The Mix, at its inception, represented the end of a musical chairs existence, both figuratively and literally. It also marked an unexpected and joyous return to the past, both musically and personally.
When Vic Monaco’s last band, Stealin’ The Covers, disbanded, he decided to try something very different for him: a duo, with STC guitarist John Daly. That project, Daly Double, was a leap of faith, not only due to its loss of a rhythm section but also given Daly’s nomadic musical life that included touring with the late Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys.
Not surprisingly, Vic soon needed to find a successor to Daly and he once again turned to an STC bandmate, multi-instrumentalist and Grammy-winning producer Pat Robinson.
The project was renamed Musical Chairs, with the idea that on any given night the audience wouldn’t know which of the duo’s musician friends might sit in. The name turned out to be even more appropriate as guitarist Brian Nagy eventually became a regular presence.
With Vic serving as booker and musical director, and the project alternating between a duo and trio, the group name was changed to Vic’s Mix in the summer of 2013.
A house party that same summer would prove to be the start of something new and a return to something very familiar.
It was there Vic performed some songs with Bill Mecaughey, his very first musical partner from their teen years in the Fox Chase-based band Hot Ice. Their collaboration had lasted about seven years until Bill turned more toward R&B and jazz fusion.
They remained friends, and the musical shorthand they shared was obvious to them at that 2013 party. The two started rehearsing in earnest in the spring of 2014 and played their first gig Memorial Day weekend.
“When we first got together as teens, Vic introduced me to vocal harmony. Our voices blended surprisingly well, even then. Still, no one was more surprised than me when we forged a musical re-connection after 30 years. It’s been fun reprising tunes we grew up playing together.”
The project took a giant leap forward when veteran Bucks County musician Ric Lake added his bass and vocal harmonies to the musical mix in November 2014.
A couple months later Vic invited another former bandmate, drummer and vocalist Billy Walp, to make the project a full band, with four voices.
By the start of 2016, it was apparent the lineup and camaraderie had become rock solid, so Vic’s Mix became simply The Mix.
Nonetheless, change is inevitable and it came to the band in July 2017 when Bill, after more than three years as an important ingredient in The Mix, had to leave due to new full-time job responsibilities.
Given plenty of notice, the band had spent several months looking for a replacement, even hiring two guitarists who didn’t work out.
In search of additional work, Vic auditioned for a newly forming 60s band and met organizer Steve Hill. The two realized immediately they wanted to play together, and Steve soon decided he’d like to join The Mix.
2017 continued to be a year of change as exactly three years from his arrival Ric departed The Mix to return to his musical roots of original folk music.
Finding a bass player with strong vocals is no easy task. But the band got lucky, quickly hiring Gus Bruno, most recently a member of the Collegeville-based band Scattertain.
The Mix stepped up its game in 2017 and 2018 with a residency at Baker’s American Bar & Grill in Southampton and numerous performances at The 360 Lounge at Parx Casino in Bensalem and at Shady Brook Farm in Yardley. At the end of the summer of 2018, after a debut at the prestigious Buck Hotel, Steve left The Mix to do what he had been planning more than a year earlier — start his own band.
Vic, Billy and Gus chose to take their time in finding a new lead guitarist who would be a great fit. They also decided to go out of their comfort zone and soldier on as a trio in the meantime. Rehearsals and gigs in the fall saw Vic playing lead guitar for the first time and the band learning several R&B tunes. More importantly, the guys honed their three-part harmonies, with Billy taking on a significantly larger role in vocals and Gus singing more lead.
Their patience was rewarded as they found several guitarists more than eager to become part of The Mix. In November they were inspired by Charlie Hallowell’s audition and became a quartet again.
A Newtown resident and then-member of the band Bellevue, Charlie is not only a top-notch lead guitarist but also brought keyboards to The Mix, opening up a whole new musical vista.
The evolution of the band continued about a year later when the band started adding great female vocalists at select shows. First up was Debbie Fossile, whose musical endeavors had taken her across the country as a longtime part of the nationally known Real Diamond tribute band. Her arrival expanded the The Mix song list to cover such stellar artists as Diana Ross, Linda Ronstadt, Melissa Etheridge and Pat Benatar.
As with all bands, the pandemic changed just about everything in 2020. The band took that time away from indoor gigs to put together an Eric Clapton tribute show, with music veteran Mark Patterson (The Discoteks) on keys. (For more on Clapton America, go to claptonamerica.com.)
In 2021, the dynamic and ubiquitous Vika Hunter, from Main Street and Best of Both Worlds, became The Mix’s new special guest. So special, she became a full member of the band in early 2022.
In December of 2021 the band parted ways with Bruno, and soon after hired Ed Horning of the River Dawgs to lay down the bottom and sing some leads.
But by the end of 2022, The Mix had lost two valued members to the moving van, as Charlie and Vika moved to Florida (with their respective better halves), and Ed’s schedule became too tight.
This could have easily been the end of The Mix after more than eight years. But the band once again got very lucky, quickly attracting Dennis Nahill, Pam Biley and Chris Mood for a new, pedigreed era of the group.
Pam came on board first, actually sharing the stage with Vika for a couple of truly memorable shows.
Pam attended Westminster Choir College where she was a voice major and piano minor, earning her bachelor’s degree in music education. She has taught general and vocal music to public school children in New Jersey for more than 30 years.
Through it all, the band’s harmony-laden shows feature an eclectic mix of tunes from the 1960s through 1980s, and more recently the 90s. Think of a concoction whose ingredients include a healthy dash of The Doobies, a sprinkle of Springsteen, more than a bit of The Beatles, a nice measure of Motown and a fistful of female artists over four decades.
“The Mix has always been about evolution, from its size and personnel to its ‘mix’ of music. And the changes have really kept it interesting, I think not only for me and Billy but also those who come see us regularly,” said Vic.
“In addition, playing the music of my younger years is a joy, especially with such talented bandmates. But just as gratifying has been watching the growth of our following — most notably the Mixettes — and the friendships that have been formed and rekindled. It’s been truly heartwarming, and feels a bit like a family. I’m very grateful for those surprising new bonds.”
Precursors to The Mix