Local group books worldwide tour

Floundering under high stress surrounding the recent completion of the Therma-Flite deal, several prominent community members have taken leave of their positions with the intention of starting their own rock band.

With Union County Judge Mike Loftin on guitar and lending his grumbling voice to vocals, El Dorado Chamber of Commerce President Henry Florsheim on drums and Union County Industrial Board Chairperson Patty Cardin on backup, the trio have disappeared from El Dorado. Their group, Judge’s Chambers, will pick up in Magnolia on Friday for the first of many gigs — Jerry Bernstein’s bar mitzvah — they’ve planned for their upcoming world tour.

“I always wanted to rock!” Loftin explained, adjusting his newly-dyed blue coif. “Ever since I was a little boy, all I could think about was getting up on that stage, everyone in the crowd shouting my name, ‘Mike! Mike! Mike!’”

“Manic Mike,” as he now insists on being called, says the same gravely voice that he takes with him into each monthly quorum court meeting, will be the same with which he rocks out on Judge’s Chambers’ singles which currently include “Walk Like an El Doradoan,” “Stairway to Never” — in reference to the Timberlane construction project — and “Kiss From a Rose,” because “Seal is fabulous,” Florsheim said.

Fixing a tie-dyed bandana to his forehead and donning an equally bright t-shirt, Florsheim’s dreams as a young lad of jumping on stage to please a crowd with his drumming skills started early in his mother’s kitchen.

“I would constantly have band practice in the kitchen and dining room, banging on pots and pans with spoons,” he explained. “I eventually graduated to trash cans in the front yard before I joined an air band in 1990 and really hit my stride.”

He continued, “This Chamber stuff, it just came around as a way to make a little money to support my music career, but I can’t hold back any longer, I must rock!”

Plans to create a website with a complete compilation of the band’s schedule are underway, though as of now the members of Judge’s Chambers are more than willing to include new locations into their already crammed 2011 calendar.

Cardin expressed excitement that so many venues, not solely in El Dorado and Union County, but even so far as American Airlines Center in Dallas and Nassau Coliseum in New York have booked concerts with Judge’s Chambers (or “JC” as the band’s groupies have recently begun calling them).

As the backup singer, Cardin said she was originally reluctant to join the group.

“I have a great job here and just couldn’t see giving it up to head out to Germany and Australia,” she said, indicating two countries in which Judge’s Chambers has upcoming shows. “But you wouldn’t believe how interested people are in our style.”

That style, she explained, is a combination of old school country, indie rock and 90s rap.

“We want our sound to stand out from the typical pop music you hear on the radio today,” she said, grimacing. “We don’t play that type of junk.”

Booking Judge’s Chambers isn’t merely a matter of giving them a call, Florsheim explained.

With his marketing and negotiating background as an economic developer, Florsheim said he’s become quite the expert on getting the best of every deal he puts is hand in.

“Every venue that wants to get Judge’s Chambers for their event has to follow up on their end of the bargain before we’ll even consider taking the stage,” he said.

That list of demands includes hot stone massages, warmed lemon and honey tea for both Loftin and Cardin, — “To help loosen our vocal cords,” Loftin said — and a fully-prepared professional stylist on site to do hair and makeup for all three.

Main Street El Dorado Director Mark Givens was particularly thrilled that a local group would be bringing national attention to the city but expressed concern that Judge’s Chambers might not be available for MusicFest due to the group’s current popularity.

“The contracts for MusicFest were drawn up months ago but we hope we’re able to do some moving around to squish them in,” he said, adding that Main Street El Dorado would have no problem complying with Judge’s Chambers’ pre-designed contract. “However, I certainly wouldn’t want them to step on the toes of some of our more prominent MusicFest bookings.”

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