- The actual idea for GT was conceived around 1996. "It was a name that I came up with, but was never able to use. So, I held on to it, looking for the right project to hang it on" Fred explained.
Fred met Mark Goines in 1998 when Mark answered a lead singer ad for a metal band Fred was in at the time. Growing increasingly unhappy with their current direction, Fred and Mark started looking for a new project. Ironically, during a visit to the home of Fred’s long time friend, David Dill, Dave threw out the suggestion that they start a band. Enlisting the talents of veteran rock bassist, Mike Faith, and Dill’s brother-in-law, Jack Hillenbrand, the band that would become Gonzo’s Toybox was born.
During early rehearsals, much thought went into selecting a name for this new entity. So much so that, out of frustration, Fred suggested the name that had stuck in his head years earlier, Gonzo's Toybox. For lack of a better choice, the name stuck and GT set about establishing themselves as Evansville’s premier party band, often driving hours one way to make little to no money. "Our first gig was a short ten song set at River Rock held at the now defunct Fast Eddy's in April of 2001. “We truly believed in what we were doing and were determined to make it work because Fred and I had wanted this for so long..." explains Mark. "It wasn't in our nature to complain and we were so green, we didn't know what to complain about, anyway" he added with a laugh.
Not all went smoothly, however. In under two years, GT was on their sixth drummer. Fred remembers: "We just couldn't find the right fit and were on the verge of calling it quits, to be honest. If we couldn't put out a quality product, what was the point?" It was at this time in 2003, seemingly out of the blue, that Fred received a call from drummer, Glen Foust, looking for a gig. Fred recalls the conversation: "I told him we might be interested, not wanting to seem too eager. He basically asked for the entire set list and said he'd call me in a few days. I thought he was kind of cocky and really didn't hold out much hope.” The band jammed with Foust less than a week later and were floored by what they were hearing. "He had it down...all of it!" says Fred. Thus, truly began the ascent of one of the area's favorite and most successful bands. "We went through a lot and struggled to get where we are today...we definitely were not an accident" says Mark.
Bassist, Mike Faith departed the band in early 2007, to be replaced, briefly, by Jamah Terry who went on to be a popular fixture of the Florida band scene. The addition of Stuart Martin on bass and Ed Sein, replacing Dave Dill on guitar and keyboards, in 2008 provided the band with a much needed kick in the pants and created their strongest lineup to date. GT proceeded to pack regional clubs and events, often setting attendance records and selling bars out of alcohol with their incendiary live shows.
In January of 2013, singer and founding member, Mark Goines, left the fold to devote more time to his family. This came as a heavy blow to the band and to Fred, personally, now the sole remaining original member. “You know, more than anything, I just miss my friend” said Fred. “I went through some really dark days there for a while. The two of us went through so much together, good and bad, but I get it…he was just so burnt out and really needed to step away.” Not one to give up easily, though, Fred realized that GT had become bigger than the sum of it’s parts and made the emotional decision to soldier on. After several auditions, vocal responsibilities landed with singer, Mitch Dupree, formerly of Beast Inc. Fred explains: “Mitch was a great singer with great technique and we put on some great shows, but his voice took us in a different direction that was just not as palpable for many of our long time fans. Not worse, just very different.” Then, seemingly out of the blue ( as with all things Gonzo ) the opportunity to acquire veteran vocalist, Brian Sollman, presented itself in March of 2014. Brian stepped in with no rehearsal, whatsoever, to cover vocals for Mitch, who left suddenly to accept a professional position, and literally redefined the current direction of the band. “We were all stunned at how well it went” Fred recalls. “Fans were coming up to us after the show saying how much they enjoyed Brian’s performance with the band and how much like the old days it was” he concluded. Indeed, Brian’s addition to the GT lineup marked a return to the heavier more rocking sound that Gonzo’s Toybox had become so well known for. Brian’s raw and powerful voice, along with his intense stage presence, was a perfect match for the band. “All of us in the band are looking forward to getting back out there and doing what we do best…rocking!” added Fred.
Having now won the Evansville Courier and Press Peoples Choice Award for favorite band several years running (including the Platinum award in 2007) and rocking more stages and events than they can remember, GT stands as a peerless example of what hard work and perseverance can do and look forward to scaling new heights with their fans in the future. Fred goes on to say: “We’ve been around for a long time, now. We have a revitalized love for what we do, so why quit? There are many things we still need to accomplish and, as long as it’s still fun for us, we’ll keep plugging away till we get there.”
Gonzo's Toybox is:
Brian Sollman- Lead Vocals
Fred Hunt- Guitar/Vocals
Ed Sein- Guitar/Vocals
Stuart Martin- Bass/Vocals
- Time to get into character...
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