Thursday, June 20, 2024

Loved by Millions Hosts Reunion Show at Toledo School for the Arts

The term “getting the band back together” will take on a new meaning as the popular 1980s Toledo-based rock band Loved by Millions reunites for the first time in about 35 years for a series of performances at the Toledo School for the Arts.

The band’s centerpiece concert performance is slated for Friday, May 3rd. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to TSA’s Pat O’Connor Songwriters Fund, which supports original songwriting and guest artists. 

The series of performances will also include a masterclass for the music students at the school. Loved by Millions will offer a professional perspective to the students and hopes to be able to play some of the students’ own material. A few other private performance events are also scheduled.

About Loved by Millions

In early 1985, guitarists/vocalists David Burk and George Cunningham placed a classified ad in a college newspaper that was answered by drummer Tim Gahagan. The band that grew out of that was called Bernice Und Ze Rippers, a name culled from John Lennon’s book “In His Own Write.” Bernice began gigging at college venues in Bowling Green and Toledo, and we were soon joined by bassist E.J. Wells and keyboardist Chad Smith. Later in 1985, Bernice was joined by frontman/vocalist Steve Athanas, whose history included Toledo bar bands the Raisin Band, Locoweed, the Best and the Wet Shavers (and more recently, the Homewreckers). The band renamed themselves “Loved By Millions,” taken from a graphic displayed onscreen in a Jim Nabors TV record album commercial.

The band’s reach immediately expanded and spent 1986 to 1988 playing primarily college venues in Toledo, Bowling Green and Ann Arbor with two albums of original music. Wells was replaced on bass by Scott Shriner in 1987. Shriner is known for joining the internationally well-known rock band Weezer in 2001.

According to Athanas, the band was inspired by artists including Warren Zevon, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to name a few. “We always wanted to expose people to new bands by playing their songs on top of songs people already knew,” Athanas said.  

Getting the Band Back Together

In the 35 years since their last gig, all members have remained active in music. Athanas and Cunningham live in Ohio, Smith and Burk in Minnesota and Gahagan and Shriner in California. When asked about show preparation, Cunningham explained it took “lots of Zoom calls and emails. It took a bit of work to get the logistics nailed down, but now the focus is on the music and performance.”

Burk added “we are trying to recall as many songs as possible that we did back in the day. A lot of going over song structures, chords and song keys over Zoom. Everyone in the band has continued to stay active in music, which provided motivation for this reunion.”

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When asked why TSA was a great venue for these performances, Cunningham said “there’s the personal connection with Dave Gierke (TSA’s Development Director), who was around us with his own bands while LBM was active. We feel like he’s someone who gets what we’re about. TSA is also great because we’ll be given the opportunity to connect with young musicians.”

According to Athanas, the group is preparing about 90 minutes worth of music. Songs (originals and covers) they did back in the day. The set will include a few songs Wells wrote on his own, as well as a few of Athanas’ songs that Wells produced.

Paying Tribute

The impetus for the reunion was spurred on by the passing of the bands’ first bassist and dear friend Ed “E.J.” Wells in September 2023. The remaining members of Loved by Millions collectively regarded Wells as a talented musician, very creative and a successful entrepreneur, as demonstrated by the success of his fragrance and cologne company, Happyland Studios. Wells was also the husband of former Toledo newscaster, Susan Ross-Wells. 

“Ed was one of those guys who everyone had stories about, some would say legendary. He was a larger-than-life guy. At the same time – he was humble, funny, down-to-Earth and really sweet,” Cunningham said.

Loved by Millions will do these shows in celebration of Wells’ life and music, and with gratitude toward their friends who frequented their shows, toward each other and towards their Toledo roots.

Friday, May 3rd. 1401 Adams St, Toledo, OH 43604. $20 Tickets.

Tanner Wertz
Tanner Wertz

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