HUGHESVILLE - Today marks the 10th anniversary of an odd event that many living in Lycoming County may remember. It's also an event that a local band credits, along with stories about it that appeared in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, for the band's "meteoric" rise to fame.
It was 10 years ago today that a group of musicians were taking a break from recording commercial jingles at Green Valley Recording studio here.
The musicans were gathered on the front porch.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN Jr./Sun-Gazette
From left, Rick Buck, Richard Rupert, Alison Rupert and Johnny Jolin of the Front Porch Country Band hold a decade-old copy of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, which contained coverage of a meteor that crashed 10 years ago near Salladasburg. The news coverage inspired the band’s first song, “Hot Rock Came to the Country.”
It was early evening, just after 6 p.m., when the eardrum-rattling event occurred.
"We heard an enormous explosion," said Richard Rupert, who owns the studio and plays lead guitar and drums in Front Porch Country Band. "It sounded like a sonic boom, but there were no airplanes in sight."
After the break, the band resumed recording. It wasn't until the next morning when they picked up the day's edition of the Sun-Gazette that they realized what caused the noise.
Under the headline "Fire in the Sky," they read stories about a meteor that streaked across the skies of the northeastern United States and crashed in a cornfield near Salladasburg.
According to the reports, the sonic boom was heard locally and as far away as New Jersey, Maryland and New York.
Back in the studio, the musicians were inspired by the morning's newspaper, which later received a Keystone Press Award for its coverage of the meteor and the commotion it caused, recorded "Hot Rock Came to the Country."
The song, which was written by Rick Gathman, who was in the studio with the band at the time, is a humorous rocker that conjures up images of Dr. Hook, the Eagles and country-era Byrds. The song was finished and received radio air play within three days.
The recording also prompted the musicians - Rupert, his wife Alison Rupert, Rick Buck, Johnny Jolin, Joseph Paul Hauserman and Kim Reichley - to form a band.
"The rest," Richard Rupert said, "is history."
According to Jolin, Richard Rupert suggested calling the band The Front Porch Band, but Buck insisted the word "country" had to be in the name somewhere.
"So right there we became 'The Front Porch Country Band,'" Jolin said. "It just sounded right."
"(The name) seemed to fit our approach to our music," Jolin added. "It suggests the natural laid-back way we write and perform - lots of guitars with rich vocals and harmonies. It was pretty much that simple. And the name just stuck."
And then not two months later, on Sept. 11, 2001, a far more sinister event occurred than the one that launched the band. Terrorists struck American soil.
The band responded again, penning "America Standing Tall: The American Trilogy" - a three song opus that paid tribute to the fallen heroes of the attacks and featured vocals by Alison Rupert, Jolin and Reichley.
The recording, which was released one week after the attacks, once again placed a spotlight on the band.
"The band was beginning to get requests for 'Hot Rock Came to the Country,'" Gathman said. "Six weeks after that song was released, we scheduled a rehearsal.
The prior Tuesday was 9-11 and nobody felt like singing funky country songs. The mood of the band was, 'We need to write and record new music as a tribute to the heroes of 9-11.'"
"(The trilogy) brought more intense focus back on the band," he said.
On Father's Day in 2002, the band released its first full-length album, "Somebody Tonight."
The album would soon begin climbing to the top of the international music charts and the band would become, thanks to the magic of the Internet, one of the most listened to country artists in the world.
According to Gathman, the band dominated the country music charts on MP3.com.
The site, which is now defunct, provided access to 1.6 million songs and had more than 40 million subscribers.
Although the idea was for the band to be primarily a vehicle for studio recordings because members already were involved with other musical projects, gigs came their way.
The first gig was in front of more than 900 people at a United Way benefit in Williamsport.
The band would go on to open for country superstars such as Randy Travis, but truly went global in 2004 when it was tapped to headline an extended, 21,000-mile tour of mainland China.
The tour placed the band in venues in front of tens of thousands of enthusiastic fans.
The band now has nearly 100 original songs and five albums under its belt, including the recently released "Here We Go Again."
In honor of its anniversary, the band is offering free downloads of "Hot Rock Came to the Country" on its Facebook page.
"Oh hell, no," Buck said, when asked if he thought the band, which still is comprised of its six original members, would still be soldiering on 10 years later.
"We thought we'd just record that one song and try to get it on the air," he said.
"It's provided some really cool opportunities for us that we wouldn't experience otherwise," Jolin said. "The quality of the shows we got to play and the venues we've gotten to play we wouldn't have experienced if we hadn't agreed to do this."
And all because of an event covered in the local newspaper, Gathman said.
"The Sun-Gazette really was there at the genesis of the whole thing - this local entertainment act that has gone global," Gathman said.