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A Life Long Commitment to Music

L-R Jeff Todd, Craig Howland, and Dave Porter.

by Cheryl Hodges

The guys who were the “original Milli Vanilli” perform right here in Roanoke – or so jokes guitarist Jeff Todd one member of the newly formed “Dave Porter Trio.” Todd and fellow musician Craig Howland have been playing on and off together for about 40 years—and they are both around 50. When Todd and Howland, who plays drums, were neighbors living in Maryland back in the 60s, they put together a band when they were 7 years old. At least it looked like they did; they would put on records and pretend to be playing and singing—the youngsters thought if they “hid the record player behind a box,” no one would know they weren’t really the ones behind the sound (a la Milli Vanilli), according to Todd.

The boys must have pulled off the show fairly well; they have been playing in bands ever since; their latest venture is the “Dave Porter Trio.” The Trio had their debut performance last month at Annie Moore’s, where they were well received by a crowd that was stocked with longtime fans as well as many friends who were on hand to support their efforts. Summing up the music the band is including in its repertoire, Howland said, “I love the diverse styles we play, from straight-ahead jazz, to blues, to R&B, to rock and rockabilly.”

The name behind the band, Dave Porter, is an accomplished musician who has spent many years playing professionally. He, too, began very young, as his website explains, “At the age of ten, Dave could be found on the floor of his bedroom, strumming an acoustic guitar to his brothers’ hand-me-down Beatles albums. He drummed in the school band, and by high school he’d discovered jazz and adopted the upright bass.”

Porter was a member of an “80’s southern rock/hair band called “Rajun” (their lead singer was Eddie Stone from A&M recording group Doc Holliday) that played up and down the east coast. After a few years on the road, he “returned home to settle down and began to write and record” his own songs. He has stayed busy playing in weekend warrior/cover bands since the 90s, but “this [the Trio] is the only project I have on my plate at this time.”

Porter and Todd met at Carilion hospital where they both work–Todd is a cardiologist and Porter is a graphic designer. They started playing together last year at Church of the Holy Spirit; later Porter says Todd “asked if I’d like to sit in with his jazz combo and things progressed from there into the Dave Porter Trio.”

Howland and Todd most recently played in the Jeff Todd band, which leaned heavily towards jazz—this time around as Porter says, “the trio is more focused on pop, blues, and R&B than jazz; we felt like we could offer more of an eclectic mix of music and reach a larger audience than just performing as a jazz trio.”

The Trio is encouraged; Porter says, “we are already booked at Annie Moore’s through the end of the year and have several other venues interested.” He sees the band “evolving to include some of my originals as well as more of our own interpretations of classic songs from the 80s and 90s –like our jazz version of “Roxanne.”

One of the “original” band members from their childhood band days, Craig Howland’s younger brother, Keith headed to LA to pursue a career in music, a move which paid off; he is now in his 17th year as the guitarist for “Chicago.”  Todd smiles as he says “we sort of live vicariously through Keith, but I’m glad I did it this way,” referring to pursuing his career and the ability to be home with his family.

Besides, who needs Chicago? The Dave Porter Trio already has a loyal following—one of whom is Audrey Wiley, who was at Annie Moore’s to take photos of the band. She said “I’m taking pictures for my daughter. This is my cardiologist,” she said, nodding in Dr. Todd’s direction. Apparently she had to prove to her daughter that her longtime doctor really does play in a band.

The band will be at Annie Moore’s on Fri, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. For more info visit

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