Engineers are assumed to excel in their area of expertise and flop in the arts but several members of Redstone Test Center prove it’s possible to be a rocking employee by day and a rocker by night.
Capshaw Road, a band led by the center’s John “Sparky” Sparkman (ERC ETSS employee), was formed in 2013 by five friends with a love for music. The melodies of Sparky, his brother Stacey Sparkman, Lisa O’Neal (ERC ETSS employee), Bob Fillman and David Roper combine to produce pop rock reminiscent of the glory days.
The band’s name originated from Madison’s Capshaw Road, which Sparky drives to work every day. Four of the five members originate from RTC, working in the Aviation Flight Test Directorate.
Sparky, a project pilot, serves as a guitarist, bass guitarist, ukulele player and singer. O’Neal, project coordination controller, leads the band in vocals. Tillman, technical inspector, plays the drums and bass guitar. Stacey Sparkman, mechanic and TOW team member, does vocals, bass guitar, guitar, keyboard and drums.
They often bring in members of the center’s community to perform with them during organization events like the Christmas party and Safety day. Seeking out talent in their co-workers, they hope to engage anyone with an interest in music.
“There’s always some talent and we drag them in,” Sparky said. “The most rewarding part is (pulling) people out of their office – rewarding for us as a band and everyone involved. It’s exciting to see their office mates and makes it more engaging.”
Through this talent search, the band’s fourth member, O’Neal, joined the team. Before the band formed, the group consisted of Sparky, Fillman and Stacey Sparkman occasionally jamming together in their spare time. After inviting O’Neal to perform with them in local gigs, the group of four emerged.
“I talked Lisa into it; she was shy at first,” Sparky said. “Now she’s a diva and has confidence (when she performs).”
The group later brought on Roper, owner of North Alabama Mailing and Office Systems and only member not affiliated with RTC, as a full-time bass guitar player. With Fillman on drums, Sparky, Stacey Sparkman and O’Neal provide the vocals that round out Capshaw Road’s pop rock style.
“We harmonize well with Lisa in the group,” Sparky said. “It sounds like five instead of three.”
The Sparkman brothers got their start in a garage band in high school. Following high school, Sparky joined the Army and sold most of his guitars. However, in his multiple assignments to his hometown of Fort Rucker, Sparky got back into music performing alongside his brother.
“Studies show it pays to be stimulated in artistic endeavors and fire parts of the brain that might otherwise die out (with old age),” Sparky said. “It’s important to stay challenged.”
Owning more than 12 guitars himself, Sparky encourages his peers to take up the arts by offering to re-string and tune their guitars. A believer in creative stimulus, Sparky finds music a key to fighting the aging process.
Performing classic hits like Led Zepplin’s “Rock and Roll,” Elvis Presley’s “That’s Alright Mama,” and Journey’s “Any Way You Want It,” Capshaw Road will remind you of the days where both your age and mortgage were smaller numbers.
The band regularly performs in the Huntsville/Madison area at class reunions, promotion parties, weddings, private gigs, block parties and more. The members gather at least monthly to rehearse, with extra practices as their next gig approaches.
“We’re never going to be stars…it’s a fun sideline,” Sparky said. “It’s so much fun and so rewarding that (money and fame) doesn’t matter. If we make money it barely covers the cost of our efforts.”
Although the band made $19 the past year, the members don’t set their sights on profits. This year they expect to lose money after accounting for equipment and maintenance costs. They basically want to build community and do what they love – play music.
“It’s really cool, I haven’t been to many places in the Army with live music at workplace events,” Sparky said. “I hope it might inspire someone who never had the motivation to take up an instrument (and join).”