High-energy country/rock “4 Miles Gone” band members were nearly ready to call it quits after the death of a dear friend and vital member of their band, Chad Swafford, in 2012.
Despite the adversity they faced trying to overcome grief and organizing a new band with a new guitarist, the group is rising in popularity.
Earlier this year, they played at the CMA Festival in Nashville and opened for Colt Ford and Payton Taylor at the 2013 Lincoln County Fair. On Sept. 7, 4 Miles Gone released their new CD, “Stay With It”, featuring all original songs. The band members wrote all of the songs except one song, written by Don Bell.
Jeff Bennett is manager of the band.
“He said we have awesome electricity on stage,” said Jacob Painter, lead singer, songwriter and musician.
Joseph “Red” Kelly is sound director and was life-long friends with Swafford.
Two of the original members of the band, Dwight “Ole Man Thump” Shockley, guitar player and mentor, and Travis “Puma” Ashley, drummer and songwriter, remember when the band started out, practicing their music in a garage.
“We just got together to hear ourselves play — not to get fans,” Ashley recalled.
Chad Swafford joined them in 2009, and they formed “4 Miles Gone”. Swafford, a talented musician, mastered playing drums at the age of 12 and then learned how to play the guitar and later, the banjo.
“He was pretty much the heart and soul of us … he was kind of what made us,” said Ashley.
But, in November 2012, Swafford was killed in a tragic head-on car accident. It was devastating for the band members.
“It put a hold on everything,” said Jacob Painter, who’s been with the group about 18 months and is also an EMT for Lincoln Medical Center’s ambulance service.
A few months before the accident, Adam Farris began listening to the guys play and was mentored by Swafford.
The band asked Farris to join the band as Swafford’s rhythm player, but five days later, Swafford was killed.
Two or three weeks later, the band met and discussed whether they would keep the band together or just quit. Farris was still new and had some big shoes to fill.
“It was real shaky at one point in time,” said Painter. “Chad added so much and was a great band leader, but with the grace of God, we found a way to do it.”
In memory of Chad Swafford, the band has established the Chad Swafford Foundation. This year on Aug. 19, they held a band concert fundraiser for the foundation, which will be an annual event. Funds raised go to the music and band programs at Huntland High School, where Swafford graduated. It helps students who cannot afford to buy instruments and for the repair of instruments. The foundation website is chadswaffordfoundation.org.
Other benefits the band has played for are the Relay for Life, Tater and Melon Day for the Molino Volunteer Fire Department and the Fabulous 50’s benefit.
“We’re not all about making money — we’re about putting smiles on people’s faces,” said Painter.
“Thanks to everybody for their support — especially everyone who supported us since we lost Chad,” Ashley said.
Upcoming venues for the band include Pat & Bobby’s on Oct. 4; Billy’s Sports Bar, Hazel Green, Ala., on Oct. 11 and Nov. 1; Historic Belvidere Market on Oct. 19; Oasis Steakhouse in Winchester on Oct. 26; and Tammy’s Outback in Fayetteville on Nov. 16. For additional play dates or information about booking the band, go to their website 4milesgone.com, Facebook or Twitter.