Gary Shane
and the Detour

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Another fine mix 10/19/08

Gary Shane takes Abashed — and new spin on old cover — to Blackburn stage  

 By J. C. Lockwood

Gary Shane is unabashedly continuing his recent musical excursions back into the future, spinning the work — and the personnel — just a little bit differently and seeing what shakes out.

A perfect case in point is the evolution of “Johnny’s Coaltrain,” the Ipswich rocker’s monster hit from the early ‘80s, when his band the Detour ruled the local airwaves and transformed a skinny kid with skinny ties into a bona fide rock star.

A couple of years ago, he took the song, a rock homage to John Coltrane, the jazz saxophone giant that pulled down some of the biggest numbers the WBCN had seen up to that point, and put a completely different spin on it by adding, for better or worse, a backing rap vocal.

Then, a little later, he hooked up with Collin Tilton, the guy who played saxophone on Van Morrison’s classic “Moondance” (also adding, just for good measure, North Shore Hammond B3 wiz Ken Clark) taking the tune into such a different, jazzy direction that Shane actually renamed the cut.

And next week Shane will unveil yet another version of the tune during the return of his short-lived (and recently reunited) country band Alan Laddd and the Abashed — this one featuring E.J. Ouellette, the veteran Newburyport musician who currently leads Crazy Maggy, and blues harpist Richard “Toolshed” Pierce, both of whom will join him in a performance of the band that Shane put together in the ‘80s to play music that didn’t fit new wave zeitgeist of the Detour.

The band, which takes its name from the actor who played the lead role in the movie “Shane,” will perform Oct. 24 in Gloucester’s newly re-imagined West End Theater, where the band recorded a live album a little more than a year ago. The venue is now called the Blackburn Performing Arts Center.

After the performance, Shane and Ouellette, who also owns Pine Island Music Resource, a Byfield recording center, will head into the studio to cut a new version of “Coaltrain” and other Detour tracks.

“I’ve wanted to dust off some of these tracks for a long time,” says Ouellette, who will also perform as a sideman with the Abashed at — and open the show as a duo with Maggy alum Peter Whitehead. “I think we can do more with them.”

And his decision to perform with Shane?

He made Ouellette an offer he couldn’t — or wouldn’t — refuse.


“I find it difficult to turn down any show with Gary,” says Ouellette. “He doesn’t let me.”

Ouellette played with the Abashed for the first time — with Pierce, a frequent Shane cohort, playing harmonica — at a private party last month in Merrimac.

“Gary insisted that I come down and I did,” says Ouellette, who played, briefly, with the Detour during its heyday, when the band scored huge hits with songs like “Shadow World” and “Man and Machine.”

“They fit like a glove,” says Shane, “trading solos back and forth. It was fabulous.”


The Abashed has an unusual history, coming together accidentally in 1985, when Shane, then a real estate agent, “discovered” Bittercreek, a country-western band, rehearsing in the basement of one of his clients. He asked if he could sit in with them. He had a notebook of songs that were never going to make it into a Detour album or show. They weren’t exactly country tunes, not in a traditional sense — more like country rock in a Neil Young-Dylan/The Band kind of vein with some gospel overtones. They clicked, musically, and six gigs — and nine months after getting started — they were history.

They never actually broke up — and no one, even Shane, can explain what happened, but the musicians drifted apart. More than two decades passed. And last year, just as unexpectedly, Alan Laddd and the Abashed — bassist Juan de Fuco (Dave Spataro), drummer Gary Herald and, of course, lead guitarist Zippy (Dave Zitzow) and Brian Hallisey, got back together for what was expected to be a one-shot deal. The project has since been upgraded to at least an occasional thing. Hallisey, who has prior commitments, will not perform. Ouellette will play fiddle and mandolin with the band.

Like Shane, who’s real name in Gary Lavenson, Ouellette expects to perform at least one new song/video project currently making political and musical waves for him under a pseudonym — Eddie Joe & the Redeemers. The tune, “Long Live Bubba Nation,” is a scorching attack on the so-called religious right and Republican Party — although Ouellette, a self-described libertarian now “over the top on the Obama bandwagon, says the project “is not a political appeal, but an appeal to the conscience.”

The video, the first of several Redeemer projects in the works, is stirring up the pot on YouTube and Neil Young’s Living with War Web site.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Detour to success
By J. C. Lockwood

     The music, now old enough to drink in every state in the country, was born during the days of skinny ties and power-pop, during the brief era of the so-called new wave - a time when an unsigned, local band could still make it on the strength of a few good tunes and a lot of hustle. And that's exactly what the Detour did in the early '80s.

     Led by Ipswich rocker Gary Lavenson - better known as Gary Shane - the Detour scored a huge hit right out of the box with "Johnny's Coaltrain," the guitarist's homage to jazz legend John Coltrane. How big was it? A monster. A tune that topped the WBCN charts for weeks, pulling down some of the biggest numbers the Rock of Boston had ever seen.
Photo by Toni Carolina

     The tune launched the Detour, but could not sustain it. The band fell apart in just about a year.

     But now the Detour is back. Well, sort of. The new Detour, which makes its debut Sept. 24 at Dodge Street Grill in Salem, features two members of the original lineup: Shane and drummer Carl Bergman. ("He's mellowed with age and is an even better drummer than before," the guitarist says.) Bassist Collin Bodge, whose girlfriend pretty much sank the band when she insisted that he get "a real job," and guitarist Ron "Ronno" Erickson are now living in Los Angeles and will not be involved in the project

     The rebirth of the Detour came about almost by accident when Shane ran into Portsmouth, NH, guitarist Dennis Monroe at a lakeside retreat in New Hampshire.

     Monroe, whom he knew from back in the day at Sanctuary Records, where Shane recorded much of his early material, expressed an interest in reviving the Detour catalogue, if not the band.

     Shane had his doubts: about whether the Detour sound could be recreated and whether he could keep up with it. The guitarist was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative muscle disorder, in 1985. He still walks, with some difficulty, with a cane. His condition has stabilized since he participated in experimental treatments involving Novantrone combined with immunoglobulin. But he was willing to give it a shot, to see if they could pull it off.

     Besides, he was already pointed in that direction by bassist Steve Ruest, who played in Shane's last band, the New Ensemble, and got the Detour bandwagon rolling earlier this year. That's when the band, which played a series of gigs in Ipswich, dusted off and began performing an updated version of "Johnny's Coaltrain" - this one quoting "My Favorite Things," perhaps 'Trane's best known tune.

     Monroe learned all the songs in just about a week, and they gave it a shot.

     "I was blown away by this guitar player and the way he was pulling off the old songs," says Shane, who is also a Realtor at Vernon Martin and gives guitar lessons at Ipswich Music. "I didn't think I could play that old stuff anymore. It just fell together," he says. "It was just meant to be.

     "I love other people's energy. I need that to survive," the guitarist says. "I heard the songs. They made me feel good about the project. It has a different sound. I didn't think I could find another guitar player that had what Ronno did.

     "It's simple," he says, "but that's what I like. It's like a drunken brawl. I may have to strap myself to a pole so I don't fall down," he says. "Maybe I'll buy some duct tape."

     The band is rounded out by Lynne Taylor, the Amesbury singer-songwriter, who will sing backup vocals in the band. "As a songwriter myself," Taylor says, "I have long been a fan of Gary's uncanny abilities as a songwriter, and of course he is such a great guy!"

     Taylor met Shane in the mid-'80s, when she was performing in Klaxxon, her first band. "He was one of the few established musicians back then who said he liked my songs and my voice, which really meant a lot to me," says Taylor. "I think ever since then Gary and I have been mutual admirers of each other's work.

     "I remember seeing the Detour back in the day," says Taylor, who still performs in Fishcreek, a bluegrass band, and as a solo act. "Hearing these songs again recently I am reminded of what true 'pop gems' these Detour songs are. So, all these years later, I am honored to be lending my vocals to this project. So far it's been a lot of fun."

     The Detour will be performing a mix of well-known and obscure music from the period. The playlist will include "Johnny's Coaltrain," "Working on a Deadline" and "Forever on Your Way," the title cut from the one and only full-length Detour album. They'll also play "I'm a Shark," the B-side of "Coaltrain," and rockers like "Wallflower," "Deviated Rock" and "Zombie Kids," all of which are unreleased tunes or demos.


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Press Clippings 1982 (Johnny's Coaltrain and the original Detour)
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