The crowd of over 300 supporters was enthusiastic when eight musicians and three educators were inducted into the Southeastern Indiana Musicians Association Hall of Fame Nov. 2 at the Gibson Theatre. Three were honored posthumously.
Russell Griffith, Batesville, was introduced by SEIMA board member Brian Noble, who recalled his friend “didn’t learn to play (music) until out of high school,” starting on guitar. “Russ picked up the bass ... and found the instrument of his calling.” Griffith moved back to Milan and was a founding member of Misty Creek. In 1994 Griffith and Noble “became good pals and started The Renegades.” The band has opened for national acts ranging from Montgomery Gentry to Delbert McClinton. Noble reported, “Russ has been at my side most of that time. He took off time to raise children. ... He spent his time with God and his family.” The Batesville Christian Church worship team member teaches bass lessons. Griffith returned to The Renegades in 2015. “He keeps the band alive.”
Of The Renegades, Russell Griffith mused, “Years ago we had this one mindedness I wasn’t sure we’d ever get back.” But then fellow inductee Brian DeBruler became a mentor and Griffith rejoined the band. “I got to be back with Biggin,” Noble’s nickname. “The last five years have been the best five years of my life.”
Now that the association has expanded its borders from four counties to five, adding Franklin (the others are Ripley, Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland) Brookville native Eddie Heinzelman was the first to be inducted.
2018 inductee Jim Helms noted, “Being from Franklin County, I knew his family. He’s from the Whitewater area ... .(and) went to grade school at Springfield School. This guy is really something else on a guitar, as an entertainer. Eddie began playing in bands throughout the Tristate in 1983,” including Fire Ball and Durango; competed in the B105 Battle of the Bands; and has opened for country music singers Lee Ann Womack and Ty Herndon.
The University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music graduate then moved to Nashville, Tennessee. According to Helms, “He’s become very successful” as a session player and songwriter and has even had one of his songs featured in a movie. “It’s rather tremendous what he’s accomplished. Eddie continues to tour nationally and internationally with Radney Foster.” The duo performed a short concert after the ceremony concluded.
Upon accepting his plaque, Heinzelman remembered that after his grandmother saw him liking to watch singing cowboys Gene Autry and Roy Clark on TV, she bought his first guitar.
He cited Cal Collins, the late great southeastern Indiana guitarist, as “a big inspiration.” Educator Mary Weber was another influence. “I really wanted to play drums, but she really needed a trumpet player.” Heinzelman also thanked brother John. “He used to bring home albums,” including “Led Zeppelin IV,” which made the guitarist want to emulate Jimmy Page. He was grateful to parents Eddie and Sherry, his wife and two daughters. “They hold me up and inspire me ... and console me.”
Of musicians, he concluded, “We tell stories and touch people’s hearts. Music has taken me to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and around the world. It’s also brought me home.” He advised up-and-comers to “dream as big as you possibly can and pursue those dreams. Work really hard to push through all the no’s you’re going to hear to find your yes.”
Doug Heller, Moores Hill, was introduced by SEIMA Treasurer Andy Jackson. “Doug began his music interest at age 6, playing piano and later in grade school ... saxophone.” After Heller showed a fellow student how to get the drum beat, band director Kenzie Bentle said, “Doug, you’re going to be a drummer from now on.” With his three-piece drum set, the boy played along to songs on the radio “and he got pretty good at it.” At age 19, he had a machining accident and lost three of his fingers. After spending three weeks in a hospital, Heller was so determined to pursue his passion for music, “he picked up the sticks and started playing again.”
The Hall of Famer performed at local clubs and hundreds of weddings with Easy Tracks in the 1980s and was part of The Renegades, Country Air, Quarter Mile and Inner Soul, winning four consecutive B105 Battles of the Bands. He recorded an album in Nashville with The Judds producer and opened for Billy Ray Cyrus and Marty Stuart.
Heller praised “three gentlemen” who were inspiring band directors, Kenzie Bentle, Mark Bruggeman and David Kling, who “got me on my way to the Ball State music program. Thank you, everyone. This is a great honor.”
Brian and Michelle DeBruler, Bright, were inducted into the hall together. Noble said he and Brian have known each other since they played third-grade football together. He is the president of the locally-based label Sol Records. The Berklee College of Music certificate holder in musical marketing goes to the Grammys after voting every year. The producer and engineer “has recorded a lot of great acts. ... Brian’s grandpa was in this organization.” When SEIMA was about to fold, DeBruler went to a meeting, said, “That’s not going to happen” and joined the board.
DeBruler introduced wife Michelle, who also has been involved with the band Pure Grain locally, regionally and across the country, where the group has headlined festivals. “We’ve played in front of 100,000 people.” Michelle DeBruler has “influenced and promoted the culture of music in this community with a passion.”
She reported her husband is “deserving in every way,” putting in workhorse hours – on the phone promoting shows, creating websites, running sound including that evening. She concluded, “Even with the not-so-glamorous parts of being in a band, it still beats other jobs. Music has no boundaries – no race, color, nationality, sex or age (limits)... – it brings people together and they get to feel that same way together at the same time.”
Nick Ullrich, Aurora, was inducted by Bentle, who joined the hall last year. “I’ve literally shared bandstands and stages with this guy over 1,000 times.” The vocalist entertained with The Dukes, and Cops and Robbers from Cincinnati and Cleveland to Pittsburgh, New Orleans and St. Louis. Bentle recalled, “You were always looking for the showstopping songs. Nick always had the audience on their feet,” singing lead vocals with a five-piece horn section backing him up. “It takes someone with special talent to be a topnotch vocalist and front man. The job wasn’t just to sing well, but to deliver the songs and the dialogue and make sure the audience was having a good time.”
Ullrich said, “I’m not really a musician ... I’m just a singer in the band. To be here among all the fine musicians in southeast Indiana and be a part of this is quite an honor.”
David Lacey, Harrison, Ohio, was introduced by Brian DeBruler, who announced, “I’ve been playing music with Dave since high school.” Lacey toured nationally with Pure Grain from 2002-12, performing at festivals and fairs. “We’ve been with Zac Brown, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw and Miranda Lambert.” Most recently Lacey reunited to perform with the band, playing on a bill with Delbert McClinton and The Renegades at the Whiskey City Summer Fest at Lawrenceburg Civic Park last summer.
The Church on Fire, Harrison, Ohio music minister is “a great musical director,” according to DeBruler.
Lacey reported, “When I was a kid, I grew up watching my cousin Randy (Mattox), who was inducted last year ... I thought it was just normal you got to play music. For all the teachers and musicians here, when you do this around your kids and the people who look up to you, it makes them want to do it. I always said I want to sing like Randy and play like Greg (Brauer).”
Husband-and-wife educators Gary Holdsworth, Versailles, and the late Patsy, who died in June after battling ALS, were described by son Scott Holdsworth. The beloved duo had 32-year careers at South Ripley High School as band and choir directors. “Where one was, the other one was. They instilled values – a strong work ethic, confidence and teamwork – all while instilling the love of music.”
“Under their direction, the band and choir programs encompassed the majority of the student body, sometimes 50 or 60%. The Holdsworths were instrumental in getting the Ripley County Music Festival started and Patsy established the Young Confederates show choir, which recently celebrated 50 years. “She never turned down an opportunity to go out and perform. Together they worked tirelessly to provide all their students with a wonderful experience in the world of music,” including major trips to Washington, D.C., and New York City. At Tyson Methodist Church, she served as pianist while he was the choir director.
”Dad was a trumpet player ... he was pretty good. Mom was a pianist and performer ... I’m pretty sure she was a big ham right from the start.”
His parents reminded the speaker of a famous saying: “’Teachers affect eternity, never knowing where their influence stops.’ We know that they’ve had a ... positive influence on many, many lives.”
Gary Holdsworth accepted the honor for them both, thanking former students and parents for pushing the couple to excel.
Educator William Switzer also became a Hall of Fame member posthumously. The Sunman High School music director from 1958-71 then worked at Sunman Elementary School plus volunteered once a week to teach music at St. Nicholas School, according to Helms. “He played weekends in the dance band” plus different groups, including Batesville’s Eureka Band, and was music director for some musicals.
“He did a lot in this whole community for music for a whole lot of people. ... His trademark was that little baton. He was very precise.” Helms told Switzer’s three daughters in attendance, “Your dad was a great guy.”
Daughter Sandra Egts accepted his plaque. “Dad would have been very humbled to receive this honor, probably a little embarrassed and very happy he did not have to get up in front of the crowd to speak.” She added, “I will always cherish” seeing him shine in his career, describing Switzer as “a kind and gentle soul who cast a very long shadow. He treated every adult and student with respect.” Even when students struggled academically, they could excel in his music program. “He was ready to help you go as far as you were willing to soar.”
The love of his life, wife Sue, “empowered him in ways he would never imagine. To William Switzer, the richest man I have ever known!”
Musician Goose Ingles was honored after his death as well by Raging River bandmates.
Brauer recalled, “He loved his family, his friends and really loved playing music.” While Ingles died over 13 years ago, “his influence and spirit are still felt by all of us today.”
Randy Eaglin said, “We wouldn’t have played for over 20 years ... if it wouldn’t be for our wives and families putting up with our long hours away.” Benefits the men played for free “raised a lot of funds for good people with injuries.”
His son accepted the award. “It’s a great honor for me and my siblings. My dad would be superproud. He touched a lot of people.”
Vice President Randy Garrett announced a fresh SEIMA project, “something we’ve been working on for a couple of years. We want to encourage young people in high school pursuing musical careers ... We’ve always been about honoring our local musicians and educators and honoring and preserving our musical heritage. We want to take that a step further and invest in our musical future” by offering scholarships starting in January. Garrett was hopeful the first scholar will perform at next year’s ceremony.