Jay Nedry has led the Virginia-based rockers for 44 years
It was back in 1976 when Jay Nedry teamed up with Bob Gaynor, and Bill “The Senator” Schmidle in their hometown of West Springfield to form The Roadducks, a rock band known for its strong playing and rockin’ ways.
“I’ve been playing since I was 13, and I remember that ‘fire in the belly’ when I first played, and I still have that every night,” Nedry said. “I told myself when I no longer have that, I’ll quit playing. It’s a privilege and an honor to be on stage playing in front of people and I treasure every second."
Over 44 years, the band has played approximately 5,550 shows from Texas to Maine, in venues ranging from the smallest club to the largest outdoor arenas. During their career, the band has toured with a virtual “who’s who” of American rock, sharing stages with Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels and Foghat among others.
“We have certainly had our share of ups and down, and good times and lean times, and times that were a little bit weirder band than it should be,” Nedry said. “But when you have a lot of people in the band, it’s hard to herd cats at times. These are talented people with strong personalities and different personalities, so you have to have a feel for it.”
In addition to drumming, managing and booking the band and driving the bus, Nedry also owned Jaxx Niteclub in West Springfield from 1992 to 2012, which allowed him time to raise his daughter Kristina, while providing a place for the band—and other local musicians—to play in Northern Virginia.
Sadly, Gaynor passed away in 2014, and Schmidle moved to Florida to play, but Nedry continues on as vocalist and drummer along with Gary Thomas (guitars, vocals), who joined in 1988, keyboardist Eddie Callan (from the album tour years), and new members Kevin O’Brien (guitars, vocals), Ted Heitz (bass guitar, vocals), and Paul Thompson (percussion, drums, vocals).
“We have this Allman Brothers-type thing happening with keyboards and drums and percussion in the back, with two guitarists and a bass player in the front,” Nedry said. “The percussion, for the dance music and the funk, just fits in perfect and added a new dimension to the band. So much so, that we’re adding another 10 songs. And we already have five hours’ worth of music, so for us, it’s fun.”
On July 31, the rockers will head to The Birchmere for a live show. This follows performances at the State Theatre, Mo’s in Springfield and the Harbour Grille in Woodbridge.
“For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been out trying to help some of the local places. We have a pretty big following and we wanted to give back to some of these clubs who helped us over the years,” Nedry said. “People are concerned and cautious—and they should be—but they are coming out. We’ve played outdoors in a parking lot or with social distancing inside, and they are able to generate some cash when they need it.”
With everyone cooped up for months, Nedry noted audiences have been real appreciative of seeing live music and getting out of the house for a bit. And the promoters are naturally happy as well.
“You want to see these places stay open,” Nedry said. “I can’t imagine what would have happened to me if something like this occurred when I owned Jaxx. I have a lot of friends still doing this and I’m happy to come out and help when I can. And the audiences have been really great.”
Besides music, Nedry is also committed to his education and recently received his degree in history from William and Mary, a masters at George Mason and will soon earn his Ph.D., with the goal to teach “The History of Rock and Roll: 1950-1970” to students.
“The course will be about politics and civil rights, and I’m going to use the music of the era as the soundtrack,” he said. “It’s not going to be the same-old dull history class, because you’ll have an entertainer leading them and cranking up the music. When your avocation is your vocation, life is good.”