Many know Walker Reid III as the mayor of Gastonia, but he's also a member of one of the most well-known R&B bands in the area. In what spare time he has, Reid is the manager and a singer of Image which for the third year, will take part in the Gtownsound Rhythm & Blues Concert.
The concert will bring together The Fabulous Flares, The Counts, and Image, performing in front of Gtownsound.
"If you like 60s and 70s music, live music, live band, live horn section, it gets no better," said Reid.
Reunited at last
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The first Gtownsound Rhythm & Blues Concert took place in 2011 as a reunion of Black Image.
The band was first formed in 1974 by a group of teenagers, managed by Walker Reid Jr. The band was popular, performing often both regionally and out-of-state. But after only two years, they broke up.
"We were young, immature, talented, so we had some conflicts, jealousy and envy," said Reid.
They performed for a reunion concert in 1986, and then again in 2011. The 2011 concert featured the original Black Image members performing with other area R&B groups.
"From there, we didn't want to stop. We did some regrouping, changed the name, and we're still doing it now," said Reid.
"Black" was removed from the band's name as a nod to the new lineup, and to combat any preconceived notions about the band.
"Black Image, I think to some, would have some negative connotations. But what can you say bad about Image? We don't want to be looked at as a black group; we want to be looked at as a positive image doing positive things, so we decided to do something different," said Reid.
Music as a hobby
The four refer to themselves as the baseball diamond, a tongue-in-cheek reference to their work schedules.
"I have one guy work first shift at Freightliner in Mount Holly. One guy works second shift at Freightliner in Gastonia. Another one works third shift for Freightliner in Gastonia, he works second shift now. I got two guys on second shift at Freightliner Gastonia. And I'm at home," said Reid.
The group performs concerts around their work schedule, about six per year. With mandatory overtime for some of the members and Reid's schedule as mayor, finding the time to do shows can be difficult.
"It's basically like a hobby for us. It's not what we do for a living because we all have jobs. It's a hobby we love doing," said Reid. "Hopefully we're pleasing people while we do it."
Held in memory
Despite the success of the 2011 concert, the next Gtownsound Rhythm & Blues Concert wouldn't be held again until 2018. Last year's concert was held to commemorate the deaths of local music legends Ron Ownbey and John Alexander.
Ownbey had been an organizer of the reunion and lead singer of The Spontanes, and Alexander musical director for The Counts. Once Ownbey died, Alexander helped to plan the concert, but he too died before he could see the 2018 reunion come to fruition.
The families of both men were in attendance of the concert.
Proceeds went to the Dream Center of Gaston County in honor of Ownbey. The center is a nonprofit that works with underprivileged adults and academically gifted but at-risk youth.
"That was something he was highly in favor of. We said what better place to donate to. That's why we use the proceeds to help in Ron's name, and we're going to do it again (this year)," said Reid.
Reid's involvement with music is something that came honestly to him and from an early age. He sang in the concert choir at his alma mater, Hunter Huss High School and performed in a band.
He was also around music through his father, who managed many bands throughout Reid's childhood, including The Magnificents, Gaston Band, The Turkcords, and Black Image. He often offered employment to young men without father figures to keep them out of trouble.
"My dad wasn't a musician, he wasn't a singer. He was just a guy who believed in people and wanted to make people happy and had an avenue to make them happy," said Reid.
His father's influence rubbed off on his children, with three of the seven boys (there are nine children total, including two girls) going on to manage bands.
"One managed The Gaston Band, one managed The Turquoise, and now I manage Image. It's amazing how that happened; he instilled those things in us growing up," said Reid.
Reid has taken up where his father left off with the band and will also be performing at his alma mater March 1 as part of the Gaston Concert Association's season, helping to bring everything full circle.
"I've always wanted to perform with my band. It's in the auditorium, so I'm going to get that wish," he said.
Another wish will be granted in May when Image will hopefully be able to perform in one of Gastonia's Sister Cities, Gotha, Germany.
Reid has been to Gotha twice, most recently traveling to the city in 2018 to celebrate the 25th year of partnership. In speaking with the mayor, Reid mentioned Image and a willingness to play. After returning home, he received a letter inviting them to perform at Gotha's Gothardus Festival.
If the band can raise the money for airfare and a hotel stay, they'll be performing overseas the first weekend in May.
"My ultimate goal was to perform internationally. I think most musicians would probably say that. To have the opportunity right here within a hand's grasp . . . to be able to go back and perform as the mayor of our Sister City, that would be cool," said Reid.
Here to party
Anyone who hasn't experienced an Image concert can expect to move. Their performances are family-friendly and filled with choreography, and the Gtownsound Rhythm & Blues Concert will be no different. The audience is encouraged to shake a tail feather or two along to the beat, as well.
"Last year was awesome. With ticket sales going on, I think it's going to be just as awesome this year, too. The crowd comes to have a good time, and they have a good time. Those that come, they come ready to party and we give them a party," said Reid. "What excited me last year was that when people are doing the choreography they see us doing and are singing the songs word for word, it gets no better than that for a performer."
Tickets are $25 and must be purchased online through Eventbrite.com. None will be sold at the door. No one under the age of 15 will be admitted.
For more information, visit facebook.com/imagegtown.