Apr. 28, 2015 @ 12:01 AM By DAVE LAVENDER
HUNTINGTON – Joe Eddins may be young but his musical career has already been a long and winding road that has led him home.Eddins, 32, has spent nearly half his life (15 years) working under the tutelage of Bill Heaberlin in the wild business that is MPE Entertainment. And while you may not know the name of the downtown Huntington- based business, chances are you’ve been to more than one of its shows as MPE, founded in 1971 by Heaberlin, is a full-service entertainment and production company that produces shows all over the United States. Locally it is behind booking and helping produce such popular stalwart events as Ashland’s Summer Motion, The Marshall Artist’s Series, Barboursville Fall Festival, The Lawrence County Fair and tons of corporate events for everyone from Toyota and Alcon to Cabell Huntington Hospital and Marshall University.
Last week, Eddins, who started with the company 15 years ago as a production assistant while he was a budding musician still at Huntington High School, was named a full partner in the firm. He also serves as an agent and producer for shows all over the region. There will be no time to polish a new nameplate as MPE and its core of four (Heaberlin, Eddins, Andy Kelley and Scott “Bubba” Fulton) are staring down the gauntlet of a wild run of fairs and festivals where they’ll employee 20 to 30 people at a time taking care of business behind the scenes.Eddins said he feels blessed to be able to do something he loves here in the heart of the city he calls home. “We are fortunate to be here and to be able to work with local events, Eddins said. “We do anything we can to help out the community and to bring entertainment to the Tri-State area. We are not big on taking credit for that. We want the event to take credit for it. We tee it up and take care of it but we want the festival to shine.”
Eddins, who has a Music Business major at Belmont University in Nashville, and also received a bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Marshall University, said he is ready to begin a new chapter with MPE as it continues to grow and expand the “busy season.”
“Our company has really developed and we used to be really super busy, June, July and August, then suddenly it was May, June, July, August and then it was September and October and then we started doing Christmas parties and now it is all the time,” Eddins said. One of the things they are most proud of is their work for the Marshall Artists Series, which just wrapped up its 78th season with the season-ending BBC Orchestra, and then the second largest show to ever get shoehorned into the Keith-Albee, the national tour of “Beauty and the Beast.” The latter crammed five tractor trailer loads full of set, lighting and props from the alley to the stage and then back again, processes that each time took about 22 hours to accomplish.
“We produce the Marshall Artists Series, Penny (Watkins) buys the talent and that is pretty much a year-round thing, and we find out who is playing and we advance everything with the companies – do they need specific sound and light, and some need gases and dry ice, and crazy stuff,” Eddins said. “We also get staff to do the hospitality and shopping and all the transportation and pick them up from the airport. It’s all the nuts and bolts of doing a show so somebody doesn’t have to farm it out to 10 different places which is the beauty of our business. We are one of the only companies that does it the way we do it and for festivals it is a complete turn key production. We take care of everything so they can worry about selling their tickets and marketing and getting sponsorships and taking care of that part of the festival. Otherwise people can get in a real bad place if they are trying to do it themselves.”
Eddins said that with Heaberlin’s time-tested model that covers all the bases coupled with a holistic and downhome West Virginia approach to taking care of business in a friendly manner, has made for many great relationships and friendships in the industry.That ranges from bands who they helped get an early push in their career like Little Big Town, to oldies acts that MPE has fostered long- term relationships with.
“We tell people we want to take care of them and we want to do what is reasonable and needed,” Eddins said. “We have developed many many friends not only from management folks who we buy entertainment from, most of those people are our friends and Bill’s personal friends he has known his entire career, and that is cool. On the artist side it does happen, a lot of artists we may work with one time, but most artists we will end up working with a bunch of times over a career. When we see any of the artists in the oldies business it is like old home week.”
Eddins’ first band he booked was The Tams, the Carolina shag beach band. “I got a call about three days ago from Diane Pope, she was married to the last original member Charles Pope who passed away a couple years ago and their son is now the lead singer of The Tams and so they are continuing the legacy of the music,” he said. “A lot of time that goes away when somebody dies.”
Eddins’ love and respect for a wide swath of music was cultivated early on as his folks, Jody and Linda Eddins, turned him onto great records.
“When I was growing up my parents always had good music on and were always introducing me to good music, and good records,” Eddins said. “We grew up half a block from Fairfield Stadium, so our house was the place for everybody to come and tailgate and so there was always music going on in the house. So I started there and played piano and tried different instruments and really enjoyed it. Finally the piano wore off and I started guitar. Tyler Massey taught me to play guitar so I learned how to play the guitar from listening to The Beatles and Tyler. He would chart ’em out and teach me Beatles tunes.”
It wasn’t long before Eddins, who also started a T-shirt graphics business in high school, was out hustling making money playing music. His first was as a freshman in high school with his band crammed into the little hallway at the old Davis Place. In college Eddins, who just quit regularly playing his acoustic duo gigs with his buddy Jason Smith, filled every open date he could with shows for his old band Overflow as well as chalking up shows helping Heaberlin and crew at MPE.
After getting a graphic design degree from Marshall, Eddins knew he wanted to delve deeper into the complexities of the music business and headed off to the prestigious Belmont University in Nashville which has one of the few Music Business degrees in the country.
“There was a lot of people at Belmont who had some experiences here or there, they might have worked for a marketing agency or whatever but there was a lot of people who didn’t know what they wanted to do,” he said. “It was good for me to have that experience working with Bill and to see how to buy talent and how to produce live events. I could see how that came together as I was taking classes in publishing and concert promotion and marketing and record label functions and live studio production. It kind of narrows you down to what you like to do. I am not a technician and I do not want to work for a record label but producing live events is what I really like and that’s why I decided to come back here.”
Eddins, who still has a graphic design and printing business, J.E. Designs that does a lot of logos and signs for festivals and clients, said he loves that he is able to make a living here in his hometown raising a family and working a job in an industry that he loves – especially when the lights come on and the smiles light up.
“It’s obviously cool to work with the entertainers and it’s been hundreds and hundreds over the years but the best part about it is when the show goes up and you look out there and you see sometimes hundreds but most of the time thousands of people out there having a good time all smiling, all hanging out with their family, not worrying about the car payment and their job, but seeing them smile and having a good time,” he said. “Knowing that you had a little tiny bit to do with that is what I really love. That is the best part for me to see people being happy and having a good time. There is nothing like it.”
FAMILY: Wife Erin, son Stiles (2), daughter Jolie (4 months)
EDUCATION: Studied Music Business at Belmont University in Nashville, BFA in Graphic Design from Marshall University, and 2000 Huntington High School graduate
JOB: Vice President – MPE Entertainment and Owner – J.E. Design
INFLUENCES: My Dad has been a large influence not only in my personal life but in my business life as well. My business partner Bill Heaberlin has been a wonderful mentor to me. At the onset he provided me with on-site experiences in the music business and has provided me with the tools necessary to succeed in our business of national entertainment buying and live event production.
HOBBIES: Still enjoy playing guitar and performing out on special occasions
ABOUT MPE: MPE will work with more than 100 acts this year. Founded in 1971 by Bill Heaberlin, MPE is a full-service national entertainment and
production company providing services to fairs, festivals, special events, corporations, arts organizations, and commercial concerts. Based in Huntington, MPE has a wide range of clients across the country producing live entertainment shows on a national level.
ON THE WEB: www.mpe-entertainment.com and www.facebook.com/mpeentertainment