Bill Medley struggled with how, and if, he should return to the legendary catalog of The Righteous Brothers.
Medley, alongside Bobby Hatfield, were “blue-eyed soul” superstars, especially in the ‘60s and ‘70s, with songs like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Soul & Inspiration,” and their rendition of “Unchained Melody.”
After Hatfield died in 2003, Medley continued to perform but purposefully avoided the Righteous Brothers material.
“I had friends and other artists telling me for years that I should put it together so people could come out and relive those memories with the music, and I just wasn’t into it,” Medley said in an interview with Coeur Voice. “You just can’t replace Bobby Hatfield.”
Then Medley met Bucky Heard around 2006. They became good friends, but it wasn’t until much later when Medley realized Heard had such a powerhouse voice.
“He had started doing a show… and was doing a couple of Journey songs, and he just killed it,” Hedley said. “I thought, my God, I didn’t know he could sing like that.”
Bucky would prove to be the high compliment to Medley’s baritone on the Righteous Brothers tunes. Still, he was concerned about how audiences would react to their combination.
“I didn’t want him to be too compared to Bobby… he sounds like Bobby a little bit, but I said I don’t want you to sound like Bobby, I want you to sing like Bobby,” Medley said.
That meant emphasizing the spirit of the performance rather than just the technical precision, Medley elaborated.
“He’s a really great guy and I knew it was somebody I would get along with, and his heart is in the right place,” Medley said.
The Righteous Brothers officially returned in 2016 with a residency at Harrah’s in Las Vegas. Medley felt confident, but he still wasn’t sure how the audience would react.
“I had two questions in my mind - Did people still care that there was a Righteous Brothers, and were they going to accept Bucky,” he said.
The duo went to Laughlin, Nevada for a week-long “prep” concert series for Vegas.
“We went there to put the show together, and they told us we’re sold out seven days in a row,” Medley said. “I guess people did care, and boy, Bucky and I had to hit the stage running.”
The Vegas residency keeps Medley and Heard busy most of the year, but the summer provides opportunity to hit the road, including a visit to the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort on July 5.
Medley said performing around the country gives him the feeling of the old days, when people had to make a greater effort to hear the music they loved.
“People were getting babysitters and things like this to come out to a show,” he said. “When we’re coming to town, these people are really coming out because they are fans. And the concerts are more relaxed. You don’t have to get off stage in an hour and 15 minutes.”
At 77, Medley still gets a rush from performing.
“When I go onstage I feel like I’m 25 years old, so to sing ‘Lovin’ Feelin’, even though it’s probably the millionth time I’ve sung it, it really feels like the first time I’d sing it, because the audience reacts that way,” he said.
He still finds it overwhelming to hear some of the stories people share about his music.
“It kinda doesn’t make sense to us, because we’re so busy doing it, but then you go out and talk to people and hear the stories that you hear, it’s like I’m learning about our career - I’m learning about who we are and what we meant to people,” Medley said.
“The most touching thing is when the veterans come up and say how much the music was important to them during Vietnam,” he continued. “Man, if that’s all our music did, then that’s amazing. But it’s hard to wrap your head around it.”
He says those stories are what keeps his drive to offer an excellent concert experience. Medley said the upcoming show will be fun, loose, full of hits and good memories.
“When you know you touched somebody with your music, that’s really remarkable. There’s almost a sense of, certainly pride and all that, but you also don’t want to let them down,” Medley said.
The Righteous Brothers perform at 7 p.m. July 5 at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort. Tickets and more information are available at www.CDACasino.com or through TicketsWest outlets. Prices range from $25-40, plus hotel stay packages.