As members of the legendary 60’s dance band, “The Shadow Lake Eight,” Gary Washburn, Music Director of award-winning Honoka‘a High School (HHS) Jazz Band, son Mocha Washburn, an HHS alumni, and brother Kent of Los Angeles are set to be inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame on November 16, 2013. Following the induction, the band will perform in concert at The Jazz Depot in Tulsa.
Kent and Gary Washburn at the premier of Gary’s original music, “Earth Life: October Full Moon,” in Honokaa — Sarah Anderson Photography.
A family musical journey that began in Oklahoma and traveled across the country, the Washburn’s have made names for themselves individually and together—as educator, composer, producer, record executive and superlative musicians—over the last 50 years.
Gary Washburn joined The Shadow Lake Eight in 1962 at the age of 15 when he was still in high school. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Music, he received a Masters degree from University of Hawai‘i, and pursued a Doctorate in Music at Boston University. He worked in Los Angeles as a writer/arranger for Motown, then moved back to the Island of Hawai‘i where he became a composer, musician and school teacher.
His award-winning concept of high school band is unique, geared toward teaching students how to become popular music performers, and many have moved into the entertainment industry. In 2010, Gary was awarded the “Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction Award” and in 2011 his program received an award from the Grammy Foundation for its unique and outstanding band program.
“I don’t do marching bands,” said Washburn. “What good is that going to be for musically inclined students in this day and age? I teach them how to compete in today’s real music market—Rock and Roll.” In 2013, Washburn was named “A Living Hawaiian Treasure” by the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i, and proclaimed by the Hawai‘i State Senate.
Even with his extensive education, Gary attributes his successes as an educator and performer to the years he spent playing with the Shadow Lake Eight. “That was my real education and what I use as the basis to teach kids the real value of music,” said Washburn, who resides and teaches in Honoka‘a with wife Linaka Morton-Washburn.
Son Mocha is the latest addition to The Shadow Lake Eight, joining with them in 2013 for a reunion concert in Ponca City in June. With early musical training from his father, Mocha played in the HHS Jazz Band until his graduation in 1996.
Mocha Washburn will join father and uncle in the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy Kent Washburn
He attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, graduating with a degree in Philosophy and a Music minor in 2000. He then went to Hollywood and attended the prestigious Guitar Institute of Technology at Musicians Institute for two years, graduating with honors and receiving the Tommy Tedesco Memorial Award for Most Outstanding Student. As his personal preference is live performance, as opposed to studio work, Mocha eventually moved to Austin, Texas, known as “The Live Music Capital of the World,” where he plays with various local groups and performs regularly as a solo artist at numerous venues.
Brother Kent Washburn joined The Shadow Lake Eight in the fall of 1960, and remained with the group, functioning as the leader from 1962 through 1967. He then began traveling, playing in various lounge acts in such places as the Stardust in Las Vegas, and Harrah’s Club in Reno and Lake Tahoe. He eventually became a successful record producer, cutting artists for RCA (Charles Drain and a girls group called The Love Set), Warner Bros (The Hypnotics), and Motown (Hi Inergy, Major Lance). He hit pay dirt with Hi Inergy when they topped the R&B charts in 1977 and their album “Turnin’ On” achieved Gold Record Status in 1978.
Kent left Motown in 1979 and started a Gospel label with a gentleman named Philip Nicholas. That label was called Command Records, and through the years garnered Billboard’s Album of the Year Award (Gospel) on the album “Dedicated”, recorded by the group Nicholas. His productions also received three Grammy Nominations, (“Dedicated” by the group Nicholas, This Is My Story” by Vernessa Mitchell, and “Worthy” by Rodney Friend.) He is married to Barbara, has a daughter, Sandy and a granddaughter, Taylor.
Kent currently lives in Los Angeles and works for Milan Entertainment in LA as Senior Vice President of Finance and Royalties, and is currently working with Soul Intention Records in the United Kingdom to re-release record productions in Europe. The first release “I Got To Have You” by Otis Williams peaked at #3 on the Soul/R&B charts in England; the second, “One Way Ticket” by The Hypnotics, was released in 2012, and additional releases are scheduled for fall. Also in 2013, Kent’s entire Gospel catalog was re-released on his EmKay Records label, through Milan Entertainment, distributed worldwide by ADA, the independent label distribution arm of the WEA system.
In November of this year, using the same distribution network, Kent will release brother Gary’s original composition, “Earth Life: October Full Moon,” an eight-piece suite of contemporary classical music for two pianos and percussion.
The Shadow Lake Eight
In 1958, Jimmy Trease, a student at Oklahoma State University (OSU) had a vision to put together a band made up of college students and spend the summer playing the Shadow Lake Resort in Noel, Missouri.
Shadow_Lake_Eight: Circa 1963-64, the Shadow Lake Eight was considered one of the best dance bands in Oklahoma. Gary Washburn far left, Kent Washburn, far right. Photo courtesy Kent Washburn
“Jimmy Trease & The Shadow Lake Seven” spent the summer playing at the Resort, and went back to OSU with a plan to generate bookings during the school year. After adding a bass player, “Jimmy Trease and The Shadow Lake Eight” invited all the social chairmen from fraternity and sorority houses to a free dance in hopes of getting them to hire the band for social functions. They were booked solid every weekend.
The band returned to Shadow Lake Resort the following summer and broke all attendance records. Over the next year, they continued to evolve, adding and changing musicians and expanding their range of music. In 1960, the band advertised for a baritone sax player and auditioned Kent Washburn, who became the last addition to what is today affectionately referred to as “The Original Shadow Lake Eight Orchestra.” Gary Washburn joined the band as a pianist in 1962, and they enjoyed a successful run of social events, night clubs and summer bookings for years.
In 1965, they became friends with Charlie Daniels, (at that time Charlie and The Jaguars), who helped get them booked into the Vanguard Lounge in Cocoa Beach, Florida. That gig led to others in the area, where they played on their own and also backed up major artists Roy Hamilton, The Angels and Johnny Nash. They eventually met booking agent Gene Snyder, who, along with Vi Snyder, owned the Joni Agency in Louisville, Kentucky, a very aggressive and dynamic booking agency at the time. Working with the Joni Agency, the band played nightclubs in and around St. Louis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville and elsewhere in the Midwest, Great Lakes and Northeast.
What brought the band to its end was the Viet Nam War. In the summer of 1967, they were offered a chance to go on the road as Brenda Lee’s traveling back-up band. But within two weeks, Kent Washburn was drafted. The band decided to call it quits, although several members did join up with Brenda Lee and traveled with her for years until she retired from the road. Gary Washburn returned to school, eventually moving to Hawai‘i where he built a Grammy Award-winning music program in Honoka‘a on the Big Island. Kent Washburn ended up in the music business, eventually moving to Los Angeles and working as a record producer for Motown, RCA and Warner Brothers.
In 1994, original band members gathered for a reunion concert in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and the following year, Jimmy Trease himself arranged a reunion concert at the Shadow Lake Resort where it all began. In 2013, the band again reunited in Ponca City Oklahoma, and Mocha Washburn joined them on guitar, and on November 16, Gary, Kent and Mocha will join other legendary musicians in the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, and enjoy a reunion concert with the Shadow Lake Eight. For more information about the Shadow Lake Eight, visit www.shadowlakeeight.com.
The Washburn’s look forward to the highly-anticipated release of Gary’s original music, “Earth Life: October Full Moon,” coming soon on EmKay Records. For more information, visit Earth Life: October Full Moon on Facebook or Amazon.com.
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