With a name like “Medley,” this Righteous Brother was destined for a life immersed in music.
“For years, I never thought that that was a big deal, but the older I got, I said, ‘Man, that’s really amazing that my name is Medley and it’s such a musical thing.’ So I guess it was meant to be,” Bill Medley, 77, said by phone this week from his home in Newport Beach, Calif.
He and his new singing partner, tenor Bucky Heard, will bring a string of hits to the Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night (8/25). Parking will be impacted by Market After Dark, the perennially popular nighttime farmers market, which runs from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Third Avenue SE will be closed in front of the Paramount, but Fourth Avenue SE will be open, offering access to nearby parking ramps.
The Righteous Brothers topped the charts in 1964 with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” and kept rollin’ through “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” “Rock and Roll Heaven” and the late Bobby Hatfield’s 1965 solo success, “Unchained Melody,” featured in the 1990 film “Ghost,” as well as Medley’s 1987 hit duet with Jennifer Warnes, “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” featured that year in “Dirty Dancing.”
The Hatfield/Medley duo was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2003.
“That was wonderful,” Medley said. “It was great — it’s kind of like the record business saying you made your mark. It’s a wonderful thing to have happen.”
But with Hatfield’s death on Nov. 5, 2003, it seemed the golden harmonies might be silenced forever. About a dozen years ago, however, baritone Medley befriended tenor Bucky Heard in Branson, Mo., and in 2016, they decided to make beautiful music together.
“I’d always had a lot of my friends and family and other people in the industry telling me that I should reform the Righteous Brothers to keep that music alive (because) people want to hear it,” Medley said. “So I went in to see Bucky. He had changed his show and was doing a couple of songs by Journey, and he just killed them. I was taking a walk the next day, and said, ‘Man, if I was ever gonna reform the Righteous Brothers, that would be the guy.’ First off because he was a good friend and we got along great, so that’s a good place to start — kinda like dating before you get married.”
Medley said Heard brings “a lot of honesty to the stage.”
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“He’s just an incredible singer, first off, and he’s just a really wonderful man. He’s a great husband, a great father, a very spiritual guy like I am, and he has a wonderful sense of humor,” Medley said. “He pretty much brings a lot of what Bobby Hatfield brought to the stage. We say onstage, you can’t replace Bobby Hatfield — we’re not trying to do that — but Bucky is doing a phenomenal job filling in. The show is remarkably kind of the same feel, even though it’s two different guys. We’re not trying to be Bill and Bob. We’re just being Bill and Bucky singing those songs.”
They travel with a band that includes horns, a rhythm section and three female vocalists, one of whom is Medley’s daughter, McKenna. Following in her father’s footsteps, she has recently released a CD featuring her twist on ’50s and ’60s songs.
“She comes out and sings ‘The Time of My Life,’ and does vocal backgrounds,” Medley said. “It’s just a great pleasure to have my daughter out there.”
Music runs deep through both branches of Medley’s family tree. His parents had a swing band, where his mom played piano and sang and his father played saxophone. Both sets of grandparents were musical, as were his uncles, and Medley got his start in church and school choirs.
“I came by it honestly,” he said, even though in his teens, he discovered rock ’n’ roll via Little Richard and black radio stations. Around age 19 or 20, he switched TO R&B after hearing Ray Charles, who became his musical soul and inspiration. The Righteous Brothers, however, couldn’t get any airplay on the black stations until a Philadelphia disc jockey started spinning “Lovin’ Feelin’,” calling the duo his “blue-eyed soul brothers.”
“He was just trying to tell his audience that these two guys were white,” Medley said. The duo never forgot that. When one venue put in their concert contract that blacks had to sit upstairs, Medley and Hatfield refused, saying, “If they can’t sit where they want to sit, we’re not going on.”
WHAT: The Righteous Brothers
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (8/25)
TICKETS: $47.50 to $95, Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com
PARKING: Parking will be impacted by Market After Dark, the nighttime farmers market, running from 6:30 to 11 p.m.; Third Avenue SE in front of the Paramount building will be closed, Fourth Avenue SE will be open with access to three parking ramps