It was 1999 when Donnie Reis danced to ‘Amazed,’ by Lonestar at his high school prom with his now wife, Kristy.
Eighteen years later, the Ohio-bred singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist is performing the song in front of thousands of people with its original singer, Richie McDonald, of the band Lonestar.
Reis is a special guest with the Frontmen of Country Music, featuring McDonald, Tim Rushlow of Little Texas, and Larry Stewart of Restless Heart. The group will be performing at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, 214 S.E. 8th Ave.
“We started actually, I met the guys probably about four years ago, maybe, and we were actually doing a tour overseas for NWR, Navy entertainment, morale welfare and recreations for the department of the Navy,” Reis said. “I was actually on the road with another artist, and I started playing with them, we hit it off and the rest is kind of history, we’ve been playing together ever since then.”
The Frontmen of Country formed about five or six years ago — the date varies depending on whom you ask — but according to Stewart, he and McDonald formed the idea at a charity benefit in Louisiana, and after balancing their touring schedule and partnering with Rushlow, the three started playing a handful of shows a year, with at least one overseas annually for the troops.
“We’ve done a number of overseas trips, and that’s something. That’s really what we love to do,” Stewart said. “We’ve been everywhere, from landing on the (USS Harry S.) Truman to the Persian Gulf to Iraq and Afghanistan all the way to Bahrain and Djibouti. We’ve been a lot of places playing for the men and women in uniform, and we’ve really enjoyed that.”
Their Topeka performance, Remembering 9/11, is the first memorial-type show for the group.
“We’ll be remembering 9/11 and all the men and women who serve our country and a whole mosh-posh of things that need to be commemorated and respected. So we’re doing that in Topeka and it’s going to be powerful — it’s going to be fun,” Rushlow said.
At a Frontmen concert, the set is never the same. There’s no script, as the men just use their shared background as country superstars and years of experience to entertain their guests in an personal setting.
“The show’s so different, and most of the times we do shows they’re more intimate, so the audience gets a chance to really see the rawness of the song, the boys who sing the songs, and the story behind the song,” Stewart said. “There’s nothing like getting on stage with your band and playing those hits. Even after 30 plus years I wouldn’t trade anything for it, but just given that it’s different, it’s a very special night with the fans.”
When asked how the three lead singers balance their set list, Rushlow is quick to joke, “Well, usually we start and let the oldest guy go first, so we let Larry Stewart go, and then we just go from there.”
Rushlow laughed and excused the quip — he’s vehement about his bandmates’ immense talent, and the performances they bring to the stage.
Reis performs regularly as a special guest with the Frontmen and fills out the sound of the group.
“Donnie Reis, he’s an Army combat veteran, a world-class violinist — a fiddle player where I’m from — and he just brings the house down. We’re about to throw him off the tour because he gets a standing ovation every time he performs,”Stewart joked of the musician.
Rushlow agreed with the sentiment — comparing Reis to the Norse god Thor, and called him a bonafide violin player “from his toenails up.”
The Sept. 13 show will be particularly significant to Reis, who served eight years in the military; two in Iraq at the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Oh yeah, absolutely (this show is significant,) I mean just a couple days ago it was the 14th anniversary of a buddy of mine we lost in a convoy in Iraq, so it definitely does impact me,” Reis said. “And for all the first responders and for anybody who serves, there’s a brotherhood that we all share that’s special and unique, and it’s something that we all share together — it’s an honor to be able to be a part of something like that.”
Reis has written “Start Over,” “A Dozen Roses,” “I’ll Be Alright” and “6,000 Miles,” and also launched Twelve3South recording studio, where he’s produced, engineered and provided arrangements for a variety of artists.
Between the three Frontmen of Country they have more than 30 No. 1 hit songs and have sold more than 30 million records. Some of their top hits are “I’ll Still Be Loving You” by Restless Heart, “I’m Already There” by Lonestar, “What Might Have Been” by Little Texas, “The Bluest Eyes in Texas” by Restless Heart, “Amazed” by Lonestar and “Amy’s Back in Austin” by Little Texas.
Tickets are $45 with a discount available for current or past members of the military and all first responders. Tickets are available by calling the TPAC box office at (800) 745-3000 or online at ticketmaster.com.
For anyone wishing to donate tickets, call (785) 234-2787 ext. 101. Discounted rates for donated group tickets are available.
Contact reporter Savanna Maue at (785) 295-5621 or @CJFoodFun or @SavannaMaue on Twitter.