By Sue Moore
A crowd of faithful admirers surrounded Jim Halladay and the band HairMania as they headlined the Taste of Vicksburg in July. He announced that he was a “Vicksburg kid and there’s my mother in the front row. I wouldn’t be here without her.” He grew up here near Indian Lake, graduating in 1988 from Vicksburg High School and Western Michigan University a decade later.
The band is well-known for its 80s “hair metal” sound throughout southwest Michigan. It plays big gigs at the Leelanau Sands Casino, Rib Fest in Kalamazoo and the South Haven Blueberry Festival, to name just a few. The four-piece band has been together since 2012, gaining lots of street cred with its flamboyant style, easy listening music and showmanship.
It wasn’t always that way. Halladay, who sings lead in the band, has a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry from WMU. He didn’t take music courses in high school but did receive a set of drums from his dad, Lee, when he was about 13. His older brother, Doug, played the guitar, so they jammed from time to time in his parents’ basement. For the last 11 years, Halladay has been working for AT&T as a telecom specialist. He drives to Lansing each weekday to work in the company’s central office across from the State Capitol.
On weekends, he dons leather apparel and joins with his fellow band members, often with his wife, Chris, and his mother, Susan, in the admiring audience. To characterize the band’s followers as groupies might be a bit much, but they do evidence the “mania” in the name with promo T-shirts, their own photographer/publicist and plenty of good songs.
Halladay has been playing in bands since early 2000. He met up with Paxton Olney, a bass guitarist at a Detroit concert and soon found out he lived at Long Lake in Portage and works at the Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek by day. The band needed a lead guitar player. It found Lloyd Wallace, a welder by trade. Their drummer, Terry Lewis, is new to the group as of 2018 and from Grand Rapids where he drives a delivery truck.
The hair is the thing. Halladay’s hair has always been shoulder length or even longer. When he worked at Felpausch in Vicksburg while going to WMU, his hair was long even then. His dad stopped in one day and informed him, “You need to get a haircut.” “I just got one!” Jim exclaimed. “I just don’t like getting a haircut. Maybe once every six months is all I can tolerate.”
“Our music from the 80s has seen a big resurgence.” Halladay said. “Young folks like it too and start singing right along with us. It’s just fun music and somewhat timeless. The 90s music turned to grunge and was depressing. Paxton started the band in 2010 and I joined in 2012 as he needed a front man. We have an authentic look; our costuming is largely from thrift shops. I found a leather vest that is real durable but can be hot in summer weather. Fortunately, we only play our set for an hour and a half.”
The band’s future includes playing at bigger shows and festivals where the crowds are more fun than playing in bars on a Saturday night, Halladay said. They open for Lita Ford at the Rib Fest in Kalamazoo on August 3 with relatives from all over coming to watch – including his mom, Susan Halladay, his greatest admirer.