The Dukes of Stratford
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The Dukes of Stratford

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The best kept secret in music

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"Interview with Reid"

Call him … Dr. Wannabe Love.

When Reid Mansell was a kid in Winston-Salem, he wanted to be Paul Stanley, the singer and rhythm guitarist for KISS. Stanley seemed to be part comic-book creation, part rock star, a larger-than-life character that preened and pouted through deafening, delightfully stupid songs about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, all delivered amid belches of flame, blood and explosions.

What’s not to like?

Mansell went to Bishop McGuinness High School, then became a singer, songwriter and musician - and a quite good one, at that. But he never quite got over that initial exposure to KISS (although he did draw the line at wearing makeup).

“There was something about that bonehead swagger, all the moves, the whole sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll thing, that was just … special,” he said. “It was the opposite of having to think. You just had to react. All that was required was having fun.

“It was over for me when I saw Van Halen, with David Lee Roth, when I was 12. It was perfect. It was loud. It was fun. It was over the top. The songs stuck in your head. It was a party, a celebration of life lived beyond the extreme.

“It was the kind of musical experience that made your summer. That’s what I wanted to do.”

Through the years, Mansell has carved a reputation as a musician whose specialty was power pop - something he seemed to have a natural melodic and lyrical knack for creating. One band led to another - Vibraswirl to The Hard-Soul Poets to, briefly, Jolene, then on to the Reid Mansell Overdrive, the latter a genuine power-pop experience that echoed the exploits of Redd Kross, another of Mansell’s host of strangely diverse-but-crucial musical influences.

At that point, several high-school acquaintances - poster-boy singer Nat Taylor, bassist Steve Lloyd and high-octane guitarist Bob Parrish - came back into his life. Another old friend, drummer John Holoman, who had cut his musical teeth playing in various bands in Boone, joined in about a year ago. And The Dukes Of Stratford - the name is a clever, local-themed pun on The Dukes Of Stratosphere, XTC’s psychedelic alter ego - was born.

The fledgling band’s mission - to play the same loud, relatively low-brow, highly entertaining rock that captured Mansell’s fancy back in the day. All members shared a common interest in the hard-rock bands of the 1970s - Aerosmith, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen. And all five musicians shared a desire to have too much fun playing too-loud guitar rock in a world in which such bands, beyond the progenitors, no longer existed.

The audience for such music among a new, younger indie-to-emo-minded world was virtually nonexistent. Mansell knows it. To him, the challenge is part of the fun.

“We are really too old to care about indie credibility,” Mansell said. “It can be kind of tough at some gigs, but we are definitely picking up people who understand the vibe we are after. It’s definitely a word-of-mouth thing at this point.”

The band has recorded several songs and has written an hour of material. The songs are in keeping with the band’s mission statement - lots of thundering old-school riffs, Keith-Moon-style drumming and power chords that punctuate songs that, despite some clever twists and turns (a carry-over of Mansell’s love of power pop), are simple without wholly being fare for simpletons.

Many of the songs are great - on a par with those of the classic bands that inspired them. But even the lesser songs are fun, which is, after all, the point.

“We’re not verging on parody, like The Darkness, but our music is fun,” Mansell said. “We do it because we love it. Our slogan - ‘Free your inner sinner’ - captures it. We are about having a good time and making sure the audience does, too. We are confident but not cocky. We feel the songs are good. We are good musicians, and we have certain chemistry to what we do, and we want to be entertaining. And I love not being the front man for the band. I’m having a blast.”

He laughed. “Now I can practice all my Paul Stanley moves and jump around like an idiot.” - Winston-Salem Journal


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

I was drumming for a local soul/r&b group, and this dude would always come around bumming smokes from me, or quarters to go buy "loosies." He ragged on me all the time for not coming out and playing with his rock act. I didn't really think much of it, until he left a demo on my windshield. I popped it in on the way home from a long rehearsal, and I was blown away. The kid could sing, and the tunes were well-written. I came to a rehearsal and he didn't show, his dog had been mauled by a larger dog and he was freaking out. I jammed with the other guys and we agreed there was something there. I left for L.A. the next day and while hitting clubs around Silverlake and Hollywood I kept thinking of the band. Over the next couple of months we put together a good set of tunes penned by by the rhythm guitarist and hit some local clubs to a huge reception. Since then we've been filming and recording for a CD/DVD release to shop around.