2015 - Band
Band Members: David Merrill, Tres Rich, Scott Davis, Ed Kelly, Jerry Peoples, Thomas Doggett,
Vernon Lee Hansen, Jayson Alcorn
In the summer of 1980 founding member Ed Kelly was appearing in “Camelot” at the Des Moines Playhouse where he met Scott Davis, a trumpet player in the pit band.
Kelly had recently begun a career teaching English and speech in East Des Moines after playing professionally for 12 years in bands in Iowa and on the road nationally. Davis was also a new teacher in Des Moines and was music manager for musicals at the Playhouse.
In early fall, a chance request from a school administrator to play a reception at the local union hall led Kelly to ask Davis to join him on the gig with a drummer and guitarist. More casual gigs at hotels and country clubs came along and a version of FreeStyle was formed with Kelly (bass & vocals), Davis (trumpet), Bruce Martin (piano) and Jim Eklof (drums). Within a year, guitarist Rich Beachler was in the mix.
Over the next few years a stable of four or five sidemen rotated in the band but by fall of 1984 FreeStyle had added sax player Tom Lane and was playing in the Central Iowa area as a five-piece.
The band evolved further in 1986 when drummer/vocalist Dave Merrill and guitarist/vocalist Tres Rich joined the lineup. Lane was replaced in 1988 by Vern Hansen. That format of Davis, Kelly, Hansen, Merrill, & Rich was in place for almost 20 years. They released a self-titled CD in September of 2008. Jerry Peoples joined the band in 2004, Jay Alcorn in 2009 and Tom Doggett in 2011.
Since 1985 FreeStyle has continuously played 40-50 jobs a year. They have opened for national artists Sawyer Brown, Neil Sedaka, Sheena Easton, Dionne Warwick, Little Richard, Air Supply, Little River Band and BJ Thomas.
The band takes special pride in noting its 28-year commitment to sponsoring and performing free each November for the annual HCI Hospice Care Services benefit dance in Des Moines, raising almost $170,000 to date for that organization.
FreeStyle is an innovative and technologically active band with a website: freestylevarietyband.com.