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Easy Rhythm strums its way into various local venues

Easy Rhythm strums its way into various local venues

February 14th, 2011 by Jessica Wright in News

Mandi Steele/FULTON SUN photo: Left, Frank Schroeder, Dale O'Neal and Bill Benskin rock out Thursday night during a performance at Westminster College. The three are part of the six-member Easy Rhythm Band that plays at venues all over the area.

Since its creation in 2002, bass player Bill Benskin's Easy Rhythm Band has been keeping country, western and old standard music alive and kicking in Callaway County.

The group plays regular gigs at the Callaway Senior Center, KC Country and Columbia Senior Center, among other venues in Fulton, Auxvasse, Jefferson City and throughout the mid-Missouri area.

Easy Rhythm Band can be seen in action for the Callaway Senior Center's Valentine's Dance from 1:30-4:30 p.m. today. The dance is for people of all ages and costs $5 for admission. Next week KC Country in Kingdom City will host the band from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20.

The six-piece band went through several different line-ups over the past nine years.

Bill Benskin, 82, started the band after taking a 30-year hiatus from performing music. He learned to play guitar while in the military in 1948 and took a break from music while working as an electrician.

Dale O'Neal, 72, of Fulton was the original lead guitarist until arthritis became a hindrance to playing. He now plays steel guitar and contributes vocals. Frank Schroeder, 72, of Jefferson City took the reins for vocals and lead guitar.

Alice and Bill Craighead, 75 and 79 respectively, also of Fulton, have been married 60 years in May of this year and have been playing music together since they were teenagers. The couple has been with the group since the beginning, with Alice on keyboards, and Bill on fiddle and saxophone.

Leroy Wade, New Bloomfield, is the current drummer, but Benskin has had a large rotation of drummers cycle through the group.

"It's hard to keep a band together now days," said Benskin, "but I'm real proud of the people I have together now."

Because Easy Rhythm Band is in high demand and it is sometimes difficult for six busy individuals to commit to being in one place at the same time, they have several area musicians they can call on to substitute.

Benskin attributes the dedication of the band members to their fondness for performing, saying, "We all just like to make music!"

Alice agrees and even credits the band for keeping her active and sharp.

"It's very good for the mind and relaxation," she said.

Mary Nestor, a student at Westminster College, first saw the band perform at the Kappa Alpha Theta Fall Ball. She was so impressed, she booked them to play another event on campus.

"They're a great band to work with, because they're great people," said Nestor.

According to Nestor, the main appeal of the ensemble's music is danceability.

"That's what we're noted for, our music for dancing," said Benskin.

The Easy Rhythm Band covers most of the old Nashville-sound artists such as Ray Price, Carl Smith and Conway Twitty.

"That's the music I grew up with," said Betty Gower, a fan from Mexico.

As far as the future plans for the band go, Benskin doesn't over-think it.

"We're just a bunch of good ol' boys having fun," he says.