YANKEE LAKE JAM Bad Habits: a band with vision
The Eye Docs of Rock will open for a couple of national acts Sunday at Yankee Lake Jam.
By DEBORA SHAULIS
It's a dream come true for a garage band.
"Lynyrd Skynyrd -- that's my favorite all-time band, and now we're going to open for them. I'm in my glory," says Ken Kuhn of Canfield, a founding member of Bad Habits, a.k.a. "The Eye Docs of Rock."
Bad Habits will be one of four acts to precede Skynyrd and Ted Nugent on stage Sunday afternoon at the Yankee Lake Jam in Brookfield.
Bad Habits isn't your typical cover band. Four of the five members are opticians who live and work throughout Ohio. The fifth man works for Universal Music in Minneapolis. All are graduates of Ohio State University.
Props: It's not enough for Bad Habits to crank out its favorite tunes. If they're playing Sly and the Family Stone songs, they don afro-size wigs to reflect the style of the late 1960s. If ZZ Top is next on the set list, out come the long-beard wigs; if it's Elvis Presley, sideburns are a necessity.
Unlike the main character in the new movie "Rock Star," whose realizes his dream of rock stardom, the Bad Habits musicians have no such visions.
"We just started as a garage band having fun. We're still a garage band. We're just getting better gigs," said Kuhn, who owns Dr. Kuhn's Hometown Vision offices in Niles and Boardman.
Bad Habits performs an average of once a month. That's enough for guys with offices to manage and families to raise (there are 13 children, collectively). Their clans travel with them whenever possible.
"I wouldn't want to do this every weekend. It would be hard to get this excited about it," said bassist Michael "Jules" Raies of Portsmouth.
By the time their next gig rolls around, "We're just dying to play," Raies added.
From Niles: Kuhn grew up in Niles and learned to play guitar by listening to Skynyrd and Nugent records, he said. He met Raies and drummer Tony Fenton of Dayton at OSU. That's when they formed a band and took the name Bad Habits. By their second year of graduate school, they were playing in Columbus area bars about three times a week, Kuhn said.
Guitarist Pat Dollenmayer of Columbus entered graduate school two years after the band founders. They recruited him after he graduated and settled down, Kuhn said.
The nonoptician of the group is keyboard player Mark Schindler of Minneapolis. He's a classically trained pianist who studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Raies said.
Geographical distance between the musicians makes rehearsing difficult, so Bad Habits has honed its act primarily in front of live audiences.
Audience: After OSU, Bad Habits began to perform at optometry conferences. In the last few years, the average age of attendees has dropped, and the band's audience has widened, Raies said. He's put together a "Sight and Sound Tour" that takes the band to several regional vision conferences. In the coming months, the band will play at Hard Rock Cafes in Las Vegas, Atlanta and New York and also at a private event at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Bad Habits even has sponsorship from some vision-industry businesses, Raies said.
"We have a niche in the optometric world. We're famous, but not really," Kuhn said.
Eddie Money: The Eye Docs of Rock opened for a national act for the first time last month by warming up the crowd before Eddie Money's concert at the Rib & amp; Music Festival outside Southern Park Mall in Boardman. Before that show, band members wondered if they should "do that off-the-wall stuff" with wigs and props, Raies said. Then, "We thought hey, why vary from what got us here?
"I'm glad we did the Eddie Money show because that helped us to boost our confidence."
The band's broad 100-song repertoire starts with 1950s hits by Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry and stops at about 1990.
Singers: Bad Habits has no one lead vocalist. Dollenmayer has a higher voice than the others, so he sings Led Zeppelin songs, Kuhn said. Deep-throated Raies takes the ZZ Top tunes. Fenton steps up to the mic to sing Rolling Stones covers, and Kuhn's whiskey-and-cigarettes voice is well-suited for the likes of Bob Seger.
"That's what I think makes a band good," Kuhn said of the rotating vocals.
Kuhn also sings a few Skynyrd songs, but Raies said they will probably not perform those Sunday. "I don't think that would be appropriate," he said.
XFor more info on Bad Habits, the Eye Docs of Rock, see the Web site www.eyedocsofrock.com.