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Circle Seven an eclectic combination


Many say Circle Seven emerged as the area's most popular rock band in 1997. The group has cut a CD and is in negotiations with several record labels.

In only a year, Circle Seven has emerged as the most popular rock band in the Quad-Cities.

To begin with, they creaked open the doors for local music on area radio by scoring decent action on KORB-FM (Planet 93.5) and WXLP-FM (97X) with their singles ``Bullet'' and ``Cellophane,'' which continue to amass requests and spins.

``I love hearing our music on the radio,'' bassist Shannon Dockey said. ``Every time I hear it, I just stop what I'm doing, and I get goosebumps like a 4-year-old.''

Adding to that thrill are solid sales of Circle Seven's new CD, ``The Star-On Machine,'' more live shows supported by a rapidly spreading fan base, and some interest from a handful of record labels, including some of the majors.

``There's definitely some strong interest,'' manager Will Gabbard said. ``We may have something to announce very soon.''

If that comes about, it would make Circle Seven the first Q-C band to be signed to a major label since Tripmaster Monkey inked a deal with Sire Records five years ago.

That pretty impressive, considering the foursome of Shannon Dockey, Dave Martenson, Cosby T. Johnson and Greg ``Tut'' Tuthill just got its start in August 1996.

Since that initial union, Circle Seven's music has morphed from a harder-edged sound to one with more of a funky feel, landing on its current groovier, crunchier mix.

Many observers have compared it to Pearl Jam or Red Hot Chili Peppers. Mr. Dockey sees the latter, not so much the former, but says it's a rich melange of tastes that weaves together to create the Circle Seven sound.

``Everybody in this band has a lot of different influences, a lot of different favorites, but it all comes together,'' he said. ``Rock, jazz, funk and blues -- it's an eclectic mix.''

Things undoubtedly are zooming pretty fast for Circle Seven. Ironically enough, as quick as the band's career is streaking, it took almost a year to move just a few blocks.

The group debuted on stage in October 1996, at the Yankee Clipper in downtown Rock Island. They honed their craft at the swarthy dive, often playing six-hour sets to dubious interest from the clientele.

``A lot of times we'd be playing to nobody for the first few hours we were on stage,'' Johnson said. ``But that was fine. It was a paid practice for us. It enabled us to get our sound together, write songs and work out arrangements. Most of the material on the album was written during those Clipper performances.''

The Clipper era ``gave them time to hone their craft and tightened them up, so to speak,'' Mr. Gabbard said. ``The Clipper is no different than the Whisky-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles, and a lot of big bands cut their teeth there.''

Eventually, though, the crowds and the rest of the Q-C music scene began to pay attention. The group moved on to headline a pair of RIBCO gigs and opened for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at LeClaire Park. They gained the stage time by winning a battle of the bands earlier in the day.

Tours around the country eventually are in the cards for the band, and somewhere down the road will be a second disc, Mr. Gabbard said.

``We've already got more than enough material for a new album,'' Mr. Dockey said, ``but we need to go through the songs and pick which ones are going to work best.''

With the latest album still peaking, they're not in much of a hurry. In the meantime, they'll just enjoy the ride, thank you.

``It hasn't really hit us yet,'' Mr. Dockey said about the group's rising status. ``It's been getting higher, the live shows have been more energetic, and there are more and more people coming out. But to us, it seems the same because we're still here. When we start traveling, it'll probably seem different.''

-- By Sean Leary (January 22, 1998)

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