RISK began with 4 young outlaws who had all been convicted of various felonies and incarcerated into the Kentucky Prison System. Danny and Dexter were cousins from northern Kentucky and were locked up in the late 70's at the LaGrange facility. Danny worked in the kitchen and planned to escape with Dexter. They learned the guards’ schedule in detail so they could escape at the most opportune time. On the night of the planned escape, Dexter didn’t want to endanger his younger cousin, so he escaped without him, dodging bullets and running from the guards and their dogs. After 4 months on the run, Dexter was recaptured in Indiana and sent to the Kentucky State Prison in Eddyville, the most maximum security prison in Kentucky where prisoners with escape records and heinous crimes are housed. On his way out of LaGrange, Dexter told Danny to transfer to Eddyville so they could start a rock band. After Dexter was transferred, Danny got himself into trouble in order to be transferred to Eddyville as well. A few months later, Danny and Dexter were together in Eddyville.
A DRUMMER JOINS THE BAND
J. Wayne was incarcerated in 1980 with a 10 year Persistent Felony Offender (PFO), which requires housing at Eddyville. In 1981, Danny met J. Wayne in the kitchen when he saw him pass a joint under the table to another inmate, and they became friends instantly. J. Wayne met Dexter on the yard while Danny and Dexter were practicing some songs they had been writing on acoustic guitars. They were dreamers…Dexter who wanted to play guitar, write music and form a band and Danny, his cousin, who wanted to learn how to play the guitar. So, over many months, Dexter taught himself and Danny how to play. J. Wayne had always wanted to play drums, but had never learned. They invited J. Wayne to the band room to see how he would do on the drums. Even though J. Wayne had never played drums, he picked up the sticks, started playing, and it felt natural to him. This was the birth of RISK; however, they needed a bass player to be complete.
THE ESCAPE PLAN
In the summer of 1981, Dexter, Danny and this time, J. Wayne plotted another escape. They had been working in the masonry shop on the prison grounds while making their escape plans. On a late summer night, they executed their plan. This was a very dramatic escape attempt in the middle of the night with sirens wailing, security lights sweeping the grounds and guns blazing. The three were captured before they could get over the wall to freedom. Unharmed but roughed up, they were taken to the Hole where the worst of the worst are locked up in solitary confinement. The song, “Sixty to One”, is written about the escape attempt. After this, they realized that their only escape from the situation they found themselves in would be through their music. Just like the lyrics of “Sixty to One” where they said, "a rock and roll band now is their life...for it they would have died that night...together", truth in every sense.
During their time in the Hole, Dexter continued writing songs. As more and more songs came to him, he became increasingly serious about forming the band which he had already decided would be called “RISK”. Being isolated from society prevented Dexter from being exposed to the music scene that was taking shape on the outside. The music he composed was from the heart and soul of a dreamer, untainted by the current music industry trends and reflected his current situation as described in the song, "Systems".
A NEW FACE
A few months later, another young outlaw, Joe, recently convicted on felonies, including an escape charge, was being processed by the prison officials to begin his sentence in Eddyville. During his first few days on the prison yard, Joe talked to a friend of Dexter’s who told him about Dexter and the others wanting to form a band and needed a bass player, but that they were still locked up in the Hole from the escape attempt and wouldn’t be released back on the yard for another week or so. Joe was tested during his first week on the yard and was locked up in the Hole for fighting.
A few days later, Dexter, Danny and J. Wayne were released from the Hole and Dexter’s friend told him about a bass player who was interested in being a part of his band, but explained that he had been locked up in the Hole and certain people were going after him when he got out. Dexter, Danny and J. Wayne decided that they weren’t going to let this happen to their new potential bass player. Without even knowing Joe, the three armed themselves with shanks (homemade knives) and plotted a plan to eliminate the danger before Joe was released from the Hole. They cornered the potential assailants with the intent of killing them if necessary, but when faced with a life or death situation, the potential assailants agreed to leave Joe alone and allow him to be a part of the band. A few days later, when Joe was released from the Hole, he found his three new friends waiting for him. They became instant friends and Joe was forever grateful to them for this turn of events. They immediately began collaborating and the creativity flourished, RISK was now complete.
Dexter had already written several songs but this newfound collaboration exploded with creativity. Within a few weeks they had 10 conceptual songs composed to arrange and rehearse. The prison had a little 12x16 room under the laundry that was just big enough to hold the equipment for a 4 piece band. The front of the room was all glass so the guards could keep an eye on things. The band room was furnished with drums, amplifiers, and microphones, but the room was open for other inmate musicians to use, so the guitars and other accessories were shared and had to be checked in and out from the gym. In addition, the room was only available to the band for practice a few times a week for an hour or two for each session. The rest of the time, the band gathered on the steps near the church and played acoustic guitars to work on new material. Every member of the band was involved in the song writing and arranging. At times, Dexter would write the lyrics and Joe would arrange the music and, other times, J. Wayne or Danny would write the lyrics and Dexter would do the musical arrangements. Regardless, it worked, and the band became a tight knit group whose creativity fed off of each other, always as a group and not individually. This is evident in the copyrights as all songs are credited to all members of the band.
The bands’ sound was rough around the edges for the first few rehearsals but quickly developed into a very tight sound that attracted numerous inmates in the yard who would gather in front of the window of the band room to watch. The members of the band and everyone around them could feel that something very special was happening. No one had ever seen this before, an original rock band formed and flourishing in a maximum security prison within a very hostile environment. The band was being noticed by inmates and guards alike, receiving a great amount of respect from everyone for what they were accomplishing. The song, "Our New Friends", was written about this newfound popularity. RISK was allowed to perform once in the boxing ring in the gym during an open house event (see the photos on the photo page) and once in the visiting area. That was the extent of their performances; they never performed outside of the prison.
In January of 1984, Dexter’s name came up on the parole board listing for a parole hearing to be scheduled for later in the spring. At this point, after 24 months, the band had composed and arranged over 100 songs, creating a heightened sense of urgency to get a copyright for this material and, if possible, recording the songs to capture this historic 24 months of creativity the band had experienced. The band was more than ready. Their sound had evolved into a very tight cohesion that seemed to flow naturally. Things switched into high gear at this point. Every minute that the band had available in the band room was dedicated to recording all their material from the first set of 10 songs they wrote, all the way to the last song written a few days earlier. The recording sessions continued week after week, taking almost 4 months to record all the material they could before Dexter’s release. Almost all the songs recorded were done in one take, they didn't have time to record each song multiple times. Approximately 50 of the 100 songs they wrote were successfully recorded.
A few weeks after the final recording, Dexter went before the parole board and was granted parole. They were all ecstatic that at least one of them was finally gaining his freedom. However, it was also a very sad and reflective time as we all knew that RISK would never be the same without Dexter. He was the leader, not only with the lead guitar, but he was the energy, drive and enthusiasm that drove the band to the creative, cohesive group RISK had become. In May 1984, Dexter was released on parole. It was a very emotional time for the band, RISK would never be the same. Danny, J. Wayne and Joe tried to continue, but without Dexter, there was a huge void that could not be filled. They tried several different ways to work around the void. This was all temporary anyway since Joe was up for parole in a few months. So the trio played on, continued to write music, and practice the best they could for the next few months. In November 1984, Joe was released on parole leaving behind Danny and J. Wayne. However, Joe was able to leave the prison with all the cassette tapes, lyrics and the official copyright to the RISK catalog of material.
Danny and J. Wayne continued to practice and tried to find other musicians to play the bass and guitar. Their hope was to reunite with Dexter and Joe and get the band together again after their release. Danny eventually was released on parole about a year after Joe, but the real problem with the future of RISK was with J. Wayne. He had been sentenced in 1980 as a PFO, Persistent Felony Offender, which by Kentucky law meant a sentence of 10 consecutive years without the possibility of parole. This meant J. Wayne would not be released until 1990, 6 years after Dexter and Joe, and 5 years after Danny. RISK had all agreed that there would be no RISK if they were not all together as a group.
After being released on parole, Dexter and Danny went back to northern Kentucky and Joe attended a local university to finish getting his Bachelor’s degree which he began during his incarceration. Danny went to visit J. Wayne on a couple of occasions, testing the system since Danny was not welcome on the prison grounds being a parolee. When the guards realized Danny was a parolee, they escorted him from the visiting area and prohibited him from visiting J. Wayne again.
By the time J. Wayne was released in 1990 everything had changed with the status of the other members of RISK. Dexter had become a Pastor with his own church and congregation in Cincinnati, OH and devoted his life to preaching the word of the Lord. Danny was working in the construction industry around the Covington, KY area. Joe had moved to Boston and had a successful career in management. J. Wayne changed his name and went into the masonry business in Owensboro. Even though they had lost touch with each other, the members of RISK cherished the time they spent together, often reflecting on what they all came to realize was the most creative, productive and by some acclaims, the best years of their life during the RISK years in Eddyville. When they would reflect on those days in Eddyville with family and friends, they must have thought they were crazy to acknowledge that some of the best years of their lives were spent in a prison, but it was true and that feeling never left them. The feelings were so strong that they never really stopped looking for each other after all the years had passed. In recent years, they would search for each other on the internet but came up empty. However, these issues didn’t discourage the effort and finally, in December 2016, Joe had a possible lead on Dexter.
On Christmas Eve 2016, Joe visits what he thinks may be Dexter's Facebook page, and sees Danny listed as a “friend”. Joe was now certain he was on the right track and messaged Dexter to see if he was indeed the same Dexter he knew from Eddyville. On Christmas Day, Joe awakes to find a response from Dexter and yes, it was his old friend. After all the years past, they were finally in touch with each other again. A few text messages back and forth led to a phone call late on Christmas Day. A very emotional conversation ensued with each expressing the thankfulness in finding each other, talking for hours. In the meantime, Dexter emailed Danny to tell him the good news and, after the conversation with Dexter, Danny called Joe and talked for a few more hours as well. At this point, they were so excited to find each other, a series of texts, emails and phone calls ensued with the discussion of a reunion of RISK. However, there was one very important piece missing, J. Wayne. They all agreed they would do everything possible to find him.
Joe joined one of the people finder websites but no J. Wayne was to be found. There was another name that seemed to fit though. Had J. Wayne changed his name? This was quite possible, so Joe called the phone numbers listed on the people finder site for all the relatives of this person. Unfortunately, no one answered the phone at any of the numbers, but he left a voicemail at each number stating that he was an old friend of J. Wayne and wanted to say hello. After a few days with no responses, he became a little discouraged, but did not lose hope. Joe let Danny and Dexter know the efforts he had made to find J. Wayne. Dexter had already prepared to travel to Owensboro the following week to check out the 4 addresses that were associated with the person they found on the people finder site hoping to find a lead to J. Wayne. Then on Saturday January 7, 2017, Joe receives a call from none other than J. Wayne. He told him the story of the name change and that his mom had given him a phone number of someone he thought just might be the Joe he remembered from RISK. Another emotional discussion transpired and Joe relayed the good news to Dexter and Danny, setting up a conference call so they could all talk as one unit again, RISK had been reunited again, at least in voice but separated by time, distance and careers. This became a new beginning for RISK, they had found each other after 33 years. They were all now in their 60’s but reasonably healthy and yearning for a reunion.
Joe had moved several times since leaving Kentucky, but always made sure the cassette tapes, the original lyrics, pictures and other copyright documents were kept in a safe place. The problem was that after moving several times, Joe couldn’t remember exactly where that safe place was. After rummaging through numerous old moving boxes in storage, Joe opened a box that he had packed 12 years ago when he was moving to California from Boston, and there it was. The cassette tapes, the original lyrics, pictures and other copyright documents were all there, preserved after all these years in the same condition as they were when they were stored. It was a true “time capsule” as Joe had never really played the tapes, nor had he done anything with the materials, only keeping them in hopes of reuniting with RISK someday.
REBIRTH OF RISK
The guys were ecstatic when Joe told them he what he had found. After 33 years, there was no way they could remember all the songs, the lyrics or the arrangements, but with the cassette tapes and the lyrics found, they had the material they needed to pick up where they left off and begin practicing for a reunion. Joe had everything shipped to Dexter, who converted the tapes to digital format and CD so they can all listen, practice. Some of the songs have already been converted to MP3 and are available for your listening pleasure. After a very successful reunion in August 2017, the band is now focused on new material to be released in Spring 2018. RISK is rocking again!