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Nantucket

Long way to the top

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For some bands, fame is just one song away. Some find that song, and others—like Jacksonville-based rock band Nantucket—don't. Larry Uzzell, a trumpeter, vocalist and co-founder of Nantucket, shared the stage with bands like AC/DC, Kiss, Cheap Trick, Styx and Journey. Nantucket was even the subject of a bidding war in 1977, and Epic Records eventually walked away with the rights to the band's first three albums. They sold a few hundred thousand records, but they never made it beyond footnote status and regional favorites.

"It's funny how things worked out, ya know, when people who were your openers make it to the top and you're left somewhere in the middle," says Uzzell from his home in Raleigh. "Both Molly Hatchet and the Cars opened for us, and then they got that one hit song and hit it big. We never got that chance."

Uzzell laments that missed No. 1 spot and attributes it to bad band management, but he remembers those touring days as some of the best times of his life: "There's nothing better than stepping onto a stage and seeing thousands of people just waiting to see you play," he says. "Back then we were with the major acts like AC/DC and Kiss that would draw huge crowds. But people were singing along to our songs, too."

Almost three decades later, Uzell recalls even the band's worst days with a laugh, like when they were touring the West Coast with AC/DC. Nantucket's bus broke down, so they rented several rooms in a fancy San Francisco hotel. "We were waiting for a part to be shipped in to fix the bus. We waited so long that our money ran out," remembers Uzell. "There were 11 dudes crammed in one hotel room eating sardines from a can."

And while Uzell speaks fondly of the road, what he misses the most about Nantucket's glory days is holing up in the studio with his friends and working on an idea for a song. Hinting about a surprising new direction for Nantucket, he may get another chance: "Lately, I've been listening to a lot of country music—not the older stuff like Waylon Jennings or Cash—but country pop. I think Nantucket's sound vibes with that well."

Until then, there will always be the reunion shows, with smiling faces beaming old memories to and from the stage. —Kathy Justice

Nantucket plays Lincoln Theatre Saturday, Nov. 17 with Parmalee and SwampdaWamp at 9 p.m. Stratocruiser plays after Nantucket. Tickets are $14-$17.

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