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":
I still vividly recall when Ron and Mike contacted me in 1980, asking if I wanted to join the group as 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 knew who Mary was, as I had performed with her many times in various orchestras. 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.
During that time I was performing with my brother David in high-energy rock bands RACER and later THE LARCH and TIN EAR , as well as doing session work as a studio musician, performing as solo concert pianist, misc pick-up gigs, and sitting in with various orchestras around town.
Even with all the gigging 5+ nights a week in clubs, taverns, colleges, recording studios, and concert halls, somehow I 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:
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" Magic.
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. Perhaps 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.