DPU grad continues musical partnership

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

It's 1974 and Catch is on the bill at Mr. Ron's.

Thirty-two years later, the members of Catch still play music. Some at the local level and others on a national scale.

Catch featured Rod Kersey on drums, and guitar work from Sandy Williams, Steve Michael and Mike Wanchic on guitar.

Kersey, Williams and Michael all reside in Greencastle and continue to perform. Wanchic, originally from Lexington, Ky., now lives in Bloomington. He is also one of the guitar players for the John Mellencamp band.

"He was always a great player," Kersey told the BannerGraphic. "He was an all-around great guy. We had no idea he would go 'pro' on us, but we knew he had the talent."

Wanchic has performed with Mellencamp for 30 years. Wanchic has also co-produced his last nine albums, including Mellencamp's latest effort, "Freedom Road," due out the third week of January.

"I think it's the best record we've made in 15 years," Wanchic said via telephone interview. "It's a very roots-oriented rock record. There's a lot of atmosphere on it."

"Freedom Road's" first single, "Our Country," is already getting noticed by people as it is appearing in television advertisements for Chevrolet's new campaign for the Silverado.

"We felt good about the iconic position of Chevy," Wanchic said.

Although he's spent nearly his entire life as a musician, Wanchic came to DePauw University to play football.

While at DePauw, he formed the Wakfield Summit, with Greencastle residents Bill Hamm (bass), John Birdman (guitar), in addition to John Voltz (drums) and Jack Green (keyboards).

Following playing in the Wakfield Summit, Wanchic formed Catch. The bands played Mr. Ron's, which is where the Putnam Inn is today. In addition, they played at Ole Topper's and The Bainbridge Tap, among other venues.

However, he moved to Bloomington in 1976 to take an independent course on audio engineering under the instruction of Jack Gilfoy, who owned a studio in Bloomington and worked as a drummer for Henry Mancini and others.

While there, Wanchic met a young Mellencamp, who was putting together his first demo. The two hit it off and have been performing together since.

Wanchic said the first tour he did with Mellencamp was as the opening act for the Kinks in 1978. The band also toured with Kiss.

"We just went around the circuit," Wanchic said.

Mellencamp took a sabbatical from music in the late 1980s, and during that time, Kersey said he paired up with Wanchic again for a couple of years.

"He had the whole thing going," Kersey said of Wanchic. "Him making it didn't surprise anybody."

In addition to performing and producing with Mellencamp, Wanchic has produced many other artists, including Blessid Union of Souls, Cowboy Mouth, Jimmy Ryser and the Why Store. He owns Echo Park Studios in Bloomington.

He began as a co-producer for Mellencamp with "Whenever We Wanted," which was released 1991. Prior to "Freedom Road," the last album Mellencamp released was "Trouble No More" in 2003.

Wanchic said his time at DePauw was well spent.

"For me, DePauw was a great experience," Wanchic said. "It allowed me to meet great musicians and grow musically.

"It was a good experience for me. Without DePauw, there would be no Mellencamp for me."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: