One was a Varmint, another an E.A. Poe Raven, the third a Road Agent, the last a Breakaway.
From teenage and collegiate bands in 1960s Oklahoma hale the senior members of one of Tulsa’s most popular cover groups, The Fabulous Mid Life Crisis Band. In their 60s and 70s, the “four old geezers” refuse to be “put on an ice floe and sent out into the ocean,” keyboardist Steve Parkhurst and front man Carl Raynes say respectively.
The septet has three “youngsters” in their 50s: Hayden Burlingame, Charley Stewart and Scott McGhee, but the core foursome are Raynes, Parkhurst, Jim Stunkard and John Dougherty, who set their early rock ’n’ roll days aside for 25 to 30 years before arranging a garage band in 1996.
“At first, we just practiced all the time,” says Raynes, 67. “We drank beer and played ‘Mustang Sally’ for six to seven months.” Eventually, the band played a company Christmas party; gigs came regularly after that.
Now, Mid Life Crisis plays before hundreds, if not thousands, at outdoor venues like Utica Square and KingsPointe Village. One memorable performance was a party at the Westchester County, New York, estate of broadcast journalist Catherine Crier. “All these big names really liked the guys from fly-over country,” says Parkhurst, 68.
Raynes, whose band at Cleveland Junior High School was the Road Agents, retired in August after 41 years in the food distribution business. “People never come up and say, ‘You’re a great food salesman,’ but they do compliment the band and me,” the 67 year old says. “It never gets old … except maybe for my wife. She’s tired of all the attention I get.”
Doughtery, 70, a retired pharmaceutical representative known for his soulful guitar licks, credits Mid Life Crisis’s popularity to work ethic. “For 20 years, we’ve met religiously every Monday or Tuesday to practice,” says the 1968 Oklahoma State University graduate and member of The Breakaways. “That takes dedication. And we’re reliable. We show up for our gigs.”
While Stunkard, 72, underplays his role (“I’m just the bass player”), he promoted the band and booked gigs for decades before handing those duties to Burlingame. A 20-year broadcast journalist before starting the Purple Glaze art studios, Stunkard earned money with E.A. Poe and the Ravens to pay tuition at TU, where he graduated in 1968.
Parkhurst, a 1971 University of Oklahoma graduate and a retired design engineer of industrial cranes, turned to keyboards years after playing guitar with his East Central High School band, The Varmints. He helped his daughter, former Miss Tulsa Tammy Parkhurst Slack, in her band and “that’s when I got the bug for computerized music and synthesizers,” says Parkhurst, who arranges the group’s tight harmonies. “We are faithful to the originals, and people like that.”
Raynes, a 1972 OSU grad, and Dougherty often trade quips while performing. “I feed [Carl] straight lines or something sarcastic and the crowd really likes it. We just don’t look down at our feet,” Dougherty says. “When it stops being fun, we’re through. If we can have the final coronary on stage, that’s about as good as it gets.”
For more information, visit the band’s website, mlcband.net.