Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Flaxy Morgan notes 20th anniversary

Popular area band celebrates two decades of entertaining

November 12, 2014

Twenty years ago, a new band took to the stage at The Staircase rock club in Pittston. Its goals were simple: to play good music, to have fun, and to entertain people. And two decades later, that band – though it has changed quite a bit over the years – is still doing just that.

Flaxy Morgan is celebrating its 20th birthday this weekend. Over the years, there have been countless shows at area clubs, plus gigs at weddings and summer bazaars. Band members have come and gone and the entire musical climate of Northeastern Pennsylvania has changed. Trends in music have also changed and some of the most popular venues where the band once performed are long gone.

All of this, obviously, leads to the question:

Did the band even fathom, when it plugged in the amps for the first time, that it might still be together 20 years later?

“Definitely not,” says drummer and founding member Rich Kossuth. ”It wasn’t like we were saying ‘We want this to go on forever.’ You never even thought about 20 years down the line. Even now, if someone asked about 20 years from now - I hope to keep playing - but nobody knows what the future holds. I always wanted to say ‘I’ll play forever,’ but who would ever think anything would last this long?”

Kossuth says the beginning of the band dates back to a Christmas party that was being hosted by his family business, Rock Street Music, a Pittston-based company that specializes in selling musical equipment and renting sound equipment. It was there, he says, that he first had a discussion with former Flaxy vocalist Jeanne Zano about starting a band. Soon, another female vocalist, Cathy Silveri, was asked to join. Rounding out the original Flaxy lineup were Lou Marino and Gene Onacko. The idea of having female vocalists in the group is something it has never strayed from and continues to this day.

“I wanted that,” says Kossuth. “I’ve just always felt that’s what Flaxy was.”

Flaxy Morgan in The Times Leader - 1994
Kossuth speaks with affection regarding every era of the band. He’s enjoyed all of his bandmates over the years, who have included Ashlee Danko, Ronnie Williams, Jason ‘Jaybird’ Santos, Russ Kile, Alecia Krasnak, Eric and Jen Sperazza, Devin Albrecht, Kate ‘k8’ Hearity, Stephanie Orrell, Frank Gruden and Krysten Montgomery. He also has praise for Gene Smith, the group’s longtime sound technician, who he sees as a member of the band.

“Too many to mention,” says Kossuth, when asked for some favorite Flaxy memories. ”The first night was one of the best – seeing so many friends out to see us. But it’s been everything, from playing clubs to bazaars, weddings and graduation parties. Having people say we made their wedding. Seeing people have a fun night out dancing. That’s all meant a lot.”

Kossuth recalls with fondness some of the music the band has played over the years. And because former members such as Williams and Kile also sang lead, as does current and longtime member Santos, the vocals in the group have often been split between the men and the women in the band. Thus, everything from Boston to Heart, Blondie, Stevie Nicks and Earth, Wind & Fire have appeared in their set lists. These days, Montgomery likes to keep people moving with modern pop.

“We try to do a lot of dance songs,” says Kossuth. “When play in a club, people dance.”

In addition to club shows where they’ve been the only act on the bill, Flaxy has always given back to the community by appearing at numerous benefit shows featuring numerous bands. They were one of the few acts to appear at all 12 of the “Concert For Karen/Concert For A Cause” shows that ran from 1999-2011, and in the summer, you can still catch them out on their famous “Summer Bazaar Tour,” which has become a tradition. This year, they played about 20.

“It’s really one of the things we enjoy doing,” says Kossuth. “There might be people that were out to see us 20 years ago, and maybe they don’t do the club scene now, but they still come to the bazaars. Some of them obviously have kids, and the kids are growing up with the band.”

In an interesting bit of trivia, Flaxy Morgan takes its name from a stuffed animal that appeared in one single episode of the television show, “Happy Days.” Kossuth can still recall one of the band’s final rehearsals shortly before it made its debut back in 1994. The group, he says, had to put down the instruments for a while to gather around the TV. O.J. Simpson was a fugitive and was being pursued by police down a southern California highway. And though that infamous event was long ago, Flaxy plays on.  Kossuth says providing pure entertainment has been one of the keys to longevity.

“We have always stayed on the notion of keeping people dancing,” he says. “Keep them happy. People come out to have a good time and forget about anything going on in their life. It’s nice to know we can and have made a difference.”

Flaxy Morgan will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Saturday with a show at Chacko’s in Wilkes-Barre. In addition to the current lineup, several Flaxy alumni will be on hand and will join the group on stage throughout the night. Kossuth says they all appreciate the support over the years.

“A big, major thank you – from myself and the band,” he says. “For 20 years, it’s always been about having fun.”


WHAT: Flaxy Morgan’s 20th anniversary bash
WHERE: Chacko’s, 195 N. Wilkes-Barre Blvd., Wilkes-Barre
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 15 at 9:30 p.m.
INFO: (570) 208-2695

 (Alan K. Stout has covered rock and pop music in Northeastern Pennsylvania since 1992. His weekly radio show, ‘Music On The Menu,’ airs every Sunday form 9-10 p.m. on 105 The River. This past summer, his kids briefly hijacked Richie Kossuth’s drum kit at the St. Al’s bazaar.) 

This story also appears in the Nov. 12, 2014 issue of The Weekender 

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