Big band, big sound

Big band, big sound
Big band, big sound
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The band’s name pretty much says it all. They’ve spanned decades of musical changes, seen members come and go (2 originals remain) and play a variety of horn-heavy R&B, blues, soul and big band. Saturday night Enzo’s patio was packed with dancers of all ages and classic good-time tunes.


Spectrum was formed 30 years ago (next May). Its intention was to play parties, corporate events, weddings – be a “private booking band” – in larger venues. After all, a band this size needs space. When they started, nightclubs were larger, but today’s venues generally have smaller bandstands. As a measure, at Enzo’s they filled up 2/3 of a wall where typical bands only use the corner (half the band was un-lit as a result). They bring their own soundman because of the band’s complexity. (The live mix was much better than on my video.)


Band leader and original member Gary Shaver, “We are determined to keep the instrumentation at 10: the four horns, the rhythm section, the female vocalist. We’re not going to start giving you “Spectrum lite” or “Spectrum combo.” It’s an attitude that he admits has probably cost them some opportunities.


Keeping the band going has had its challenges, but it helps that the members have roots outside the band, including VCU, a music fraternity and Thomas Dale high school. This challenge is highlighted by the recent disbanding of Casper, a similar band with an even longer run. Casper posted a message on Facebook: “… some members of our band are dealing with major life-events and are leaving immediately to deal with them. There are some other issues at play as well…” Gary reflected on Casper’s demise as relates to his experience leading Spectrum.



Spectrum is a pro band. Gary runs a tight ship. What the band may lack in spontaneity, it makes up with consistently tight performances that really deliver “white soul.” Saturday night Buz King ably filled in on drums and the band’s original trumpet player sat in as well.


Watch Video


Gary Shaver: Alto Sax, Clarinet, Flute, Vocals (original member)

Allen Cole, Jr: Tenor & Soprano saxes, Clarinet, Flute (original member)

Louis Millhouse: Trumpet

Marilyn Miller:   Vocals

Gary Barber Halliday:   Keyboards

Cliff Burnett:   Guitar

Dan Wheeler: Bass

Forrest Young:   Drums

John Ellis:   Sound



  1. As a long time Spectrum fan and friend, i can say this band has excellent musicianship. It so good to see a 10 piece band still working so hard in an age when DJ’s have become the norm.

  2. Nice job, Jerry! Well said. Three cheers for Spectrum – hip hip, hooray! Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip, hooray! Keep up the good work, guys, and lady 🙂

    Jerry – don’t forget Tommy A. on the -bone!

    • Thx for the good words, but the credit goes to Bill Rice. This is his story (and music is his beat…pun intended).

  3. James River Hikers – Hiking with History are excited we’ll be entertained by Spectrum Oct. 3, 2014 at Jackson Ward’s Hippodrome. Here’s the Meetup announcement:
    How about join us?
    Dennis Bussey, Founder of James River Hikers – Hiking with History

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