The first time I saw Radio Traveler Band at Ted’s Fun on the River, I sat directly in front of Roy Richardson (fiddle, guitar) and couldn’t believe the passion coming from his instruments. Unexpected, wild sounds emitted from an electric guitar (including a horn!) and ethereal and mysterious notes from the violin. Richardson must have noticed my enthusiasm because his eyes smiled the warmest of greetings.
Then Kevin Groves (vocals, keys, bass) began to sing one my favorite songs, and it was a done deal. I’d become a Radio Traveler groupie. Groves sang Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight,” Richardson fiddled Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel,” and I was spellbound.
“We take our music seriously, but not ourselves,” Groves told me in an interview before the show. “This is fun for us. People like our shows because you can bring your family, remember how different songs made you feel way back when, and laugh a little, too.”
Groves is actually Reverend Kevin Groves and serves as full-time associate pastor and worship leader at Anchor Church in Porters Neck. Radio Traveler Band is composed of five members from the church’s Praise Band, including Groves and Richardson, plus Jay Yow (vocals, acoustic guitar), Dave Edwards (lead/rhythm guitar) and Tony Smith (drums, piano). Their name stems from the fact they play from various genres and sounds.
“We play music from anywhere on the radio dial,” Edwards said. “We’re working on our own original music, and our first song will be about the name of the band.”
Each member has a story, and enjoys telling stories about each other. Groves heard his grandmother and aunt play the church piano by ear from the time he was 6 days old. At 5 years old, he began playing the boogie-woogie. At age 19 he headed for Nashville and considered the option of playing and possibly becoming a star. He recorded an original song, “Mistakes of the Heart,” but it was slow to take off.
While Groves opened for Ronnie McDowell, Michael English and Whispering Bill Anderson, he also heard how it took Dwight Yoakam 20 years to hit pay dirt. After weighing the odds, Groves decided to return to NC and continue his life with his tight-knit family of origin. He met his wife, LeAnne, and they still sing together at church.
Richardson, who has played with Groves for the past 25 years, is completely self-taught. When he was 13, he heard The Beatles and bought his first guitar. When he mastered that, he bought a fiddle. Yow says Richardson is a Beatle wannabe—though, still working on the hair—and calls him a Renaissance Man, who paints watercolors, carves exquisite marsh ducks and plays beautiful music.
“The band’s primary musical influences are the Eagles, Alabama, Tom Petty, Ronnie Milsap, and Roy Orbison, with Bob Seger in there somewhere,” said Yow, who once opened for Eddie Rabbitt at Gilley’s Bar in Pasadena, Texas. “We can move from the Righteous Brothers to Michael Bublé in one song. I don’t know anyone else out there doing that, so we fill that niche.”
Groves calls Yow “selfless” and says he is the “positive glue” holding the band together. “We all have day jobs, and if someone comes to practice feeling down, Yow is the one who picks him up,” Groves said.
“Playing music with a group of guys who are talented, focused, and fun to be around is the greatest experience I’ve ever had musically,” Edwards added. “Clint Black said it best, ‘Ain’t it funny how a melody can bring back a memory.’ I believe this gives great connection between us and the audience. Plus, the music means so much to our past; it just fits this group.”
Smith agreed. Yet, he’s sure the drums chose him for his love of rhythm. “I love to dance or roller skate, always following the rhythm,” he quipped. “My biggest influences were Neil Pert of Rush, Alex Van Halen and Ringo Starr. I also love playing the piano—two very different animals.”
Every other Saturday, including February 20 at 7 p.m., Radio Traveler plays at MJ’s Café in Hampstead. “Sometimes they fill our place three times,” MJ’s co-owner and NY native Joe Englese said. Englese worked in the recording business and promoted such stars as Frankie Valli (“Grease,” 1978). “They are just great people,” he added.
To book Radio Traveler Band for a private party, call 910-617-2728.