In the fall of 1997, in Knoxville TN, I related my experience of playing at The PALACE in Los Angeles CA. Tom McCombs heard my story and asked if I wanted to jam with him and his son-in-law Jon Clark. Tom played guitar and bass, and Jon was a great keyboard player. I was all up for it. In the picture from left to right are Tom McCombs – vocals and bass, Jeff Cravens – vocals and acoustic guitar, Dustin West – drums, Mark Salyers – guitar and occasional vocals, and John Clark – keyboards. Unfortunately not seen in the picture is Kevin Kelly – guitar (standing behind Jeff Cravens). This picture was from our last performance as a group in Nashville TN on Valentine’s Day 2001.
After the first jam session in 1997, we pulled in Johnnie Bobo as drummer and things started to take shape. Johnnie was a classic drummer, with a real jazzy vibe. Kevin Kelly had also heard my story about The PALACE, and shared that he played guitar and was interested in playing as well. The next thing we knew, we had ourselves a band. I think that we played one social event at Church and then we started practicing pretty consistently as a group every other weekend, or whenever we could fit it in. After a couple of gigs, Johnnie moved on to other things and we pulled in another friend from Church, Dustin West, on drums. Dustin was a great drummer. He had played for years in a local rock band and was looking for a good group to jam with. When Jeff Cravens joined us on vocals and acoustic guitar we became a true super group. That’s how I used to describe us.
Tom brought us all together. He was a versatile musician (vocals, guitar, and bass), had all of the sound equipment, and was really the patriarch of the group. We always practiced at the McCombs home out on the lake and they were always great hosts and friends. Jon was a composer for HGTV and really helped define our sound with his skills on the keyboard. Dustin was the best drummer that we could ask for. Kevin was a rocker on guitar and could play crazy lead. Jeff was a great vocalist and really took us to another level in the singing department. I was developing my skills on lead and growing as a performer and collaborator.
I don’t have a whole lot of pictures from our performances, but it was a great experience. We pulled together a show for Y2K and played for friends in the gymnasium to welcome in the year 2000. We played for a lot of other parties and gatherings during our time as a band at the McCombs home. I can’t remember who came up with our name. Since we had all met in the East, someone dubbed us the EAST JUNCTION BAND and that’s what we became known as – EAST JUNCTION. For me, it truly was a band of brothers. Some of my fondest memories of jamming are with EAST JUNCTION. But more than the music, EAST JUNCTION was about friendship. On Saturdays after we practiced, everyone’s families would come over for get togethers. It was pretty cool.
In early 2000, I moved to Nashville for work. It was tough leaving my friends behind. I went back twice – once to play at a wedding and a second time to play at a neighborhood picnic. In February 2001, everyone came out to Nashville to play with me at a Valentine’s Day Dance. That was our last performance together. More and more, I was settling into to my new home in Nashville. And with work demands, I was trying to stay local and get to know the area better.
– Mark Salyers