A Kalispell Band’s Cinderella Story

By Beacon Staff

Even by its own account, Kalispell’s John Guymon Band was the overwhelming underdog in the latest round of Make a Star, a national Web-TV talent show.

The band’s opponent, Beau Davidson, had a biography that read like someone who had already made it big. A graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Music in Chicago, Davidson has opened for country stars like Josh Gracin and Craig Morgan. His contest entry – a music video of his debut single “More Than I Can Give” – had already played on the Web sites of music channels like CMT, MTV and Vh1. He’s guest starred on “Days of Our Lives” and “Gilmore Girls.”

John Guymon Band bassist Jim Pomper is the band’s newest member.

“I mean he’s one handsome devil,” Gary Johnson, a guitarist and vocalist for the local band, said. “Blond hair, blue eyes, muscles – just a stud.’”

The John Guymon Band hadn’t even bothered posting a biography. A group of six friends, they had just reunited and played their first and only show in years on New Year’s Eve in Hot Springs. Their logo on the contest Web Site is a picture of a box with “JGB” and a peace symbol painted on it. And their video was shot with a hand-held camcorder at the Hot Springs gig.

“We entered kind of on a whim,” Johnson said. “It’s not anything fancy.”

But when results for the face-off competition came in last week, The John Guymon Band and their rock-and-roll tune, “It Came Out Wrong,” came away with a narrow victory. With that win, the Kalispell group moves on to the contest’s third round, where the public can vote online for their favorite band through Feb. 15.

Make a Star is a national Web-to-TV show where anyone over the age of 16 can submit a video of an original song online and then compete in a bracketed tournament against other entries. A panel of judges and online votes from the public determine the winners, who are then featured on FUSE television. In the end, the winner gets $10,000.

“Votes from the public were the only things that brought us ahead,” lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist John Guymon said of the first two rounds.

A page of lyrics with notes for Freedom’s Child is seen on the keyboard of Betty Lou Cannon as she pounds out chords for the song during rehearsal.

The Make a Star Web site tracks voter demographics like age, gender and home state. Montanans came out in force for the Kalispell band.

“There were voters across age groups and from all over,” Guymon said. “But it was people from here, our friends and family, that really supported us.”

The band first started playing together in 2004, when brothers Gary and Greg Johnson joined Guymon and guitarist Matt Fletcher, long-time friends who attended Whitefish High School together. “I’ve been playing with Greg pretty much since he was born,” Gary said. “And, I think, John and I met shooting darts.”

Together, they made one self-recorded album, before going their separate ways. It wasn’t until last November that they started talking about getting back together. “We were listening to the old CD, and saying ‘Yeah, we ought to try that again,’” Guymon said.

Gary Johnson riffs on a song during rehearsal with the John Guymon Band. Johnson made the first step of uploading a video to the Make A Star competition.

This time around, the band’s expanded, adding Greg’s friend Jim Pomper on bass and Fletcher’s fiancé Betty Lou Cannon. For now, Cannon, who broke her arm earlier this winter, is limited to one-hand keyboard playing and back-up vocals, but when her arm heals she’ll add her flute and violin talents.

“It was quite the deal,” Guymon joked. “We got Matt’s great guitar playing and discovered Betty Lou, too.”

At last week’s band practice, the group packed into their practice area, an addition on Guymon’s house in northeast Kalispell. The walls are padded to improve sound and the small room is just big enough to fit the six players, instruments and a dozen speakers. For hours, they ran through their collection of original songs, most with a style they call “folk rock” or “rock-and-roll with a story.”

It’s an eclectic bunch – a beekeeper, a truck driver, a construction worker, an RV technician and an aluminum plant employee. They shy away from playing bars, hoping instead to become regular players at fundraisers and events. With the exception of course of Cannon, they’re big on boots, bushy facial hair and outback-style cowboy hats.

“We’re a different bunch, but we’ve all got one thing in common: We love music,” Guymon said.

Support the Band:

To watch The John Guymon Band video or to vote for the band, go to www.makeastar.com/Contest_winner.asp. Third-round voting ends Sunday, Feb. 15.

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