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Purple Ravens: Still crazy after all these years

The Purple Ravens have been playing their music since 2000. (Photo by Jen Fouts-Detulleo)
The Purple Ravens have been playing their music since 2000. (Photo by Jen Fouts-Detulleo)

MADISON – Their day jobs range from software gurus to bankers and engineers. However, when the Purple Ravens take the stage, they leave their day jobs behind and become fun-loving rock stars.

Purple Ravens formed in 2000. They met at Asbury United Methodist Church, most performing in Asbury praise bands for contemporary worship.

Jeff A. Williams plays bass and usually has lead vocals. “It’s certainly not lucrative. We’re bunch of friends that happen to love to play the music we grew up with,” Williams said.

Other Purple Ravens are Jimmy Fish and Todd McBride, vocals, percussion; D. Bryan Walker, vocals, keyboards; Bobby Miller, electric and acoustic rhythm guitars, effects pedals; Jim Hawkins, lead guitar; Rick Dillon, drummer; and Darrell Tibbs, percussion, background vocals.

“Everybody is a jokester. Everybody. But D. Bryan probably stands a head above,” Williams said.

For Walker, the band gives relief from the day-to-day grind. “It’s easy to find yourself in a repetitive routine. Playing the kind of music Purple Ravens performs is an exciting change from that normal routine.”

They hold impressive careers. Williams works as a software consultant at Mercury Systems; McBride, financial advisor, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management (and “polka dancer”); Miller, engineer, Dynetics Inc.; Dillon, Human Capital Manager, Regions Bank; Hawkins, structures engineer, NASA; and Walker, senior software engineer, Wyle-CAS Inc.

Tibbs, a professional musician, formerly toured with disco diva Donna Summer.

They frequently play at weddings and private and Christmas parties. They last performed at Madison Street Festival in 2013 and formerly at Madison Gazebo Concerts and Rotary Club of Madison’s Parrots of the Caribbean. In June 2015, they performed for Wounded Blue, which assists injured law enforcement officers.

One special performance for Purple Ravens was the “Waves of Mercy” fundraiser for Mercy Ministries (mercyministries.org), a faith-based residential program for women, ages 13-28, who face eating disorders, self-harm, addiction, sexual abuse and unplanned pregnancy.

Waves of Mercy “was led by (my wife) Tammy, a few months before she died, and raised about $80,000. We also donated a free gig that was auctioned. Tammy sang ‘Redeemed’ and several other songs with Purple Ravens,” Miller said.

“That night for me was the highlight of my Purple Raven’s experience and epitomizes what this group stands for in the way of having fun while serving and providing a good example for our kids and families,” Miller said.

Their musical expertise would challenge a virtuoso, yet most members are self-taught. However, Walker started studying piano at age nine and now plays for Asbury contemporary services and accompanies the 100-member CHRIST Choir.

In their repertoire, “Too Late To Turn Back Now,” “Beginnings” and “Sweet Caroline” are Williams’ favorites. “Love Train” is always a hit. Dillon leans toward complex arrangements from Chicago and Steely Dan.

The audience always gets down to “25 or 6 to 4,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Boogie Shoes,” “Brick House” and “Play That Funky Music.”

Offstage, band members enjoy card games, family cookouts and pool parties. “We were friends before we started and remain so to this day. These guys are my closest friends,” Williams said.

“We share the good and the bad together … whatever life throws at us,” Dillon said.

“There’s nothing quite like playing music with world-class musicians that just happen to be your best friends. These guys can play and sing any song as well as or better than original artists,” Miller said. The Ravens are “most certainly my best friends on earth.”

Fish said the guys are like brothers. “We laugh at and with each other. We’re there for each other in times of need.”

Does Purples Ravens have ‘groupies’? “I’m certain we do, “Dillon said. “I wish they would help us carry the gear.”

For more information, visit purpleravens.net.

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