In 2003, shortly after my first wife decided she’d rather live in California than Kentucky, my buddy Leo decided I needed to get out of the house and stop feeling sorry for myself. We went to dinner, went to a hockey game, and then ran by a little bar named High On Rose to see his friend’s band, Sunday Valley. I had no idea, that night, I would be seeing one of my favorite bands ever for the first time.
Sunday Valley, at the time, was four guys - Stu, Gerald, Eddie, and Billy. They wore overalls, cowboys hats, and played this strange form of rock/country/punk music that I didn’t have words for. For a while, in those early days, whenever someone would write about the band, they would always throw out these high concept descriptions of the music. Eventually it felt like everybody quit trying to pin it down and just enjoyed it for what it was - really great music.
Soon after that first show, I went on a mission to introduce everybody I knew to this band. I can’t remember ever taking anybody to one of their shows that didn’t immediately become a fan. I don’t know how many times Sunday Valley played The Dame before it was torn down - but I feel like I have a million distinct memories of seeing them there, with my best friends around me, singing, dancing, and laughing. Some of my favorite adult memories happened at their concerts.
I also don’t know how many times over their career the band actually broke up. In my foggy, highly unreliable memory, it seems like it was more than once. How ever many times it happened, I always took it hard. And I was always excited every time they got back together or put on a reunion show. In the lean times, between shows, I survived on every recording I could get my hands on - be it their early studio recording, their Red Barn Radio show, or some sketchy bootleg my buddy Paul got a hold of.
A little while ago Sara arranged for the band to do a private birthday show for my friend Erin and me. It was an incredible night. For the first time I got to interact with the band on a personal level - and get to know them as a group of genuinely nice guys.
The last couple of years have been full of a lot of big moments for Sunday Valley - a tour, a new album, a move to Nashville, old members leaving, new member joining. I’ve watched the whole thing from a distance and wished nothing but good things for the guys.
So, of course I was really sad this morning to see the following announcement posted on the band’s official Facebook page:
Welp kids,…Lord knows it’s been a long road with a great many tears of joy and sadness and some very hard lessons learned but I know I speak for all four original members of Sunday Valley when I say we gave it everything we had and then some. Out of respect and honor for Billy, Gerald, & Eddie and the sacrifices we all have made for this thing over the years, I could never under any circumstances feel good about continuing my musical journey under the Sunday Valley name. There are no words I can think of that would possibly express our love and appreciation for you all and your support over the last 8 years…it means more than you could ever know. New band, new sound, new album coming very soon…as they say, the next chapter is always better, that’s why we turn the page.
“To the wind and on to heaven…”
For me, this really is the end of an era. That’s not to say I’m not excited to see what comes next for each of the guys. They’re all talented musicians and have an automatic fan in me - but Sunday Valley was big for me. They are inextricably tied to the year I really crawled out from under a broken heart. They were the first band to help me see there was more to country music than the crap you hear on the radio. They were a connection to the music I grew up around. They made me proud of this city and it’s music scene.
So, pull your hat down over your eyes to hide the tears, and raise your glass in the air. Thank God for great local music and thank God for Sunday Valley. Let’s see what’s next.