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Head East founding member Roger Boyd reflects on career

East Central Illinois band will open for fellow Illinois band REO Speedwagon tonight at RiverEdge Park in Aurora

Head East keyboardist and founder Roger Boyd is used to being on the road in the summer playing concerts.

Last summer was the first summer since 1969 – the year the East Central Illinois band formed – when he wasn’t out on the road because of the pandemic.

Head East will open tonight for fellow Illinois band REO Speedwagon at RiverEdge Park in Aurora in the first show at the park since it had to close because of the pandemic. The show is sold out.

Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Boyd, who is the last original member of Head East, about the show. The interview has been edited for length and style.

Eric Schelkopf: I understand that last summer was the first summer since 1969 where you weren’t out on the road.

Roger Boyd: Absolutely. My wife and I have 250 acres down here in southern Illinois halfway between St. Louis and Carbondale.

It’s a working farm, so obviously, there’s always plenty to do around here. So we just got caught up on stuff that when we’ve been on the road, we haven’t had a chance to get to. We’ve done some construction and remodeling and this, that and the other.

Schelkopf: Does it make it even more special when you do get to perform at a show in Illinois?

Boyd: Oh, obviously. Very much so.

I have some really good friends up in that area and they’ve said RiverEdge Park is just beautiful. We’re looking forward to getting back and playing again.

Schelkopf: What do you like the best about being in front of a crowd?

Boyd: We’re a good time band. We enjoy playing. We enjoy meeting people and interacting with them.

What’s really going to make this show extra special is that people have just been waiting to try and get back to some kind of normalcy. People are ready to get out and sing and dance and jump around and see friends.

And we are a wonderful band for that kind of thing.

Schelkopf: And of course you are opening for a band from Illinois, REO Speedwagon.

Boyd: REO Speedwagon and us both go back 50 years. We were the two top rock bands out of Champaign-Urbana at the University of Illinois.

And we were the two bands, out of all the bands there, that made it out and made it to the major leagues. It’s going to be a lot of fun and special to see them again. We haven’t seen them for a couple of years.

We’re doing Aurora and then we’re doing about three or four more shows together. So it will be a lot of fun.

Schelkopf: And I guess I didn’t realize this, but the current lineup of Head East has been together for 14 years.

Boyd: Yes, this lineup has been together for 14 years. That’s pretty amazing.

These guys are phenomenal. We’re really close friends. They are a lot of fun to play with and to travel with.

And really this lineup sounds exactly like the original lineup that did all the recording at A&M Records primary because Darren Walker, who is the lead singer, could be John Schlitt’s twin. They sound identical.

Even I can’t always tell them apart.

Schelkopf: Mike Somerville, who unfortunately passed away last year, wrote your hit song, “Never Been Any Reason.” When you first heard that song, did you know if was going to be a hit?

Boyd: We knew it was pretty special. You never know 100 percent for sure.

Some songs resonate with a particular audience at a particular point in time. We knew it was special because anytime we would play it in a club scene, people just went crazy and filled the dance floor.

So we knew we had something.

Schelkopf: What do you think it was that people liked? Was it the energy of the song?

Boyd: Moog synthesizers start the song off, which was unheard of at the time. Nobody was playing them except for me.

The rhythm of the song. It’s just a great dance tune. And then the crowd loves to sing along with the song.

Schelkopf: You’ve been in Head East since 1969. Did you ever think that you would still be in this band today?

Boyd: I never thought I was going to be in the music business in the first place. When I went to the University of Illinois, I wanted to be a college professor.

I just played music because it was fun. When I left college, I just thought I would give it a shot for six or seven years and that would be it.

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.