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Sheriff’s Office detective lives musical dream with 20 Ride

Lincoln County Sheriff's Office detective Richard Calhoun performs with 20 Ride.

Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office detective Richard Calhoun performs with 20 Ride.

Senior Writer

When Zac Brown Tribute act “20 Ride” takes the stage on Jan. 23 at the James W. Warren Citizens Center in Lincolnton, the show will benefit the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Fraternal Order of Police and the work that the organization does in the community. For Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Detective Richard Calhoun, his musical journey was one that started at four years old and led him to provide the backbeat for the international touring act.

“My dad and my brother played so I guess it’s in my blood and was a natural thing for me to want to do at an early age,” Calhoun said. “I just kind of taught myself to play. I play piano, guitar and bass guitar as well. I would say that it’s genetic.”

For Calhoun, 42, a Bessemer City High graduate who calls Gastonia home today, a variety of styles ranging from rock, country and gospel and virtually all points in between has served his musical pallet. For several years, he played locally in the band “Parris” with fellow detectives within his office.

For the last three years, “20 Ride” has become an international success playing gigs from Florida to Washington and enjoying two treks into Canada in 2015.

“The band has been a real blessing for me,” he said. “It is a great group of people to make music with and we have enjoyed the success we have had.”

Outside of the corporate shows that tribute bands most often entertain, 20 Ride has performed high profile events like a Carolina Panthers pre-game show at Bank of America Stadium.

As the group’s drummer, Calhoun often travels as light as possible, embracing drums that are provided in a “backline” for a specific event but, when possible, prefers his own kit.

“When we go to Canada we fly up and a backline is provided,” he said. “For most of our shows I play a full rack setup.”

The timekeeper plays a custom set of Thrust Drums, which are boutique percussion instruments made in California.

Preferring larger drums, the kit boasts a 24-inch kick drum and 15- and 18-inch floor toms.

For the band, the role of multi-grammy award winner Zac Brown is filled by East Lincoln High School graduate Jeremy Blalock, who calls Monroe home today.

“It’s funny,” Calhoun said. “When Zac Brown’s tour manager saw Jeremy perform he said that had to do a double-take. He looks and sounds so much like him.”

The group is represented by Charlotte-based East Coast Entertainment, whose artists include Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and Kenny Rogers.

“Essentially, this is kind of a dream gig for me,” Calhoun said. “I get to travel and play a lot of places that I may never get to go to. The money is fantastic and that doesn’t hurt. I am very thankful for the opportunity to do it and I don’t take the experience for granted.”

The detective said that the group is mindful of doing the music justice.

“There are hard-core fans who will pick it apart,” he said. “They want to hear it the way it is on the album. There are a few things we have made our own but we really do keep it true to form.”

The Zac Brown Band performs a lot of covers in their live set and 20 Ride takes note of those songs and performs them as well. A typical show for the band runs around two hours or more, which will represent what concertgoers will experience at the Citizens Center.

In a profession like law enforcement, where scheduling can change based on what happens in Lincoln County on any given day, Calhoun does his best to have his bases covered while he is away, which is generally weekend shows.

“We try to do our scheduling around Friday, Saturday and Sunday but that isn’t always the case,” he said. “Being a detective and being on call, I do have someone who can fill in for me at a show if I am called out to work, which is a last resort. It has worked out pretty well, though.”

The group played nearly 60 shows in 2015, most of which were weekend dates. The early part of the year slows down until festival season kicks in during the late spring.

“It gets crazy during that time,” he said. “I enjoy every minute of it.”

For the Fraternal Order of Police, Sheriff’s Office Cpt. Tim Johnson said that the show will help the organization fund the many community-based projects that it’s known for. A portion of proceeds will go to the Lincoln County school that has the most sponsorships associated with ticket purchases.

Tickets are $12 in advance and will be $15 at the door. Kids 10 and under are admitted free. Advanced tickets can be purchased in person at the Lincolnton Police Department, located at 627 East Main Street.


Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story listed the incorrect date for 20 Ride’s Lincolnton concert. The show is on Jan. 23.

Image courtesy of Contributed

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