On Call is a seven-member group heavy on guitars, drums and, believe it or not, stethoscopes.
Consisting of registered nurse Leah Stokes on lead vocals, drummer and pulmonologist Gary Guidry, heart doctors and guitarists Vernon Valentino and Rick Dearman, internists Steve Salopek and Bradley Chastant Jr., plus dermatologist Ronnie Daigle also on guitar, the group has been operating since June of 2014.
Depsite the number of members, getting the band together was surprisingly easy.
“A patient, the late Ken Courville, was the bass player and singer for the old GTO [cover band]. He came by one day, found out I was learning to play the drums, and said ‘I’ll help you,’” said Guidry. “Rick Dearman said he’d join, [then] word of mouth reached Brad Chastant, and the jam sessions just grew. Vern [Valentino] is legit from New Orleans and played professionally.”
They do it for fun to escape stressful jobs. For a few hours in the day, they’re rock stars, not doctors.
“It’s just a blast,” said Stokes, a registered nurse at the Heart Hospital of Lafayette, who grew up singing in church. “It was very accidental. We never planned to play in public.”
At first, the band realized that gigs were hard to come by, too. When Daigle asked Daiquiris Supreme if they could play there, the owner balked.
“[The owner] was reluctant and thought we might drive away his clientele,” Daigle said. “He took a big chance. We advertised on Facebook, told all our hospital friends, and over 400 people showed up. People thought it would be a train wreck, but we surprised them. He sold a lot of daiquiris [that night].”
All are living the dream, albeit unplanned. They’re managed by Guidry’s wife, dress casually in black shirts to perform and practice every week to avoid stage fright.
Salopek, Guidry and Daigle all have offices in the Lafayette General professional office building on Hospital Drive. When they cite personnel issues as their biggest obstacle, they don’t mean band differences.
“You have to switch call with someone,” explained Salopek. “Once, we were packing up, and Rick got called for a gunshot wound in the chest and left immediately.”
“The day job always comes first. It has to, it’s the only one that pays,” Daigle said.
But the band is not about the money. The group’s Sept. 11 performance at the Grouse Room benefitted the Independent Fund, whose board of wounded veterans is seeking funds for a track chair, an all-terrain wheelchair mounted on tracks capable of transporting the disabled anywhere. On Call’s goal is to raise $15,000 through their live shows.
“It’s made it more exciting to raise money,” said Stokes.
As for fatigue the next day, On Call’s like any other band.
“I’m tired when I get there, but it’s exhilarating,” said Salopek.
Tours? “Maybe New Iberia,” he smiles.
But for now, Daigle has more patients to see, Salopek has to go to the hospital, and Guidry is — you guessed it — on call.