In 1972, Dixie Peach was a full-time band, touring all over the East Coast, from Ohio to Florida, and all points in between. Comprised of Ira Stanley (lead and slide guitars, vocals), Mike Rousculp (bass), Steve Williams (keyboards), Tony Paulus (keyboards and guitar), and Jerry Barnhart (drums), the group released their debut album on Raintree Records in 1974.
Dixie Peach opened for many of the hottest national acts of the time, including Joe Walsh, Roy Buchanan, Spirit, New York Dolls, Billy Cobham, and Blue Oyster Cult. Playing a fiery brand of southern and blues-tinged rock and roll, the group seemed destined for the big time. By 1975, however, the stress of traveling caused the band to break up. Members scattered to different parts of the country—some went to college, while some changed careers.
In 1998, many of their diehard fans were still hankering for more Dixie Peach and so the band, minus Barnhart, obliged by putting together a gig. The show, which took place at the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio, exceeded expectations and the band played to a sold-out house. As a result, Dixie Peach began playing the gig annually and billed it the “Annual Final Appearance.”
Things really started to build steam in 2002. Ira Stanley, now 61, won “best guitarist” at the Fortune Battle of the Corporate Bands held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Gibson Guitar sponsored the event and began to use Dixie Peach as a house band for many of its music functions. The band also backed up national performers and Gibson endorsees, including Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers), Lee Roy Parnell, Johnny A., Jeff Carlisi (.38 Special), Kenny Olson (Kid Rock), and Carl Weathersby. In 2002, Dixie Peach independently released a second album, Butta.
Today, the group is up and running with a fairly regular performance schedule. They’ve released another CD of original material, Blues with Friends, that features guest appearances by Lee Roy Parnell, Jack Pearson, and Etta Britt on vocals. Making Music caught up with Stanley to get the lowdown on what they’ve been up to for the past four decades, as well as how they managed to reunite after all that time.
What have you all been doing in the last 25 years?
After the band broke up, band members went their own way and completed college and started careers or families. Most of our time was spent doing the family things all of us do—coaching soccer, buying a home, etc. All of us were in our early 20s when the band broke up. Even though Dixie Peach was finished, each of us continued playing music, but it became a hobby. Tony and Steve W. [both 62] moved back to their hometown of Tiffin, Ohio. Mike  lives in Tipp City, Ohio, and Jerry moved to Tampa, Florida. I live in Dayton, Ohio.
How did you bring the band back together?
Getting the guys back together was pretty easy. We were still in touch socially through golf, dinners, and whatnot. We’re all still good friends. Everyone was enthusiastic about playing together again—we had a great run for those few years. Because we all still played music as a hobby, that part came easy. It always seems to work that way. People always ask how I remember all those songs. For some reason, I can remember all the words and guitar parts to songs I played over 30 years ago, but I don’t know where my car keys are. I think playing songs so many times over so many years leaves a permanent impression in a musician’s brain. It confirms how important practice is.
Our biggest challenge was replacing Jerry on drums. He moved to Florida, and no one could find him. Steve Benson  was the natural choice. He played in a cover band with Mike and me in the mid-’80s and played our style of music.
What are your day jobs and how do you balance them with music?
Dixie Peach is our priority, but each of us plays in other bands as well, mostly cover bands, which is a great way to keep current on material and keep our chops up. I assist my wife with the staffing business that she owns. Steve B. is the financial person for a nonprofit agency. Mike is retired, but still works part-time as a school psychologist. Tony owns a food service distributor in Tiffin and focuses on sales. Steve W. works there with Tony as an operations and IT manager.
How was the new CD recorded with you all living in different places?
All of the new CD is original material. Most of the recording was done in my home studio in Dayton on an Alesis HD24 ADAT recording workstation, on removable hard drives. Tony has the same recorder. As I was writing the songs, I would record a song arrangement to a click track to assure a constant tempo. Steve B. and I would then begin the process of adding drums, bass, guitars, and vocals. For the keyboard tracks, I would send the hard drive to Tony in Tiffin. He and Steve W. would add keyboard parts and get the hard drive back to me. In 1974, when we recorded our first album, we would have been carrying around boxes of two-inch tape containing the recorded material. Today, it all fits on a USB flash drive.
What are the band’s future plans?
We plan to schedule more shows this year with the release of the new CD. Since we are done raising families and have day jobs with somewhat flexible schedules, we’ll do some traveling for shows. Southern rock is very popular in Europe and Butta sold a lot in France. We’d like to do a few shows there next year. I have been contacted by someone who does a rock/blues festival in France. We also want to keep on recording. We already have enough material for the next CD.