Richard Smith - Bass, Vocals - The son of gospel singer Dappa Smith, Richard was born in Georgia and hails from the Athens, Ga. area. After college, Richard joined with Macon, Ga rock band “Paradise Lost” and signed a national management deal with Pat Armstrong and Associates. The group opened arena shows for national acts in the late 70’s including Ted Nugent, Dixie Dregs, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Jimmy Hall, 38 Special, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, etc. After two years, Richard moved to Jacksonville Fl. to work on a new project that would become China Sky, The group eventually signed with PARC/CBS records in 1988.
Richard settled in North Florida and began working as a professional musician for many resorts throughout the area from Orlando to Savannah. Jacksonville was a great location due to the popular resorts in Ponte Vedra and Amelia Island.
In 2014, due to the revival of the melodic rock market based in 80’s rock, Escape Records UK offered China Sky a recording deal. As touring was not a requirement of the contract, the band was re-formed with only two members; Richard and fellow original bandmate Ron Perry, Scottish keyboardist Tim McGowan formerly of the Randall Hall Band former Molly Hatchet drummer Bruce Crump and Danny Joe Brown Band guitarist Steve Wheeler filled in the remainder.
Richard is an accomplished guitarist, bassist and singer. He provides services as a soloist primarily but, often provides larger group performances from duos to 3-5 members as requested by client.
Richard’s interest in Melt Behind The Wheel began in late 2018. After a meeting the existing members and agreeing that writing, releasing music and focusing on Festival work as an original project would the the ultimate aim of the group Richard joined forces with Joel Bise, Bob Nicols, Chip Coates and Dexter Jones to form the fusion funk/blues/jazz group that is Melt Behind The Wheel.
Melt Behind The Wheel is a fantastic line up of great players and vocalists sure to amaze and provide a much needed alternative sound in the southeast today!
Joel Bise - Guitars, Vocals - Being born and raised in Nashville and being immune to music is nearly an impossibility. Such were the early years of Joel Bise, a truly remarkable guitarist, writer and session player. Though the family moved from the city to neighboring suburbs, the distance did little to keep a young Joel Bise from returning to the city and developing his musical skills. At an early age, Joel was taught piano, violin and cello but, like many young people discovering new music styles, he gravitated toward guitar in the end. Joel’s early college years found him developing a peer group of players with whom he jammed, recorded and worked with that continued on to record and tour with acts like the Oakridge Boys, Joe Bonamassa, Sam Bush, Johnny Cash and Robert Plant, to name a few. Joel excelled at his craft early on and the need to earn income found him touring in various organizations throughout the US, Canada and Carribean. Having reached a point of burnout from the constant traveling, he moved to Jacksonville, Fl., in the late 80’s hoping to find a more peaceful, laidback life for he and his family. Jacksonville, however, was not devoid of its own musical temptations. It was a more laid back atmosphere that provided an opportunity for Joel to focus on family and his passion for writing again. Joel quickly fell in with Jacksonville’s who’s who of musical renown and dove into writing and performing at a more optimal pace. His current position as guitarist and writer for the original group Melt Behind The Wheel has allowed his passion for blues, jazz and rock influences to be tapped for this groups amazing fusion style. Reminiscent of groups like Sea Level, Steely Dan and blues greats John Mayall and Clapton, Joel’s contribution to the group’s sound is a key factor in its driving alternative fusion appeal.
Bob Nicols - Drums, Percussion - How many kids have Granddads that owned vintage Ludwigs to bang on? That’s how Bob became infected! As with any young person with an itch to groove, Bob assuaged his by playing in multiple high school groups before leaving for the University of Georgia. However, his time in Athens was cut short when, after his first semester, Tim Lindsey (Rossington Band, Molly Hatchet) and Jim Leonard (Ritchie Havens Band) literally confiscated Bob and his belongings and returned him to Jacksonville to form the group “New Wine”. Unfortunately, as some new wines will do, it soured, leaving Bob and Jim Leonard to continue searching for the right fit.
Jacksonville at this time was hopping with opportunities with so much southern rock coming out of the area. Their networking soon paid off when Bob and Jim joined the progressive rock powerhouse “Hezekiah”. Though an odd genre for a Jacksonville band, “Hezekiah” was soon scouted and picked up by Discovery Agency, a notable booking and management group out of Atlanta.
Bob, along with the band, moved to Atlanta and began touring the southeast. Hezekiah performed all of the area’s rock halls and clubs which were prevalent at the time. Two years of constant touring was enough for the group and they called it quits. Bob remained in Atlanta and soon found session work at “Wilhoit Studios” where he met Grammy nominated keyboardist Mark Parrish (Dixie Dregs, Peabo Bryson). Bob and Mark went on to form a group that worked in the Atlanta area which allowed both to do session and live work, a much more fulfilling experience than the drudgery of touring. Though Parrish went on to accept the keyboard position in the “Dregs”, Bob’s commitment to session work remained, eventually morphing into the record label Tallulah! Media. Bob created this new company with friend David Mead, a noted Nashville singer songwriter and RCA recording artist. Through Bob’s innovative insight into the plight of artists in regards inequitable profit sharing between label and artist, he created a company that would allow more fair shares of profit to artists under this new label structure.
Bob eventually moved back to Jacksonville and, ever the artist, was soon introduced to Joel Bise and Chip Coates. Bob, Joel and Chip realized they shared a vision for a group that fused jazz, blues rock and funk in such away that ultimately created a hard funk/jazz sound and style for which “Melt Behind The Wheel” is now known.
Dexter Jones - Sax - Dexter developed his "ear" for playing blues at an early age by playing saxophone at church every Sunday. He continued to hone his skills through high school and college, where he was exposed to playing classical, symphonic saxophone. This forced him to have flawless accuracy and pureness of sound clearly evident in his performances today. During this period, he achieved several awards and accolades. Dexter had the opportunity to perform for world renowned saxophone instructors such as Fred Hemke and Eugene Rousseau in master classes. After four years of intense study, he achieved his Bachelors in Music.
After graduation, he auditioned and was hired to be member of the United States Navy Music Program as a saxophonist. This allowed him to perform at the professional level in all genres of music; Big Band Jazz, Jazz Combos, popular/top 40, and many more. In his 20 year career he had the opportunity to perform for Presidents, world military leaders, medal of honor recipients, and crowds totaling in the millions!
Dexter now brings his exceptional talents to Melt Behind the Wheel, adding a what can only be called the ‘WOW’ factor every time he takes the stage. Pardon the pun, but he literally blows the audience away!
Chip Coates - Keyboards, Vocals