Return of the Rok Dox

When we think of a physician, we all absolutely picture someone who is skilled and capable. We probably think of a white coat, maybe a stethoscope and a clipboard. You might even picture a stern expression as someone warns you to eat your vegetables and get plenty of exercise. That might all be true, but you might also be missing out on a few other things…

A guitar, a set of drums and nice little three-part harmony.

You might just be thinking of the Rok Dox.

First assembled casually as an entertainment option for an East Texas Women’s Auxiliary Style Show around 1994, the Rok Dox were pieced together from the local population of musically inclined caregivers by Dr. Randy Williams of CHRISTUS Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute.

“I went out and scoured the countryside for talent, and we played five songs for a sold-out crowd on what was supposed to be our only performance,” said Dr. Williams. “I think we surprised lots of people because we weren’t as bad as we thought they would be. I remember one lady telling us ‘I heard y’all were really bad, but y’all are really pretty good,’ even though we had never played together before!”

The band caught on a little bit, and soon were being asked to play at fundraising events, benefit dinners, hospital parties and even at a nice community-wide festival. Williams says the “fleeting flame of fame” burned out after about two or three years, and the group members went back to their day jobs (much to the benefit of Longview’s ill and injured).

However, now, after all these years, the group is coming back together for one more show and kicking off the “Rok Dox Reunion Tour” in a beautiful location, in a great city!

Fellow original bandmate Dr. Jay Chastain, CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic Cardiovascular Surgeon, agrees that it’s always been about having a good time and supporting the community. “When we started out we were just performing as a novelty act to provide cheap entertainment for community events and just having a lot fun,” said Dr. Chastain. “Most of the Rok Dox aren’t from the original band. The fun part this time has been getting to know and to play with them.”

On Thursday, September 30, the Rok Dox will return to kick off the Longview Arboretum’s Fall Concert Series. Gates open to the public at 5 p.m., and the band will perform on the Water’s Edge Stage at 6 p.m. Tickets are available online or at the gate – $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 4-12; and free for children 3 and under. Guests can bring lawn chairs, blankets, food and drinks and enjoy a picnic on the lawn.

These days Rok Dox look back on years in medicine and music, and in their own words describe what it means to come together again for a few tunes and a good cause:

How’d You Get Started?

“My fifth-grade choir teacher taught me how to play some chords so I could be one of the cowboys sitting on bales of hay around a campfire in a play called ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas,’” said Williams. “I took lessons for about 3 months, then decided I could teach myself, which I did. However, I have always regretted not taking formal music training.”

“I come from a long history of amateur musicians,” said Todd Holman, M.D., a founding member of Rok Dox and retired allergist. “My paternal grandmother, mother and sister played both the organ and piano. Music was always present in my home… listening and participating!”

“Music has always been a big part of my life,” said CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Neurologist Dr. Joe Bowers. “I grew up in a musical family. My mother plays piano, and both of my sisters are great singers. I haven’t done a lot of singing for performance, but I’ve always sung with my family and helped to lead worship in church.”

First Baptist Church, Mt. Pleasant, Music Minister Tim Ervin is the only member of the group without a medical background, and has served as a music minister and professional musician for more than 40 years. “I began playing trumpet at age 11 and continued to play through high school.” Ervin was selected to the Louisiana All-District Band six times and the Louisiana All-State Band twice. “I went to the University of Louisiana at Monroe on a Music Scholarship and received a Bachelor of Music in Performance with a Minor in Music Education. I have played extensively as a freelance musician as well as playing for many different local bands over the years. I toured with a contemporary Christian Group in 1978-1979. I have been Music Minister for 40 years, leading worship, working with choirs and orchestras. I have taught private lessons and continue to play my trumpet regularly.”

Is Music a Part of Your Life Today?

“I don’t do much singing or playing for other people, but my family and I sing and play guitar a lot around the house,” said Dr. Bowers. “Singing with this band has pushed me to do more practicing, which has been fun.”

“I’ve ‘loosely’ been in a band for the past few years, but due to the pandemic, family/work obligations I haven’t played as much as I would like,” said CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Anesthesiologist Dr. David Wyatt.

“Actually, I haven’t played much in the last 10 years or so,” said Dr. Holman. “But over the last 15 years, my wife and I have been big supporters of the Longview Opera and the Symphony, and have had some incredible music in our home.”

“I’m not as involved in music today as I’d like to be,” said Northeast Texas Community College Professor Miles Young, PhD. “But I take advantage of opportunities to play as often as I can … Music is foundational to who I am. It’s how I express myself creatively, how I build meaningful relationships with other people like me and I just enjoy it. When I left Nashville, I didn’t get to play very much for a long time and so this has been a breath of fresh air for me.”

“I still try to play as much as I can and enjoy playing at my church, First United Methodist Church, along with Dr. Schultz and Dr. Williams, said CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Musculoskeletal Radiologist Dr. Kent Fite. “I love having music around my house and for my young daughters to experience the thrill of live music. Hopefully it will be something they pick up also.”

“I haven’t been playing much rock music in the last 20 years … been playing a little more jazz and worship music,” said Dr. Chastain. “It came back pretty fast though – we’ll be able to rock out!”

What’s the Goal of Playing This Show?

“I hope to bring a moment of enjoyment for the band, my family, and everyone who attends,” said Dr. Wyatt. “Obviously our society has been under enormous stress and strain over the past year and a half, and even a moment of fun, of escape, will do everyone some good.”

“I think playing music, especially with other people in a band, is like nothing else,” said Dr. Bowers. “It takes practice, but when it comes together, and you actually make something that sounds good, it’s really fun and gratifying. I hope we can give people a night to just relax, hang out, and hopefully send them home in a better mood than when they came. That’s what I hope for when I go to a concert.”

“There are a couple of reasons to play this gig,” said Dr. Holman. “First, the Arboretum is and continues to be an incredible community asset and labor of love for many. As far as I can see, it’s a tremendous success story for Longview, and I look forward to playing in such a fantastic environment. It must be supported by the community! Also, this past year has taught us about the importance of relationships, joy, laughter, adapting … and music crosses all the boundaries we tend to put up. The Rok Dox blended our love of medicine and the incredible joy of music we all shared.”

“Playing this event is important on many levels,” said Ervin. “First, it gives me an opportunity to play the trumpet, which is something I love to do. Second and probably most important, I am able to play. In 2012 I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. It is a horrible lung disease. As the disease progressed, I was unable to play trumpet and ended up being on oxygen 24/7. Ultimately, I was recommended t for a lung transplant evaluation, and October 9, 2014, I received a bilateral lung transplant. Today, I am healthy and strong and will celebrate my 7th year transplant anniversary next month. Prior to transplant I had not played trumpet for almost 2 years. It was an exciting day when my doctors allowed me to begin playing.”

“This event is important to me because it gives me a chance to help raise money for a great cause (The Longview Arboretum), bond with 6 new Rok Dox, and get our groove back,” said Dr. Williams. “My hope is that the audience will be truly entertained and come away from the concert with a smile on their faces!”

What Does the Future Hold for Rok Dox?

“When the original Rok Dox began playing, all the physicians in town knew one another and worked well together,” said Dr. Holman. “We were all good friends and had young kids (for the most part). When Randy Williams first called, I was thrilled. We had a hilarious time, and weren’t too bad. The community really supported us. We used to ask, ‘Where else could you go to see 10 physicians for a 50-buck donation?!’”

“I am new to the Rok Dox,” said CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Musculoskeletal Radiologist Joe Shultz, M.D. “I work fairly closely with Dr. Randy Williams at CHRISTUS Good Shepherd, and a few years back our discussions eventually led into music. He reminisced about the old Rok Dox gigs and began musing over a reprisal… I made sure he knew I was interested.”

“Well, when I asked to play, I said ‘I’m not a doctor, but I’ve seen more doctors than anyone in the band,’” said Ervin. “Plus, as much as I’ve learned about lung transplants, immunosuppressant medications. I feel like I’ve earned an honorary M.D.”

 “My belief is that this opportunity is more than a one-off and the Rock Dox are back once again,” said Young. That sentiment is echoed by the rest of the band as well.

“Well, we’re not exactly like the Blues Brothers, but we are getting the band back together again,” said Dr. Williams. “We all absolutely love music, and it’s good to be a part of a group that has a lot of fun while working hard. Hopefully we spread a little cheer to whomever shows up to hear us play, and we hope our reunion tour gets to play more than one date!”