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Virgos Merlot

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With a name that conjures images of purity and smooth blends, Birmingham, Alabama's Virgos Merlot was not always the smartly attired, reptilian contact lensed group they appeared to be in 1998, the year they first toured with such notable alt-rock bands as Fuel) and Eve 6. Singer/lyricist Brett Hestla, guitarist Jason Marchant, who had known oneanother since high school, and drummer JD Charlton all played together in a band named Wanton Rut. When that band later became the Devine, guitarist Ted "Deacon" Ledbetter joined. Hestla and Marchant worked in a cabinet shop at the time, with Marchant later becoming a licensed paramedic. As the Devine, they released one CD, Victim, but broke up shortly after. So determined were they to break out of the everday life of normal jobs, Hestla, Marchant, Charlton, Ledbetter and Ledbetter's childhood friend, bass player and nursing student Chris Dickerson formed Virgos Merlot. On the basis of demo recordings made in the basement studio of friend and producer Jason Elgin as well as a showcase performance at Orlando, Florida's House of Blues in March 1998, Virgos Merlot were signed to Atlantic Records by A&R king Steve Robertson — a mere 18 months after forming the band. Their major label debut, Signs of a Vacant Soul was officially released in March, 1999 as the entire band made preparations to relocate to Orlando, Florida.



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