relapse would keep playing. It is who they are.
Martin passed away on Sept. 8, 2008, and for a few months, as the group dealt with the loss, Relapse stopped performing. But not for long.
Later that year, keyboardist Ed McRee came on board. The next step was to find a permanent lead vocal replacement for Martin, if the band was going to maintain the format and style that everyone had come to expect. Albany chiropractor Davis Kinney, who had auditioned for the slot, was the obvious first choice. Kinney accepted the offer, and found a way to blend right in, doing what everyone agrees has been a fabulous job. Like the founding members, and the newest ones, his motivation was the same. Relapse is about the music and the joy of playing with kindred spirits.
There is one thing Relapse is not. It is not about the business of building and scheduling a band. Nobody is giving up their day jobs.The guys have been playing music for so long, many since childhood, that rehearsals are not a part of the process. They are quite capable of knocking out tunes on the fly, having never played them together before. If they mess up, they are usually the only ones that notice. Half the fun of hearing Relapse play, is watching how much fun they are having. It is as it has been from the very beginning — a group of guys getting together to do what they love doing.That is their secret. If they are happy, you ar e happy.
The other element of their popularity is the fact that they are “us”. Being in Relapse is almost like something they do as a way of offering a little community support, adding a bit of excitement to the lives of area folks. They manage to perform around their own family lives and work, which makes the level of performance even more amazing. It’s fair to say that Relapse has been “reincarnated” in some manner, but the process has been gradual over time. There was never a moment when the band shut down for good, only to be “reborn” with an all new group of guys under the name. The original spirit and motivation behind Relapse has been slowly and easily passed from member to member, holding on to a real sense of continuity.
When Tommy Lashley and Henry Hart recently decided to retire from the band, Jeff Lindquist stepped up this past spring to take over at lead guitar. When Lindquist had to drop out because of a move with his job, Lashley returned to help out as needed.
Today, the ’09 Relapse permanent lineup, in the order of when they joined, looks like this:
- 1994 – Benny Lomineck, base player / Bridge Inspector for the GA DOT
- 1996 – Tommy Presley, drums and vocals / Sales Rep for Cintas1996 – Mark Davis, sound and lighting tech / Owner of AVM Audio
- 2003 – Mac Alexander, trumpet / Engineer for ATT
- 2003 – Graham Crosby, saxophone and vocals / Pharmaceutical Rep
- 2006 – Joe Maxey, trumpet / Retired Military
- 2008 – Ed McRee, keyboards / Ed Jordan Music
- 2008 – Davis Kinney, lead vocals / Chiropractor
A side development associated with Relapse is the attention they get from younger crowds. It was assumed at the outset that the band would attract the older folks with its format and style. The kids today that come out for a Relapse show were not even close to being born when many of the songs were on the charts. It doesn’t seem to matter. Good music is good music, and a party is a party. Relapse has managed to bridge the generations without making a serious effort to do so. It just happens.
Written by Lon McNeil. Mr. McNeil is an Albany independent marketing consultant. Find him online at AlbanyOnPoint.
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