Rock 'n' roll musicians aren't often looked upon as ideal role models, especially when it comes to drug abuse. But for the last six months, the youthful members of the Newport Beach group Rated 10 have been doing everything they can to encourage audiences to stay away from drugs.
"A lot of people are shocked when we play because we get really crazy on stage," said bassist Sherri Burke, 17, who is joined in the band by her brothers Brian, Garry and Steve.
"Sometimes they ask us, 'Are you sure you're not on anything?' " Sherri said with a laugh. "That's one stereotype we are trying to fight: that all rock 'n' rollers take drugs. Our message is that you don't have to be on drugs to have fun. By the end of our show, we prove that point to them."
A family act that is managed by their mother, Rated 10's performances around the country aren't conventional rock tours. Rather than playing small, smoke-filled clubs, the quartet has been playing on high school campuses and at county fairs for nearly five years.
The band's anti-drug stance hasn't always been a part of the act, but it wasn't adopted simply to cash in on rock's current preoccupation with causes or as a way to ride the coattails of the anti-drug themed Concert That Counts at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on April 26.
"We lost a friend of ours, an ex-drummer in the band, to a drug overdose last year," Burke said. "It obviously was a problem for him, but we didn't even know it."
It was that tragedy that prompted the band to focus on the drug issue. "We decided to do a six-month tour and fund it ourselves," she said. "We don't need the money; we're not trying to make a profit on this."
The group has performed primarily in small towns outside of Southern California because, Sherri said, "it's harder to find bookings in Southern California, and this is mainly a club band area. We are more interested in doing concerts."
They typically perform a free 30-minute show during school hours then return for a two-hour concert in the evening, for which they charge a few dollars admission to cover expenses.
"We're hoping to find some sort of sponsorship now because there are some kids who can't afford the admission," she said.
The concerts aren't marathon preaching sessions, though. "Our songs are pretty much Top 40 original rock 'n' roll. We have about four special songs about drugs. We went to a lot of drug abuse centers and talked to people there. At one, a kid gave us a poem he wrote and Brian made it into song. And if the students have any questions, we talk to them personally after the show."
The group occasionally finds itself caught between two poles. Because of rock's association with drugs, they find school officials are sometimes hesitant to allow any rock band on campus, while some teen-agers dismiss them as Pollyanna-ish do-gooders.
"Some kids are against us because we don't take drugs," Burke said. "But we have also gotten letters from kids who say things like, 'You helped me learn that I can be accepted for the way I am, and the ones who don't accept me don't matter.'
"We don't get $10 million for playing someplace. So if we give them somebody they can look up to, that makes the difference."
The group will play several county fair shows this summer "to make some money" before embarking on another round of high school concerts in the fall. Among those performances, Burke said, is a concert in Visalia for about 3,000 members of the area's Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) chapters.
But Rated 10 also has some conventional rock band ambitions. Burke said they plan this summer to make a video and record a four-song EP, with one song carrying the anti-drug message.
She said that Rated 10 does not devote all its time to the drug problem. "We do believe in it, but we are also a rock 'n' roll band."
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