PLANO — Although all six members of The Willing are 50-somethings, with families and careers, they still felt like they had unfinished musical business. Hence, their collaborative CD, “Unfinished Business,” under a new band name.
“The Willing” is really just short for “willing to do whatever it takes.”
The musical journey of then St. Charles residents Dan Smith (now of Plano), Chris Gough (DeKalb), Kent Cooper (South Elgin), Dave Angel (Aurora), John Krahenbuhl (St. Charles) and Geneva resident Rich Wigstone (Plano) began in the late 1970s in a huge house in Milwaukee with a progressive rock band called Ultima Thule. The group built a strong following in about eight Midwestern states with their strong harmonies and flawless covers of bands like The Beatles; Crosby, Stills and Nash, and The Moody Blues.
Although they never had an opportunity to produce an album, the melodic sound of Ultima Thule was muscled out of the changing musical landscape by bands like Aerosmith, Kiss and Blue Oyster Cult. So, Angel, Wigstone and Cooper left the band to join the harder-rocking, Chicago-based band that became CBS recording artists The Boyzz from Illinoizz.
Now, 30 years later, with most moving into other career paths, all six remained active as songwriters and performers in one form or another.
“I was in the car listening to The Eagles’ ‘Long Road Out of Eden,’ and I thought I would love to record a band that can sing like that,” Angel said. “Then I thought, wait a minute, I used to be in a band that can sing like that.”
So Angel, who now owns Rave Song Records called each of his five former bandmates to ask what they thought about recording a CD. He told them it would have to be all six or nothing. “And to a man, they were in,” he said.
At a time when a lot of people are thinking about retirement and slowing down, the six have their creative juices flowing. All 13 tracks on “Unfinished Business” are original music written by the band. It’s a sound they call new/classic, capturing the band’s ability to blend its classic rock roots into new material as it blends the voices of its five lead vocalists into a cohesive sound.
New sound, new approach
While it might seem like friends who have played together for more than 30 years would be tempted to look back, “Unfinished Business” is more about looking forward, not only in terms of new music, but in marketing strategy.
“This is a grassroots movement, and we’ve planted seeds,” Wigstone said.
“People aren’t actually buying ‘records’ much anymore,” Smith said. For that reason, the band has their music on jango.com where it has reached a worldwide audience.
“The CD just came out Jan. 1, and we’ve already had 13,000 people push the ‘like’ button on jango,” Wigstone said. He added that people in Russia and Denmark, for example, have expressed their pleasure with the music.
“It’s just amazing to me that, while we’re sleeping, people on the other side of the world are listening to our music and liking what they hear,” Wigstone said.
“It’s amazing that people find it an punch that button.”
They confess production of the CD was an arduous process, but all are pleased with the result, and they’ve had confirmation in the form of the people “liking” their music on jango, good reviews from professional music reviewers, and two awards (for best male vocals in Americana and best guitars in Americana) the week of March 1 from garageband.com.
They also have a video in the works of “Only Love Can Change the World” from the CD.
“This stuff is encouraging. We want people to enjoy what we poured our hearts, souls and minds into,” Wigstone said.
First-ever CD by local band The Willing is available at:
• The Vineyard Liquor Store, U.S. Route 34 in Plano