Greenville Life Spring 2020 - Page 31

Greenville Christian basketball coach Gary Felmet watches a pass by Eagle player Wilson Feezel slip through the defenders at an Eagles’ home game. “I found out real quick that I like football but I realized I’d rather be in the gym coaching basketball,” he said. Felmet’s also coached basketball at Bland, Miller Grove, Commerce, Blue Ridge, Campbell and now Greenvile Christian, compiling a career record of 525 wins and 501 losses. His professional music career started by chance when he was teaching and coaching at Bland. He started learning how to play the guitar at Bland from another coach from Leonard named John Kent. The two of them got an idea to put together a band and put on a performance at a Bland athletic banquet. “I said why don’t we surprise them? Get together and play. Find us a piano player, a drummer and play four or five songs, surprise the kids. Everybody thought it was a good idea. We decided to get as many faculty members as we could involved. And we found a lady that could play piano. Got a guy that could play bass. One of the ladies that taught at Bland, her husband played drums. “To make a long story short we practiced behind the scenes. Didn’t tell anybody. Played about 10 or 12 songs. Of course we were awful but the kids loved it.” Felmet added elles to Bland so the band could have a name. “We thought it was a one-shot deal,” he said. But somebody from Caddo Mills called, wanting the Blandelles to play a backyard party. And then somebody from a Catholic Church in Paris, Texas, called wanting them to play a show there for $300. “Pay us?” said Felmet. “We started practicing,” he said. “And we started getting a few jobs. One thing led to another.” And the band’s been playing ever since for the last 35 years with a large variety of members. Felmet counted 75 musicians and singers who’ve performed at least one show with the Blandelles, who’ve performed all around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, other parts of Texas and at Branson, Missouri. The band also recorded a couple of albums in Memphis at the famed Sun Studios. One former member of the Blandelles is Felmet’s wife Regena. “She danced and played tambourine and stuff,” he said. “We were playing somewhere one night and weren’t getting a whole lot of money. She had a poodle skirt on and all that and these guys kept tipping her and tipping her and she ended up making more money than we did.” Felmet said the band’s current lineup of horn players Preston Cummins and John Knagg, keyboardist Carl Herod, drummer Kevin Rainey, bass player Evan Yeager, lead guitarist John Harris and singer Greg Connelly is the best group of musicians that’s been in the Blandelles. “It takes a special situation to keep a band together for 35 years,” said Connelly, who also coaches golf at Leonard. “I’ve seen it from the inside for 20 years now. I don’t know how he’s done it. There have been lineup changes at every spot, but he is the lone constant. He has hired them, and he has fired them, too. He’s had them quit on him. But he’s never quit on the band.” Felmet, who turned 70 in May, doesn’t plan on quitting coaching or playing with the Blandelles any time soon. “I’m blessed because I’ve been able to do what I want all my life,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything if it wasn’t for the Lord. Anything we do well is only because the Lord allows it. It’s through Him, it’s through Him for everything.” SPRING 2020 Greenville Life 31