Reason to keep rockin'

Head East brings classic hits to Lakeside stage

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A young college student when his band Head East took off, Roger Boyd took what he likes to call a hard rock sabbatical.

The band hit it big in the Midwest in the 1970s when “There’s Never Been Any Reason” – the first track off of its debut album “Flat as a Pancake” that originally was recorded in a studio in South Pekin – landed in the Billboard Hot 100.

“We were a smash,” Boyd remembered of his days performing with the band in places such as The Golden Gauntlet in Carbondale and venues in Palatine and other Chicago suburbs. “I was kind of just playing on the weekend to supplement my scholarship money. ... When we really popped in August of 1969, that was a lot more exciting than studying calculus and engineering.

“In the early ’70s with all of the social upheaval, rock and roll was at the center of that. I was really interested in people and what was happening in the world.”

The band – performing July 6 as part of Crystal Lake’s Lakeside Festival – went on to tour, signed with a major record label and, through the years, has recorded 13 albums. The band’s latest album, “Raise a Little Hell,” was released in 2013.

“We took a bunch of standards, songs that were big for us that we hadn’t recorded or worked on for a long time and brought them up to date with technology,” Boyd said of the new album, which also includes five new hard rock songs.

Among them are a song Boyd praised called “Prisoner,” written by band member Greg Manahan about a Native American legend.

Although the band features new members, aside from Boyd, the performers all are “basically identical” in looks and sound to those who recorded the band’s first six or seven albums, he said.

“There’s Never Been Any Reason” still is played on classic rock stations today and gained momentum with younger generations in 1993 when it was featured in the cult classic “Dazed and Confused.”

“The younger kids, that’s the first thing they say: ‘You guys were in ‘Dazed and Confused,’” Boyd said.

“That movie, whether you think much of it or not, it wasn’t as big as ‘Rocky Horror Picture [Show],’ but it’s not too far behind as far as having a life of its own. A lot of the kids, that’s how they get introduced to us.”

With band members coming and going, Boyd, a Carlyle native, has stuck with it even while returning to college in 1995 to eventually earn master’s and doctorate degrees in public policy studies.

He worked as an associate professor in the Department of Social Work at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for 11 years, spending his summer touring with the band, before opting to devote himself to Head East full time in 2011.

His social work career actually was inspired by his days on the road and the challenges he and others in that unpredictable world faced when it came to battling drug and alcohol addictions.

“It definitely pointed me in that direction,” Boyd said. “We lost a lot of good people in the music industry due to alcohol and drugs. That was something that always had troubled me.”

Back to touring with Head East year-round, Boyd said, performances draw both young and old fans. A fan base for classic rock music done right, with good hooks and its unique style of songwriting – “far superior in the 1970s than it is today” – always will thrive, he said.

“People who followed the band and didn’t see us quite so much while they were taking care of kids and all of a sudden, they’re coming out again. ... They go out and flash back on their youth,” he said.

“As people’s music tastes mature, we’ll see a lot more. Eventually you have to get out of Big Macs and go out for a good steak dinner.”

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