The Passion of The Rockers

I’m not sure of the exact moment that Brad Bennett and Steve Hodge were bitten by the music bug. But, I do know this—once that bug was flowing through their bloodstreams, it never left them.

I first encountered their music bug in 1971.

Late that summer, I started my freshman year at Greensboro College. So did Brad and Steve. They were roommates. Both were from Winston-Salem, and if my memory was correct, they played in the same band, Freiburg.

Gradually, I became friends with these guys. Music was the connector. We listened to records in their room. I recall Brad was a huge Moody Blues fan. And Steve might be listening to a band just under the radar, like Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks.

Brad played guitar and Steve played bass. Both could handle lead and background vocals. Throughout their four years of college, their band played assorted shows in all types of venues in the Piedmont triad area of North Carolina.

Sometimes, I helped as a roadie, and once I was a mock manager. I recall landing them one job at was then named Elon College.

At some point, Steve and Brad pulled off a major coup. They convinced a college administrator to allow them to store their band equipment in a large, empty storage area, and to use the adjoining lecture hall as a setting for rehearsals.

Frequently on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the band, Freiburg, rehearsed. I often found myself sitting in that lecture hall hearing the band practicing songs in the set list, or learning a new one.

Perhaps, because I have no singing voice, and I never learned how to play a musical instrument, I was drawn to the friendly access of Brad and Steve’s musicianship.

If you know a bit about rock and roll history, keeping a band together is challenging. After we graduated from college, I believe Freiburg eventually went their separate ways. But, Steve and Brad’s friendship and their love of music never left them.

Both have participated in recording sessions for their own individual material, and with other bands too. They managed their music while maintaining careers, and doing the most important work being husbands and fathers.

If you are a musician, you also have lots of equipment. Miles of cords, amplifiers, keyboards, sound systems, and the latest gadget to enhance your sound, and of course guitars—lots of guitars.

I know quite a bit about Steve’s guitar collection, but not as much about Brad’s. In some ways, those guitars are like family members. Each instrument has a story. Each has a special quality and purpose whether for a concert, a recording session, or just goofing off.

For better or worse, Steve Boone, Dan Callow, Steve Hodge, Doug Kinney, Butch Sherrill, and I have maintained our friendships after graduating from Greensboro College. Since 1975, at least once, and sometimes twice a year, we find a date and gather in North Carolina, Virginia, or Maryland. Wives, significant others, children, and grandchildren have been part of those gatherings.

During the weekend of May 13-15, 2022, we all made our way to Greensboro. The home of Butch and Marian Sherrill was our base for the gathering. And it just so happened that Brad and Steve were playing an early show at the Roar in Winston-Salem on Saturday evening May 14.

Located in downtown Winston-Salem on North Liberty Street, the Roar is housed in the former home of the Twin City Motor Building. The extensive renovation has turned the large multi-floor building into a food hall and entertainment center.

We left Greensboro, worked our way into downtown Winston-Salem, and since it was Saturday night finding a place to park was tricky. But, we found a couple of places and made the short walk to Roar.

Inside the building, it was like COVID-19 was a speck in a rearview mirror. People were everywhere. As we got our bearings, we walked to a large open area in Ford’s Food Hall, and off to our left Brad and Steve were set up and playing.

We scrambled around and found some chairs to set up in front of where The Rockers were holding court. Brad’s wife, Sue, a Greensboro College graduate too, helped us to get settled.
Steve was playing bass, Brad acoustic guitar, and he had access to an electronic keyboard too. I don’t recall the song they were playing when we arrived. But as we listened and watched, The Rockers played a very diverse set list. A set list that could reach the mix of the audience as well.

It was clear with each song that Brad and Steve had worked hard to capture the original musicality of a song. To do this means The Rockers have paid their dues with practice time.

They have pride in their musicianship. No short cuts were taken in the rendering of any song they played. Without a doubt, it was still very clear to me that Brad and Steve have the same passion for music as they did when they first picked up their guitars as teenagers.

During a break, we chatted. I peppered Steve with questions about the guitars he had on stage, and he patiently answered in detail.

The next set started, and they worked in some originals including Steve’s “Cheese Sandwich” which I think he wrote in tribute to the dining room food at Greensboro College.

At some point for our group, our ears started hearing the whine of our bodies for dinner. We politely waved goodbye and started our walk over to the Cugino Forno Pizzeria.

After the delicious pizza, we walked back to our cars. Dan, Doug, and Steve Boone decided to stick around and be roadies. They helped those old rockers do the equipment load out.

I had an excuse for not being a roadie. I was needed back in Summerfield where I was going to relieve a babysitter who had been watching over our three year old grandson. The rest of his family was at a dance recital where his sister, Caroline, was performing.

It was good to see Brad and Steve playing live at Roar. I love and admire their passion for music. I hope their ability to keep playing is like the title to the Neil Young song “Long May You Run.”

For Brad and Steve, long may your fingers run along a guitar neck, may your vocal chords quiver in harmony, may your minds muddle through song lyrics without a stumble, and may you ears keep you in tune.

Long may the passion of the music run in the hearts of The Rockers.

P.S. Maybe the time has come for a reunion of Freiburg. I can see the group on the cover of Rolling Stone, or at least a front page story on The Yadkin Ripple.

The Rockers, Brad Bennett and Steve Hodge, at the Roar in Winston-Salem, North Carolina 5/14/22 Photo by Bill Pike

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