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Pyramid Band at Standing Stone

Guitarist Steve Read is a dedicated purveyor of classic and contemporary rock and blues. Each year, Read and his Ashland-based group, Pyramid Band, celebrate his birthday with a free concert featuring an invitational lineup of accomplished musicians living around the Rogue Valley.

"Last year we invited Jeff Pevar," Read says. "Jeff's about the tastiest guitar player I've every heard. That show was magical, so we invited him back."

Along with Pevar, who also is an aficionado of American music (Phil Lesh asked him to learn 70 Grateful Dead songs for a tour in 2000), Read will be joined by his wife Ellie Read, drummer Sandy Ficca of Firefall, Pyramid's original bassist Rick Bolz and others.

"We'll rotate through three bass players," Read says. The others will be Ryan Bouslaugh and Wayne Philipp, both accomplished musicians who work with Steve at Musician's Friend in Medford.

"There'll also be a couple of surprise guests," Read says. "Ellie will sing some tunes with us. She is an incredible singer, she connects with audiences in a way that I can't explain. It almost makes me jealous."

The show will start at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, at Standing Stone Brewing Co., 101 Oak St., Ashland.

Read and his wife began performing as a duo in 1978 at various clubs around Ashland and Medford.

"We were playing acoustic versions of songs by Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Doc Watson, and even some stuff by Eric Clapton," Read says. Soon other musicians began to join them on stage, and it wasn't long before an electric country rock band was formed. Called the Buckshot Band, the group performed at long-gone clubs such as Brooklyn, Jazmin's and The Sandpiper. Ellie Read spun off from the group and formed her own, called Cabin Fever.

Buckshot began touring around the Northwest and one day received a call from a booking agent who was looking for a rock band to play in a Nevada casino.

"That was an eye-opener for us," Read says. "All of the members of Buckshot were rock 'n' roll and blues guys, so we had no problem doing the shows at the casino."

The band members enjoyed the gig so much that they decided to follow their hearts.

"We changed the band's name to Pyramid Band and turned our format into rock and blues in 1987," Read says. "We were afraid that some club owners would tell us to walk, but every time we played a club the audience grew to capacity. It was pretty gratifying to see so many fans turning out for our music."

As a long-time employee of Musician's Friend in Medford, one of Read's jobs is to organize artist-based promotions and sweepstakes.

"Our customers start playing music because they're inspired by other musicians," Read says. "It's important to find ways to let them experience the reality of playing on stage with a big name. Our sweepstakes' winners get paid trips to see stadium and club concerts in larger cities. The package includes a private meeting with the artist and a backstage tour. Bands and musicians that we've worked with include Fleetwood Mac, Santana, Brian Setzer — we have a huge list."

Read hosts the trips and travels with the winners. Over the years he's gotten to know many musicians and has been invited to play with them on stage.

"One of my favorite nights is the one when I played with Elliot Easton of The Cars, Bruce Kulick of Kiss, Simon Kirke of Bad Company, Gary Burr of Ringo's All Star Band and Jack Blades and Kelly Keaggy of Night Ranger at a private event held at a rehearsal studio in Hollywood. The audience kept calling out tunes, and we just kept playing them."

On a different trip to that studio, Read caught the attention of Roger Daltrey of The Who and found himself performing with Daltrey at the House of Blues in Hollywood.

A mixed bag of '60s and '70s tunes will be presented at the Standing Stone show.

"There'll be some tunes by Cream, others by Clapton from his different eras, along with Stray Cats, a lot of blues and at least one Allman Brothers song," Read says. "It's all from an era, it was my era."

There is no cover for the show at Standing Stone, but a hat will be passed for the players. Call 482-2448.

Steve and Ellie Read began playing music as a folk duo more than - Photo by Dave Blees