Executive with a Backbeat

Drummer Rusty Hamilton to lead Soul Street in WAMMfest Finale

By Marianne Coil

Rusty Hamilton, drummer, Soul Street, at the Indianapolis Colts Training Camp on Aug. 5. *Photo by Marianne Coil.

Rusty Hamilton, drummer and co-founder of Soul Street, always wanted to play the drums. Growing up in North Vernon, Ind., he saw a neighbor was offering to sell a drum set.

“Mom, we have to buy them,” he said at various times. His mother finally gave him the set for his birthday.

Now an executive with an information technology company, he said playing the drums helps to relieve stress from the job.

“There is nothing better than hitting something with a stick.”

His band will be the closing act at the annual WAMMfest in Greenwood on Aug. 19. Soul Street will perform from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Craig Park festival celebrating wine, art, music, and microbrew. Sertoma Club sponsors the event to raise money for non-profit groups. 

Soul Street has a playlist of 200 to 300 songs in the style of funk, soul, and Motown, Hamilton said. He was waiting to perform at an Indianapolis Colts Training Camp open to the public. The musicians will don their Colts colors once more to provide pre-game entertainment at Lucas Oil Stadium when the Colts take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in November. 

Fans of Purdue University football can enjoy the music of Soul Street at tailgate parties this fall. For the big homecoming game against Michigan, the band will play at the Boilermaker Crossing north of Mackey Arena.

The band is making its first appearance at WAMMfest this year, Hamilton said.

The distinctive sound of Soul Street comes from its horn section. At the Colts camp at Warren Central High School, the outdoor audience heard iconic horn riffs from Top 40 hits like “Vehicle,” by the Ides of March (1970). A persuasive vocalist delivered the opening lyric, “Hey well I’m a friendly stranger in a black sedan . . . .”   

Soul Street at the Indianapolis Colts Training Camp, from left to right, Rex Callis, Nelson Batalon, and Eric Kendall.

According to soulstreetmusic.com, songs from Prince and Bruno Mars are on the playlist, along with Fenk Shui and its “Here Come the Mummies.”

Acquiring the brassy sound of groups like Chicago meant that Hamilton and his co-founder Cory Pitre had to choose between artistic satisfaction and per-person profit. They grew the band against the advice of experienced musicians who warned about adding too many players.

Nightclubs have a limited budget, so the earnings are modest when the fee is divided among more people. But Soul Street is happy with its sound, Hamilton said, noting that as time passes, the band will seek more wedding gigs and corporate shows to increase revenue.   

Hamilton’s journey in life got a kick start from teachers at Jennings County High School. He played football for three years, and as a senior, he had to choose between commitments to the team and to the marching band. He chose the band out of love for music, but he credits his football coach with delivering a gentle rebuke that sticks with him even now.

Hamilton said he was making excuses for why he wasn’t achieving all that he could. In so many words, the football coach told him, “You are 100-percent responsible for your success and you know the person to go to.”

After high school, Hamilton spent two years at Indiana University Southeast studying Computer Science with a focus on information systems. He found his first job as an estimator with a construction company in North Vernon, and he began to appreciate the ways in which software systems could enable construction scheduling and cost management. 

He joined Catalyst, Inc., (trade name Catalyst USA) in Indianapolis in 1997. He eventually worked his way into sales and became company president in 2015. The firm provides software development, training, and implementation in the industries of construction and engineering, manufacturing, public sector, and power and utilities.

A major effort is a contract with the Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation to assist in project management. Also, Catalyst has worked on lock-and-dam construction with the Army Corps of Engineers, he said. The corporate Website discloses a case study in which Catalyst helped the Chicago Public Schools to reduce waste and inefficiencies in capital improvements.

Throughout his career, Hamilton has always played in bands, which is how he met Pitre, a guitarist. They founded Soul Street about seven years ago. Despite his responsibilities, Hamilton and the band are able to perform three to four times a month. No one wants to call in a substitute because the members want to be together, he said.

Hamilton calls playing with the band “my joy.” Riding his motorcycle and playing golf are hobbies, but appearing with the band is his “favorite thing in the world to do.”

WAMMfest, sponsored by Sertoma Club

What: Food, wine, and microbrew vendors; six bands on stage, juried art fair.

When: Aug. 19, gates open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Craig Park, Greenwood.

Tickets: $10 in advance or $15 at the gate. Children 6 and under are free.

Info: WAMMfest.com.

 

Who walks the funk on Soul Street?
Booking, Drums – Rusty Hamilton
Cory Pitre – Guitar
Kate Hurst – Vocals
Amy Johnson – Vocals
Jack Joseph – Bass and “The Funk”
Anthony Avant – Sax
Nelson Batalon – Sax
Rex Callis – Trumpet
Eric Kendall – Trombone & Vocals
Nancy Lerch – Keyboard