News Segment

FORMER ASPHALT BALLET SINGER RETURNS HOME:

August 23, 2007

MONTICELLO — To most hard rock fans in Indiana, the Los Angeles Sunset Strip seemed like a magical place inhabited by Guns ‘N Roses and Motley Crue.

Like Axl Rose before him, Monticello’s Gary Jeffries was an Indiana boy who dreamed of something bigger.

In 1984, he packed everything up and headed to L.A. to audition to be the new singer of Quiet Riot. It was a huge risk but Jeffries was willing to try.

Alas, Jeffries didn’t get the job but a chance meeting brought him to his rock ‘n’ roll dream anyway. After hearing him wail during a rehearsal for another band, Asphalt Ballet tapped Jeffries to go along with them for a hard rockin’ journey of a lifetime that was centered on Sunset Strip.

“There were hundreds of bands with fliers walking up and down the Strip,” recalled Jeffries, now 54, from his Kettering, Ohio, home. “I thought I was seeing rock ‘n’ roll history in the making… The fire department would send engines out and spray firehoses to get people off the street.”

After a 20-year run, Jeffries has given up on the L.A. scene, for now.

He is back in the Midwest to be closer to family but he is still rocking out with his Gary Jeffries Band, which will perform at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Indiana Beach’s Roof Garden Lounge.

Jeffries’ current sound is Southern rock. It’s a sound he honed with Alligator Stew, a band that he had brought to Monticello a few times.

The band had a large following and opened for several national acts because good Southern rock in Los Angeles was a rarity, Jeffries said.

“It was going over because everybody liked to wear cowboy hats and drink beer sometimes,” he added.

Jeffries and hundreds of other hard rock bands from the 1980s had to find a new sound once 1991 rolled around, the year many say hair metal died. Asphalt Ballet was perhaps the first band to perish as the single “Soul Survive” was released the same day as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.

One song was barely heard and the other became a grunge hit and an anthem for the 1990s. “Soul Survive” did quite well on MTV as it was directed, ironically enough, by Sam Bayer who went on to direct the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video.

Asphalt Ballet was still signed to Virgin Records but was urged to change its sound to be more grunge. Jeffries and the rest of the band battled the label over style and decided to just pull the plug.

“It’s hard to be one way and go to something different,” Jeffries said. “We hit hard but got hit back.”

While it came to an unexpected, quick end, Jeffries’ time in the L.A. hard rock scene did result in jamming with members of Guns ‘N Roses, hanging out at legendary clubs like Whiskey-A-Go-Go and The Roxy, and partying with Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes and Lenny Kravitz while Spinal Tap played live.

“It was never a dull moment,” Jeffries said.

Now his life is quieter but he was surprised that the Midwest has embraced live music much more than it did 25 years ago.

Now that grunge is long gone, that cycle of music looks to be coming back Jeffries’ way.

He said an Asphalt Ballet reunion may be in the works. New music that other members have been writing is a “harder edge Southern rock” similar to Alligator Stew.

“That has got me excited,” Jeffries said.

Courtesy of www.jconline.com

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