Hughes, Kidder and Rounds, former members of longtime Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts mainstay Cartoon, are gearing up for their final Arts Fest appearance on Saturday.
Jon Rounds, Randy Hughes and Glenn Kidder performed publicly for the first time as Hughes, Kidder and Rounds at the 2015 Arts Fest. This Arts Fest marks the group’s first performance at The State Theatre.
“I hope HKR will continue to collaborate, fight amongst ourselves about song arrangements and remain best buds,” Rounds said. “We’re getting weary of all the prep and travel involved in doing the Fest, though, so this will be our last.”
Members of HKR were together for almost 35 years as three-quarters of Cartoon. Rounds said there’s plenty of memorable stories from past Arts Fest. One involves harmonica virtuoso Richard Sleigh, who will perform with HKR at Saturday’s show, at one of Cartoon’s early reunion shows in the late ’80s.
Rounds recalls several classic stories over the years, including one featuring harmonica player Richard Sleigh.
“Cartoon was playing to a big crowd on Old Main lawn. Sleigh was playing regularly with the band at that point,” Rounds said. “As he kicked off one of the songs he sang, ‘Old Cowhand,’ we all started looking around at each other and checking where our capos were, because something was very wrong. Richard carries around a small suitcase with dozens of harmonicas in all different keys, and turns out he’d grabbed the wrong one. Without missing a beat, he swapped harps and — after a John Coltrane-like intro that had people scratching their heads — he nailed the first vocal line and we were saved.”
HKR’s sound draws from folk, bluegrass and country rock, Rounds said.
“People have said we remind them of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and James Taylor because our home base is acoustic guitar and vocal harmony and our lyrics tell stories,” Rounds said.
The band has been preparing for its final Arts Fest show.
“This will be HKR’s third year at the Fest, and I expect we’ll be that much tighter,” Rounds said. “One of the reasons is that between the first show and the second, we recorded ‘The Schoolhouse Project,’ and also a single, ‘Old Motorcycle.’ The recording process forces you to rehearse like crazy, to play with the elements of the song until it feels right, and all this carries over to live performance.”
“The Schoolhouse Project,” which was recorded at the Rock Hill School in Linden Hall, was released in May 2016.
“We sold more ‘Schoolhouse Project’ CDs at last year’s show than at any show in our 35-some years at the Fest,” Rounds said. “We have about 200 left. They’ll be available at the show and also online from CD Baby. ‘Old Motorcycle’ is only available from CD Baby.”
While the band only plays out about once a year together, they are seemingly always making music.
“Randy continues to write and play solo gigs in Pinehurst, N.C., clubs and sits in with bands as a bass player,” Rounds said. “Glenn has a band based in Covington, Va., that does his songs as well as those from Cartoon and HKR. I’ve been working on new songs with Terry Sweet, a ‘Morningsong’ bandmate of Randy’s, and rehearsing for a Backseat Van Gogh reunion at the Phyrst in August.”
For the Hughes, Kidder and Rounds, music is everything.
“Music? Nothing we’ve ever done means more to us,” Rounds said. “Whenever we’re in the same room, guitars come out and we get after it.”
The longtime bandmates have found solace in a slower pace to life, and two members have even begun a foray into an entirely new creative endeavor.
“Randy teaches writing at Sandhills Community College,” Rounds said. “Since retiring, Glenn and I have been writing fiction and searching for agents for our novels. We all continue to write songs.”
The show requires an Arts Festival button for entrance.
IF YOU GO
- What: Hughes, Kidder and Rounds
- When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday
- Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
- Info: arts-festival.com