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Bands rally for ailing rocker

Published: Sat, Jul 24, 2004

A benefit show will help create a trust fund for the son of Odie Crook.

By JOHN PATRICK GATTA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

Despite the economic hardships that have hit the Mahoning Valley over the past two decades, it's the fabric of community that links those who are still here and those who have moved elsewhere.

So it's not a surprise that when one of the music scene's own takes ill, current and former residents from around the country quickly take action to help out.

The result of this is Bands and Friends: A Benefit for Odie Crook taking place Sunday at B&B Backstage. More than a dozen acts will join to support Joel "Odie" Crook, a veteran of the Youngstown music scene since the late '60s who is suffering from cancer. The benefit will aid in creating a trust fund for Crook's son, Adam.

A motorcycle run, beginning at Bill's Place in Austintown at 11 a.m. and ending at B&B Backstage, will raise additional funds. There will also be a raffle of an electric guitar signed by the day's participants.

His bands

Influenced by classic R&B music, Crook fronted the Soulsations. Eventually, that group became the hard rocking Left End. His departure from that band brought in the legendary Dennis T. Menace to fill the vocal role and resulted in Crook's joining the popular early '70s group Brainchild.

Former Brainchild member Bill Bodine wanted to work with Crook the moment he watched him onstage fronting the Soulsations.

"They were an East Side soul band and they were pretty good, but what was really good was Odie. He was a really soulful singer with a great falsetto and a great understanding of the genre. In addition to that, what made Odie stand out is his ability to be entertaining and his comedic gift. He's always been a lot of fun to be with onstage or offstage."

It took several years, but Bodine got the singer he always wanted as well as the other musicians to make up Brainchild's cream of the crop talent pool.

"We lured him away. Brainchild was formed on the bodies of other bands. We broke up three bands to form Brainchild initially. We took the best players from the Insights, the New Hudson Exit, Roadshow and the Citations."

Heads west

Bodine left the area for the West Coast in 1974 after Brainchild's demise. Among his numerous career accomplishments, he's played bass for Van Morrison, Joan Armatrading and Olivia Newton-John, and wrote for the Manhattan Transfer and Glen Frey. Currently, he composes television scores and commercials with clients such as Honda and Mitsubishi.

Bodine and Crook were bandmates and roommates during Brainchild's three-year existence. With the right players in place, the band created a legendary name for itself. The stellar musicianship and business acumen enabled the group to make an impression on fans across a half dozen states.

Crook went on to form several more bands (Talisman, MOJO, the Lawrence Brothers) before settling down to a more stable life after the birth of his son, Adam, in 1990.

DJ's comments

Y103's Smokin' Bill Cannon grew up in the area. As a music fan and as a disc jockey, he has encountered Odie and his bands many times.

"I've known all these musicians. When they talk about the Spring Things at Idora Park, I worked at WHOT during those times. I was there when we had all those bands there. Over the years, at one time or another, I've worked with all these musicians. I have a lot of respect for 'em."

Cannon plans on playing bass during one of the sets, possibly during Left End.

When Bodine received the call about doing this show from former Brainchild roadie and Bands and Friends organizer Frank Yazbek, he quickly worked his writing schedule around this date. Like Cannon, his presence on Sunday is the result of the bond that's grown stronger over time.

"What I like about this," Bodine said, "and I refer to the Brainchild reunion because it's something similar we had in the last two years, this event that's really special is the camaraderie of these musicians that we haven't hooked up with B.E. Taylor and the guys from Left End. These are friends and peers from 30 years ago. And I'm really looking forward to it."

Dennis Bella, onetime Brainchild soundman and Bands and Friends treasurer, stated at a press conference for the event that the organization has been certified as an Ohio nonprofit corporation and that it intends on making this an annual event to help others in need.