In the late 1960s, Steve Williams and Tony Paulus were buddies at Calvert High School and members of Thee Lost Souls. Local rockers were forming bands, remixing, evolving, graduating and splitting up. Somehow, though, Williams and Paulus managed to keep making music together.
Most recently, they and Gary Dickerson have been the core members of the classic rock band, Rusty Vinyl, a name coined by the band's first drummer, Denny Gruss. The band's personnel has changed a bit over the years. It now features Williams on keyboard; Paulus on guitar, keyboard, guitar and vocals; Mark Armstrong on drums; Dickerson on guitar and vocals; and Patrick Del Turco on guitar and bass.
Rusty Vinyl has played at many indoor and outdoor venues, including benefits, private parties, weddings, festivals and corporate events. They have been a staple at the Tiffin Eagles Club, which is to be the site of the band's last "official gig" for New Year's Eve 2012.
Normally, a band break-up is not news, but this one has stirred a mix of emotions, especially from the musicians themselves.
Williams, who took a break from playing for a time, said he was glad to get back into music to add a little fun to his life and reconnect with friends. As marketing and systems director at TPC Food Service, Williams still works with Paulus.
"We all got along. That's the hardest part to keep something going," Williams said. "I've been there 12 years or so. That's a long run, especially at our age. ... To do it when we did it with the people involved, it was a great run, and it's always been fun - way more fun than I thought it could be."
Williams said he appreciated the friendships, the good responses from audiences and the opportunity to do something he loves for so many years.
Raising money for good causes was another perk for Williams. At this point, he said he does not have any new projects in mind. If anything, he would like to do more recording and fewer live performances.
"Tony and I both play in a band we played with from the '70s, Dixie Peach, and we've got a new CD coming out in a couple months. We've been recording all along on that, so that's going to keep going, probably with more recording and limited playing," Williams said.
With degrees from Northern Illinois and Ohio State universities, Dickerson moved to Tiffin in 1982 to teach communication classes at Heidelberg University. He had a background in radio, television and film and he could play guitar and sing. He joined Rusty Vinyl 1993 and was given a new title, "Doc."
This past year, he was promoted to associate dean of arts and humanities at Heidelberg. As Rusty Vinyl prepares to split, Dickerson said it will not affect his friendship with the rest of the group.
"It's been a great run, and like all good things, they come to an end at some point in time. Sometimes, you want to keep them going a little longer. But this is what Tony wants to do, and all the gear belongs to him," he said.
In addition to his new responsibilities on campus, Dickerson may be heading down another musical path with his adult sons, Ben, a Toledo resident, and Micah of Columbus.
Micah and a fellow 1994 Columbian High School classmate, Tim McManhon, have a duo called McDickies. Dec. 8, the three Dickersons and McMahon rounded up Armstrong, John Whitlow of Tiffin and a roommate of Ben's to provide music for a birthday party at Jeff's Bar in Bradner.
"We never really had a chance to practice anything as a unit, but I practiced with three of them and with two of them," Gary said.
Without knowing what to expect when they took to the stage, the show went well, he said.
Dickerson said the musicians did not play all together. Instead they took turns sitting in at different points in the performance. Dickerson said they surprised themselves and the bar owner.
"They liked us so much, they booked us for two more jobs. ... It was a lot of fun. It's great playing with my sons," he said.
If they can find a manager to do bookings and such, they may consider performing more often. They all have similar musical tastes, although the younger musicians also like to perform the work of younger artists. That also brings in a younger audience. Dickerson said he is open to learning new material.
Armstrong, a salesman of scoreboards and furniture to schools, joined the band in 2002. Having started playing drums at 9, he also played in the jazz band at his school. He holds a marketing degree from Bowling Green State University.
"Being from Carey, I was kind of the odd man out, but Tiffin has been like a second home to me, and the people have been great. I have many friends that I would never have met had it not been for the band," Armstrong said.
Although he did not want to see the band break up, Armstrong said he is hoping "to keep playing in some capacity" for several more years. The fans are what he likes best.
"We have a very loyal following and have heard over and over again at our last few gigs that they want the band to stay together," Armstrong said.
His favorite venue has been the Tiffin Eagles, which served as "kind of a home base" and the location for "some great times."
Playing at The Ritz Theatre also was memorable for Armstrong.
"What a fantastic place to perform. I feel privileged to be able to say that I've played there. Opening for the Turtles and doing the "Abbey Road" photo shoot that appeared in The A-T were two of the coolest things the band did," Armstrong said. "I hate to see the band break up but I guess sometimes good things come to an end. It has been a wild ride."
A more recent graduate of Calvert and Tiffin University, Patrick Del Turco was the "new guy," joining Rusty Vinyl in 2005. At 9, he began taking guitar lessons and started playing in garage bands. When he was about 12, he switched to bass.
"I started playing club jobs when I was 16 with the band Eastern Freight and then played in Random Sample until I started my career in law enforcement. I was unable to play out live for about 15 years since I worked weekends, but when I was able to get steady weekends off, I started right back up. I played with Rock Steady, Who Cares and then Rusty Vinyl," Del Turco said.
With the Tiffin Police Department, he was an instructor for crisis intervention training. After 27 years on the force, he has begun a new career as a case manager at Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services of Erie County in Sandusky.
"Playing music has always been my stress relief. I enjoy it just as much now as I did when I was 16, and I don't plan on stopping any time soon," Del Turco said. "I'll always consider the other four guys lifelong friends. It's been awesome playing with Tony, Steve, Mark and Gary. They are not only great musicians, but also great people."
For about two years, Del Turco and Paulus have been playing with Allie Busold as Allie and The Rockers. About two months ago, that group released a CD of original music written by Paulus and Busold.
"As far as Rusty Vinyl goes, it was a great time. I really enjoyed working with everybody - 19 years with Doc. Of course, Steve Williams, I've been playing in a band with him since we were kids, and we're still playing in another band together (Dixie Peach). It was a run, a great time, a great memory - (I) made great friends," Paulus said.