Thirty-three years ago a group of young Mainers started a band called “French Quarter.” It was started by Greg Goulette (bass, backing vocals) and Dan Casavant (rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals). Jim O’Neil (percussion, lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals) came on board as did Lisa Letourneau (lead vocals). Soon after, Casavant broke up the group to take on a bigger gig: marriage. And that would be the end of this story — but not quite. A few months ago, Dan and Greg and a gentleman named Randy Gould got together at the End Zone in Waterville. They started playing and singing and lo and behold, the Fossils were “discovered.” Those three gentlemen will perform Oct. 22 at a Proper Pig event in Waterville.

In a surprisingly short period of time, these three musicians — they are trying to get Jim O’Neil back in the band full-time — have become successful getting gigs all around Maine, including a New Year’s Eve show in the Sugarloaf area.

In a recent phone interview, Dan Casavant chatted about the history of his group and the fact that two of the four members are 60. The other two are 58 and “around 52.” Fossils indeed!

Q: Now that the band’s back together again, I just have to ask, is it everything you hoped for?

Casavant: I think the best way to answer that is a couple of ways. To begin with, it was a lot of work. Randy and Greg and Jim have continued to play, and I have played in church choirs so I know a lot of Catholic music. So to start again with contemporary music, I was familiar with the song, but I’d never played any. So to start out with, it was a lot of work, but we’ve gotten to the point where it’s more fun than it is work. And there is work involved in playing. I mean I’d forgotten how much work is involved in preparing, packing, arriving, setting up, playing and tearing down. So if you can make $100 a night, you divide that by the eight hours that it took to accomplish the task, you know? But I will say this, and I think the other three would agree, that having this kind of success at this age is a little easier to achieve because we’re smarter about it. We have some experiences now which we would not have had when we were 25. We were a little bit naive about it because success does not fall into your lap. You have to go out there and make it happen. And so each of us has some experience doing that.

Q: To what do you attribute your success?

Casavant: We’ve found our success by being a friends-and-family band. When any band starts out, their base of support is their friends and family, and the four of us have strong family values. I have five grandchildren so I think the message — the value — that I’m trying to teach them is that you’re never too old to get out there and perform and have fun.

Q: What’s a normal set from you guys like?

Casavant: Well, we have three sets that we’ve learned. We’re working on adding songs all the time, but a normal set with us might include medleys. We like medleys. We have (one) of Byrds’ songs — three songs all meshed together. Then we have a medley of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs that we do. We start “Ohio” with “Find the Cost of Freedom” almost a capella. We’ll do Jackson Browne as well. Probably the first set is the slowest. We’ve found that, even though we’re not really a dance band, people want to dance, people want to move and the music moves them. So we’re finding a balance between the kind of band we see ourselves as, and the generation of people that we appeal to, and the fact that, if we’re going to play at bars and if we’re going to pay our dues, we have to play music that’s danceable. But we always find at the end of the night there are a loyal few — some who have heard us and some who have never heard us — that stick around and they just want to hear us play. They just appreciate the music and the harmonies, regardless of whether it’s fast or slow music, and they clap and they ask us to keep playing regardless.

Q: That speaks volumes right there, man.

Casavant: Yeah, we’re building a following slowly, but I think success for us is happening much more quickly than we thought it would. We’re a bunch of guys who would typically be at the end of their career and we’re just starting out … and we realize we’re not yet the band that we’re going to become.

Q: What are your goals?

Casavant: None of us really thought about what our goals were except for me. I had some definite goals. I had some three-year goals which sort of coincide with the time my wife may retire. If I’m going to work, I would like to include my wife in my work, and I would like it to feel like retirement. This seems like a good vocational path: to have fun, to sing, to play, to party, to have people enjoy you, to hopefully get good enough so that we can play in resort areas and have it feel like retirement.

Q: What about the others?

Casavant: I think they hadn’t given a lot of thought about where they would like to be in the next two or three years. The thinking at first was, “Let’s just play and see where it brings us, see where it takes us.” So we’ve compromised that over the past three or four months since we’ve been playing out. We have realized that we’ve got to play, we’ve got to practice, we’ve got to get better, but we also have to set our goals. Otherwise we won’t achieve them.

Q: Is there anything you’d like folks to know about The Fossils?

Casavant: Just that I think you’re going to find we’re not the typical band.

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.


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