Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 16, 2010

Swingin� to the Max

Long-running act plays Paramount

By KENNETH HART - The Independent

ASHLAND --One of the area�s longest-running and most beloved musical acts took the stage at the Paramount Arts Center on Friday night with the purpose of providing some high and middle school students with a glimpse of real working musicians in action.

Blue Max, which has been together in one form or another since 1978, played a show organized by the Kentucky Music Educators Association District 8. A number of those in the audience were students from 15 different counties who were in town to participate in the all-district band competition.

Terry Thompson, a retired Paul G. Blazer High School band director who�s still active with the KMEA, said the concert came about as a result of his friendship with Blue Max members Gary Donalson and Ritch Collins, the group�s lead singer/keyboardist and guitarist, respectively.

In the past, Thompson said, music professors from Morehead State University and other have played concerts for students during all-district band week. However, this year, the organization wanted to do something a little different.

Thompson also noted that all of the members of Blue Max were members of their high school bands.

Friday�s performance was by the big-band iteration of Blue Max, which features a full horn section and plays a set list loaded with swing-era classics.

�It�s the hits of yesterday, with a rock touch,� said Collins, who worked as the group�s sound engineer before becoming a member.

According to Donalson, the band�s lone original member, Blue Max came about as result of a merger of two bands � one based in Ashland and the other in Dayton, Ohio. Over the years, the band has also been based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and in Nashville, he said. The group has played all over the U.S., as well as in Europe, Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

More than 30 musicians have played with Blue Max over the lifespan of the group, and plans are in the works to bring back as many of them as possible later this year, Donalson said. A Blue Max reunion is scheduled to be Memorial Day weekend at Greenbo Lake State Park amphitheater, he said.