A quarter century ago, two Natchitoches friends, Rodney Harrington and Rodney Allen, were lamenting the fact that their band, Dick Dante and the Infernos, had broken up due to the death of one of the members. They decided to form a new band, including some of the members of the Infernos, along with some other Natchitoches area musicians. Now they had a band, the problem was they didn’t have a name.
“I’d been reading a book about the Beatles,” Harrington said, “and had read that one of their earliest names was ‘Johnny and the Moondogs.’ I loved the name and knew that it would be great for a logo, but felt that we couldn’t use the exact same name.”
It was around that time, in 1994, that major earthquakes had struck California and the two Rodneys almost simultaneously had a brainstorm: “Why not Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs,” they both exclaimed, almost at once! They agreed that this would be a really cool name for a band and project kind of a “rocking,” “shaking” image, plus, they felt the name suggested a free-wheeling, fun group which they definitely planned to be.
Now, 25 years later, Rodney Harrington, or Johnny Earthquake, is the only original member of the band that remains and the Moondogs have taken the fun, free-wheeling spirit that the two Rodneys envisioned back in 1994 to heights they probably never imagined.
Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs is now one of the top party and show bands in the South, and are literally known across that region for their high energy, versatile shows and concerts.
The accolades have been many over the years, Battle of the Bands Champions, several “Best Of” designations, including “Cenla’s Best Band,” and most recently, receiving the nationwide “Best of the Best” wedding band national award four years running from “The Knot” wedding planning website, and being named to The Knot’s Hall of Fame for wedding bands.
Harrington has been named to the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Hall of Master Folk Artists.
Along the way, reviews by media, renowned musicians, and clients, alike, have been glowing.
City Lights entertainment magazine described the Moondogs as “Quite simply Louisiana’s Best Showband.” Portfolio entertainment magazine said “No other Louisiana band can touch them!” Rock Legend, Eddie Money, called them “The best Louisiana Band in the World.”
Grammy winning, David Letterman bandleader, Paul Shaffer, referred to the Moondogs as “My favorite band.” Country music superstar, Trace Adkins, declared “The Moondogs Rock!” and artists like Mike Love of the Beach Boys, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, Sammy Hagar, Tanya Tucker, and Vince Gill are on record expressing their desire to “Jam” with Johnny Earthquake & The Moondogs.
The list of musicians who HAVE performed with the Moondogs is no less impressive. They include Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Elvis Presley band leader, James Burton, along with other Elvis band members, Estelle Brown and D.J. Fontana.
Also, sharing the stage with the Moondogs have been Trombone Shorty, Rick Derringer, Sam the Sham, Steve Lukather of Toto, T. Graham Brown, Joe Stampley, Wayne Toups, Jo El Sonnier, Mitch Ryder, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, members of Eric Clapton’s band, Rod Stewart’s band, Michael Jackson’s and Janis Joplin’s bands, along with members of Chicago and The Doors. The Moondogs still found time to go in the studio and record several critically acclaimed albums.
Johnny Earthquake, himself, has performed with The Beach Boys, The Doobie Brothers, Percy Sledge, Badfinger, Mitch Ryder, Wayne Toups and many other acts. Johnny even has his own popular, syndicated radio show, “Jammin’ with Johnny – The Johnny Earthquake Show,” on 100.7 KZBL in Natchitoches and 99.9 KTEZ in Sabine Parish.
Moondogs’ fiddler, Andrej Kurti, recently performed at a Nashville concert with Brian May of Queen, Joe Walsh, Sammy Hagar, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees, Paul Shaffer, Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Tanya Tucker, Jason Scheff of Chicago and many others.
Saxophonist, Marcus Davis, even performed at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration.
OK, enough name-dropping. One might think, with that kind of résumé, the Moondogs would be past performing at weddings, Mardi Gras Balls and the like. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
“Yes, we get to play some cool stuff with amazing, legendary performers,” said Moondog guitarist and manager, Adam Guillory, “But our bread and butter, and some of the best and most fun gigs, remain weddings, Mardi Gras Balls and parties, festivals, and other events in our area.”
When asked what the Moondogs’ favorite gig was, Guillory said it’s a tough call. “We’ve had so many great ones,” he said, “like getting to play with so many big stars in front of huge crowds.”
“But if I had to pick one favorite,” he said, “I would have to say our annual ‘Bands on the Beach’ concert we’ve played for the past seven years on Pensacola Beach. The venue is amazing, looking out over the gulf, with thousands of excited fans in attendance.”
The sentiment is confirmed by Buck Lee, former Executive Director of the Santa Rosa Island Authority which books the event. “I’ve been booking bands for over 30 years and have booked hundreds of bands of all shapes, sizes and types. I can honestly say that Johnny Earthquake & The Moondogs is the best band we’ve ever had at Bands on The Beach. We love the Moondogs.”
Harrington said the Moondogs are most proud of the charity work they’ve done over the years. “We’ve played countless charitable concerts and events to benefit such worthy causes as the American Cancer Society, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, the James Burton Foundation and many more. We even recorded and released a Christmas CD and donated all proceeds from the sale of it to the Louisiana Special Olympics.” Harrington figures that the band’s charitable efforts have helped raised many hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for the various causes.
Harrington says he doesn’t know if the Moondogs can make another 25 years, but for the time being, they plan to keep playing “The stuff that screams are made of!”