By Amanda Retallack / Photography by Jamie Maldonado
The Man with the Golden Voice
When the multi-dimensional group Otis with The Metro Band takes the stage, it doesn’t take long for their music to get people onto the floor dancing, jumping and swaying. The group’s tunes span the genres from R&B to country to hip-hop and inspire positivity, excitement and elevated spirits in their audiences.
The East Texas based, six-member band has been performing hits for three decades and they’re stronger than they’ve ever been. With acts ranging from Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” to Prince’s “Kiss,” the team of musicians has what it takes to play any wedding, anytime and anyplace.
But Prince wasn’t always on front man Otis Webster’s set list. In fact, Prince would have been forbidden from his childhood radio.
“I started in the music business when I was only 10-years-old,” he recalled during a recent telephone interview. “My stepfather had a little gospel group and I would sing tenor on the mike.”
Otis always loved music, but secular music is what he craved – songs of Nat Cole, Tony Bennett and big band tunes.
“I had to sneak around just to listen to the good stuff,” he laughed.
Decades later, Otis has come a long way. He has had an exciting career in performing arts. The lead singer and musical inspiration of Otis with The Metro Band, Otis has been in show business for more than 40 years. His range in vocals and musicality is obvious as he talks about his travels and diverse musical past, ranging from jazz to country/western to disco and rock.
Aside from appearing with such greats as Glen Campbell, Johnny Mathis and Lou Rawls, Otis has performed in Las Vegas, New Orleans, Dallas and many other cities throughout the country.
And with the Metro Band band, he has enjoyed many new places and faces, as well. While the band has traveled far and wide since their inception in 1979, they have largely stuck to a tri-state area: Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
“However, our motto is Have Card, Will Travel,” mused Otis. “You name it, we’ll be there. It’s fun to get out of town. It’s good for the soul from time to time.”
The band consists of Otis on vocals with his smoky, smooth voice, George Faber (admiringly referred to as “King George”) also on vocals and key board, Joey Monk who rocks the drums and vocals, Crawford Davis on bass guitar and vocals, Kyle Stroud (not pictured) on saxophone and vocals and Tony Marsh on lead guitar. The kicker is that they all get a time or two on vocals and they are all excellent crooners.
What sets them apart from other live bands, you ask? Versatility.
“There are lots of great live bands around if you are looking for genre-specific music, but I do believe that we play it all well, jazz, country, rock, R&B, even hip-hop,” Otis said. “I don’t know any group who can do those all really well, but we do and we all sing. We have some world class harmony.”
The band specializes in music for all occasions be it conventions, festivals, private clubs, colleges, universities, fraternities, corporate parties, political rallies and reunions. But what they love most is weddings.
“When a bride books us,” Otis said, “she can expect a first-class performing band and first-class looking band on a night that she will never forget!”
“I wanted to thank you again for the wonderful job you all did at our wedding. Not only was it incredibly easy and stress free to work with you guys, but the band themselves made people want to stay on the dance floor. That says a whole lot about the band considering there was no alcohol at the wedding. I will be highly recommending you to anyone that asks for a great band. Thanks again and God bless.” – Chad Freije
The band plays about 200 gigs a year. They stay booked 3-6 months in advance, so Otis suggests contacting his wife, Bennie, as soon as you know you’d like them to play at your reception.
“Hire us and you’ll get more than what you pay for, that’s for sure,” he said. “We put the quality of our product ahead of the quantity of our profit. Nothing pleases me more than to see a bride happy on her big day. Music is a tool that we use to add value to the lives of people. If we can make someone happy with what we do, then it’s worth all the time and effort.”
Otis with the Metro Band