The Emerald Underground

Emerald Evolution

The Emerald Underground has come to here and now through a long strange seven year trip. In the early part of the twenty-first century, Stone Ring Circle was born out of the imagination of Lanny Montgomery. During the first year in the life of SRC, a trio of musicians, Montgomery on keyboard and bass, along with Jack White on guitar and Joe Kath on fiddle and mandolin, formed the foundation of what would become the only modern Celtic band Springfield has ever known. The addition of Laura Conant on flute and whistles and then Nat Radwine as percussionist rounded out the original lineup of Stone Ring Circle. Frequent guest appearances by vocalist Debbie Cremeens gave SRC audiences an extra treat during the band's mid life. The band development over the next several years brought a new and very different sound to area venues, music that was a long way from the rock, blues and classical genres in which most of the members grew up. Stone Ring Circle had success in central Illinois in a unique variety of performance styles. The band could be heard in a rowdy Irish pub one night and performing in a concert hall the next. It was a First Night Springfield headliner and the first band to play in concert at The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. SRC was on stage in an outdoor festival on the lawn of the Old State Capitol in the spring of 2004 when The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum celebrated it's opening. They have been in pubs in Peoria on St. Patrick's Day and on stage with then vice-presidential candidate John Edwards on his campaign stop in Bloomington. From country clubs and fall festivals to elementary school concerts and Robert Burns dinners, this band has been around.

In the spring of 2005, Jack White left the band at just about the same time that a new identity would be forced on the remaining members of Stone Ring Circle. An unexpected email from a Wisconsin based band by the name of Stone Ring, asked SRC to kindly change its name. Under threat of a cease and desist order, they explained that they had trademarked their name and that in this digital age, when websites and internet based music searches and sales are significant, a band so similar in name would surely confuse the world.

The band's search for a new guitarist and vocalist resulted in a windfall. A veteran of the Springfield music scene, Hank Helton brings a lifetime of experience to this band. Formally trained in guitar, Hank writes, arranges and is lead vocalist. The cheese head Irish band was obliged and thus began the quest for a new identity that would become The Emerald Underground. The next two years would bring the highest highs and a bittersweet end to some long musical relationships.

In the late summer of 2006, The Emerald Underground, in a defining moment, shared the stage with Scotland's finest indiginous modern band, Wolfstone. That concert took place at The Hoogland Center for The Arts in Springfield, Illinois and was a success on every level. By the end of the year, The Emerald Undergound released it's CD, 'Tales From The Underground.' The end of 2006 also brought the departure of Laura Conant. A job change required a family move and Laura is now in the safe hands of the Omaha, Nebraska music community. Our loss is their great gain.

2007 was a very interesting year for The Emerald Underground. In the best find since the gold rush of '49, Miss Theresa O'Hare has filled the vacant flute and whistle chair quite nicely. Sista T comes to TEU by way of professional flute background. Check out her bio for the detail. This year also brought the departure of founding member, Lanny Montgomery. It took big shoes to fill this chair. In fact, it took four shoes. After Montgomery's departure, founding member Jack White returned on keyboard and guitar. Also a long time veteran of the local music scene, the most excellent Bill McKenzie became the first full time bassist for The Emerald Underground and his talented wife, Lori McKenzie , has added vocal and percussion duties.

There is one other significant thing that happened to this band in 2007. The Celtic Mist Pub! John O'Reardon and Michael Conneely have opened this wonderful new pub on Seventh Street and it has quickly become home to The Emerald Underground. The Celtic Mist hosts once a month Hooleys on the third or fourth Thursday of each month. The Emerald Underground alternates with the trad trio, Exorna as the monthly Hooley band. Mr. Conneely, the proprietor, has welcomed TEU with open arms. The Undies are extremely grateful to Michael for his hospitality and for providing a venue that has brought the band many new friends. The Celtic Mist Pub has also provided The Emerald Underground the opportunity to gel into the best that it has ever been.

Although this long strange trip has seen some rocky road, the view from 2008 is clear and the road is long.

Check our news page for continued updates and breaking news as this story continues.