Ohio-Based Royal Crescent Mob to Break Nearly Three-Decade Hiatus for Covington Reunion Show

The reunion show came about after two band members received life-altering cancer diagnoses.

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click to enlarge Royal Crescent Mob - Photo: Provided by Detour MGMT
Photo: Provided by Detour MGMT
Royal Crescent Mob

It’s been almost 30 years since Royal Crescent Mob played together. The Columbus-based funk rock four-piece—also known as The R.C. Mob—was active between 1985 and 1994.

Now, for the first time in decades, Royal Crescent Mob has two live shows on the horizon. The band will play The Athenaeum Theatre in Columbus on Dec. 16 and Madison Theater in Covington on Dec. 17.

Until recently, Royal Crescent Mob had zero plans for a reunion show. But in the last year, the four friends and bandmates have been confronted with some heavy life circumstances. In May, guitarist Brian Emch — known affectionately as “Mr. B” — lost his wife to pancreatic cancer. Then drummer Carlton Smith was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of cancer. Just weeks ago, singer David Ellison received treatment for prostate cancer. 

“Carlton came to all of us after he had his diagnosis,” Ellison tells CityBeat from his home in California. “He really wanted to do [the reunion]. That was just, that was enough. I mean, there was no debate after that. Put everything aside.”

All proceeds from both shows will go to the Tri-State Area Cancer Research Fund. Ellison says that they’ll also be providing literature about cancer screenings at each venue.

“The men that saw the ‘Mob 30’ years ago are the men that should be getting prostate screenings, and the women should be getting mammograms,” says Ellison, who says his busy work schedule almost caused him to skip the screening that caught his prostate cancer. 

The band is using these shows as an opportunity to raise awareness, but Ellison and his bandmates also view them as a celebration of life.

“I’m seeing these, like, healing aspects of getting back together and playing music,” Ellison says. “I feel each member of the band, it’s helping them in different ways.”

Royal Crescent Mob achieved a lot in the nine years they were together. They signed with Sire Records, and toured nationally with acts like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the B-52s, building a devoted fan base in the process. Many of those fans are still reliving their favorite Royal Crescent Mob sets on YouTube, where the comment sections are filled with fond memories of the band’s high-energy performances.

When the group disbanded, all four members stayed connected to music and to each other. All but Ellison still live in the region, and all but Ellison have performed in one context or another in the last 28 years. 

Bassist Harold “Happy” Chichester played in projects like Howlin’ Maggie and The Twilight Singers. Smith also was in Howlin’ Maggie and currently plays with Columbus Soul and Salvage. “Mr. B” has played guitar with a local church in Northern Kentucky and volunteers with Melodic Connections, a Cincinnati-based music therapy program.

After Royal Crescent Mob ended, Ellison switched over to the management side of the music industry, ultimately relocating to California. Most recently, he’s served as touring manager for Miley Cyrus, Camila Cabello and Kesha. Ellison says that whenever work brings him through Cincinnati, he makes an effort to get the band together for dinner.

With Ellison on the other side of the country, rehearsing ahead of the reunion show has required some high-tech intervention. The band has been working with a JackTrip Virtual Studio from JackTrip Labs to play together virtually, and the three Ohio-based members are getting in some extra in-person rehearsal time. 

“B [Emch] just went up to Columbus to do some jamming with Carlton and Harold at Carlton’s place, and they sent me the videos of it,” Ellison says. “They all had big smiles on their faces. I think they were really enjoying [themselves].”

Meanwhile, Ellison is doing his own prep work out West.

“I’m starting vocal lessons, believe it or not,” Ellison says. “I was downtown in my town and saw this flier for vocal lessons, and I thought, well that might be a good idea. Because I just never really… You know, I used to warm up with Jim Beam.” 

Ellison admits that the thought of playing for the first time in so long is a little “nerve-racking,” to the point where he’s had a recurring dream about the show flopping. As front person to the band, he’s wondered whether he can still bring the energy that fans loved during Royal Crescent Mob’s heyday. 

“That’s something that goes around in my head. Like, how do I approach this? Because I'm not going to jump out and stage dive and surf the crowd…” Ellison pauses to consider this. “Maybe I will. I don’t know – if I get caught up.”

Even as Ellison deals with the nerves and excitement that come with reunion show territory, he says what really matters to him is playing with his friends again.

“I got past the point of ‘How many people will be there?’ to ‘How ever many people are there, we’re gonna just have a really great celebration,’” Ellison says. “Because this isn’t about that. It’s about these people and what we’ve gone through, and what hopefully we can help other people avoid or bring awareness to.”

Royal Crescent Mob plays at 8 p.m. Dec. 17 at Madison Theater, 730 Madison Ave., Covington. Doors open at 7 p.m. There are no known COVID-19 protocols in place. Info: madisontheater.com.


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