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Producers ride that last mile to success

by Steve Rush

Photo of the band For rock bands, there's a thin line between languishing on the club circuit and breaking through with a successful recording. Just ask the Producers.

The Atlanta group, whose hard-driving, power-pop sound has won a considerable following in the New Orleans area, has been on that edge almost since it formed nine years ago. A single from it's first album reached No. 61 on the Billboard charts, and a video of "She Sheila," off the 1982 album "You Make the Heat," was in the MTV top 10 for several weeks. But the band had to release its third album, 1985's "Run for Your Life," on its own independent label, and has survived by touring the past three years. Now, says drummer Bryan Holmes, the group might be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

With a new major-label record deal and a savvy new manager, the Producers come to town Saturday for "New Orleans' First Riverfront Music Festival," where the band will co-headline with the Neville Brothers.

The six-hour show will be held on a dock near the Riverwalk entrance on Julia Street. Profits will benefit the Republican Convention Host Committee and the Mayor's Education Foundation.

Also on the bill are Rockin' Dopsie and Charmaine Neville and Friends.

Though not from Louisiana, the Producers are no strangers to New Orleans, where the band is especially popular among teen-agers. The group (Van Temple, lead vocals and guitar; Wayne Famous, keyboards; Timothy Smith, bass; and Holmes) has played here often, received a lot of radio airplay in the early '80s, and was a regular on the riverboat President. Holmes said, "New Orleans is sort of a home away from home," and that the President's move to St. Louis is "a drag for us, because it was probably our favorite place to play."

But things are looking up, Holmes said. "Right now we've got ... a new lease on life, having a new record deal with a major label (MCA). We've got a manager now, Derek Sutton, who handled the entire career of Styx, was Jethro Tull's manager, and handles the band Glass Tiger from Canada. He's got a lot of respect. That and the fact that we got a new record deal have been the only things in the last two or three years that have kept us alive. The only thing we've been living on is the faith that we have what it takes and that somebody's going to recognize it."

Holmes said the new album, completed three weeks ago, is a continuation of the Producer's basic sound, but the band has found its own identity.

"Our new stuff is a natural progression from the third album and our third album was a natural progression from the second," he said. "Our band has had so many influences that it is hard to pin them down, but now we've come out on our own; I think we've found ourselves a lot. We have a more defined direction. I think people will say, 'Well that sounds like the Producers.'"

Holmes said the new album, which he hopes will be released in mid-October, will be called "Coelacanth."

"It's a fish that scientists thought to be extinct 70 million years ago, but they caught one off the coast of Madagascar in 1936," he said. Although reluctant to divulge the significance of the title, he finally relented. "It's kind of a private joke, but I think a lot of record company executives, music industry people, maybe thought we were extinct. and surprise, we're not."

Holmes said the group's continued popularity with young audiences has been weelcome but surprising. "It's really been a strange phenomenon ... it seems we've spanned a couple of generations," he said. "Since we got on the radio a lot in New Orleans back in '80 to '82, we had a lot of young fans. We had a lot of people who grew up listening to us seven or eight years ago, now their little brothers and sisters are into us. ... We've been playing in New Orleans for eight years and we haven't had an album out since '85, but somehow it just keeps rolling over to a younger audience." Side Bar

Copyright 1988, New Orleans Times Picayune.

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 Copyright © 1997- 2003 by Paul Schulz. All rights reserved.

Created: 5/24/1998 / Changed: 12/27/2001 11:25:14 PM

I'm Paul Schulz in Columbus, Ohio and I'd like to hear your stories about The Producers. Maybe I'll put your experiences on the Fans page! schulzp@rrohio.com.