Gator Nation, formerly Gator Beat, has been playing dances and festivals on the West Coast for 20 years. They specialize in their own brand of South Louisiana music – it combines traditional Cajun, Zydeco, and New Orleans R&B. Most notable are the original creations, giving the band their reputation as unforgettable, a band with a beat that bites. The flavor is always spicy, like a good gumbo, and bound to please. As one of their albums is titled, the crowd is always left hollering Gimme Some Mo’.
Willard Blackwell - Bandleader,
Music took hold of Willard's life when, at the age of 13, he and his singing group took to the stage and placed first at many talent shows throughout San Francisco. At 15, Willard picked up his first set of drumsticks. Playing in
concerts and marching band at his high school eventually led him to join Running Waters, a Pomo Indian soul band in nearby Santa Rosa. Running Waters became the backing band for visiting artists such as Bobby Freeman ("Do You Want to Dance" and "C'mon and Swim") and Little Dion (protégé of Jackie Wilson).
Willard went on to form and lead his own band Souler Heat (1978 to 1983), a critically acclaimed soul band in Northern California. Later, as a freelance drummer, he went on to play with Sam Andrews of Big Brother and the Holding Company and Peter Tork of the Monkees.
In 1995 he got a call from Gator Beat founder, Richie Domingue. He performed as a singer/drummer for Gator Beat until 2003, when he decided to go back to obtain his Master's Degree in Organization Development. At the sudden passing of Richie Domingue in 2005, Willard got a call from Gator Beat manager and wife of Richie, Carolyn Domingue, to sing and play washboard. Eventually, Willard went on to lead the Gator Beat band. Today, as Carolyn retires the name Gator Beat, Willard and fellow band mates continue on as Gator Nation Band.
David Scott - Saxophone, pennywhistle, percussion
A native of Australia, David, at the age of fifteen, boarded a ship headed for New Caledonia as a musician playing Jazz. He settled for ten years in Tahiti, playing island music, jazz and rock, and becoming fluent in French. He loved the fast dance tempos and when he sat in with Gator Beat in 1990, his fate was sealed. He has interwoven the horn with the accordion in an unprecedented style, unique to the world of Zydeco.
Randy Quan – Guitar, backup vocals
Randy has been the featured guitarist with Booker T. Jones since 1997. His distinctive guitar stylings have taken him from touring with blues legend Billy Boy Arnold to performing with and co-producing and recording two albums for renowned alto saxophonist Michael Bolivar. Randy started playing trumpet at the age of 8 in school bands. He picked up his brother’s guitar at the age of 12 and has been playing ever since. Quan is fluent in blues, R&B, and jazz and is an award winning songwriter. His tasteful style of economy and sweet sound colors are a complement to the Gator Nation repertoire.
Bobby “G” Gaviola - Drums
Bobby began his musical career in 1968. In the 70s and 80s he was discovered by musicians in the San Francisco Bay area that we're looking to form a super group. With the recent explosion of Santana, Malo, Azteca, Tower of Power... Another super group was being formed. SAPO.
Led by Richard Dean, singer-songwriter of the megahit “Suavecito”, Bobby, along with the other top-notch players in the group, signed a record deal with Arista records. The rest is history!
Bobby has met, toured, and shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the business: Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Average White Band, Paul Simon, Roy Ayers, Sheila E, and many, many more.
Bobby finally met his mentor, David Garibaldi from Tower of Power, and studied with him and the late great jazz drumming Tony Williams.
Tim Haggerty – Bass
Tim Haggerty was born into a musical family. His father was a prominent studio guitarist, his mother, a professional dancer from Cuba.
Tim’s in-demand skills as a keyboard and bass player led to collaborations with several popular recording artists. Jesse Colin Young tapped his arranging skills for several of his recording projects, and Jewell for her performance at the Super Bowl.
He also plays regularly with his brother Terry Haggerty, the legendary guitarist from the Sons of Champlin, and with his son, Aaron Haggerty, who tours as drummer with Al McKay from Earth, Wind & Fire.
Most recently Tim has performed on keyboards with Huey Lewis guitarist Chris Hayes & saxophonist Michael Bolivar, and written the soundtrack for an upcoming Hewlett Packard video.
Dennis Hadley - Accordion, backup vocals
Dennis Hadley grew up in the Bay Area and he began tickling the keys of the accordion at the age of eleven. He has a rare eye condition, achromatopsia, which causes severe light sensitivity, low vision, and color blindness. So, you will always see him rockin' the shades! Dennis began playing Cajun/Zydeco music in the early 1990's when a friend introduced him to the genre and things just clicked. Before joining Gator Nation Band Dennis has been involved with The Cajun Cayotes, The Hot Frittatas, and The Wild Catahoulas. So, be prepared, dancers, Dennis will pump his accordian and get your feet movin'!