At Lamar High School in Houston, TX in the early 1970s, two friends, Craig Calvert and Cris “Ezra” Idlet started a duo called Neat Stuff. It was short lived. Craig and Ezra went their separate ways by the end of the summer of 1972. In 1973 they added classmate Connie Mims to form a trio. Wheatfield, began playing country-tinged folk music, mainly covers, in small venues like Tanney’s and Steak and Ale.
In 1974, they added Bob Russell, string bass, who they met after a trip to the Virgin Islands. The following year Wheatfield began making a name for themselves in Houston, playing at universities, like Rice and University of Houston, as well as making appearances on local TV.
By 1974, Wheatfield added another musician, Damian Hevia, drums/percussion. That year, they performed at Liberty Hall and the Kerrville Folk Festival.
1976 was the year that Wheatfield made changes to its sound and its name. They began adding electric instruments and added more of a jazz twist to their sound. After receiving a letter from an Oregon band that claimed to own the name “Wheatfield,” the band changed theirs to St. Elmo’s Fire. At the time, they were working with James Clouser of the Houston Ballet to score the rock ballet "Caliban." The ballet based on Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" influenced their new name. The ballet premiered in May 1976 to rave reviews and later travelled to Dallas and Chicago. It even came back to Jones Hall the following year.
St. Elmo’s Fire enjoyed other successes that year. Notably, they performed on the newly begun "Austin City Limits" TV show, toured in Colorado, and played at Miller Outdoor Theater alongside the first cast of "Saturday Night Live." In the fall, Bob Russell left the band and Keith Grimwood replaced him on bass and vocals.
Throughout the next year, the band continued to tour. They scored another rock ballet for Clouser, "Rasputin," which premiered in April 1977. They attended the NECCA convention in San Antonio to increase their national publicity. By the next year, they kept booking gigs across Texas and beyond as well performed at Houston’s Sidewalk Symphony, Rockefeller’s, and the Texas Opry House.
Despite all of this success, St. Elmo’s Fire never secured a recording contract from a major music label, which limited their options for venues and TV performances. Eventually, this fact took a toll on the band. Craig Calvert left in July 1979 and was replaced by Mike Sunjka. The band disbanded later that year.
In the 1980s-1990s, St. Elmo’s Fire reunited for gigs at Fitzgerald’s and other places in Houston. Around 2004, Craig Calvert, Ezra Idlet, Connie Mims, and Keith Grimwood officially reunited as Wheatfield and released albums in 2004, 2008 and 2014. They play shows throughout Texas, Arkansas and Missouri.
13.5 Linear Feet (10 boxes)
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