PRESCOTT – Two Yavapai County locals join the ranks of Arizona entertainers in the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame on Sunday when the prestigious organization inducts the Phoenix-based Goose Creek Symphony.
The ceremony is from 5-9 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater (Phoenix Convention Center), 100 N. Third St., in Phoenix.
Charlie Gearheart of Cordes Lakes and Paul Spradlin of Prescott formed the Goose Creek Symphony with a few friends in 1968.
“It’s quite an honor,” Spradlin said. “We’re amongst some real important folks.”
Indeed. When Goose Creek takes their seats Sunday, some of the other 11 important folks joining them include Tanya Tucker, Lee Hazelwood, Dick Van Dyke, and Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble.
Gearhart, 71, and Spradlin, 64, met in Phoenix, “formed a little band” called Goose Creek Symphony, and cut their first record album in 1968.
In 1970, Capitol Records signed the band. Goose Creek released three albums until Gearheart decided to switch labels and in 1974 signed with Columbia Records.
“Our music was so different that Capitol didn’t know how to market us,” Gearheart said. “And they wouldn’t let us record a live album, which everyone was telling us we should do because we (sounded) our best at live concerts.”
Neither Gearheart nor Spradlin are able to explain their music style. “One person called us ‘organic electric,'” Gearheart said.
However, past music reviewers used an arsenal of descriptions for the band: a fusion of country and rock; folk; bluegrass; rock; acid; surf; a touch of jazz; a rural sensibility with rocking rhythms; hillbilly; and jam band music.
“One guy told us in the early ’70s that it was us, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers that started the jam bands back then,” Gearheart said. “The old saying about our concerts was that it went from Bill Monroe to Alice Cooper.”
In the heyday of the 1960s and ’70s music scene, Goose Creek Symphony played with, opened for, and toured with some of the biggest names in music, like The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels, and Stevie Wonder, among others.
“There’s a lot of shows that I just don’t remember who we played with,” Spradlin said.
In 1959, Dick Clark of “American Bandstand” invited 19-year-old Gearheart to New York to audition for the television show.
“I think they were thinking of trying to pull Frankie Avalon out of me,” Gearheart chuckled. “Clark was cool. That was the first time I’d been in New York City. I hung around for four to five days, and I don’t know what happened, but they told me to go home and I didn’t get on the show.”
However, Clark’s loss was another television show’s gain. In December 1970, Goose Creek appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show along with another rising star, Bobbie Gentry.
With 13 albums under their belts, the band is considering releasing a new live album with music recorded in 2010 for a PBS special, “Jammin’ at Hippie Jack’s,” at Cookeville, Tenn.
Cookeville is about 200 miles from Gearhart’s birthplace and namesake of the band – Goose Creek, Ky.
“I was born and raised in the hills at the head of a ‘holler’ called Goose Creek,” Gearheart said. “We pronounce it ‘holler,’ but everyone else calls it a ‘hollow.'”
While some fans may not know about Gearheart’s Kentucky roots, the hillbilly in him comes through loud and clear in the band’s music.
“We’re not bluegrass, we’re not rock, and we’re not Nashville,” Gearheart said. “We want audiences to just enjoy the journey, and we usually take them on one.”
The band can easily jam on a single song for a half hour or longer, which is why rock historians credit them with being one of the pioneers of jam band music.
“Live music has the ability to reach your spirit,” Spradlin said. “You get more physically involved listening to a band live.”
Although it may sound odd to connect Goose Creek Symphony with The Beatles, Gearheart says The Beatles were his “real inspiration.”
“I think music should have stopped with them,” he said.
Tickets for the Sunday ceremony, which features a live performance by Goose Creek Symphony, cost $25 for adults and are free for children 12 and younger. Tickets are sold online at ticketmaster.com, or by calling 1-800-745-3000, or 602-262-7272.
To read more about the Hall of Fame, visit azmusichalloffame.org.