ASHLAND If you close your eyes, it sounds like the real thing — maybe even better, says Ashlander Jerry Lawson, drummer for the AC/DC tribute band Thunderstruck.
“It’s really mind blowing,” Lawson said. “I’ve been doing this a long, long time and I thought I knew everything there is to know about the music business, but I was really shocked by what’s going on to the point where I’m not sure the people realize we’re not the real band.”
It’s been two years since Lawson joined Thunderstruck. He had met lead singer Dave Moody in Louisville when he was drumming for the band Hydrogen in 2004. Moody got in touch with Lawson later when the band needed a drummer.
Thunderstruck has toured extensively in the eastern part of the United States; the band recently toured South Dakota and Iowa and plans to hit Arizona, Nevada and Colorado in October. The success has been stunning.
“We’re selling out places left and right,” Lawson said. “Two nights in a row at the Mercury (Ballroom) in Louisville — I’m constantly amazed by it. I saw a guy actually scalp our tickets in Cincinnati.”
He said fans will drive as long as eight hours to a show.
‘Spirit of AC/DC’
Moody said band members are “huge, huge, huge fans” of AC/DC.
“We got together and we were thinking, ‘Who’s the best band to pay tribute to that everybody’s going to know?’ and AC/DC was the obvious choice,” he said. “Number one, we love it. Number two, everybody loves it. I’m talking little old ladies to little kids.”
Moody said the show coming to Ashland will be a treat for fans.
“We know we’re not AC/DC. We’re more important. We’re the spirit of that. You’re gonna be living in the spirit world of AC/DC with us,” he said, noting they will perform “all the hits” as well as some deep cuts.
There was no doubt in Lawson’s mind about what path he wanted his life to follow, recalling seeing the band KISS perform
“Detroit Rock City” and “Beth” on the Paul Lynde Halloween Special.
“I knew when I was 10 that I wanted to play drums in a rock band,” he said “To see one of your favorite bands on TV was a rare occurrence.”
Lawson mostly is a self-taught drummer. “For some reason, I can hear a song and know what’s going on. I know what it all sounds like, so when I hear it, I know what it is.”
He took lessons briefly from Flatwoods drummer Steve French, with whom he became peers in the local music scene.
By 14, he formed a band with friends and, in 1983, won Battle of the Bands at the Paramount.
Lawson played in various bands in the region before moving to Los Angeles. In 1994, he moved back to the area, got married and mostly stayed in the area. He drummed for Convertible Blonds and performed on a couple of cruise ships before joining Thunderstruck.
When Thunderstruck performs on Sept. 14 in Ashland, the show will be through the Paramount Arts Center — the first concert of the theater’s effort to expand by offering outdoor entertainment.
Holly Canfield, executive director of the Paramount, said she believes the show was meant to be.
“We were looking for a band to help us launch PAC LIVE! and Thunderstruck kept coming up over and over again,” she said. “They have a massive following. We kept getting phone calls and messages from community members asking us to book them.”
Canfield said the work will continue to keep PAC LIVE! going.
“Our team is flying to Minneapolis next week to meet with artist managers and booking agents who have an interest in growing PAC LIVE! at our riverfront. The entertainment possibilities for next season are really exciting.”
She said community support is crucial to making the series work.
“If we don’t pack the Ashland Riverfront Park for Thunderstruck on Sept. 14, then we can’t expect any big name artists to want to play here. It would be too big of a risk for them and the Paramount.”
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