‘Real People’ retire after 35 yearsPublished 9:13pm Monday, January 14, 2013
They played for dinners and dances, for parties and local benefits. They rock and rolled to Motown and Top 40, to Elvis and the Temptations. But after 35 years of jamming together, the Real People Band has stopped the music.
Their first performance was in 1977, at the American Legion Christmas party. Since, they’ve shared their talents onstage at the Washington Summer Festival, at weddings and pig pickings, private parties and public ones. According to bass player Edmund Ipock, the band and its many helpers over the years always put forth special efforts to make every dance or event fun and exciting.
The glue that kept the band together was a love of music and donating their time and talents to good local causes. For years, the band played events for the Shriners and the North Carolina Burn Center with proceeds going to help burn victims and directly to help disabled children, especially those belonging to families in need.
“Benefits were the highlights of our playing time,” said Ipock.
The good will of the Real People Band was returned to Ipock in the fall of 2011 when a cookout and dance was held at the Red Men’s Lodge in Washington. Ipock suffered a stroke at the age of 62 — without insurance and unable to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, he was inundated with expenses, from doctors’ bills to prescription medications. After the event, he said he could better understand how others felt, having been on the receiving end.
Ipock said the band’s members were practically neighbors and spent years practicing and just hanging out in keyboard player Nathan Woolard’s shop off of Slatestone Road. Alton Toler was the band’s lead guitarist and Elton Ipock and Timmy Fisher alternated playing drums with the band. They were all vocalists and harmonists — each with their own “special sound,” said Edmund Ipock.
Ipock referred to Woolard as the “backbone” of the group, and when Woolard was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and succumbed to the illness in October of 2009, it was a tremendous blow to the band.
The loss of Woolard and Edmund Ipock’s stroke were the primary reasons why the band has decided to turn off their microphones, for good. But they won’t be putting down their instruments anytime soon. In fact, Ipock’s doctors have told him to continue playing the bass, since it functions as physical therapy. The left side of his body was impacted by the stroke, but manipulating his left hand up the bass guitar’s fret board improves his dexterity.
“You’ve got to have a lot of patience, though,” Ipock laughed.
Ipock said he and the other band members will always remember their time on stage, the many people who came out to hear them and expressed gratitude for the opportunities and the friends and fans they collected along the way.
“We played because we wanted to help people … because we enjoyed the same music and loved playing together,” Ipock said. “We enjoyed every minute of playing and making music together.”