The history department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has a band.
The Rex Street Rounders, a Louisiana-themed rock band, is entirely made up of UL Lafayette history professors. Michael Martin, Ph.D., plays rhythm guitar and handles most of the vocals; Jordan Kellman, Ph.D., who is the dean of liberal arts, plays drums; Chad Parker, Ph.D., plays bass; and Shawn Thibodeaux plays lead guitar. John Troutman, Ph.D., the founder of the band, formally played guitar and helped with vocals, but he left the band when he took a job at the Smithsonian as the curator for American music.
The band has performed at several local venues such as the Lafayette Boudin Cook-Off, the International Grad Student Welcome Reception at UL Lafayette and Artmosphere. Martin and Kellman both said their favorite gig was opening for the band Doublewide at Artmosphere.
“Artmosphere was cool because we went in, we set up, and they treated us like we were a real band,” Martin said. “And we were opening for (Doublewide); that was great.”
Troutman started the band when he noticed there were enough musicians in the UL Lafayette History Department to form a rock band.
“For about two or three years, (Troutman) said, and we said to each other, ‘Yeah, we should do that someday,’” Kellman said. “But one day, I think it was John said, ‘No really, let’s do it.’”
There were several obstacles in the way of the band. First off, Kellman hadn’t played drums in 25 years.
“I played for a couple years in high school and then tucked my drums away in my dad’s basement for 25 years,” Kellman said. “And I only actually got them from his basement and drove them down here when John started playing again, so I had to shake off a lot of rust.”
In addition, they found out their bassist didn’t play bass often.
“I think he considered himself a guitar player too, at that time, but he had a bass at his mom’s house in Indiana,” Kellman said. “He had a rudimentary knowledge, but figured, having learned guitar, he could probably learn bass.”
Martin said he had rarely sung and played guitar at the same time before the Rex Street Rounders, adding he found learning to do so very difficult.
“There were times when I would get extremely frustrated because I was trying to play guitar and sing at the same time,” Martin said. “It took forever to get to be able to do that and I don’t know if that was just something with me or if it takes everyone that long but that was one of the things I found frustrating.”
During this period, Troutman played a crucial role in getting the band performance-ready. He could also play bass and drums, so he was able to help Parker and Kellman with their instruments.
“Sometimes he’d show Chad the bassline and then come over to me and show me what the drums were supposed to do,” Kellman said.
Troutman also wrote the band’s only original song, “Tiger Truck Stop”.
“It was about driving across the Basin Bridge which may not sound exciting, but he made it work as a song,” Martin said.
Martin said the band is really just concerned with having fun and isn’t worried about money or recognition.
“If it’s not fun, we’re not going to do it,” Martin said.
Kellman said the Rex Street Rounders’ laid back attitude was a good change of pace from his high school band.
“I think a lot of times when people are playing music, there’s all kinds of external pressures,” he said. “Certainly my band in high school, even though we were just another random high school garage band, in our minds, this was when we were 16 or 17, it was like, ‘Is this going to be my future?’”
Currently, the band doesn’t have any gigs lined up, but they are willing to play one if all the members of the band can attend and they think it will be an enjoyable experience for them.