Sweetwater band to play in Wellington

Jeff Guy
The Sweetwater Band is booked to play at Wellington's Regent Theater, Nov. 28.

They are a piece of local rock ‘n roll history, a band known for playing around the clock at Wichita bars in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.

And they are coming to Wellington.

The Sweetwater Band - a group mentioned in Wichita State University history professor, Dr. Jay Price’s book, “Wichita Rock and Roll 1950-1980 - are booked to play at the Regent Theater on Nov. 28. Show times have not yet been set.

There will be a three camera concert shoot recording of the show, band leader Doug Adams said. The DVD of the concert will be sold at a later date.

“It’s part of history for us,” Adams said. “We’re all still alive and we want to get a good recording.”

Adams’ first band, comprised of himself and Campus High School classmates from Haysville, got together in the ‘70s and played skating rinks, school functions and small clubs.

One day in 1977, Adams was visiting a friend when he heard singing and piano playing coming out of the living room. It was his friend’s wife, Paula Travis, a girl Adams was aware of, but didn’t really know at Campus High. There, she had been known for acting in plays with the school’s drama department, not for singing. But there she was at the piano.

“She sang like a little singing bird,” Adams said.

They decided to form a band. Jerry Hinsen, a musician who used to come to clubs to watch Bandit play, came aboard as a guitar player. Adams also played guitar. Mike Maxey was added as bass player and Pat Keitel played drums.

The first gig The Sweetwater Band played was on March 19, 1978 at a club called the Governor’s mansion. The owner of another bar saw them perform and hired them to play at his club, the Tennessee Gin Mill.

“We became the house band at his club,” Adams said.

Originally, just called Sweetwater, the group found out another band had used that name - the first band to open up at Woodstock. That band’s jazz and classical fused rock was far removed from the Wichita band’s Southern rock sound. To avoid being confused with the other group, the name was expanded to The Sweetwater Band.

The band played Wichita bars and a four-state area, pounding out covers of Lynrd Skynrd, Molly Hatchet and The Outlaws’ songs.

A few years later, Travis left the band and was replaced on vocals by the band’s roadie, Tony Amend.

“At that time, after a couple of years, we lost our bass player and drummer ‘cuz they had daytime jobs,” Adams said. “We were playing every night, seven days a week.”

Adams got tired after four years and dissolved The Sweetwater Band. He formed his own sound and light company, Pro Audio Systems, and in 1989 started touring with John Kay and Steppenwolf, a band that had risen to fame after their songs, particularly “Born to Be Wild,” were featured in the movie, “Easy Rider.” Adams stayed with them for nearly 30 years, visiting 17 countries.

The Sweetwater Band had opened up for John Kay and Steppenwolf at Wichita’s Cotillion Ballroom in 1978 or ‘79.

In 2016, The Sweetwater Band first got back together to do a benefit concert at Wichita’s Candle Club for fellow musician Gerald Graves who was a member of another popular Wichita band, The Clocks, in the early ‘80s. Graves died the night before the show was scheduled but the show went on.

In the past year, The Sweetwater Band has reunited with all their original members. Adams’ wife located Travis working in the kitchen of a church where her brother-in-law is pastor. They received a lot of publicity last January when they performed at The Keg in Colwich, but COVID-19 would later prevent them from performing.

Adams is looking forward to performing in Wellington. He has known Regent owner Jerry Fike, for 40 years, going back to when Fike worked at Big Dog Recording Studio in Wichita.

“He knows this will be a great place to host us,” Adams said.