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Rusty Foulke
Written By: Vincent Paez
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Rusty Foulke
Vincent w/ guitar/vocal phenom Rusty Foulke.
Welcome to Meet the Band! It is my pleasure to kick off this column with an impressive combination of performer and venue. Rusty (Galen) Foulke of the band, Hybrid Ice, hails from central Pennsylvania and brings to Ocean City pure traditional rock and roll. Pure, because he plays true to the rock and roll songs of the seventies and eighties, the way they were played on the original recordings. With some backup tracks for effect, Rusty amazes the audience with superb guitar skills and high range vocals that match the original recordings perfectly. I interviewed Rusty at one of the white table clothed dining tables at Bourbon Street at Jamestown Road and Coastal Highway in Ocean City.

Clearly, Rusty and Hybrid Ice were living the rock and roll dream from the late seventies to about 2000. The Hybrid Ice website, www.hybridice.net, offers a lengthy story about how the band struggled from the beginning and made it to regional fame. Over thirty years of playing to audiences brought the band to hundreds of venues as far south as Florida and as far north as Maine. It was the era of high-pitched rock and roll singers like Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and Dennis DeYoung of Styx. In fact, if you listen to their songs on the website, you can hear a clear similarity to Styx. I asked Rusty about that similarity.

Vincent: “Rusty, on the Hybrid Ice recordings, your band sounded so much like Styx. Was that intentional?

Rusty: “Not at all. That was the sound of the times. That high range is what the people wanted to listen to, and that’s what you heard in bands like Boston, Yes, and Styx. So, we fit in perfectly, and people started to notice us.”

Vincent: “I read the story on the Hybrid Ice website. It seems that you had a bit of turnover in the band members over the years.”

Rusty: “Well, first of all, that long history on the website was written by an old band member, and I’ve actually never read it. So, I’m not sure of the accuracy of the story. But, yes, we did have turnover, especially with singers. Singers not only needed to have that high range ability, but they also had to look the part. A lot of them just didn’t work out for us.”

Vincent: “But you had longevity. Gosh, you were playing for years and years.”

Rusty: “Yeah, but times have really changed. You may have a great voice and the band may have a great sound, but making money nowadays is much harder than it used to be. The rules have changed.”

Vincent: “What do you mean?”

Rusty: “Well, it used to be you recorded a record. It’s a tangible thing that you can hold in your hand.” Rusty picked up a small appetizer dish that was on the table and waved it like a vinyl LP record. “Back then, I could bring this record to radio stations and hand it off to promoters. Today, that transfer happens electronically. YouTube has changed everything. There is no more radio record transfer. Now, you need to be on YouTube and be subsidized by someone. And that makes it harder to succeed.”

Vincent: “You played that older game really well, didn’t you?”

Rusty: “Absolutely. I had a Platinum record. Boston recorded one of our songs, Magdalene. I even got to tour with some of the Boston members. We made money the old-fashioned way. Today, everything is transmitted for free over the internet.”

Clearly, the internet has changed many industries. As Rusty was speaking, I was thinking about how Amazon pretty much sent Sears into bankruptcy with a new business model. I thought about how many musicians face this challenge. Then, I thought how wonderful to still have access to musicians like Rusty.

Vincent: “Is there a message that you’d like people to hear about you?”

Rusty: “Yeah, that I’m happy to be playing.” Clearly, Rusty loves to play music and is not burned out from it.

As a band member myself, I couldn’t help but ask for advice.

Vincent: “What advice can you give aspiring bands, who are looking to make it to the next level?”

Rusty: “Well, first of all, you need to be a good band to be successful. So, practice. That’s the number one piece of advice.”

This sounded like an obvious answer, but it always surprised me how many bands do not practice enough, and it shows on stage.
Vincent: “What else does a band need to get to that next level?”

Rusty: “I don’t know what that next level is. In the past, the next level was touring around playing your band’s songs and making money from it. Today, the next level is to be discovered on the internet.”

Once again, the conversation moved to the internet effect. I thought of musicians like Sean Mendes, who was discovered on YouTube and is now rich and famous, streaming his music over the internet and making millions. I thought of Taylor Swift, who has worked hard to manage her streamed music on Spotify and other channels. While the world has changed, it is clear that talent like Rusty’s deserves to be heard any way possible. Check out the Coconut Times for the next time Rusty comes down from PA to OC to play at Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street is a main venue for great musicians. Owner, Barry Reichart, is not only an impressive cook and restauranteur. He is also a musician and has been friends with Rusty since his early days in PA. Bourbon Street is known not only for its live music, but it brings to Ocean City a unique take on Cajun cuisine. It’s differentiating quality is the bold Cajun flavor and the size of the portions. Barry’s rice is made of a much larger grain than most restaurants use, giving it more flavor and making it more filling. I commented to Barry that customers would still pay for such great flavor with smaller portions, to which he immediately reacted:

“I don’t want to serve small portions. I want my place to be known for its hefty portions and for giving people value for their money.”

Clearly, both Rusty Foulke and Barry Reichart are perfectionists, when it comes to their crafts, and the combination of such an evening with both of them left me with a memory of a beautiful sharp-pitched voice and sharp-tasting Gumbo. Mmmm.

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