Through the heat and the streets, the band kept playing

By Chicago 3 Min Read

CAMPAIGN – It’s been a long, hot Independence Day of performing, but the 11th Hour band was all smiles and cheers the entire length of the Champaign County Freedom Celebration Parade.

Even playing on a moving trailer didn’t create too much of a challenge for the local cover band playing a variety of rock, blues, country and pop hits, who were booked for a double feature on July 4th.

“This year we all thought about sitting as much as possible, except Johnny,” said singer Joy Vaughn. “I thought he was going to fall into my lap.”

He’s talking about guitarist and frontman Johnny Matteson, also known as “Crazy Johnny.” He came dressed patriotically for Tuesday’s parade, sporting an American flag onesie and oversized hat.

Matteson put together the band, one of many he’s formed since he began performing in 1967.

Other groups have moved on from The Crazy Johnny Band under his leadership, but the current group decided to change that when it formed in 2021.

“I just thought 11th Hour was great,” Matteson said.

Vaughn said it could also be a reference to the late hours of their shows — their second day on campus was Tuesday night — or to the fact that many members came from other bands.

“It kind of feels like a superband,” Vaughn said. “We all got together to play with Johnny.”

The trailer was loaded for the parade with all the gear needed for the six-piece band, which consisted of Matteson, Vaughn, Tom Cortese (also wearing an American flag top hat) on keyboards, Dodi Rambole on bass, Eric Powell on guitar and vocals, and Ben Arthur on drums.

Each member has a unique history with music before playing together.

Powell joined the 11th Hour after playing only church. Cortese joined his first band when a guitarist friend needed a ride to rehearsal. Rambole learned a new instrument when a previous band downsized and no longer wanted a keyboard player.

“You can’t throw the bass player out,” Rambole said.

The setlists feature hits from across the years, from Pat Benatar’s 1980 hit single “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” to Elle King’s 2014 hit “Ex’s & Oh’s.”

This is the second year that the 11th Hour has been performed in the evening parade and festivities at the Champaign County Freedom Celebration.

Tuesday night’s show was a bigger event than many the group plays at area bars and restaurants (Sunday they’ll be playing Buford’s Pub in Sadorus), but they’ve also performed at similar events (such as the Newman Freedom Festival of June) as private shows for weddings and parties.

“We love playing everywhere, really and truly,” Vaughn said.

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