Reflections On Being The Keyboardist For "Ellis and Lynch"
by Allan Loucks
I was lucky enough to have served as the keyboard-player for "Ellis and Lynch
" from 1980 until they disbanded in 1985.
To refresh some memories about "Ellis & Lynch
- Mike Lynch - vocal, guitar
- Ron Ellis - vocal, bass
- Collene Lynch - vocal, guitar
- Nancy Ellis - vocal
- Mary Lowney - flute
- Allan Loucks - keyboards
I still vividly recall when Ron and Mike contacted me in 1980, asking if I wanted to join the group, and be their keyboard player. I was honored and flattered.
I had already known Ron and Nancy many years before this, and had done many gigs with Ron. I didn't yet know Mary well, but I knew who she was, and had performed with her many times in various orchestras around town. And of course, I was already familiar with Mike and Ron's songs. The quality of their music was consistently exceptional, and I always looked forward to hearing and performing the latest new song they composed.
At the time I was also in a
high-energy rock band
playing 5 nights a week in clubs and taverns, with my brother
Somehow I usually managed to make this schedule work. The Ellis's and Lynch's would even stop by on occasion and watch us perform. Music was our life!
Ron, Mike, and Mary were my musical heroes. Their abilities constantly kept me on my toes. I learned so much from all of them.
They are all some of the most friendly, giving, and talented people that I've ever met.
From my point of view, Mike and Ron's differences/styles served as both a foil and a muse, which just made the whole thing all the more amazing. Their vocal sound was absolutely incredible. I could just sit and listen to them all day. They are all totally professional, rock-solid musicians. The combination of these five people was magical.
I still recall, with much fondness:
- The after-hours jam-sessions in various towns with local musicians. Wonderful!
- The many long conversations with Mike, as we drove around the USA, going to that next gig, discussing The Beatles, folk music, baroque and classical music, and just any music in general.
- The rehearsals, working out the details, trying out new things, experimenting with new instruments and arrangements.
- Trading rock-band "gig-war-stories" with Ron as we drove to/from gigs. "That guitar amp was LOUD!" etc.
- The all-night composing sessions, as Mike and I co-wrote music for TV, and for internet-advertising.
- Co-producing albums with Ron, and adding keyboard parts at the many recording sessions.
- Trying to make them laugh during the performances, by playing little musical in-jokes.
- In-depth discussions about musical-technique with Mary.
- Tagging along with Ron as he locates the nearest bakery in each town we pass through.
- And of course, the general silliness, jokes, and pranks that seemed to spontaneously happen when hanging out with Nancy, Mary, and Collene.
In joining "Ellis & Lynch
", I had to learn about their expectations regarding what they'd like me to contribute. This involved the concerts, workshops, conferences, conventions, services, etc. After many discussions, we came up with what I called "being the portable orchestra". While they pretty much gave me carte-blanche, I felt that I had a responsibility to maintain that "Ellis & Lynch
The key to making the orchestrations work was to take Mary's approach, the way she complemented and enhanced the vocal sound using her flute. The solution was to keep the keyboard parts sparse and simple, and mostly orchestral-instrument-like. This was important to make the performances clean and clear, and keep that energy and magic intact. I also intimately learned the music and the stories, as well as learned about their individual backgrounds, approaches, and their performance styles.
I decided to use a particular set of 5 keyboards for the performances, each specializing in some ability.
In the end, all this work was worth it, as everything just became all the more effective.
Ron and Mike's compositions were always a big inspiration to me. I was in awe of what they did. It drove me to try it myself, and I've been lucky enough to have created a successful career composing music. I thank them both for that.
Even after they disbanded, we kept in touch, and I continued to help both Mike and Ron with some of their projects.
Unlike any other activity that I know of, playing in a band creates a unique kind of permanent bond between people. I think it may have something to do with learning to work together as one mind, producing the musical whole.
All in all, what I gained was three sisters and two brothers, along with the experiences and performances we shared for all those years. They are all forever part of me. I'm deeply honored and proud to have been part of it.