ENJOYING THEIR GIG
The Zooks, whose reputation as a great party band was first established on Kwajalein Island, is now playing every other Friday night at the Firehouse Pub. The band includes, from left, Ty Bennett, Randy Cutshaw, Dave Byrge and Randy Razook. They will be playing this Friday beginning at 5 p.m.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- There's a four-man band playing these days at Firehouse Pub that has its roots in the Pacific's Kwajalein Island.

Spend a few minutes with The Zooks, and it is evident their free-style, fun-loving, laid-back ways are very much reminiscent of rock bands with an island twist.

Featuring singers Dave Byrge on drums; Ty Bennett on keyboard, guitar and harmonica; Ray Cutshaw on bass guitar and Randy Razook on guitar, The Zooks has a reputation that goes back to the days when Cutshaw and Razook played with a band on Kwajalein Island.

"This version of Zooks came together about a year ago," said Razook, who played with the original band on Kwajalein Island.

"Ty and Dave are brothers-in-law and they've played together for years on a lot of different islands. They were professional musicians for a decade in the '90s. Ray and I got together when we were working on Kwajalein in 2000. When the four of us got together, it was really easy to just pick up and play together."

The Zooks are performing this Friday from 5-8 p.m. at the Firehouse Pub. Their other gigs at the pub are on April 2, April 16 and April 30.

"After their last date, Firehouse Pub will close from May until August," said Anna Arwood, administrative assistant at the Officers and Civilians Club, which also manages the pub.

"It will be renovated with new restrooms on the first and second floors, a new stage and an expansion of the space. It will have a whole new look with large garage doors in the front that open out to an open air seating area. The Zooks will come back at the end of the summer to play for our opening night."

The renovations will enhance the pub's firehouse ambiance. The building dates back to the 1930s or 1940s and was Redstone's first firehouse.

Until the temporary closing, Firehouse Pub is open Tuesday through Friday beginning at 4 p.m. Located in building 114 on Hankins Road near the Officers and Civilians Club, the pub features a big-screen TV, darts, pool tables, a patio court with tables and catering services on the second floor. The pub offers complimentary snacks, including "cook your own" hot dogs and hamburgers with a beverage purchase.

And every Friday it features The Zooks.

"This is a great gig," Razooks said. "On Kwajalein, we use to play for free to just get the gig. It was always fun. A lot of the people we played for on Kwajalein now live here. We call this Kwajalein East. We knew if we advertised ourselves as The Zooks, we'd get a big crowd in."

That's what happened on the evening of their first Firehouse Pub gig. On March 5, the pub was nearly to capacity with revelers who enjoyed the music, the impromptu guest performances and the rousing, fun style of The Zooks.

"When you are on an island playing, there is a certain atmosphere that you create," Bennett said. "We are trying to bring that island atmosphere here. On an island you are far away from the stresses of life and you completely forget about work. You enjoy your time with friends and co-workers. It's all different folks mingling together."

"It's a 'Don't worry. Be happy.' atmosphere," Razooks added. "We are a band of inclusion. We don't leave the audience out. We get them on the stage."

The band also welcomes guest performers, such as Maj. Josh Baker, an Apache pilot and banjo player who played with a bluegrass band while deployed to Iraq, and Redstone Arsenal employee Joe Ausfahl, who plays a mean rendition of Rod Stewart's "Do You Think I'm Sexy'" on the bagpipes.

The Zooks play a wide variety of music, including tunes from the Blues Brothers, Eagles, Steve Miller, Wilson Pickett, Beatles, Prince, Tom Petty, Young Rascals and Rolling Stones.

"It's '60s and '70s rock-and-roll with some '80s, '90s and '50s," Razooks said. "We're rock-and-roll and rhythm-and-blues."

"They're going to know every song we play," Cutshaw added.

The Zooks are both professionally and ear-trained, which makes it easy for them to pick up a new tune.

"We're all avid music listeners," Bennett said. "If we've heard it and know it, we can play it."
Because of their experience as musicians and performers, The Zooks can take requests from the floor. The group gets together once a week to practice new material.

"We have a lot more freedom to improvise," Bennett said. "We rarely play the same song the same way twice."

The Zooks augment the fun at Firehouse Pub. But they don't take center stage.

"We're not really the kind of band where you sit and watch the band," Bennett said. "We're more a reason to kick back and relax and have a good time with your friends."

"We're the sound track to the party," Byrge said.

The Zooks hope to have even more gigs on Redstone Arsenal through Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation. All four work on the Arsenal or for a local defense contractor. For that reason, they plan on staying long-term in the Huntsville area.

"We're professionals," Bennett said. "We have professional jobs. We love our jobs and our families and we love to play our music. We're not looking for a big break in Nashville. We're leveraging our talents to bring our music to people here. We've all got common interests and common goals that keep us here."

The Zooks enjoy playing for Redstone Arsenal audiences and especially at the Firehouse Pub because they know their audience is filled with appreciative veterans, Soldiers and civilians who work hard for their nation.

"The Redstone community is the most deserving of live music," Bennett said. "It can be stressful working here. Everyone knows someone who is deployed or has been deployed. This is a great place for us."

Page last updated Fri March 19th, 2010 at 16:43