Scoot: The Topcats: 35 years together!

Scoot
June 10, 2018 - 2:51 am
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In every city, local cover bands come and go, but there are always a few local bands that develop a following and become regulars at fairs, festivals, weddings and nightclubs in their city.  New Orleans has a few local bands that have a strong fan base and are in demand in other cities, but of all the local cover bands, The Topcats are a unique phenomenon.

The Topcats are celebrating their 35th year together and their longevity is extraordinary among even the best cover bands.  One unique aspect of The Topcats is that the four band members - Rob Schulte, David Gamble, Pat Campbell and Buzzy “Beano” Langford do not have any other jobs.  They are all full-time musicians and The Topcats are all they do to earn a very respectful living.

The Topcats’ 35th Anniversary Party at Rock N Bowl in New Orleans,  opened with a 20-minute video documentary on the band that featured videos and pictures that span the band’s 35-year journey.

Watch video below.... 

Here is my conversation with Rob Schulte - the drummer and frontman for The Topcats:

Scoot:  What has been the biggest challenge to staying together for 35 years?

Rob:  The difference in each of our personalities is a challenge.  Every one of us has different ideas, but we are a democracy and vote and we respect each other’s differences and pretty much know what each one will say when decisions have to be made.

(Wish Congress would act like The Topcats!)

Scoot:  No group of people that have worked together for 35 years have never had disagreements.  Have you ever started a gig hating each other?

Rob:  “Hate is a harsh word, but like a marriage, sometimes we are all frustrated.”

Scoot:  How do you ultimately resolve disagreements?

Rob:  “Discussion - or sometimes we’re so old we forget!”

Scoot:  Was there ever a time when the band talked about breaking up?

Rob:  “No never!  We have been blessed with so much work playing over 6,000 shows so far. It’s all of our livelihoods.  We’re all full-time musicians.”

Scoot:  After 35 years - is it still fun?

Rob:  “Yes - speaking for me!  It’s still fun.  As long as I can connect with at least 1 person in the audience that is smiling and enjoying the moment - I’m all for a party!”

And anyone who has seen The Topcats knows what it’s like when Rob says, “I’m all for a party!”  Rob is part frontman, part cheerleader for the band AND the audience and he is one hell of a drummer. 

Through the magic of his keyboard, which is almost a band member, David Gamble acts as if he is the musical director of the band.  Pat Campbell rides a bossy bass and Buzzy “Beano” Langford can match any song the band covers with leads and guitar riffs that will make you feel like you are listening to the original.  Rob, Pat and Buzzy share vocals and do an excellent job with harmonies and Buzzy can hit the highest notes.

Each member of The Topcats is a precision musician and the band often works without a set list taped to the floor in front them.  Rob has a great sense of the mood of the audience and he will make up the set list as he reads the audience during the show.  Rob, David, Pat and Buzzy all have ways to send musical cues to each other as to what song they think should be next.  It is an extraordinary thing to watch them work knowing that they are giving each other cues as to what song is next and the audience never knows.

Smart enough to understand that while the songs they cover are great - there is still the need to be relevant and The Topcats are constantly working in some of the newest hits, which are flawlessly blended into a set filled with songs that make you want to dance and that bring back wonderful memories.

The Topcats have been induced into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and you can image some of the talent with whom they share that honor in a state the includes the music from New Orleans and the cajun/zydeco music from the bayou.

Wherever The Topcats are playing, the audience has its newcomers, but going to see The Topcats is also like getting together with friends.  Some fans of the band have bonded over the familiarity of seeing each other at many of their shows and strangers have become friends.  On your way to see The Topcats you can’t help but envision the faces of the people you know and the familiar faces of those you don’t know but know they will be at nearly every show.

Rob, David, Pat and Buzzy all shared the dream that so many have had of being full-time musicians and that “going to work” really meant you were “going to play.”  The four members of The Topcats have achieved that goal and have the distinction of saying they have been together for 35 years!

Happy Anniversary, guys!

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