The gang's back in town.
Members of Lawrence's once nationally renowned jazz band the Gaslite Gang will be gathering for a 45-year anniversary performance as part of a band concert Sunday to celebrate Lawrence's 153rd birthday.
Seventeen members of the Gaslite Gang will come to Lawrence from across the country to Sunday's event. Eight of them will team up to play Dixieland jazz selections at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the William Kelly Bandstand in South Park. The Lawrence City Band will follow with a concert commemorating the city's birthday at 4:30 p.m.
The event also will serve as a celebration for one other birthday. Band members will celebrate Clyde Bysom's 90th birthday. Bysom was a longtime member of the Gaslite Gang, playing saxophone, clarinet and flute. He still regularly plays at events today, sometimes four to five times a week. That's in addition to his job as an instrument repairman at a local music store.
City commissioners recently proclaimed Sunday as Clyde Bysom Day. He said it has all been an unexpected honor to him, in more ways than one.
"I didn't have any idea I would still be alive, or partially alive or whatever," Bysom said with a laugh. "But I'm very thankful. I feel very fortunate that I'm in as good of shape as I am. And my doctors tell me that blowing the saxophone is a big plus for my health. And the music just sort of sharpens everything."
Paul Gray, pastor of Lawrence's Heartland Community Church, founded the Gaslite Gang in 1962. He organized the reunion, and said many of the returning band members are still full-time professional musicians.
The band had national success during its heyday. From 1978 to 1982 it performed about 500 shows a year. It played for President Richard Nixon, was featured on a network television show with Andy Griffith, and saw every corner of the country.
"I look back on it now and it seems like a fantasy," Gray said. "I can't believe anyone would do it, or would be crazy enough to do it."
In addition to the Sunday afternoon concert, the entire 17 members returning for the reunion will put on a big band concert in honor of Bysom's birthday. It will be at 6 p.m. Sunday at Heartland Community Church, 619 Vt. The public also is invited to the free event.