At a glance Who: Freddy Pink, rock and soul music When: 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 29 and 30 Where: 7 Cedars Casino, 270756 Highway 101, Blyn How much: Free admission, limited to patrons 21 and older
by MATTHEW NASH Sequim Gazette
Gordon “Gordy” Yancey and his rock, blues and soul band Freddy Pink believe they’ve found their niche.
The nine-piece cover band from the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle has toured the region for 29 years with their energetic act.
They’ve made audiences dance and sing, which has landed them multiple gigs for corporations, casinos, festivals and fairs.
“Wow, we’re actually making a living at this,” said Yancey, Freddy Pink’s co-founder and lead vocalist.
However, it’s been an up-and-down trip for Freddy Pink.
Since starting in 1981, more than 40 members have come and gone.
“It’s hard to keep something together, especially a nine-piece,” Yancey said.
“This is a real team scenario to get where you want to get.”
Art and business He thinks Freddy Pink walks a fine line between an artistic endeavor and a business.
Some members felt conflicted about “selling out” by playing not only club shows but also dentists dinners and shoe company conventions.
“I determined if I was going to make a living at this, I needed to look into the corporate world,” Yancey said.
“We had to be a part of this to make it.”
Freddy Pink bandmates find inspiration in their arrangements.
As a cover band, they have a large list of hits and famous artists they like to play.
Most of their performances are nonstop medleys with three tunes from a band such as Chicago followed by four from Blood, Sweat and Tears and a handful from the Rolling Stones.
“These are our arrangements but we ‘Pink-ify’ them,” Yancey said.
Mixing it up Many cover bands always open with the same songs, but Yancey feels Freddy Pink mixes it up to stay different from the rest.
They incorporate about 15 percent original music into each set that many audience members say feels natural to the rest of the set.
Yancey says the musical direction has stayed on track with his original vision, too.
“I’ve always had an intention to do a band that plays rock, rhythm and blues, and Freddy Pink is more of rock and soul now,” he said.
“It’s all derivative from African American rhythm and blues.”
Free Beer & the High Tops Before Freddy Pink there was Free Beer.
At the beginning the band didn’t have a name, so for one concert they called themselves “Free Beer.”
“It looked great on a poster and was good for the promoter,” Yancey said.
However, they needed a name when a promoter offered them a spot opening for Sly and the Family Stone.
The promoter threatened that if the band didn’t have a name, he would give them one.
So, band members put names into two hats and whatever two they drew would become their name.
Thus “Freddy Pink and the High Tops” was born.
The new name became a curse for the soul/rock band as audiences and promoters thought the High Tops portion meant they played 1950s greaser music.
They dropped the latter name 15 years ago.
Turning point At a lull for Freddy Pink, Yancey decided to stop focusing on the band to become a wine broker.
While on a business trip in Colorado, he was invited to a small bar to hear a supposedly great band.
“It was a ski resort town in the middle of the summer. How good could they be?” Yancey said.
“I got there and they played a Neville Brothers song and I was blown away.”
He asked to sit in with the band and five hours later he got off stage.
That evening he decided to pursue Freddy Pink full time again.
The band’s big break came four years ago after hooking up with Seattle Hospitality Worldwide, one of the largest event and concert planners in the region.
He convinced a representative to listen to one of their performances and they were impressive enough to gain a relationship with the company.
Color the map pink Freddy Pink has gone semi-national, playing as far east as Minnesota.
“The Washington market isn’t strong enough to support a full-time band like us,” Yancey said. “You have to go to British Columbia, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and more.”
Last year, they played more than 100 shows.
“I think the outside market has a positive connotation of Seattle but here everyone is used to the quality music,” he said.
In 2010, Yancey has set a number of goals for Freddy Pink.
He wants to increase original music in their sets to 30 percent and continue to play new cities and markets.
A Haiti-relief concert is in the works at Fort Worden in the coming weeks, too.
They set up a full-set video shoot for Saturday, April 17, at 7 Cedars Casino.