For 21 years, Roy Culbertson was a math and computer teacher and a soccer coach at Signal Hill School in Belleville.
But in his younger days, he was a singer/songwriter who spent part of a year touring with the New Christy Minstrels.
This comes up because of an Answer Man column a couple of weeks ago in which he explained the origins of the name New Christy Minstrels which refers to a group of musicians who sing folk music. Yes, they still exist.
The column led some people to call us and tell us there were other members in the area. That isn't surprising I guess. There is a website which lists all the members and there are more than 200. Culbertson is number 122. He joined in 1972.
"I had graduated college and I was on the road, doing whatever I could to play music," he said.
He grew up in the west end of Belleville and had a teaching degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. But he wanted to have some fun before he became locked into a job.
He was roaming the country, playing music for a living. One night he was scheduled in Crawfordsville, Ind.
"Sometimes you get there in time to see the person before you perform," Culbertson said. "The guy who was playing had just left the New Christy Minstrels. He heard me and said I ought to try out.
"I had no idea what they were all about.
"He called the owner, a guy named Sid Garris, and I auditioned over the phone. I actually laid the receiver on a table and played my guitar into it.
"He said sure, sent me an airline ticket to Houston where the group was and told me to show up."
Culbertson said that apparently wasn't unusual. Garris and another guy had bought the group from founder Randy Sparks and ran it from Los Angeles.
"There was quite a bit of flow to the group," Culbertson said. "A lot of people would come and go."
So he watched the group for a performance or two and then was with them on a train to Miami where they opened for Milton Berle at a show in Miami Beach.
"Then we toured New England," he said. "It really was kind of a crazy thing.
"Like a lot of other things it kind of seemed glamorous but it was not what it seemed.
"We were paid a couple hundred dollars a week but we also paid for our own food and rooms. We often moved packed into a bus or van."
The worst thing, he said, was eating on the road all the time.
He stayed with the group for about six months then left when they were in San Francisco.
"They asked where I wanted to go so I asked for a ticket to New York," he said. He ended up in New Jersey visiting another group alumnus.
But he wasn't quite out of the group, yet.
"While I was there, he got a call from Garris," Culbertson said. "They had managed to book the group in two different places at the same time, Hot Springs, Ark., and Oregon.
So they decided to just form another temporary group.
Both the men joined in and played Hot Springs, for a week.
"We opened for Roger Miller," Culbertson said.
Eventually he ended up in Nashville, Tenn., playing and writing music. Some of the friends he played with had hits.
"We were like a school class," he said. "After a while they graduated. I never did."
He began to feel the need to settle down. He got a job teaching math, married and had kids.
The family moved back to the Signal Hill area and found a nice house where they still live.
A year later he started teaching at Signal Hill School. He is retired now.
But he never let go of his music. His band, a loose knit group he calls the Roscoe Beano Band, has recorded several albums of his original music and still play each year at Art on the Square.
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