Physicians Involved in the Arts
Huddlestons: Soul Brothers
By Angela Wampler | A! Magazine for the Arts | October 26, 2011Are modern physicians active in the arts? Apparently, even with hectic, unpredictable, and stressful jobs, many local doctors take the arts seriously.
A few have become well-known, like Doug Pote, a general practitioner in Glade Spring, Va., who has penned several successful plays for Barter Theatre about our region's musical heritage.
A! Magazine for the Arts recently talked to several other physicians who participate in the arts as therapy or diversion, or even as a passion.
Dr. Sam Huddleston IV has practiced plastic and reconstructive surgery in the Tri-Cities area for more than 18 years, but he's been a "soul brother" much longer. Both Sam and his brother Dr. Tom Huddleston, an orthopedic surgeon, play saxophone and sing back-up in an 11-piece dance band called Spirit of Soul.
The band covers songs from the '60s through the '80s, including classic soul, smooth R&B, disco, beach music and shag, featuring music by The Temptations, Wilson Pickett, Natalie Cole, Jimmy Buffett, and Earth, Wind and Fire. The group showcases three lead vocalists (one male and two females) supported by a five-piece rhythm section and three horn players. Most of the gigs they play are private galas, weddings, corporate and charity events.
The band members, especially the Huddleston brothers, exude energy and enthusiasm that's contagious. They enjoy what they're doing because they're doing it for fun — not to earn a living — because all have successful careers in medicine, banking, and other businesses.
"Playing music is a real joy. When the crowd loves what we do, it's a blast. It rocks your world. We all love this kind of music, and nobody else plays it much anymore," Sam says. "We play somewhere once or twice a month, and we rehearse once a week. Our repertoire keeps building, but our members are really talented. They understand music and pick up stuff pretty quick."
He continues, "We have busy lives, so playing music is a great release for us; and our wives go with us. It's a pretty big entourage wherever we go. Trying to get everybody free at the same time is interesting. It's a lot of work hauling all our instruments and equipment. But we can set up in 45 minutes, then we take about an hour to get the volume just right. After the concert, we can tear it down in 45 minutes, then we pack everything in 3 or 4 cars and off we go. We keep it real and keep it light. That keeps it fun."
Sam and Tom grew up around music, and Sam has three sons who are "good musicians in their own right but none went the band route," he says. "Our mother had all the talent. I think she was the first student at East Tennessee State University to take every music course from drums to trumpets. She played ukulele and guitar and was an accomplished pianist. That influenced us, and now she's one of our biggest groupies, attending most of our performances. If it's possible to get her there, she's there."
The Huddleston brothers "played music hard in high school, but once music got 'psychedelic' there wasn't much call for sax players, so we got serious about studying to become doctors," says Sam. "Just about everyone played in groups in the '60s and '70s. I was in a couple of bands that played sock hops and proms. That's how most of us got started. And I toured with a group from Asheville, N.C."
Sam and Tom didn't always play music. "We got away from it for nearly 30 years," Sam admits. "My old sax sat in the closet. I finally got it out for old time's sake to entertain for my 40th high school class reunion in 2007. Then several of us wanted to keep playing. However, trying to get everybody together to rehearse was a big deal because band members were coming from Winston-Salem and Asheville, N.C.; Wytheville, Va.; and Knoxville, Tenn. Finally a few of us wanted to take it to another level, so we asked other musicians to join us, and the rest is history."
In addition to playing with Spirit of Soul, Sam goes off on his own every chance he gets, dropping in on "Blue Monday" at O'Mainnin's Pub & Grill in Bristol, Tenn.; or for jam sessions on Friday and Saturday nights at Johnson City venues like the jazz club Misty's Blues and Bodega 105, a new restaurant where owner Brim Leal plays guitar with saxophonist Tony Rominger. "It's fun to get together and cut loose. Someone picks a song; you never know what's coming up. You do what you feel. That makes you a better player."
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