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Greg Clutts

Greg Clutts recently took over as front man of Southern Illinois rock band The Deplorables. The band is one of 23 performing in the beer tent at the Du Quoin State Fair.

The Deplorables are heading in a different direction.

Essentially a ragtag conglomeration of Southern Illinois all-star musicians, the band was thrown together on the whim of Dave Clark and Greg Clutts last year to fill a date at the Just One More nightclub in Marion.

Clark is one of the most widely recognized names in area music circles, known for his outstanding traditional country music vocals. He fronted his own band for a long time, was the vocal heart of Jackson Junction for many years and played with Clutts in groups like Last Resort and Crenshaw Crossing.

Recently, Clark started a new job that could require mandatory weekend shift work, forcing him into an amicable resignation as front man for The Deplorables.

Clutts has taken over as lead vocalist in the group.

“I haven't been this excited about playing music since I was 18. Never planned on being a band leader. This just fell into my lap. Dave started a new job and had to leave. There are definitely no hard feelings,” Clutts says.

“I've spent my entire career as a lead guitarist. Chipping in a couple songs a night to give the lead singer a break was my role. We had too good of a thing going with this band to just let it fade away. We had to keep going.”

Clutts says The Deplorables are no longer a country band. The band cranks out equal doses of classic rock and flat-out rock 'n' roll. The set list is dominated by the music of Pink Floyd, Eagles, Kansas, the Beatles and Journey. They even cover the mainstream pop of Bruno Mars and Maroon 5.

Members of the band include: Kevin Breeden, keyboards; Steve Jones, lead and rhythm guitar; Joe Norris, bass guitar; Eric Westray, drums and Clutts.

Every member of the group has been a hard-working piece of the local music community for more than 25 years, playing in highly praised groups like The Gary Jones Band, Jackson Junction and Billy Cole Reed.

“We all come from bands that were popular for playing predominately country music. The stuff we are playing now is more challenging. There is chord progression and harmony, songs that you have to practice before ever attempting to play them in public,” Clutts says.

Gary Jones used to take his finger and fake making himself gag as a signal for his band to break into Bob Seger's “Old Time Rock 'n' Roll.” The group had played the song so many times it made them want to puke.

The Deplorables will not have that problem.

“We have to really like a song before we learn it. We've all been around the block, playing 'Mustang Sally,' “Sweet Home Alabama' and 'Good Hearted Woman' so many times we were completely burned out,” Clutts said. “We are doing this for us. If we like the orchestration and structure of an old Steely Dan tune, we learn it because its cool, not because its on the radio every 15 minutes.”

The 48-year-old Clutts is back on stage after an extremely long hiatus. He dropped out of sight a decade ago to focus on raising a family.

In 2016, prodded by area music legends Steve Earl and Tom Murphy of 1960s cover band The Wayback Machine, Clutts knocked the dust off and set in with the group a few times.

“We never rehearsed,” he says. “It just felt good to get my fingers back on the strings.”

This led to a few acoustic shows last year with Clark at Just One More. When bar owner Sammy Stilley needed a band to fill an unexpected opening, he urged Clark and Clutts to put something together. They pulled it off with a quick call to Westray and Norris, who came up with the name for the band.

After a couple personnel tweaks during the early days of the group, the lineup was finally solidified with the addition of Jones and Breeden.

“Back in the day, we took it for granted that whatever band we were in would be booked at Herrinfesta Italiana and the beer tent at the Du Quoin State Fair,” Clutts says. “Although we are now playing a different genre of music, our goal is to prove we are one of the best bands in Southern Illinois and play the top venues.”

The Deplorables will be in concert at 9 p.m. March 24 at Pup's 212 Bar & Grill in West Frankfort. They will also play in the featured time slot at Freedom Fest in Goreville on July 4.

Clutts will join Clark, Clayton Gribble and Justin Settle in playing individual solo acoustic sets at 5 p.m. on March 16 as part of the St. Patty's Day Music Bash at Just One More.

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VINCE HOFFARD can be reached at 618-658-9095 or vincehoffard@gmail.com.

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