Author: A.M. Wertz | Source: Sun Gazette
Some people can't remember even the slightest details about 1985, let alone have a reason to say it was the year that changed their lives. But for local band Forward Thrust, 1985 was the year things took an extreme turn for them. Kenny Gilchrist and Gail Anderson met that year, when Kenny's band with Ron Clark began searching for a singer. Kenny was playing guitar and Ron was a drummer, but it lacked a vocalist. Gail said she responded as soon as she saw the ad in the newspaper.
"She came over and sang the first song, "Chain Gang," and we both went 'wow,' this gal has a voice on her," Kenny said. The next step for the trio was to search for bass and keyboard players. After several months and no results, Ron returned to a former heavy metal band, leaving Kenny and Gail to join up with already existing bands for about a year.
"Then we got an invitation from an agent to go on the road as a duo because it was hard to get people for a band," Kenny said. "We spent 1987 through 1991 on the road until we came back and lived in Allentown. Prior to that, we lived in Nashville and Louisville, Ky., with Gail on vocals, percussion and keyboard, and me on guitar, harmonica and vocals." The couple married in 1991.
According to the couple, Allentown looked like a good place to move because of its location, surrounded by many cities. Gail and Kenny have been performing full time since 1992 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware and they continue to write and record their own tunes, as well. "Our strengths are the fact that we do a lot of instruments," Kenny said. "I play sax, harmonica, mandolin, guitar, resonator, slide guitar, flute, piano and clarinet, and Gail plays keyboard, harmonica and bass guitar. We both sing." Forward Thrust continues to play three or four gigs a week, including a show from 6 to 9 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month at the Hughesville American Legion.
"We are more of entertainers than most bands," Kenny said. "I take the sax out into the audience and she takes the wireless mic. We get involved with the audience with more of a show than a four-piece band that just stands there and plays. We tell stories about why we wrote different songs that are mixed in with originals and covers. We can play Motown to Santana. We're pretty versatile. I would say we're not super current, we probably span as far as the 2000s, including classic rock, oldies, Sheryl Crowe, Alanis Morissette, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and Clapton." Some of the more popular songs the couple performs are "Mustang Sally," "Mony Mony" and "Old Time Rock and Roll." "We played some of those songs thousands and thousands of times," Kenny said. Gail said the beginning of their relationship, when much of their time was spent on the road, was a good time to learn and hone up on the act they continue to perform.
"We've gotten so much better at writing and recording and the live performance," she said. "You get to work the audiences. Three years straight on the road, when you have to play as a job, you can't say 'I don't wanna play tonight,' when you're booked for five nights a week on the road. It hardens you to the fact that you're a performer, not just a weekend warrior." Forward Thrust released their first CD, "Spinning Tales," in May 2000 and a second, "Underwater," in August 2005.
For the past five years, Kenny has been working on completing another project - a rock opera. The music is complete and Gail is working on the artwork to accompany "Strings Attached," which is 140 minutes of music split into two acts. "I've spent the last five years writing and recording," Kenny said. "There's hours and hours on this. Gail did some voices and different characters. There is some dialog, but it's more like 'Tommy' or 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' " According to Kenny, the 33 illustrations that his wife is working on explain what the viewer will "see." Each of two booklets is designed for the two parts of the show.
"It's been hard to complete the drawings because there's not a lot of room," Gail said. "I pick the character and I draw it in a sketchpad, bigger than what it's going to be, and then we shrink them down. Instead of doing it on a computer, I decided to do it freehand. Once you reduce something, some details are lost. I tried various ways of doing it and realized the simplicity and colors are what mattered the most. It's sort of comic bookish."