DECATUR — Members of The HitMen and a Dame looked to create a new sound since their formation 12 years ago, and during their search they found Shelley Simon.
They started as a four-piece classic rock band. They have now adopted a female lead singer. Tonight mark the band’s fourth time performing at Decatur Celebration, but it will be their first time with the “Dame.”
Keyboard player Stan Kupish said 10 years ago they focused on performing hits from the 60s and 70s. But they wanted to reinvent themselves and shift their focus more on songs from the 80s, 90s and today to draw in a larger crowd.
“We felt like in order to compete and be a top-notch band, we had to shift what our target market and focus should be,” Kupish said.
Simon joined the band in 2011, transforming The HitMen into The HitMen and a Dame.
“The chemistry with adding the Dame has unified the band and expanded everything to a new level,” vocalist and drummer Ty Wiedenkeller said. “She is truly an entertainer with how she interacts with the crowd, and she put us in the right direction to expand our horizons.”
The band still plays classic rock hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. But the members extended their song list to include newer sounds such as songs from Adele and popular modern country, Simon said. They also added classic rock songs that have a female lead.
Simon, a Millikin University graduate originally from Decatur, has performed with the Decatur Park Singers, the Greater Decatur Chorale, Millikin University Choirs and the MUNI in Springfield.
She also subbed with Rock of Ages, which was when she met Kupish, who has also subbed for Rock of Ages.
“Stan told me they were looking for a way to diversify their song list so they invited me to a rehearsal, and we just clicked,” Simon said. “Locking into their already formed group was a little intimidating, but it just turned out to be a perfect fit.”
She said she also helps with the band’s traditional covers.
“It can be hard for guys to hit those high notes in their usual hits like Journey songs so it gives me a chance to help bring a new sound to their sets,” she said. “Everyone takes so much pride in bringing a good time to the community, and we practicing every week keeps us on top of our game.”
Simon is not the only new face in The HitMen and a Dame. The band added guitarist Davey Little of Decatur in May.
Little also performed for Rock of Ages, and former band member Doug Mason referred him to the group to take his place.
“We have had some members come and go, but we’ve been basically the same core since we started more than 10 years ago,” Kupish said.