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Spare Parts plays music that "has a good beat that you can dance to." Left to right are Graham Pearson, Jeff Ballard, and Derek Spence. Not pictured is Roger Leon. Photo by Phil Houseal

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Spare Parts

by Phil Houseal
July 9, 2008


Sometimes - as a musician - you just want to play good old rock and roll dance music. Often - as an audience - that's what you want to hear. When such a band and such an audience come together, it is a rare thing.

Until Spare Parts came together.

"All the songs we play were popular at one time or another," explained Graham Pearson, who rummaged through existing bands to put the new group together. "They’re the kind of songs you sing in the shower, dance to in the kitchen. A little bit of country & western, rock and roll, swing, Motown, blues. Mainly, we just play stuff you kind of recognize but haven't heard for a year."

Pearson's wife, Renee, came up with the name Spare Parts.

"We are like the orphan children of many different bands, so we thought that was somewhat representative of our status in the community."

The four members not only came from different bands, but from far-flung provinces.

Drummer Jeff Ballard has played with every orchestra, big band, and combo in the area. Claiming to be inspired by Cubby of the Mouseketeers (you learn to doubt everything these guys tell you), Ballard started playing drums at age 11. He brings the musical influences of his native Detroit – Jazz, Rock n’ Roll, Motown, Blues – as well as his Texas experience of some 26 years. Ballard can also croon, a rare talent in a drummer.

Bassist Roger Leon grew up in a musical family. His father had a seven-piece orchestra, and his brothers all play instruments. Leon has traveled through all 50 states playing in clubs, lounges and dance halls.

Guitarist and singer Derek Spence is best known locally for his solo act at clubs and restaurants. But he can also boast of performing at the Grand Ole Opry and Fiesta Texas, and has shared the stage with Kenny Rodgers, Diamond Rio, Bryan White and Dan Seals.

Pearson traveled furthest. He started playing guitar as a teenager in Stockton-on-Tees, a heavy industrial town in the north of England.

“When I was 13, the Beatles hit the scene and every teenage boy in England wanted to play guitar," he said. "I was no exception.”

Somehow he ended up in West Virginia. “I played in various bands around Charleston but I was never allowed to sing because of my English accent."

Imagine being singled out for having an accent in West Virginia.

But here in Texas, the band lets him sing "occasionally."

In fact, everyone in the band sings, giving each a part of the lead and making for some full harmonies. Their song list runs from BTO to CCR, and includes the Eagles, Tom Petty, the Beatles, and Sam & Dave.

Pearson brings a business sensibility that too often escapes self-absorbed artists. He understands that when a band is playing for a wedding or party, the point is to provide entertainment, not to sell CDs.

"We don't have any CDs to sell you," he lamented. "We don't even have a web site."

The band tries to make sure all the guests - regardless of age, taste, or background - enjoy the evening. They adjust their play list according to the response, and they adjust the volume to a level everyone can tolerate. They are happy to learn a couple's favorite songs if given enough advance notice.

"We try to fill a gap in the music scene up here," Pearson said. "A lot of people are doing originals and listening music. We are primarily a dance band. We throw in some pretty unusual stuff now and again just to see if you’re still listening."

"But hopefully," he added, "you won’t be listening. You’ll be dancing."