During the day, Menard, 49, operates Menard Enterprises – Information Systems Administration and Networking. But a couple of times a weekend a month, Menard transforms into the lead singer of Acadiana’s old school band “5th Avenue.”
He has been playing with the band since 1984.
Menard, originally from Erath, lives in Lafayette and is married to Robin. The two have a 15-year-old son, Austin.
How did the band Fifth Avenue get started?
“We started out in New Iberia in Tom Landry’s mom and dad’s house somewhere around 1983-1984. Mr. Lou Landry (Tom’s dad) was our manager. We were playing full time then, 4-5 nights a week. Tons of high school proms and functions. We would practice a few times a week learning 3 or 4 songs a week, seemed like. But once again we were full time musicians. Staying up all night and sleeping until noon. Go to the gym and then practice music. Wow – what a life we had then. We played La Vila and Spinnakers in Florida a couple of times. We played many festivals as well. Mr Lou kept us working. The band went through many changes and personnel during the 6 years we were together. But Tom and I were always the nucleus of the group. Bass player and drummer – the foundation of any band.”
How many are still original band members from day one?
“Myself, Brent Guidry (Erath) and Tom Landry (New Iberia.)”
Where did the name of the band come from?
“I believe the name came from Andy Smith who was one of the original members. We started playing at Gentry’s in Lafayette in the early 80’s. That band didn’t last long so Tom and I took the name with us.”
Ya’ll stopped playing from what year to what year and then came back a fews years ago. What years?
“We were together from 1984 until 1990. Reunited in 2006.”
Why you all started back up?
“We were asked to play a ‘reunion’ show for one of the first night clubs we ever played in. That was Cedar’s in Franklin. That was one of the very first night clubs 5th Avenue ever played. CJ from KTDY was the DJ up in the booth. In 2006, ironically, it was Jadi Gerami (wife of Tim Gerami – who happens to currently be one of our keyboardists) asked us if we would want to put the band back together for this one show. I was hesitant. So, I called my best friend (Tom Landry – drummer for 5th Avenue) and he suggested we do it so we started to call and try to find all the original members. We got everyone together and that’s when 5th Avenue was reborn. Then, after a year or so, Lonny Leblanc, who was playing keyboards along with Bryan Perrin, decided to call it quits – and we convinced Tim Gerami to join the group. And that’s been the lineup ever since.”
How many nights a month does the band average playing?
“Two – Three nights a month. Sometimes more. But we try not to play every weekend.”
How rough is it on your wife and your son?
“I do miss a few family functions, which I’m never happy about, but both Robin and Austin are very supportive of my music. But I have to admit – when I have to miss a baseball game or hockey game it is disappointing – but they understand and that’s important. I’m usually more upset than they are. But what’s great about our group is that family comes first. We all have the understanding that if there is a family function or something personal – we will not play. Any of the band members’ families can request weekends off. It’s really nice.”
Do you ever feel like not playing on certain nights?
“ABSOLUTELY. There are very rare times when you just don’t feel like leaving the house.”
If so, how do you get pumped up to play?
“I believe it’s the joy of playing. I still love getting up on stage and making music with my band mates. Being around everyone, seeing familiar faces in the crowd. Once we get to the show – everything is OK. It’s getting there sometimes that’s a little difficult. Also the other reason we can still play is directly related to our road crew. Without Rhian Quebedeaux and Robert Woolwine – there would be no 5th Avenue and that’s a fact. There’s no way we (the band members) could set up all the equipment, play the job then have to tear it all down and load the trailer after the show. We did it in the beginning of this “reunion” tour for about 1 year and then decided to hire Robert. Robert sets up the entire stage for us and tears it down at the end of the night. He and Rhian are invaluable.”
Does your wife go to every show that ya’ll play?
“Robin comes to most shows but not all. I told her if the roles were reversed – I would be staying home more than she does. But she enjoys coming out and hanging with the wives and seeing all our fans having a good time and she, along with all the wives and girlfriends, are friends with many of our fans.”
What keeps you playing 25 years after the band began?
“What keeps me playing is the love of music and the families that surround 5th Avenue. There is no ‘band’ drama. The chemistry is very nice and we try to run the band as a business. And, actually it’s going on 34 years of playing music for me. When 5th Avenue broke up in 1990 I continued to play with local artists such as Andy Smith, City Limits, Zachary Richard, Wayne Toups, Richard Lebouef and many more.”
How long can you continue?
“As long as my heart is in it. I’ll know when I’ll be ready to stop – or at least take a break.”
How is the voice holding out?
“I do have nights when the vocal chords don’t want to cooperate. Especially if the room is ‘smoky.’ Smoke just tears me up and makes me hoarse. And it doesn’t take long. That’s why we are pushing for smoke-free bars and night clubs. But I think my voice has a few more years left in it.”
What is the best part about playing on a stage?
“Watching the people have fun and dance their butts off. It’s great to play the old school music that we all grew up with.”
What is the worst part?
“The worst part of being on stage?……..There is none.”
When you are playing on weekends, what do you do for fun?
“I’m guessing this was meant to be ‘when we aren’t playing on weekends’….When I’m not playing I’m usually at a baseball tournament with my son or just around home enjoying the family life. Cutting grass or swimming in the pool and on occasion we jump in the motorhome and go camping somewhere. Camping is what I enjoy most when not playing music.”
You ever wish you could have taken Fifth Avenue to a higher level and write and perform ya’ll own music?
“Sure. I think we all do, but our age I don’t think a record company will sign some 40 something year old guys. But, we are planning to start recording our live shows and release a live CD….one day.”