John Schwab looks back on 45 years with McGuffey Lane and his unlikely decision to join one of Ohio’s most popular bands of the ’80s

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In January 1977, musician John Schwab was burnt out on playing in bands.

Little did he know, he was about to transition from playing solo acoustic sets to playing with McGuffey Lane, one of the most popular and successful bands to come out of Ohio.

Famously named after the street in Athens, OH where founding member Steve Reis grew up, McGuffey Lane was not only the iconic house band for Ohio venues such as The Castle and Zachariah’s Red Eye Saloon for years at a time, they also famously toured with the likes of the Allman Brothers, Charlie Daniels, The Judds, and The Marshall Tucker Band.

On Saturday, March 5, McGuffey Lane will perform at the Majestic Theatre in Chillicothe (45 East Second Street), and WOUB had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with longtime McGuffey Lane member John Schwab.

Schwab looks back fondly on his early days with McGuffey Lane, playing a rigorous schedule with them as the house band for Columbus’ The Castle.

“When I got in McGuffey Lane, it was just really refreshing because everybody was working as a team — everybody was contributing. And the crowd was the best thing. I mean, I’d been playing music professionally since I was a kid — but when we started playing [The Castle], man, it’s just like the crowds went nuts!” said Schwab. “I’m not kidding: there would literally be 200 to 300 people lined up around the block, people who brought their coolers, stuff like that. And they’d be there two, three hours before the gates opened, they would just be sitting on the sidewalk.”

Schwab said several factors attracted such large crowds to the group’s performances.

“I think the songs were good. I think the players were good. And I think everyone in the band had a really different vibe to them and a very outgoing personality. And I just think it was perfect time for that style of music, which was really popular at the time. We just fit right in — from the Crosby, Stills, and Nash to The Eagles to The Allman Brothers,” said Schwab. “But, what I heard more than anything wasn’t about the music or the way we sounded — it was ‘you guys look like you’re having so much fun,’ and, that, I think, was a big part of it.”

In August of 1980, McGuffey Lane released their self-titled debut via Paradise Island Records. The album quickly sold 40,000 in the Columbus area, attracting the attention of Atlantic Records, who then released the band’s debut full-length through their Atco label. The success of the national release of the record led to McGuffey Lane touring with the Allman Brothers Band, Charlie Daniels, The Judds, and The Marshall Tucker Band.


The ’80s were a busy time for McGuffey Lane, and 1981 and 1982 would see the release of an album each for the band, those being “Aqua Dreams” and “Let the Hard Times Roll,” respectively. Then, in 1984, tragedy struck when band member Stephen “Tebes” Douglass passed away after a motorcycle accident. McGuffey Lane’s four album, 1984’s “Day by Day,” was dedicated to Douglass. Shortly after the release of “Day by Day,” band member Bobby Gene McNelley decided to leave the group.

The band would continue to play, mostly throughout Ohio, until disbanding in 1990. However, by 1995, the group had come back together – and by 1998, McGuffey Lane consisted of the lineup audiences will recognize at the band’s upcoming performance at the Majestic Theater. This lineup includes Schwab, Terry Efaw, Casey McGowan, Molly Pauken, Randy Huff, and Kevin Reed.

Some 45 years after taking the plunge, Schwab is grateful that he took the chance of joining McGuffey Lane, even if he had been pretty sure he wasn’t going to be playing in a band ever again only a little while before joining. Schwab said the reason McGuffey Lane has remained relevant, and perhaps the reason he’s been content to be in the band for so many years, has a lot to do with the group’s overall attitude.

“One of the big things for me, as far as being a performer as myself — is that I see what kills other people. And I think one of the big things is complacency. I think that if you don’t put your heart into it a hundred percent, every night, people can tell. And you can’t fool the public,” he said. “And you know, I’ve felt myself going down that rabbit hole many times, especially when I first started playing solo. I’d play at a club and people would be listening. Then all of a sudden they’d be drunk and weren’t paying attention. I’d want to quit two or three times an hour back in those days. And I know I’ve seen it happen to other musicians where they grow complacent — you could just see it written all over their face.”

McGuffey Lane will perform at the Majestic Theatre on Saturday, March 5. Find information on how to buy tickets at