Based in Athens, GA during the early 70s, the Suntower band set out to play the music that most bands of that day would not attempt. Focusing on progressive rock, Suntower took pride in playing the music that was blasting out of stereos in dorm rooms and military barracks, but rarely heard in bars and high school dances. Some of the groups that influenced the band were Yes, ELP, The Who, Deep Purple, Genesis, The Doors, The Guess Who, and Chicago.
The band was originally formed at the University of Georgia in early 1972 after a chance meeting between Bob Barnett and David George. Bob was instrumental in pulling together musicians that he had worked with before and respected.
The original lineup was as follows:
Daytona Beach, Fl.
The first effort with more than one of the members together was the band Living Proof.
Bob Barnett remembers: "If my memory serves well: Linda Solomon asked Kim to assemble a band to back her for the Miss Warner Robins Pageant -- Kim, Heck, (David) Huff, and I rose to the challenge. I don't remember the song but after we played it at the first rehearsal, a gaggle of babes suddenly appeared waving sheet music. We ended up accompanying several contestants and opening & closing the show. When it was all over, we decided to stay together; Living Proof was born. I think we played some gigs as a foursome, then Linda's twin sister, Sandy, came to a practice session and showed off her Janis Joplin chops. We recruited her on the spot. We played some more gigs with our new "female singer". Later on, Linda attended a rehearsal and spontaneously started harmonizing with Sandy. We guys looked at each other, mouths agape. I think Linda admitted to being a little jealous. We jumped at the chance to have beautiful twin sisters with long golden locks front the band. That was the complete LP lineup. It was great fun."
David Heck remembers: "We might have been a 4-piece group at that time - I can't quite recall. Yes, it was in Bob's backyard in a tiny shed. I do remember initially rehearsing in the living room at Kim's house."
Without a facility to rehearse in, Megahee, Heck, Huff, and Barnett rehearsed in an 8X8 ft utility shack in Barnett's back yard, with Heck and his drums up on a shelf! It was cramped, hot, and dusty, but the guys knew they were paying their dues.
After Megahee and the Solomon twins started college, Living Proof went by the wayside, but soon the guys got back together in Markham White's band Friction. They played every piece by Grand Funk Railroad that they could get their hands on. They played mostly around Warner Robins with a few memorable excursions to Thomaston to a teen club there (and food runs to "Piggy Park").
Meanwhile in Memphis, TN, Steele traded in his Farfisa organ for a Vox Super Continental. His last band in Memphis was The Branch Office, featuring Larry Parker on guitar, Tommy Riddick on Drums, Scott Parsons – then Jamie Potter, followed by Bobby Bolton on Bass Guitar. Lead singers went through the group like a revolving door and included Mike Morgan, Greg Zellner, Jack "Harland" Walker, Howard Moran, Sean Clary, and Frank McLaughlin. Steele left Memphis in 1969 to enroll at Georgia Tech, meeting Kim Megahee and Bob Barnett in the fall of 1971. His early influences were Stevie Winwood of The Spencer Davis Group, Ray Manzarek of The Doors, and Jon Lord of Deep Purple.
That same year, Barnett and Megahee found themselves together at Georgia Tech, looking to get a new band started. Megahee met Rick Sladek, a drummer with perfect pitch, a great vocal range and a great meter. Megahee recruited Barnett, and Sladek brought in rhythm guitarist Manuel Roman and keyboardist Steve Steele. This was the first time Megahee and Barnett played with Steele. The band was called Catlove, and they played predominantly at local events at Tech and some fraternity parties.
White's roots – His wife Sherri writes: "Markham was born in Perry, GA and spent his formative years in Warner Robins, GA. The 60's and 70's were bustling with musical activity in Middle GA. There was (and still is) no shortage of very talented musicians in the area, and it is no surprise that Markham caught the fever. By 12 years of age, he was playing guitar in bands around the area, playing at local junior high dances and the local youth centers. This practice continued until he left for college at the young age of 17. He followed his best friend, Bob Barnett, who was older and oh so cool to UGA, and it is during this time he met a group of guys and they shared an experience together that they have carried through the years. The experience was called Suntower. The experience was short-lived, as are all things in youth, but from that came life-long friendships and experiences that are only shared by the members. Of course there are those of us who have been around all these years, and hear the stories again and again, but somehow never tire of hearing them. There were many versions of Suntower in the 70's, and each version offered something special to its audience. Following the final break up of Suntower, band members went their separate ways and other bands were formed such as Skyline and BlackJack. Markham worked with all these bands at various times (Suntower, Skyline and BlackJack)."
Around 1971, David George was making an impact of his own. He remembers: "The Soul Service was formed at Sequoyah High School in 1966. Our band concept was to play nothing but 'soul' and five lily-white kids from the suburbs of Atlanta doing that at that time was fairly bold. Our claim to fame was the formation of the 'Hideaway Club', which at it's height, had 2000 members and was featured in an Atlanta Journal article. Of note, our bass player, Boyd Gaines, went on to win four Tony Awards on Broadway as an actor."
The first version of Suntower formed with original lineup presented above. After a very short while, Mike Lunsford left the band and was replaced by David Heck. For a while, it was a struggle to get together to rehearse. Barnett, George, Megahee, and White were in Athens in school, while Steele was living in Atlanta and Heck was in Warner Robins. The band rehearsed alternately at the Steele's in Tucker GA and the George's in Dunwoody GA, with one long weekend in an apartment in Athens between school quarters. That weekend was one long marathon of rehearsal, Hamburger Helper, and a really long game of Risk. Those of us who can still stomach Hamburger Helper after that weekend can't taste it without thinking of that weekend.
Eventually, David Heck's father took over the local cable company in Warner Robins and permitted the band to rehearse there on the weekends. They took full advantage of this and all migrated to Warner Robins every weekend, with Steele and George bunking in with the Hecks, Megahees, Whites, and Barnetts as needed.
White worked sound and took most of the existing pictures of the band prior to 1974. In late 1973 – early 1974, Megahee left the band and White, a very talented musician in his own right, stepped in to play bass.
The band went through a number of personnel changes over the next few months. David George remembers: "Suntower II was over before it began. Ended at the Band Box in Pensacola, FL on my mom's birthday, Aug. 31, 1974. We took a hiatus that fall then reconvened with Bob (Barnett), Billy (Callaway), Dale (Williams), David (Heck), me. That group was the nucleus of Skyline later on when Bob left."
During their years together, Suntower played a number of interesting venues around Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. For the most part, the band played fraternity parties and concert dates, with a few clubs sprinkled in between. Some key gigs were:
Memorial Hall, UGA – This was the first time that the Athens-based members had a chance to play in front of their friends and the source of some of the few surviving audio tracks from Suntower.
Sample Song/Set Lists
The repertoire for Suntower was mostly progressive. Some songs that the band played were:
We asked each of the band members to provide something about a memory of Suntower that sticks with them even today. The following are what was provided:
Today, the members of Suntower are spread out across the country in various professions. At last contact, here's where the members are today:
The band communicates regularly with each other through email and Facebook (except no FB for Bob "Facebook is evil" Barnett), and they still get together socially, though it's harder with Bob out in Burbank and Heck in the Denver area. They get together with family and food to make music every few years in Markham's AfterDarkDesigns studios. They also get together when possible when David Heck comes to Warner Robins for the (somewhat) annual Stillwater Reunion concert.
Long time fans of the band can communicate with them on their Facebook page. Search for "Suntower Band".