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‘Circus’ bandmates reuniting for LDHS Class of ’73 reunion

Submitted by Mary Fortune

Laurens District High School Class of 1973

The band Circus rehearses early on after forming during high school.

After the lights went out on Friday nights in the fall of 1972, the evening was just getting started for many high school students. Fifty years ago, the place to be on Friday nights after the games was the old armory on South Harper Street Extension. It was in that big gymnasium that a group of talented, local guys would set up their amplifiers, microphones, drums, keyboard, and guitars and entertain large groups of friends ready to celebrate the weekend and have a good time. 

Inspired by the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Jim Cooke and some friends decided that it would be fun to start a band and have crowds of teenage girls scream at them in adoration. Why not? Surely if John, Paul, George, and Ringo could make it happen, our Laurens guys could too!

Jim, Nicky Couch, Gary Crow, Edward Holtzendorff, Mike Lewis, and Mack Thomason did not know how to play any instruments as young teens, but they were determined to make a name for themselves. After gathering instruments and practicing together for hours on end, they soon found that they might be onto something and started the band, Circus. Their group played together all through their high school and college years.

In 1972, Circus was awarded second place in the South Carolina Battle of the Bands and this got them noticed. They worked with a booking agent out of Charlotte and started making appearances throughout the southeast. They cut a record and got radio playtime as Circus traveled from Myrtle Beach to Panama City up to Richmond and Nashville and down to Atlanta. They even played with recording artist Percy Sledge for a short time.

Eventually, on one trip to Myrtle Beach, Jim was offered a job with the band Wild Country which later became Alabama. Jim, however, says he turned them down because he was looking forward to enjoying spring break with friends.

Circus in the Laurens Advertiser announcing the release of its single, “Hello Hello.”

Eventually the guys all moved on from the band due to family and career responsibilities, but the love of music continued. After not playing in a band for many years, Jim began playing drums for contemporary church services in Chicago. In the meantime, Nicky Couch lived in Atlanta after college and played bass guitar professionally. Later he settled in Summerville, S.C. and got involved in the praise band at Summerville Presbyterian Church. The two friends got together while on vacation in Charleston one summer, and Jim soon worked it out to join Nicky in worship music at the Summerville church whenever he could get away from the Chicago area.

When Jim heard about the plans for the LDHS 50th Class Reunion on April 22, he decided that putting a band together for his class reunion entertainment was the thing to do. He had stayed in contact with Mike Lewis, who is a professor at the University of Western New Hampshire. So, Jim got Nicky and Mike on board to play too. Jim knew that Vance Kennedy was active in the local music scene in Laurens with his band, Barksdale Station, and Vance agreed to help Jim make the reunion performance happen.

The band will play under the name Barksdale Station on Friday night, April 21 at The Roseland on the Square from 7:00 pm until closing. They will be joined by two talented local singers with gospel backgrounds, Sandretha Harris and Yvonne Bailey Bulter, to guarantee a great night of music. This is sure to be a big weekend for downtown Laurens with Sip and Stroll expecting a great turnout. The public is invited and there is no cover charge at The Roseland Friday night.

On Saturday, the band will play for the LDHS Class of 1973 as they celebrate its 50th class reunion. If there are members of the class who have not made plans to attend but would like to come, please contact Mary Fortune (864)981-3047 as soon as possible.

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