MARCO ISLAND — They’re putting the band back together.
No, not the Blues Brothers. But Roger and Karen Raymond of Morningstar Show Band have been at it longer than Jake and Elwood of the iconic movie and they are real, not fictional characters. This New Year’s Eve, Morningstar Show Band will rock out the old year, and ring in the new, in the ballroom at the Marriott, as they have for over 30 years.
Roger Raymond is best known to Marco Islanders as a jock. He is athletic director for both Marco Island Charter Middle School (MICMS) and Marco Island Academy (MIA), coaches cross country, track and varsity basketball teams, and does play by play for MIA football games.
Karen Raymond is the choral music director for MICMS, but she is a talented keyboard player, and a singer in her own right. She also serves as assistant cross country coach for the MICMS squad.
But Roger crosses over into her world, music, as well, and the combination of running tracks and musical tracks goes back decades, to when they met as students at Ball State University. They put together the Morningstar group (named after the street where they lived in Mooresville, Indiana) in 1977, played summer gigs while studying in and then teaching school.
They toured on the road from 1982 to 1994, traveling to play in 33 states, plus Mexico and the Caribbean. Then, starting a family, Karen and Roger wanted a little more permanence in their lives.
“It was time for the kids to stay in one place,” said Roger, and the place they chose was Marco Island, which they had discovered through playing at the Marriott and the Caxambas Night Club. “Our relationship with Marriott has always been special and it continues to this day. Marriott is why we are on Marco and we are grateful for this.”
The Raymonds first performed at the Marriott for three to six weeks in 1982. The Marriott signed the band to full-season contracts, playing December through April, from 1986 to 1994. Except for missing one year, 2006, they have been playing New Year’s Eve at the venue since 1986.
Some 40 entertainers have been part of Morningstar in its more than 30 years. The main members for the past 20 include Roger and Ray Nesbit on trumpet, Rich Rahlf on guitar, Chris Melville on bass and Karen and daughter Jennifer (Raymond) Warren singing.
Jennifer is a full-time entertainer. She performs as “Dory” at Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in “Finding Nemo, The Musical.” She also has a Lady GaGa Tribute show, and has recorded albums of her music.
“It’s a lot of fun, and nostalgic (which is kind of what New Year’s Eve is all about) doing this show,” said Jennifer Warren. “We’ve grown up with this band.” Her sister Jessica, another family member whose day job is in education, will also sing with the band, as will Jennifer’s husband Cory Warren.
This year, Morningstar will feature five original members, as well as the kids who weren’t born when the band began, so there will be a lot of trips down memory lane. One of the originals is Ray Nesbit, a popular figure in Southwest Florida entertainment, who is returning for the show after a five-year hiatus.
“Ray has played over 3,500 shows with through the years more than anyone besides Karen and me,” said Roger Raymond. The shows have evolved, with the classic Motown medleys and Neil Diamond hits making room for Jennifer’s new Lady Gaga material, songs like “Born This Way” and “Bad Romance,” although Jennifer said she is a vegan and will not be wearing any outfits made from cuts of meat.
And it’s not only fun, it’s economical, said Raymond. The show, starting at 9 p.m. in the Island Ballroom at the Marriott, costs $25, or is free for anyone dining at the Marriott that evening.
One thing that will be different is Roger’s leg. An inveterate runner, he broke his streak of running 3,955 days running when he broke his leg Sept. 12.
“Normally, I’m jumping around and going wild” while playing his trumpet riffs, he said. As he is still walking with a cane, that would not be the best idea for this performance. But the band is high-energy, and high on the musical scale, with the screech trumpet of Rich “Cat Doc Ferguson” Rahlf.
“This has become a tradition at the Marriott,” said Bob Pfeffer, marketing director for the Marco Island Marriott. “We have people who come from out of state to see this band, year after year.”
On Marco, Morningstar at the Marriott for New Year’s Eve is as traditional as it gets.
If you go
New Year’s Eve Ballroom Party at Marriott
“Dance the night away” with Morningstar Show Band
Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, golf club and spa
400 South Collier Boulevard, Marco Island
When: 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., Dec. 31
Information: $20 for hotel guests, $25 for others, $10 for under 16 must be accompanied by an adult; free for anyone who dines that evening at Tropiks, Kurrents, Quinn’s on the Beach, or 400 Pazzi’s; cash bar and party favors; tickets available at the hotel the evening of the performance.