Williams Honor discuss their history with Light of Day — and plans for this year’s LOD shows

williams honor interview


Reagan Richards and Gordon Brown of Williams Honor.

Williams Honor — the country-rock duo whose many appearances at this year’s Light of Day WinterFest will include the Kick-Off concert at Asbury Lanes, Jan. 18, and the main concert at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Jan. 20 — has longer running ties to the festival than just about any other act. After all, guitarist-songwriter Gordon Brown performed at the first concert in the series — a birthday party for Bob Benjamin that turned into a fundraiser to raise money for the fight against Parkinson’s disease — all the way back in 1998. Benjamin, who works in the music industry and suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has continued to be the primary organizer to the present day.

Brown and singer-songwriter Reagan Richards also first performed as Williams Honor at a Light of Day concert in 2015.

In addition to the Asbury Lanes and Basie concerts, they are scheduled to perform at Light of Day events Jan. 17 at City Winery in New York; Jan. 21 at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park; and Jan. 27 at The Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair. And, as you can read below, they may make a guest appearance with James Maddock at The Wonder Bar, Jan. 19, as well.

For information on all Light of Day shows, visit lightofday.org.

I spoke to Brown and Richards by phone last week.


Reagan Richards and Gordon Brown of Williams Honor.

Q: To preview Light of Day this year, I’m going to do a series of interviews talking about people’s experiences with it over the years. I know it’s primarily a charitable event, but it’s become so much more than that.

Richards: It has. I have to say, I can’t really talk about what is happening today without talking about what started this whole thing. And Gordon was part of day one with all of this.

Brown: Bob was always — and still is, obviously — a dear friend of ours, and all of our former bands. We used to do this Softball Sunday. We were carrying on the tradition of the generations before us with the radio DJs and they’d come down to the beach and we would do softball on Sunday. We just had such a great time with the bands, and guys in (the bands) The Outcry and Mr. Reality in the early ’90s. Bob would bring the bases and the balls religiously every Sunday and made sure that our asses were on that damn field, no matter what. He was militant about it, and we loved him for it. It was great. We always had a big meal afterwards, and Bob led the way.

Q: This was like bands vs. DJs?

Brown: Yeah. The Springsteen camp used to do that, and the Bon Jovi camp, and we kind of took it on in the early ’90s. It was always a blast and everyone down in the Asbury Park area would come play and be a part of it. We really got to know Bob well during those days. Then, a few years after that, we played his birthday party at The Downtown (in Red Bank), which kind of started this whole thing. We were (the band) Samhill at the time.

Q: And then you pretty much played it every year since…

Brown: I have been there in one form or another, with all of the bands through the years or (a) “Writers in the Raw” (show) or whatever it was. We’ve always been there, and everyone that I’ve worked with has been there. (Former bandmate) Peter Scherer has been doing his acoustic shows every year and a couple of years ago, we got up and did a little (Mr. Reality) reunion during the Kick-Off, which was great.

Parkinson’s has been in my family, and all of the related diseases hit very close to home for us. We love taking part in it and it’s become very special for everybody in our area.

MICHAEL STAHL, portraitsbymichaelstahl.com

Reagan Richards and Gordon Brown of Williams Honor.

Q: Do any shows, over the years, really stand out for you?

Richards: They all do. This will be my 13th year as part of Light of Day. And each year brings something. There’s just that feeling of community, which is so wonderful. As Gordon mentioned and you mentioned, of course, it’s for charity, but at the same time, we get to see people that we don’t get to see that often because we’re all working and it’s really an unbelievable togetherness feeling. So to pick out one in particular is tough, because every year has a special aspect to it.

I think it’s been the past three or four years, we’ve done Kick-Off show. It was at House of Independents, and now it’s at Asbury Lanes. It’s a great way for all of us to get together and say, “All right, here we are.”

Brown: And we finally get to do the full band show this year, at the Basie, on the big stage. We’ve been playing it acoustic every year.

Richards: We’re gonna be coming out loud and proud at The Basie, with all of us.

Q: I know you did the European shows recently (the European Light of Day Tour, in November and December). Was that your first time doing Light of Day in Europe?

Richards: It was. We had such a blast. And I gotta tell you, and I’ve been telling everybody, the job that they do on this tour is top-notch. (Performer and Light of Day president) Joe D’Urso, who really leads the way, put on a spectacular array of events for all of us to take part in and he really left no stone unturned.

After the first night, you really become a band. James Maddock, Joe, Rob Dye and … you know, (former Light of Day Foundation president) Jean Mikle comes along and helps with merch and making sure we’re all in great shape. And Joe’s band overseas comes and plays and there’s special guests every night, there’s all kinds of different venues, but the beautifulness of having the music across the world and the camaraderie across the world really makes it a monstrous piece of branding for Light of Day. And you realize how important this thing is in the fight against Parkinson’s around the world. Everyone takes part in it. It’s amazing.

Richards: And what was so beautiful … we go to Europe with everybody and, like Gordon said, there is this outpouring of love and support. They’re singing everybody’s songs. They’ll come up to you and say, “We saw you in Asbury Park at Light of Day.” And all of a sudden they’re singing “No Umbrella,” a William honor song. It’s almost surreal. I can’t say enough how honored we were, no pun intended, to be part of something that is so much bigger than any of us.

The cover of Williams Honor’s 2022 album, “Ex.”

Q: I don’t think most people realize it but a significant part of the attendance at Light of Day in Asbury Park each year is people who come from Europe to do the whole festival.

Richards: Oh, absolutely.

Brown: I’m glad you’re bringing that up because you’re right. When you’re from the Shore area, you see all of the tourism through the years and you see people come to The (Stone) Pony … you know, I bartended there for a little while back in like the mid-’90s, and it was very interesting: The people that would come to the bar and be in the room because they just wanted to go to their musical Mecca, which is where we grew up happens to be. So when you go across the world and you see that stuff right in front of you and those people that come to the great state of New Jersey and share this great love that we all have for our area, it’s a very special thing.

Richards: If there was ever an exclamation mark on the fact that music is universal, and the power of this togetherness … it’s just universal, and everybody’s fighting this fight. We got to go to a woman … her name is Elizabeth and she hosted us and had a Christmas dinner for us at her home and she’s fighting Parkinson’s. We got to meet these people who are suffering from this, and they’re feeling such comfort and peace, such as it is, with what Light of Day stands for and all of these artists going over and performing.

Q: So what else is going on with you? What else do you have planned for this year?

Richards: Well, we do want to talk about the incredible shows that we’ll be part of, for Parkinson’s.

Brown: We’re playing 27 times!

Richards: (laughs) It feels like that! Even though they have the official LOD WinterFest Kick-Off at The Asbury Lanes, we are going to be doing the show the night before (Jan. 17), in New York City. We love these songwriter shows: Gordon and I really take pride in the songs that we write and the albums that we put out and the messages we’re sending out. And that first night in New York is a songwriter show.

As we said, we’re doing the Kick-Off on Thurs., Jan. 18, with our full band. And Friday night (Jan. 19), we’ll be bouncing around with our (Light of Day Europe) tourmate James Maddock. He’s got a show at The Wonder Bar. James is just an amazing, amazing talent and incredible human. Saturday night (Jan. 20), like we said, full band at the Basie: Bob’s Birthday Bash, the main event. Then, the next night, we’ll be doing another songwriter show, which is at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park. And then the next week (Jan. 27), we’re doing another songwriter show. And that one is the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair.

Again, getting to sing our songs, and then sing Willie Nile songs and James Maddock songs and those guys … we just love them. It’s really a wonderful time to celebrate music and to celebrate all of these people who we care about so much, with Bob Benjamin leading the way, as Gordon said.

Q: And then, after Light of Day …

Brown: We’re working on a whole bunch of festivals. We’re always back and forth to Nashville, working on new material.

Richards: Yeah, we’ve got new music …

Brown: … a bunch of placements we’re working on right now for movies and TV shows. And, obviously, always expanding the Williams Honors brand and the Williams Honor Army (fan group), most importantly.


Q: To go back to something … the James Maddock show at The Wonder Bar … did you mean you were going to make a guest appearance there, or just go and hang out?

Richards: James is having us up to do some stuff that we … on this European tour, it was like we became one, you know: James, Gordon and I. Singing each other’s songs, knowing … I can’t say this enough: It’s kind of like that unspoken word. You know what the other person’s going to do. And it really was quite lovely, every night … nobody sat down and said, “OK, we have to have a three-hour rehearsal tomorrow and a three-hour rehearsal the next day.” It’s unbelievable how you can speak the language without ever having to say a word.

All of that (WinterFest scheduling) was getting put together while we were in Europe. There would be communication back and forth back here in the States with, “OK, you’re gonna do this show, you’re gonna do that show.” So we were all getting our dates for now while we were over there. And James right away was, “Hey, I want you guys to come and be part of my show.” So we’re just gonna get up and have some fun, and you never know where we’ll end up. Everybody’s in town, so we’ll take it to the wee hours of the morning. (laughs)

Q: The Light of Day timing is always so good, too, because usually there’s nothing else going on in January, and you can start the year off with a lot of activity.

Richards: Oh, of course.

Brown: They’ve planned it well. And (Light of Day executive director) Tony Pallagrosi and the gang have done such a great job — Joe, and Jean, and Rob — they’ve done such a great job with really turning this into an incredibly multi-venue, multi-week event. It’s very foundational for our area.

light of day '22 review


Joe Grushecky and Reagan Richards.

Richards: I spent the holidays in Pittsburgh, and another person that we love so much is Joe Grushecky. Whenever we play Pittsburgh, he jumps up onstage with us, and vice versa, when he comes (to New Jersey). As a matter of fact, Gordon and I have done a couple of the (Birthday Bash) finales, where we’ll do (The Rolling Stones’) “Gimme Shelter” (with Grushecky). So it’s always great to see him as well, and he’s, of course, a major player in so many of the events.

Brown: He’s been so supportive of us, through the years. He’s gone to bat for us, many a time.

Richards: Yeah. We played on his live album, at the Pony. We just love him. So we can’t talk about Light of Day without talking about Mr. Grushecky.

Brown: You know what, I just realized that our first Williams Honor show in public … we did two rehearsal shows before we came out and said who we were and what we were doing, and that was at Light of Day. What year was that, Reags?

Richards: That was 2015.

Brown: That was the very first Williams Honor show in public, so there you go.

Q: What venue was that, do you remember?

Brown: That was at the theater.

Richards: Yeah, the Paramount (in Asbury Park).

Brown: Bruce (Springsteen) was there that year. We ended up onstage, singing all the great Bruce songs, with Bruce. Reags is like, “What is going on here! This is our first show!” I’m like, “Welcome to Asbury Park.”

Check out these other new interviews about Light of Day with:





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